Workaround, Possible Fix for Google Listen Bug [UPDATED]

For the past week or so, those of us who rely on Google’s podcatcher Listen have been stymied by a bug: subscriptions won’t update, leaving users with no new podcasts to listen to.  Quite a few people have reported this same issue in the Google Group for Listen users:

“Automatic refresh seems to have stopped working around Jan 13, or later for some people. It’s hard to tell if this is the case for absolutely everyone, since comments reflect a limited sample, but the problem seems to be widespread. When uninstalled and re-installed, the following things happen.


  1. “You can only get one successful refresh cycle before refresh-all doesn’t work again. By successful I mean actually updating a podcast. If there is nothing to update, it seems like you can see the refresh-all cycling through for multiple attempts (if you keep trying) until there is something to update.
  2. “Once you play something or put something in the queue, refresh-all won’t work again.”

Listen is a Google Labs project, and its FAQ warns users to “remember to wear your safety glasses while using this app,” so it’s not too surprising that issues crop up with it now and then. Google staff have unfortunately not weighed in about the issue on the Google Group, but we’ve heard that a fix may be in the works. Update: The Listen team has posted a note to the Group acknowledging the issue and saying the problem is resolved. This seems to be confirmed by commenters on this post, though refresh all still does not seem to be working on my phone at the moment.

In the meantime, there is a workaround: manually refresh each feed individually; apparently it’s only the automated sync and the “refresh all” functionality that are currently broken.

Of course, another workaround is to use another podcatching app. Which one do you prefer?

  • Remy

    Not sure if this hold true for everyone else, but Listen started working again for me last night. Has updated with new podcast twice this morning as well.

  • Started working for me around 4:30PST yesterday evening.

  • Matt

    Wow, thought it was just me. Don’t know if it was related or not, but updates seemed to happen at the exact same time I plugged into my pc, and enabled usb to transfer files. I received Listen updates and a few automatic market updates as well.

  • Ray

    It started working for me last night but it was very frustrasting these past couple of days.

  • Mark

    There is a Google Listen team? Huh, I figured the project was abandoned because there were never any updates to the app. I switched to Beyond Pod about a month ago.

    • Chuck

      It got seven updates over the course of 2010.

    • Manny

      I’m in the middle of a transition from Google Listen to Beyond Pod as well. The “look” is much better (though searching and subscribing seem to be faster on Listen) and a couple other features that I appreciate more like better streaming. Listen sort-of lets you stream as it’s downloading but it’s not proper streaming; it starts the audio at the beginning if you attempt to skip ahead while Beyond Pod takes you ahead.

  • giving beyond pod a look but the thing that I REALLY like about Listen is that I can see all my Listen subscriptions in Google Reader as well. So If I’m at my computer I can listen to the same podcasts and Reader even knows if I’ve already listened to any of the tracks on my phone or vice-versa. Also, downloading the tracks is much better than streaming imo because with Podcasts I tend to stop and listen to a podcast throughout the day so Listen is ideal because it remembers where I last left a cast for later, and that goes for multiple things that I might be listening to.

    Usually when it comes to any service I’ll prefer the one does the best job at syncing.

  • Chris

    I love Listen’s integration with Google Reader, too.

    One frustrating thing with Listen–for me, and numerous other users–is that if more than a few hours transpires after playback is paused Listen seems to ‘forget’ where it was paused…and starts playback at the beginning, instead. I started a thread about this months ago on the official Google Group but have yet to get any acknowledgment from the Listen team. 🙁

  • Matt

    No other podcasting app comes anywhere close to Doggcatcher. It’s by far the most powerful app on my phone, too, and has features Listen users can only dream of.

    I also has lots of great options, like downloading on WiFi only, pausing podcast playback when power and/or headset is unplugged, REstarting playback when headset is inserted (love this), and many other features. Plus you get absolute control over how your podcasts are downloaded on a global or per-podcast basis.

    I can’t say enough good things about Doggcatcher. I tried Listen for a while, and even though I’m a huge Google fanboy and avid Google Reader user, I just couldn’t stand how Listen functions.

    Plus, as many here have noted, Google is notoriously horrible at updating their apps. If it’s not GMail or Maps, Google is not going to update the app. Scoreboard, for example, could be the best app of its kind on the market, but I’m pretty sure that it hasn’t been updated in two years at this point, and it has a ton of bugs, is slow as molasses, and needs a ton of work. Sadly, they just put these apps out there and leave them.

    Doggcatcher FTW!!!

  • Scott

    I really wish Listen would get a little more attention from Google. I like the integration with Reader and I REALLY like the price! But I have the same annoying issue that Chris mentioned about it forgetting where I left off after pausing it for a few hours. A widget for the homescreen would also be nice.

    I’m currently tying out Podtrapper and so far so good. They have a 30 day free trial. I may also check out BeyondPod for comparison. I don’t think Doggcatcher has a free trial period. I’d like to at least check it out before forking over $7.