How to download podcasts as manipulable mp3 files

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How to download podcasts as manipulable mp3 files

Postby Carl » Mon Apr 29, 2024 1:22 am

I often want to download podcast episodes as mp3 files that I can listen to in an app other than a podcatcher, or run through MacWhisper to get a transcription, or otherwise manipulate. It can be surprisingly difficult to do that on a Mac or iOS device. But I've learned some tricks today that made it much easier.

On the Android, I've known how to do this for a while. I use an old Android phone for WorkAudioBook, and on it I use Podcast Addict for downloading podcast episodes to import into WorkAudioBook. I have also connected the Android to my Mac and copy the files from Podcast Addict, but it's a cumbersome process.

Today I discovered gPodder, which is a cross-platform, open-source podcatcher app that makes it easy to download individual episodes or batches of episodes from podcasts you have the RSS feed to. And sometimes it can even find the RSS feed for you, if you give it the podcast web page URL. The documentation says it works similarly on YouTube channels.

Here's how I used gPodder and related tools today on a 2020 Mac mini (M1 Silicon):
I wanted a recent episode of IQ - Wissenschaft und Forschung, which attributed a huge number of benefits to dancing, including a better ability to learn languages. I found the main page for the podcast, gave that to gPodder, and it found the RSS feed and made hundreds of episodes available to me. I could have downloaded them all in just a couple clicks. I easily found and downloaded the one I wanted, and then opened the folder gPodder kept the download in. The file name had a bunch of numbers at the beginning, but the name of the episode was recognizable in the file name. The process was quick and simple!

Next, more of a challenge: all the episodes of the ARD Trisolaris Trilogie podcast. The first barrier was that gPodder couldn't find the RSS feed with the web page URL. However, I found a tool at Castos that was able to locate the RSS feed when I searched for "Trisolaris Trilogie". That turned out not to be much help with gPodder, as I learned that only the first three episodes are available via the feed--despite all 32 episodes being available on the series web page.

(Another tool for finding podcast RSS feeds is https://getrssfeed.com, which searches Apple, Google, and SoundCloud feeds, plus it can use a podcast's web page URL to find the RSS feed.)

I tried using the Firefox extension DownThemAll to download all the audio from the web page, but it couldn't see any of the audio files to download.

I asked perplexity.ai for some suggestions, and one of its suggestions was Gist on GitHub. I discovered that if the Trisolaris Trilogie URL is on the system clipboard when I click on the Gist link, the Gist page gives me a series of wget commands for downloading all the episodes--not just the three available on the podcast feed now.

Well, I don't have any experience with wget, and Terminal doesn't recognize the command, so I turned to youtube-dl as implemented through MacYTDL. I edited the list of wget commands to contain just the URLs for each mp3, separated by a space, and pasted all that into MacYTDL to batch download.

That worked fine, but the file names were unreadable--a bunch of numbers, as I recall. However, all the files had lots of metadata, including the episode names. So I used kid3 to batch edit the file names to become the same as the Title metadata, and then batch renamed the files in the Finder to remove a bunch of unnecessary text that was identical in all the file names. And that's how I ended up with 32 files with good metadata and nice file names like "Die drei Sonnen (1-12)/ Rotes Ufer.mp3". (I didn't know "/" could be used in file names, but it works.) It's a total of over 11 hours of audio.

As I write this, MacWhisper is batch transcribing the 32 episodes and outputting the transcription in four different formats. MacWhisper doesn't support in-app translation for batch transcriptions yet, so I'll run the .docx transcriptions through Google Translate (which doesn't seem to have the same limits on free translations as DeepL) to get them in another language that I can use for parallel texts.

I've been wondering how to do this sort of thing efficiently for quite a while, and I'm glad I finally found a set of tools to do so. I hope these tools and workflows help someone else.

Edit: Clarified that most of the post was about a method on a Mac.
Last edited by Carl on Sun May 05, 2024 6:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to download podcasts as manipulable mp3 files

Postby rdearman » Mon Apr 29, 2024 7:58 am

You have to install wget on a Mac. It isn't native like Linux, I think you can use brew to install?
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Re: How to download podcasts as manipulable mp3 files

Postby Carl » Mon Apr 29, 2024 10:24 pm

rdearman wrote:You have to install wget on a Mac. It isn't native like Linux, I think you can use brew to install?

Thanks for the info! I decided that it was faster to manually edit the list of wget commands so I could use the info in MacYTDL, a tool I already had and knew how to use, than to figure out if what wget is and how to install and use it. You've given me crucial info that helps me on the learning curve for wget, in the event that I continue coming up against web pages that so reluctantly surrender their mp3s for download.
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Re: How to download podcasts as manipulable mp3 files

Postby Le Baron » Mon Apr 29, 2024 11:36 pm

It seems like an incredible amount of work. On my normal computer the browser extension(s) VideoDownload Helper or YT v/a downloader just auto-recognise them all in a list and offers the mp3 download, among multiple file-types. I might play them on a different device afterwards like a phone/mp3 player (better choice), but doing that initial operation on a phone is just asking for work, because they seem to be deliberately designed to obstruct such things.
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Re: How to download podcasts as manipulable mp3 files

Postby jeffers » Tue Apr 30, 2024 7:40 am

Le Baron wrote:It seems like an incredible amount of work. On my normal computer the browser extension(s) VideoDownload Helper or YT v/a downloader just auto-recognise them all in a list and offers the mp3 download, among multiple file-types. I might play them on a different device afterwards like a phone/mp3 player (better choice), but doing that initial operation on a phone is just asking for work, because they seem to be deliberately designed to obstruct such things.


I've tried Gpodder on my windows device, and it works quite well. I put in the RSS feed URL of a podcast I wanted and it showed a large list of mp3 fils I could download. However, I might give a browser extension a try as well.

Could you tell which browser extension you prefer, and why?
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Re: How to download podcasts as manipulable mp3 files

Postby Le Baron » Tue Apr 30, 2024 9:18 am

jeffers wrote: Could you tell which browser extension you prefer, and why?

The ones I mentioned in the post. Video DownloadHelper or YouTube v/a downloader. This is getting them direct through. Not an RSS subscription.
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Re: How to download podcasts as manipulable mp3 files

Postby jeffers » Tue Apr 30, 2024 11:38 am

Le Baron wrote:
jeffers wrote: Could you tell which browser extension you prefer, and why?

The ones I mentioned in the post. Video DownloadHelper or YouTube v/a downloader. This is getting them direct through. Not an RSS subscription.


Yes, I was wondering if you preferred one over the other, and why? :lol:
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Re: How to download podcasts as manipulable mp3 files

Postby Le Baron » Tue Apr 30, 2024 2:25 pm

jeffers wrote:Yes, I was wondering if you preferred one over the other, and why? :lol:

Ah right. Video DownloadHelper is best because it can solve download problems when an mp3 file is being stubborn. It converts easy on the fly as well.
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Re: How to download podcasts as manipulable mp3 files

Postby Carl » Sun May 05, 2024 7:00 pm

Le Baron wrote:It seems like an incredible amount of work. On my normal computer the browser extension(s) VideoDownload Helper or YT v/a downloader just auto-recognise them all in a list and offers the mp3 download, among multiple file-types. I might play them on a different device afterwards like a phone/mp3 player (better choice), but doing that initial operation on a phone is just asking for work, because they seem to be deliberately designed to obstruct such things.

I would also be daunted by doing all that on a phone. I edited the post to clarify that most of it described processes on MacOS.

I've used VDH and YT-downloader in the past, but this time I only tried Down Them All! on Trisolaris Trilogie. And, as I described, it didn't work. I just did a quick check with VDH and couldn't get it to do the entire series from the page, either. Does it work on this page, or is this page just resistant to VDH?
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Re: How to download podcasts as manipulable mp3 files

Postby Le Baron » Sun May 05, 2024 7:25 pm

Carl wrote:I would also be daunted by doing all that on a phone. I edited the post to clarify that most of it described processes on MacOS.
I've used VDH and YT-downloader in the past, but this time I only tried Down Them All! on Trisolaris Trilogie. And, as I described, it didn't work. I just did a quick check with VDH and couldn't get it to do the entire series from the page, either. Does it work on this page, or is this page just resistant to VDH?

You can get them all to be visible in the list, but not download them all at one click. I hadn't tried that because I rarely get entire series of anything. I also likely used Down Them All in the past for that. I can't make confident statements about how any of these work on Mac or Windows because I'm on Linux.
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