(Credit: Pocket Casts)

While Apple, Netflix, Amazon and traditional media giants fight on the grand chessboard of streaming video and music services, the humble podcast continues to roll on with a relative lack of drama. However, not all podcast apps are made alike, and some of them are so good that they're -- gasp! -- arguably worth paying for.

If the one-time fee of just $3.99 for Pocket Casts (download for iOS or Android) is too rich for your blood, the company has just sweetened the pot with a new partnership. A representative for Pocket Casts informed us today that its podcast service now has a free skill for Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant (download for iOS or Android). Enabling the skill lets you use Pocket Casts with an Amazon Echo smart speaker.

SEE: Spotify competitor YouTube Music finally comes to Android Auto

Skills are like apps, but specific to Alexa. You can add skills from within the Alexa app. There are two ways to add the Pocket Casts skill. One is to open a web browser, go to the Pocket Casts skill webpage on Amazon's website, click Sign In to log into your Amazon account, then click on the Enable button to add the skill.

The other method is via the Alexa mobile app. If you're reading this on a mobile device and you have the Alexa app installed, clicking on this link should take you to the download page within the app where you can enable the Pocket Casts skill. Alternatively, you can open the app, tap on the hamburger menu in the upper left, then Skills & Games, then the magnifying glass in the upper right.

From here, search for Pocket Casts, scroll down the search results page, tap on Pocket Casts, then tap Enable to Use.

Regardless of which installation method you choose, both will also require you to sign into your Pocket Casts account to complete the integration process. If you don't have an account, you can sign up for one on the Pocket Casts website. If you prefer to sign up within the app, tap the hamburger menu in the upper left, then Setup Sync, then Create Account.

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Once you've gotten that squared away, your Amazon Echo devices should be able to wrangle your Pocket Casts library with a few key phrases that all start with "Alexa, ask Pocket Casts to..."

Once you trigger the skill with that opening phrase, you can finish it with one of four voice commands:

  • "Play my Up Next," which lets you pick up where you left off.
  • "Ask for a recommendation," which will recommend three different podcasts, based on your listening history.
  • "Surprise me," which picks a randomly chosen podcast episode.
  • "Play the latest episode of Radiolab," which will start streaming that content from your Echo smart speaker.

As with most major podcast apps, Pocket Casts also has support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. And if you have a Google Home instead of an Amazon Echo, you can ask the Google Assistant to play podcasts as well. However, the Assistant doesn't currently support third-party podcast apps. It uses an internal podcast streaming system instead.

Takeaways

  • Pocket Casts released a free skill today for the Amazon Alexa virtual assistant, allowing you to use specific voice commands with Amazon's Echo smart speakers that will interact with your Pocket Casts library.
  • Skills are like apps, but they're designed for Alexa instead of mobile devices. You can browse available skills within the Alexa mobile app or on Amazon's website.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.