Managing podcast synchronization

Q: I download podcasts frequently, yet add them to my iPod infrequently. At the moment, I do this manually by dragging all the podcast files onto the iPod icon. However whenever I do this, all podcasts previously listed as played become listed as unplayed, so I lose track of where I was up to. Is there a way to set up iTunes to read your iPod to show which tracks have been played and which haven’t, and update accordingly? I would prefer not to automatically sync the podcasts, I prefer to do it manually to keep favourite episodes on the player.

– Jaymes

A: Unfortunately, when managing your iPod in manual mode, information such as ratings, play counts, last played times, and bookmarked positions are not transferred back to the iTunes library.

As a result, if you re-transfer any existing content from your iTunes library to your iPod, playback positions and played status will be overwritten based on the settings in your iTunes library.

The best workaround to avoid this situation is to go back to automatically syncing your podcasts, but in this case do so based on playlists rather than using the “Podcast” settings in iTunes. In other words, you would leave the sync settings on the “Podcasts” tab disabled, and instead create a playlist or set of playlists containing the podcasts that you wish to have on your iPod. You would then set your iPod to sync these selected playlists on the “Music” tab, where they will be handled in the same manner as any other audio files.

You could then simply add and remove podcasts from within these playlists to control which ones are stored on your iPod.

Podcast episodes added to the playlist will be added to your iPod during the next sync, and podcasts removed from these playlists would be removed from the iPod. Further, as you listen to podcasts on the iPod, playback positions and play counts will synchronize back to your iTunes library, allowing you to retain your playback positions and keep track of which podcasts you have listened to.

There are a couple of caveats to this method, however: Firstly, not all iPod models will display these Podcasts under the “Podcast” menu. This is particularly true of the newer iPod classic and iPod nano. In this case, you will simply have to access the Podcasts via the playlist(s) that you have created, which unfortunately will not provide indications on which episodes you may have already listened to (ie, no blue dots).