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Jetpack 8.5 was released today with a new podcast player block for sharing audio content. Configuring the block is as simple as entering the podcast RSS feed URL. This will automatically bring in the cover art and recent episodes. Block options allow for further customization of the display, including the number of episodes, colors, and the ability to show/hide cover art and episode descriptions.

Jetpack’s new podcast player has arrived just in time, as podcasting has gotten a little boost in recent months due to the large numbers of people under stay-at-home orders. iHeartRadio, an American audio company with more than 350 podcasts, reports that listenership for its podcasting network is up 6% month-over-month, with California and New York jumping 13% and 8% respectively. iHeartRadio’s insights also showed that certain genres are more popular than others:

During a time of economic uncertainty, Americans are listening to more business and finance podcasts – for which downloads and streams are up 78 percent week-over-week among the iHeartRadio Original podcasts. Listeners are also turning to music, entertainment and comedy during this time, where iHeartPodcasts have shown an increase in listening as well.

Selling ads and marketing a new podcast may be more of a struggle during this economic downturn, but those with extra time on their hands may have an easier time producing and publishing episodes. Jetpack’s new block makes it easy to share your own episodes or podcasts you enjoy from other websites.

The 8.5 release also includes significant improvements to the new Search feature, which is powered by Elasticsearch, to provide better indexing and a simpler onboarding experience.

Automattic developer Brandon Kraft published a post today that details recent changes to the Publicize feature. In the past, Publicize would attach an image from the post when sending out its automatic tweet to Twitter. This has now been changed for Jetpack and WordPress.com sites so that Publicize no longer attaches a picture but defaults to allowing Twitter to display its Twitter card instead. Developers can use a filter to return the plugin to its previous behavior, if necessary.

Jetpack 8.5 also makes more widgets and embed tools AMP-compatible, expands options for the Revue block, and fixes layout issues with several other blocks. Check out the changelog on WordPress.org for a full list of the enhancements and bug fixes.