Never forget what you hear: How to take notes from podcasts using the Airr app

A quick guide on how to capture what you learn from podcasts using a fantastic app called Airr. Never forget what you hear in podcasts again!

If you’re anything like me, you try to learn new things constantly. You read books, watch educational Youtube clips, read interesting blogs, and listen to podcasts.

You might have a system for collecting what you learn from many of these sources. Perhaps you highlight your Kindle books, sketch in your physical books, or you copy/paste blog post takeaways into Roam, Notion or some other Personal Knowledge Management system. But taking notes from podcasts has always been a hassle. Do you stop in the middle of your walk to jot down a note? Do you take a screenshot with an intention to return to this part of the podcast later (which never happens)? Do you try to force your brain to remember it until you’re back at your computer?

I have struggled with this for years, and I’ve finally found an elegant solution to the problem in a wonderful new podcast iOS app called Airr.

Airr may look like any regular podcast player out there, but it has one killer feature that sets it apart from all the others: it lets you collect snippets of any ongoing podcast, with a single tap, as you are listening! These snippets are called “AirrQuotes”, and you can think of them as book highlights for the podcast format.

This is how it works: let’s say you are walking around and listening to David Perell‘s North Star podcast, for example the episode where David interviews Partick McKenzie from Stripe. Almost nine minutes in, Patrick says something very smart about why you should start writing online despite having zero people following you, because it can lead to great things down the line. You want to save this for later, for example because you want to use it in a blog post (like this one!). In that case you simply ask Siri to “Take an AirrQuote”, which trigges Airr to save the last 45 seconds you just heard in the podcast episode.

This AirrQuote is then saved in the Airr app, and you can return back to it later, for example when you are in front of your computer and you’re ready to add your AirrQuotes to Roam or your note-taking system of choice.

Let’s say you listen to the entire podcast episode, and you take AirrQuotes this whenever David or Patrick drops some wisdom bombs into your ears, like I did. After the episode is over, I have 5 AirrQuotes that I want to remember or refer back to.

When I’m at my computer, I simply open the Airr app on my phone, select all the AirrQuotes from the episode, and click Share. I can copy links to all the AirrQuotes, and paste the link directly into my Macbook, and it comes out like this:

Those links all point directly to the parts of the podcast episode that I have highlighted (I’ve made them public so you can listen to them if you want, just click the links above). Now I can simply re-listen to each AirrQuote and type what I hear directly into my note-taking app of choice. No need to listen to the entire episode again to re-discover my key takeaways. No need to try to remember all the points as I listen the first time. It’s all right there.

Export with text

If that weren’t enough, Airr has another amazing feature: podcast transcription export. For many podcasts, Airr provides a transcribed text from the podcast audio, so you can simply export your AirrQuotes in text format directly into your notes. These transcriptions are computer generated, so they aren’t perfect, but they still save you 90% of the time compared to writing out each note yourself. You just have to edit them for clarity and brevity, which is a good thing because working with the text will boost your retention rate.

Share AirrQuotes with friends

Another fun feature in Airr is the ability to share AirrQuotes with friends. Instead of saying “Hey you HAVE to listen to this podcast, it’s so great! Check out the 5, 8 and 32 minute mark!”, you can simply send a quick audio clip to a friend which makes it self-explanatory why he should listen to the episode.

These AirrQuotes can be shared either with a link to the clip (as I showed above), or they can be turned into engaging video clips that are even more fun to share.

Here’s one example from a podcast episode where TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie is interviewed about his personality type, which I had to send to a close friend who shares some of Blake’s personality traits.

Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, talking about his personality type as an Enneagram 7 (The Enthusiast)

See what your Twitter connections have AirrQuoted

Airr also integrates with Twitter, so you can see the AirrQuotes taken by the people you follow, and share your own AirrQuotes if you want. As Airr grows and gets more users, this will be more and more interesting. This could become the first podcast suggestion engine that serves me things I am actually interested in, much like a well-curated Twitter feed.

What do the people I admire find interesting? Which shows do they listen to? What specific takeaways do they highlight from the episodes they listen to? Their AirrQuotes will show me.

Top AirrQuotes from people I follow on Twitter.

Take an AirrQuote with just a tap on your AirPods (or other headphones)

Airr keeps improving with every new release, and the most recent feature that blew me away was a new shortcut for capturing AirrQuotes when I’m on the move. There are three ways to take an AirrQuote in Airr:

  1. Open your phone, open the Airr app and click the quote symbol (high friction),
  2. Ask Siri to “take an AirrQuote” while listening to a podcast (medium friction).
  3. Double-tap your left AirPod when listening to a podcast in Airr (extremely low friction).

This third method is simply brilliant. I can now easily capture AirrQuotes with a single tap on my AirPods while driving, walking around or while doing the dishes.

(Note: this feature also works with other headphones, in most cases with a triple click on the play/pause button. This is the command that usually leads to jumping back to the previous song in music apps, or jumping back 30 seconds in most podcast and audiobook apps).

Bonus tip: Change the Siri command

One thing I struggled with before the tap your Airpods feature came out, was that Siri would hear my attempts to say “Take an AirrQuote” as “Take an airport”, and be very confused. I changed the Siri command to “Take a podcast quote” instead, and then it worked every time. I recommend you do something similar if you want to use Siri for taking AirrQuotes.

Bonus tip 2: Export AirrQuotes directly to Roam:

I found this tip on twitter, posted by Sam Rukeyser, one of the founders of Airr. He has made an iOS shortcut that lets you dump your AirrQuotes directly into Roam from your phone.

See his process in this tweet:

Room for improvement

Airr is a fantastic app, but it’s still not perfect. Sometimes I experience a bug where the play button doesn’t work, and I’m patiently awaiting the day I can export the transcriptions from multiple AirrQuotes at once, which I guess the Airr team has on their roadmap for the future.

Final thoughts

Despite this minor issues, the bottom line is this: Airr is hands down the best podcast players for people who want to remember what they hear, take notes from podcasts, or share interesting podcast moments with friends.

I look forwards to taking loads and loads of AirrQuotes going forwards. If you do too, let’s connect on Twitter, so we can see each others’ quotes!

Click here to go straight to Airr in the App Store.

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Also published on Medium.

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