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How to listen to embedded audio in emails

PainSci members get audio versions right in their email inbox and it’s usually extremely easy to listen to it … but some email software doesn’t “play” nicely

Paul Ingraham • 2m read

One of the benefits of PainSci membership is access to audio versions of blog posts. When an audio version exists and goes out by email, it is included right at the top of the email. Here’s an example of what that looks like on an iPhone:

While some people might prefer the audio to be distributed as a podcast, audio embedded in an email does have its own kind of convenience. When you get the email, just press play!

Unless it won’t play. I think the most common reason this happens (especially on iPhones), is that the email software isn’t loading media by default (a good privacy/security feature). An iPhone may tell you that your “message contains unloaded images,” but what it really means is not just images but all kidns of media, including audio. And so before you listen, you need to tap the “Load All Images” button at the top of the email before tapping play. If you’re thinking that doesn’t make sense, you’re right! (But probably 99.9% of the time, images are what people care about, and so that is probably how the button should be labelled. This is why programming good software is hard.)

This is what embedded audio looks like on an iPhone before using "load all images". Note that the playback time for the audio is "00:00", which is an obscure visual clue that it isn’t actually ready to play.

When you load all “images,” the audio loads too! This is what it looks like after:

Successfully loaded audio shows the duration.

There are other possible reasons why audio in emails might fail, and please let me know if you figure out another glitch. But I think the media downloading this is by far the most common cause of confusion.

Failing that, the audio is always on the website

Meanwhile, the audio is always available on the website itself as well. It’s always displayed at the top of the web version of the post. If you're already logged in, it’s just right there, or you can just unlock instantly by giving your registration email.

You are logged in now, so you can test this by going to a post with an audio version (they are all marked in the blog index). You should see this:

You are not logged in right now. You can login by going to your account page, if you already have the link saved. If you don’t, you can always get that link re-sent to your registration email.

PainSci Member Login » Submit your email to unlock member content. If you can’t remember/access your registration email, please contact me. ~ Paul Ingraham, PainSci Publisher