An upfront disclaimer: I’ve never made or distributed a podcast. However, I have been listening to them for many years – from a variety of providers.
Since podcasting is suddenly the hot new thing, some ten years after the name was first coined (and yes, I’m aware that they’re older than that), I thought I’d run through a little list of simple things that people could do to make their podcasts a little better. Not so much the audio – although there’s that too – but the process around it. And yes, I’ve come across all of these things since the start of 2015.
1. Make sure you have an RSS feed.
You might not really understand what one of these is, and despite them being very smart and versatile, it feels that many others have no idea either. But they’re essential if you plan to have anyone listen to more than a single episode of your podcast. So you need one, and you should make it visible. That allows people on mobile especially to add your podcast to their podcast apps.
2. If you’re using SoundCloud to host your podcast, then get on their, still beta, podcasting programme.
This is the same as #1 really. It gives you an RSS feed, which is essential for people subscribing to your podcast. Linking to your SoundCloud page is not good enough. That just lets me listen in a browser, which is not the most convenient way of listening.
3. A link to the iTunes store page of your podcast is not good enough.
Unless your podcast is aimed solely at Apple users, you need to have a page somewhere – probably a website – that points, yes to iTunes, but also to your RSS feed. Because although you and all your friends listen on iPhones, most of the world doesn’t have one, and you might like them to listen too. In any case…
4. You probably also want to have a stream available to listen via a PC somewhere on a website.
According to one recent piece I read, 40% of popular podcasts can still be delivered via direct streams. Aside from anything else, having a website gives you a place to link to when you’re directing people to back episodes, or to put detailed show notes and relevant links. There is no easy way to share podcasts across ecosystems at the moment, so directing other users via your site is perhaps the best way. So an individual page for each podcast you make is a good idea.
And vitally, this also makes your show properly searchable. You do want people to find you via Google don’t you? (If you really wanted to go to town, then including a transcript of your show would be awesome, but also enormously time-consuming until technology can make a decent fist of it anyway, or there was a script in the first place).
5. Include show notes in your podcast.
There’s a place for them, and ideally they should say more than the name of your podcast. Different podcast players use or don’t use them to greater or lesser extents. But since you’re putting together some text for a page on the website (see #4 above), then put this in the show notes too. This should include links to other things you were talking about on your show. If you have advertisers then they’ll like you for linking to them too!
6. Make some artwork – and put some words in it.
Create a show logo for your podcast. We live in a visual world, and people will judge you a bit by your logo, so if you’re not able to make one, find someone who can make one for you. You can actually also create episode images which may be worthwhile, although not all podcast apps will make use of them. But be sure to include the name of your podcast in the logo. When a user is browsing visually in a podcasting app, they’re often presented with a sea of tiles, so ensure that your podcast is identifiable in that sea. You may think your logo is instantly identifiable, but to be honest, you’re not Coca Cola are you? So it really isn’t. For bonus points, ensure that what you call it in your logo matches what you call it in the text. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised…
7. Unless there’s a very good reason, keep your podcasts alive in perpetuity.
To be honest, you’re probably going out of your way if you’re not making them permanently available. But it’s worth remembering that unless you’re already massive, there’s going to be a long-tail discovering your previous episodes, and depending on the timeliness of what your podcast is about, they may remain relevant for months or years.
Of course there may be rights arrangemnts that prevent this, or your may choose to monetise your back catalogue in some other way. But if you’re not doing those things, then why not make them permanently available?
8. Nobody is really happy with the name, and quite a few people aren’t happy with the technology, but don’t try to rebrand podcasts on your own.
You know who you are.
9. Can we all agree to ‘level’ our podcasts the same please?
This is getting better as production skills are improving, but nobody really wants to be dialling their volume up and down between different podcasts. There are lots of places online that will explain this.
10. Have you optimised the audio of your podcast?
Does your podcast need to be stereo? Does your mp3 need to be 320k? The answer to those questions will depend on what your podcast actually contains. But broadly speaking, if it’s simply two people speaking, then you probably don’t really need to be making a stereo podcast, so downmix it to mono, and save bandwidth for all concerned. On the other hand, if your podcast is all about music (and you have the appropriate rights to include it), then leave it as stereo and at a decent compression level.
Oh, and if you’re planning on dropping the occassional video into your podcast stream, think twice about including a 30 minute 1080p clip in your feed. It might look lovely on your tablet, but it’s going to fill a lot of your listeners’ smartphones, and they may not appreciate a 0.5GB video on their 16GB smartphone without warning.