A podcast isn’t just about the audio.
It’s a complete listener experience that includes the elements of music, artwork, episode notes, and transcriptions.
When you set up a podcast you need to create artwork so it can be displayed on all the podcast platforms.
There’s an art and science to this process.
Even though I’m not a design expert there are a few hard guidelines I can give.
Your podcast artwork should match the message of your brand and the feeling you want your listeners to have.
For example, if it’s a Docu – Hybrid personality-driven podcast then having the talent’s picture on the artwork is almost always the way to go.
When deciding on the artwork I zoom out to make the artwork the size of a small thumbnail.
After it’s a small thumbnail I step back a couple of feet from the screen to see if I can understand the overall feeling of the show just by taking a glimpse at it.
Because Apple Podcasts is the largest platform we are optimizing everything around Apple.
Unless you’re doing an exclusive release with Spotify or another platform put your focus on Apple.
Artwork sizes to create:
3000px X 3000px under 500kb in size
1400px X 1400px under 500kb in size
1920px X 1080px under 500kb in size
300px X 300px under 50kb in size
Creating custom artwork for each episode is a great way to add to the listener experience.
Platforms like Spotify highlight the episode artwork and when thumbing through shows it helps episodes stick out.
If you’re doing an Interview format then having the guest’s name or an image of the guest in the artwork is a great way to customize the show. It also encourages the guest to share it with their audience.
Here are the episode artwork sizes to create:
3000px X 3000px under 500kb in size
1400px X 1400px under 500kb in size
1920px X 1080px under 500kb in size
Coming up with a name for your podcast is a fun and I’ve found that the name either comes instantly or it’s a lengthy creative process.
The title of your show will largely depend on the format of your show.
Docu – Hybrid shows often have the name of the host in the title.
Arced – Series podcasts rarely have the name of the host.
Interview shows typically have a title about the topic or the name of the company.
They can also have the host’s name in the title if it’s a memorable host. The options are endless.
Spotify requires the podcast title to be shorter than Apple Podcasts because they are focused on improving the listener experience and keeping their user interface clean.
A lot of shows on Apple Podcasts use spam keywords in the title and subtitle to game the system.
The way podcasts do this is by inserting famous people’s names or industry keywords.
Eventually, this practice will end so just avoid it.
Podcast Title Specs:
Spotify title 42 characters or less
Apple Podcasts 75 characters or less (don’t keyword stuff)
With Apple Podcasts there’s not actually a hardline at 75 characters so you can go to 150 or beyond but remember to not spam. Spotify is a hard cut off at 42.
When you set up your show and fill out the summary to describe your podcast this is where you can add in additional information.
Give your elevator pitch about why people should listen.
Podcast Summary Specs:
Apple Podcasts 385 characters or less
Spotify 255 characters or less
With Apple Podcasts this isn’t as much of a hard-line as Spotify, however, you want it to be concise and clear.
Each episode will have a unique title so do your best to pull the listeners’ attention to hit that play button.
If the listener is already subscribed to your podcast it will automatically push the newest episode to their device, but that doesn’t mean they will listen to it.
For Interview format podcasts the podcast episode title can be simple and just list the guest’s name or it can be complex like a title to a blog post.
Keywords may matter depending on the listening platform.
Episode Title Specs:
Try and keep the title at 75 characters or less
DO NOT mention episode number or the podcast name in the title for Apple Podcasts
When you publish a podcast episode most hosts give you the option to have alternative titles for the different platforms.
Here are some examples of episode title options:
Explorer Starts First Eco-Tourism Business In Antarctica And Nearly Dies #60
#60 Explorer Starts First Eco-Tourism Business In Antarctica And Nearly Dies
Explorer Starts First Eco-Tourism Business In Antarctica And Nearly Dies
Adventure Network: Hugh Culver
Providing additional information about the episode is valuable for listeners.
In the summary you can list highlights from the show, add resources with links to websites and have additional content.
You can make this as short as a sentence or it can be as much content as a blog post.
The key is to make it valuable for the listener.
Podcast Episode Summary Specs:
Apple Podcasts summary should be around 255 characters
This is typically your first paragraph
Depending on which platform people listen to the podcast episode summary will have different formats.
The rule of thumb is to focus on making it look good on Apple Podcasts since they are the largest platform.
One of the unique features of Apple Podcasts is the ability to attribute who the speakers are in the episode.
You should only list who is actually on the podcast episode.
DO NOT spam this section and add in celebrity names or keywords.
Some podcasters were gaming the system by adding in celebrity names to only find their podcasts penalized.
Having music play at the start, end and sometimes throughout the podcast episode makes the listening experience more colorful.
Using the same music for each introduction or segment can also create familiarity with the listener.
If you’re looking to get music for your podcast you can either have it be an original production or use royalty-free music that you have rights to legally use.
Creating your own music isn’t typically an option for most non-musicians. If you hire out that production expect to spend $500-$5000 to retain total ownership.
Purchasing or finding royalty-free music is the most common pathway.
Here are a couple resources for music:
CAUTION: DO NOT ever use music that you don’t have rights to. Not even small samples.
If you use copyrighted music on your podcast episode (even for 1 second) you cannot have that episode on Spotify and other platforms.
Just don’t do it.
This is a topic that nobody can agree on because it varies by budget and skillset to operate.
Plus it’s terribly difficult to get into all the technical details with people on Mac’s or PC’s.
I’ll settle the debate and say that my favorite all-around microphone is the Audio Technica ATR2100.
This microphone is only around $70 and it plugs directly into your computer by USB which is the use case for 90% of people.
It also has an XLR connection if you are using a mixer or portable recording device like a Zoom H4N or Scarlett 2i2.
There are two types of microphones. Condenser and Dynamic.
Condenser microphones pick up all the sound in a room. They are excellent microphones and many studios use them, however there is a downside to using them.
They are more sensitive to room noise.
So unless you are recording in a quiet space I’d recommend avoiding this type of microphone.
Dynamic microphones are not as sensitive to room noise.
With dynamic microphones you need to get up close and personal with it by speaking directly into the head.
Use headphones when recording especially when you are doing interviews.
Also, make sure your guest has headphones so there is no bleed over in audio.
Any headphones will work. Just plug them into your computer.
These items aren’t necessary but make the audio sound better.
Both Mac and PC computers have built-in recorders. To keep things simple we’ll only talk about the essentials.
Here’s how to record on a Mac or PC.
Position your mouth about 6”- 8” away from the microphone. Wear headphones so the guest audio doesn’t bleed onto your track. Keep your microphone on an angle so you are not heavy breathing directly into it. For a more full voice keep the mic away from your nose. Use a pop filter or windscreen to prevent lip smacks and other sounds
If you’re in a pinch you can use your phones voice recorder.
Good audio quality and separate tracks is a must.
If you record both sides of the conversation with one microphone or with one audio track it’s nearly impossible to fix any errors that pop up.
In post-production it limits what you can edit so just avoid it at all costs.
The easiest tool to use for recording is Zoom.
It works on both PC, Mac and Mobile.
Just remember to record each side of the conversation. Here’s how.
Skype interviews used to be the best way to record. If you’re on a Mac it’s still a great solution because you can record the call with Skype Call Recorder.
A high-end tool for recording on both PC and Mac is Zencastr.
They do a double-ender recording which means it records each side of the conversation locally and can even have cloud backup.
The quality is great.
The absolute best recording quality will be in person with each speaker on their own microphone.
This isn’t always a solution because of schedules and various locations.
If you are able to record live you will need an audio interface and at least two microphones.
Allow a couple of seconds of silence before you start the interview and a couple of seconds after the interview so you have a clean start and stop.
If your show format features episode highlights, case studies, listener questions or has a call to action you may need to record your audio separate from the interview.
You can also record these audio pieces at the start or end of the interview.
In late 2017 a new tool hit the marketplace called Descript.
This is so amazing!
The way it works is you upload audio to the tool and then you can see the transcription of the audio along with the audio.
As you read the transcription or listen to the audio you can edit out parts of the conversation you don’t want.
This saves you hours of cutting and editing.
The best part is it exports files in friendly format that you can use with an audio editor. But don’t worry when you delete a portion of the audio it doesn’t remove it permanently.
It has saved us hours and hours and helps make a story POP.
Getting your audio transcribed is especially great if you’re trying to piece together a narrative or if you’re going to turn your podcast episodes into blog content or create a book.
Transcriptions are a valuable asset for SEO and other purposes..
Some listeners prefer transcripts for hearing impairment or other reasons.
There are machine learning transcription services and human-created transcripts. Machine learning has improved considerably over the years.
Here are a couple resources for transcriptions:
My favorite podcast host is Libsyn.
They are by far the largest player in the game and their support is word class. Thanks Dave, Rob and Elsie.
Going with providers like SoundCloud, Amazon or cheap hosts will come around to haunt you.
Just don’t do it.
Figuring out where to place your podcast can be overwhelming.
There is a lot of misguided information and unnecessary extra work people suggest.
Here are the platforms to have your podcast on:
You can set up the majority of these distribution channels inside your Libsyn account.
Another reason why I love Libsyn.
Because your podcast is a RSS feed most podcast players and niche podcast directories will pick up your show from that feed.
Don’t worry about signing up for hundreds of niche sites that may be closed down in a year or two.
Creating your podcast format, recording episodes, talking to guests and piecing it all together is the most fun part of the podcast experience.
Getting people to find your show is where you have to think more strategically.
For your show you will have metrics such as downloads per day/week/month, duration of listen, geographic location and device type.
This will help you understand what episodes are doing best.
It also gives you insight where listeners are dropping off.
There aren’t hard numbers I can give you to say if you’re show is a winner because it depends on your category and your own personal goals.
If you listen to The Feed podcast with Rob Walch and Elsie they share industry averages which may give you a clearer picture of where you stack up against other shows.
Because these stats change every month you’ll want to check out their show.
If you’re a guest on someone else’s show it’s unlikely they will share all of their metrics with you.
They may tell you the amount of monthly downloads, average episode download or total downloads.
Besides podcast host stats there are a couple key indicators to look at.
Production quality and talent quality are the most important things to consider.
This means the audio quality needs to be clean and free from distractions.
It doesn’t mean you have to record in a studio and use a thousand dollar microphone.
Sure, better equipment can help, but a better microphone doesn’t make you a better podcaster.
The hosts job is to be interesting and lead the listener along to the end of the episode.
Depending on the type of show you do the host will either create hooks to get the listener excited about what’s next or they will ask great questions and then get out of the way and let the guest talk.
Even if your show has well-known celebrities as guests but is poorly produced or has boring talent you may get episode downloads but you won’t get subscribers.
Another indicator of a successful podcast is listener engagement which you can see in your podcast analytics of listener duration.
There are external ways to see how engaging your show is.
You can see if there are comments on social media, the website page or inside Apple Podcast reviews.
Twitter is a great place to look for interactions especially if there are any show specific hashtags.
Reviews on Apple Podcasts can be deceiving. Some shows buy fake reviews and others use viral campaigns that require a review in order to get some bonus.
Just because a show has a flood of reviews it doesn’t mean they have a huge audience or loyal audience.
When it comes down to it reviews don’t have as much weight as subscribers.
You have to view podcasts in a similar way to YouTube.
It’s common and at times fairly easy to have a video get a ton of views.
The real challenge is getting viewers to become subscribers.
Apple Podcasts and other platforms are more concerned with subscribers vs downloads.
Podcasting is not a field of dreams “build it and they will come” type of thing.
Some of the biggest challenges are misinformation and setting the target on the wrong mark.
Often I hear people say they have a massive social media following and that’s the way they will grow their podcast.
Social media is great but it is not the golden solution to growth.
You have to view it as a distribution and discovery channel where you can tell your audience about your show.
Because of algorithms you won’t organically get in front of your entire audience and in most cases you will have to pay to run ads for full reach.
Social media is useful with tagging the guest you interview and interacting with listeners.
There are exceptions to social media being the catalyst for massive growth but for most cases it is an accelerant and not the complete solution.
For years this was the target all podcasters were aiming for.
We’ve had over a dozen shows on Apple’s New and Noteworthy and sure it’s cool but it doesn’t move the needle causing a growth spike.
You will see a bump in downloads but it won’t become an overnight success and that’s even if you hit the main page of Apple Podcasts.
The strategy of interviewing other podcasters on your show and then being a guest on other people’s shows is common practice.
It works well and if you’re in front of your ideal listener it’s an easy way for new listeners to find you.
I will throw out a word of caution for going down this route.
The interview swaps oftentimes is the same story told over and over and can be terribly boring for listeners. The majority of business podcasts do this but for the listener it can create massive audience churn.
If you’re interviewing another podcaster or being a guest on another show be clear why you’re doing it. It could be for notoriety or to get in front of a new audience.
There may be some search benefit of a well-known guest or podcaster on your show but don’t consider it the golden solution.
Sending out an email to your network is typically the best strategy and catalyst for growing a podcast.
Depending on your audience size you will see a significant bump in downloads. When you email your audience let them know where they can listen to the episode and make a call to action for them to subscribe.
Offering different links to different platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify is important.
If you have an email list you will want to let your audience know about the show release and then notify them of new episodes.
Running ads for people to listen to your podcast is a great short term and long term strategy for consistent growth.
Places to run ads:
If you’re doing this as a hobby or on a tight budget you may need to slim down the money you spend on ads.
One solution is to run ads to custom audiences like your internal email list and just focus on one ad platform at a time.
My friend Kevin Davis runs a digital marketing agency and often we strategize the best ways to promote a podcast and time and time again custom audiences on Facebook are the winner.
Another solution is to turn your podcast into YouTube videos and run ads on YouTube.
Ultimately the way to grow your podcast is by making it something people want to listen to and something they’re sharing organically.
If the content is great people will tell others.
Here’s a shortlist of things you can do to encourage others to share your episodes.
People are listening to your show because they get something out of it.
That means it could be for education or entertainment.
One thing is certain. If they are willing to take the time to listen and bring you into their life you should be willing to interact with them.
Anytime listeners leave comments or send you emails be cool and interact with them.
It’s so easy to get off track and think of downloads as numbers and not ears.
I’m still amazed to think that hundreds, thousands or millions of people each episode are willing to step into your world and take part in the experience.
You have an immense responsibility and duty to be great.
All of the technical know-how and strategy can pull you off track to the real purpose which is to enhance people’s lives.
What that really means is it comes down to turning on the microphone, hitting record and creating a memorable experience for the listener.
At first, it will be hard.
You will make mistakes.
But you’ll get better over time.
I encourage you to embrace the awkwardness and create.
We all have a starting point so why not start now.
Podcasts are now the go-to place for political commentary, career learning and entertainment, and all the rave is about listener growth.
But listener growth isn’t the thing to be excited about.
The big indicator that we’re in a boom is Corporate Adoption.
Companies are getting into podcasting – this is BIG!
Likely you’ve heard commercials on podcasts.
The next revolution of commercials are company created shows.
Blue Apron has been a long-time podcast sponsor on some of the largest podcasts like Side Hustle School with Chris Guillebeau.
Here’s the kicker that caught my attention.
Blue Apron now has their own podcast.
With the perfect title – Why We Eat What We Eat.
Clearly the economics of being a sponsor has worked for them.
Now they realize owning a show and creating a deeper relationship with listeners is a long term play.
Other corporations like Goldman Sachs are starting to jump in the podcast arena.
The podcast is a medium where the business can connect with listeners and tell stories.
And it’s working.
These Goliath businesses are starting to feel more human-like.
Listeners Changed From Being Techie to Trendy
We’ve seen an uptick in new shows being created, and even though we see more shows added every year the major change was that we saw a spike in growth of non-tech users.
If your baby boomer friends have listened to a podcast you know it’s not just for millennials.
After managing millions of downloads and analyzing hundreds of shows I’m going to show you where podcasts are going.
Together we’ll talk about different show format and what types of shows will do the very best moving forward.
Don’t worry. If you don’t have a podcast it’s not too late – but you have some catching up to do!