People create podcasts because they want to be heard. Businesses, in particular, a course in miracles as part of their marketing, PR, or investor relations programs. Yet a surprising number of podcasts are hard to find, hard to listen to, or hard to identify once you’ve put them on your MP3 player. Here at the Podcast Asylum, we call the two most common barriers podcasters erect between themselves and listeners Podcastus Inhopsitus (the unfriendly podcast) and Podcastus Incognitus (the unidentified podcast). Let’s take them one at a time.
I recently discovered a podcast-a very good one, too-which suffered from almost all these problems. I would never have found out about it if another podcaster hadn’t mentioned it when interviewing the guilty show’s host. The podcast is only available through iTunes, is published in Apple’s proprietary AAC format, has no show blog, no click-to-play option, and no comment line. The podcaster only occasionally invites listeners to contribute opinions, without giving clear directions about how to do so.
Search engines can’t find anything in the iTunes Music Store, which is where its podcast listings reside. That means your podcast won’t turn up in response to a search on the subject that you’re talking about in that episode. If you already have a blog, you can include your podcast show notes and click-to-play link there, instead of creating a new blog, though having a separate show blog makes it easier for listeners to find the episodes they want.
Having a domain name for the show blog which is the same as your show name also makes it easier for people to find you if they hear someone else mention your show. Besides, blogs are inexpensive and easy to set up. Having a show blog also makes it easy for listeners to comment, and for you to know which episode their comments refer to. Your blog will let you know every time a comment comes in.
Sure, iTunes is the 800-lb gorilla when it comes to podcatchers and podcast directories, and if your show gets featured in iTunes, people will subscribe. But not everyone uses iTunes to download podcasts. And since you (or your webmaster) have to create a feed for iTunes to use, you might as well put a link to it on your website.
Not everyone you want to reach with your show know how to subscribe to podcasts. Even those familiar with the iTunes store may need some guidance. Make sure you explain that subscription is free (unless it isn’t). There’s a handy video with complete instructions at LearnToSubscribe.com. In addition to posting subscription links on your show blog, make sure you include subscription instructions in every show. (You can just tell them the URL of your show blog and say “Follow the directions under ‘Subscribe’.”)
Always Include a Click-to-Play Option As many as 60% of people who listen to podcasts listen directly from their computers. For many people, clicking on a “play” button that looks like what they see on their stereos is easier than downloading a file and then transferring it onto an MP3 player. There are several options for embedding Flash-based MP3 players right into your show blog, including the brilliant PodPress plugin for WordPress blogs and the free MirPod player, which works on any website. (You can see a sample of the PodPress player on the Reports from the Asylum blog.)
You might need a little help from your webmaster to set this up, but it’s definitely worth doing. PodPress collects statistics on the number of people who download or play the show from that link, too.
It’s true that MP3 doesn’t have the best compression or the best audio quality. And it doesn’t let you use advanced features like bookmarking or let you “enhance” your podcast with illustrations. But MP3 audio files have been around for at least a decade, and you can play them on anything. Even if you want to release an enhanced version of your show, you should make a plain MP3 version of each episode to make it easy for everyone to listen.