If you have a podcast listed in the iTunes podcast directory, then you probably received the following email on Wednesday, March 6, 2013.
Dear Podcast Provider,
New Cover Art Requirement
iTunes has been completely redesigned and there are new requirements for podcast cover art. To be eligible for featuring on iTunes Store, a podcast must have 1400 x 1400 pixel cover art in JPG or PNG format using RGB color space. The image URL must end in “.jpg”, “.jpeg” or “.png” and the server hosting the image must allow HTTP HEAD requests. See our technical spec for details.
Server Configuration Requirement
Podcast streaming playback on iTunes requires all hosting servers to enable Byte Range Requests. Please confirm your hosting servers have this functionality enabled. If you work with a third-party hosting service, please contact them to confirm this functionality is enabled on their servers.
155 Countries & More Than 100 Languages
iTunes Podcasts has launched in additional countries around the world. Note that reviews and ratings are unique to each country. Podcasts are published in more than 100 languages.
The iTunes Podcast Team
This information is nothing new. It is the exact same message that the iTunes Podcast Team also sent on February 22, 2013; and it reiterates information that they previously sent on May 18, 2012 (“Metadata Best Practices”), as well as on March 28, 2012.
New cover art “requirement”
iTunes' new rule for podcast cover art is probably what stands out most to everyone. This is actually not a new requirement, but it's easily misunderstood.
From the Apple podcasting spec (emphasis added):
iTunes prefers square .jpg images that are at least 1400 x 1400 pixels, which is different than what is specified for the standard RSS image tag. In order for a podcast to be eligible for an iTunes Store feature, the accompanying image must be at least 1400 x 1400 pixels.
Most of the confusion is over the little word “must.” Since May 18, 2012, Apple has said that a podcast must have 1,400 × 1,400 cover art in order to be featured.
Large Cover Art
To be considered for promotion on the iTunes Store, your podcast cover art must be 1400 x 1400 pixels or larger, in .jpg or .png format. Please note that all images must be formatted for RGB color space. CMYK is not supported.
[Email from iTunes podcast, dated May 18, 2012]
This means that if you ever hope to be featured by Apple in the iTunes podcast directory, such as under New & Noteworthy or any other special featured section, your podcast cover art must be at least 1,400 × 1,400.
This is not a requirement for just being in the iTunes podcast directory. You can get into the podcast directory with crummy cover art, rectangles, or small sizes. That hasn't changed.
Only being featured by Apple requires your cover art to be the larger size. That, also, hasn't changed since May 18, 2012.
What does this mean for you?
Many theorize that Apple is about to release a new Apple TV or even a smart TV and the 1,400 square image will also be used on that platform.
If you have a retina iPad with the Podcasts app, then you've seen 1,400 × 1,400 cover art since around version 1.1.
This is the third time Apple has emailed podcasters to tell them about the image-size requirement for being featured. If your podcast cover art wasn't designed at 1,400 × 1,400 (or bigger), then have four options.
- Get away with simply enlarging the cover art with an image-editor. But your cover art won't look as crisp.
- Go back to your designer or master file and scale or replace the elements so they stay crisp.
- Hire a designer to create new podcast cover art for you. I specialize in high-quality podcast cover art design.
- Do nothing and your podcast will remain in iTunes, but it will never be featured by Apple.
What will you be doing to improve your podcast in iTunes? Is your cover art already 1,400 × 1,400? If not, let me know and I'd be happy to redesign it for you.
Like when requirements changed from 300×300 to 600×600, this is a good reminder to use vector formats when designing your artwork. This means using apps like Illustrator or Sketch. Then it’s a simple resize and you retain the crispness.
Or design your artwork from the get-go at 32,000×32,000 and you’re good! Sure, half your MP3 will actually be JPG but hey, won’t people be listening to your podcast in the year 3000?
Vector is a great way to go, but it’s not always possible if the cover art contains images.
And designing at a massive size is, unfortunately, not always affordable since stock images cost more at larger sizes. A 300 × 300 image could cost $15 but a 2,400 × 2,400 image could cost several times more. This is an issue I face in custom-designing podcast cover art.
Very good point! But I read this and thought to myself, “Surely Daniel is crazy out of his mind bonkers. Of all the podcasts I listen to, only one has a photo! This must affect a tiny percentage of podcast artwork.” But I tossed and turned in my sleep last night… maybe Daniel was right… maybe I just like line art… my sample size is quite small compared to podcasts as a whole… maybe I’m the one who’s bonkers… surely not!
So I awoke quite sleepy from my vector art fretting and hit the data. I went through the top 260 “New and Noteworthy” podcasts (I got tired after 250 and quickly wrapped up) and categorized the artwork into two categories: “Vector” and “Photo.”
And I subcategorized Photo into “Stock Art Photo” and “Owner Obviously Has The High Resolution Photo So Scaling Isn’t A Problem.” That last subcategory typically means it’s a pro photo of the host or self-shot high resolution. Let’s call that subcategory “High Res.” Also, there were some that were obviously shot on a cell phone or something low res so I lumped those into “Stock Art Photo” because they won’t scale well.
This is all very unscientific. But interesting nonetheless. And let me break the news early: I was wrong. Daniel was right! What the heck! Here’s the breakdown:
Vector: 116 – 45%
Photo: 144 – 55%
– Photo (Stock Art): 74 – 28%
– Photo (High Res): 70 – 27%
So even if you think the High Res artwork is as easily scalable as the Vector, you’re still left with 28% of podcasts that might have trouble scaling up to 1400px. That’s a significant number. And if a lot of those High Res artworks don’t have the originals laying around, it could be up to half of podcasts that will be a pain. Crazy!
Or at least I thought it was crazy. Turns out *I’m* bonkers. Kudos, Daniel!
LOL! Thanks for the fun story, Dave! 🙂
Another problem is that even if the owner has high-resolution versions of the photography, they may have only created the cover art at a small size. This may mean replacing images, re-trimming, reprocessing effects, and more.
Does this apply, in the XML, to the main channel’s artwork? or each individual podcast item must also have the new larger 1400 format? thanks
That’s a good question, but it’s difficult to answer. The original reason for 1,400 was that the Podcasts app for iOS dispayed cover art at that size on a retina iPad. But the app has since changed back to 1,200 and Apple hasn’t changed their specs.
I would say this 1,400 size doesn’t apply to ID3 tags, which are no longer as important to the iOS app because Apple favors the episode level cover art in your RSS feed. For this RSS tag (which Blubrry 5.0 now supports), I think 1,400 is still a good standard to uphold, especially if you want per-episode cover art back.