People are listening to, watching, and subscribing to podcasts more on mobile devices than anything else. Here are nine things to make your podcast mobile-friendly.
1. Use a mobile theme or responsive website design
Having your site simply work on mobile devices isn't good enough. Your website needs to be optimized for small, touchscreen devices.
The easiest way to do this is to use a WordPress plugin like WP Touch or a similar plugin. This will detect what kind of device is being used and completely change the website's look to work well with that device size.
The better way is to use a theme with “responsive web design.” This makes your website design respond to the size of the browser by changing sizes, hiding elements, and adjusting layouts. I recommend WordPress themes from StudioPress, Appendipity (requires the Genesis Framework from StudioPress), and now Elegant Themes.
Not only do such optimizations improve the experience for mobile users, but Google now takes mobile-friendliness into consideration for your search-engine ranking for searches from mobile devices. Thus, your Podcast SEO does depend on your website design!
2. Embed modern media players
Mobile web browser will usually appropriately handle a direct link to a media file by playing the media in the browser. But this isn't an optimal experience for mobile users.
Such players will make it easy for mobile users to consume your media by displaying the players in your web page and having finger-friendly buttons.
3. Keep the files small
Mobile devices have three restrictions you should remember when encoding your files.
- Storage—Most mobile devices offer 8 to 128 GB of built-in storage. But this can quickly fill up with apps, music, photos, and videos.
- Bandwidth—Most cellular service providers don't offer unlimited bandwidth anymore. Thus, it may not be possible for subscribers to download large episodes when they're not on wifi. Sometimes, there's even an imposed file-size limit regardless of the allowed bandwidth.
- Internet speed—LTE connection speeds are great, but they're not always accessible, especially outside the USA.
Because of these restrictions, it's best to keep your files as small as possible, but also without sacrificing too much quality. If you want to offer high-definition (HD) video, consider offering a standard-definition (SD) option as well. Yes, this can split your ranking in iTunes to have multiple quality listings (a problem I hope Apple fixes someday), but it also gives you more opportunities to dominate the iTunes search results.
Audio encoding is easy.
- Nearly all spoken-word content: MP3, 64 kbps CBR (constant bitrate), 44.1 KHz, mono—about 1/2 MB per minute or 5 MB for ten minutes
- Music reviews and audio-dramas: MP3, 128 kbps CBR, 44.1 KHz, stereo—about 1 MB per minute or 10 MB for ten minutes
Video encoding isn't so easy because it has more dimensions than audio but it's based on a basic rate per second. Because of this, 24 FPS (frames per second) could produce a better picture than 30 FPS at the same encoding rate. It's especially not cheap to host. Here, you need to make the decision based on your visual resolution.
- SD: MP4 (h.264), 640 × 360, .6 MBps VBR (variable bitrate) target, 24 or 30 FPS, 64 kbps mono or 128 kbps stereo audio (44.1 or 48 KHz)—about 36 MB per minute or 360 MB for ten minutes
- 720p HD: MP4 (h.264), 1,280 × 720, 2.4 MBps VBR target, 24 or 30 FPS, 256 kbps stereo audio (44.1 or 48 KHz)—about 150 MB per minute or 1.5 GB for ten minutes
- 1080p HD: MP4 (h.264), 1,920 × 1,080, 5+ MBps VBR target, 24 or 30 FPS, 256 kbps stereo audio (44.1 or 48 KHz)—about 300 MB per minute or 3 GB for ten minutes
4. Include podcast app links on your site
When a mobile user visits your website, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to subscribe, especially since they're already on a mobile devices.
For iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), this is as simple as including an iTunes link. It doesn't even have to be specially made to launch iTunes. iOS 8 will recognize the link and open it in the Podcasts app. Even a couple apps on Android will recognize iTunes links!
Android is a much harder platform for podcasters because there's no official podcast app. Thus, I recommend including a Stitcher link plus a link to your podcast RSS feed. Having the RSS feed linked on your website also helps your podcast be more visible to the Microsoft Podcasts app on Windows Phone 8.1 and later.
PowerPress 6.0 and later now allow you to create a few subscription buttons. My own premium plugin, Social Subscribe & Follow Icons, contains many more options, and a future version will make this even more awesome with automatic platform detection!
5. Get a standalone app for your podcast
There's currently nothing more mobile-friendly for your podcast than having a mobile app! This makes your podcast more findable and accessible. Most people with smartphones already know how to install and launch apps—more than those who know how to subscribe to podcasts.
Currently, the two best places to get a standalone mobile app for your podcast are Libsyn and Spreaker. I like Libsyn's app offer the best (watch this walkthrough video, because they'll make an iOS, Android, and Windows Phone app for your podcast! Speaker also offers custom apps, but theirs will end up being more expensive than Libsyn's, and you don't get a Windows Phone app.
6. Speak memorable links
When subscribers consume podcasts on mobile devices, they're often not in a place to write down long URLs or even visit them right away. This is why I recommend that any link you must give in your podcast be something easy to say and remember. The simplest thing to do is send your audience to your show notes with a worded URL, like this episode's /mobilefriendly (but /215 still works, too).
7. Include show notes in your RSS feed
More podcast apps are starting to display the show notes along with the podcast episode. The Podcasts app for iOS even lets you manually hyperlink text for URLs, phone numbers, and email addresses; but it also automatically hyperlinks any of those that are in plain text.
If you use Libsyn to create your RSS feed, simply hyperlink the text you want in each episode's Description. PowerPress can already adapt your rich-text-formatted show notes to display URLs in plain text, but version 6.1 will support hyperlinking text, too.
However you do it, this makes it easy for your audience to tap on the relevant links and feedback information directly from their podcast app.
8. Write front-loaded titles
Because mobile devices have small screens, episode titles are usually truncated. It's okay to have long titles, but the most important part should be in the beginning so it's readable before the title is truncated or scrolled. This also helps with SEO.
9. Standardize your volume levels
Podcast consumption, especially with mobile devices, happens in a variety of environments—quiet, noisy, distracting, and more. One of the best ways to make your audio more consumable (even if you're publishing in video) is to reach standard volume levels.
We can now measure this is “LUFS” (loudness units to full scale). The ideal targets are -16 LUFS for stereo and -19 LUFS for mono (this is because most players give a 3 dB boost to mono audio). Auphonic (online and the desktop Leveler app) and Adobe Audition's “Match Volume” tool are the most accessible ways to reach these levels.
I will have a loudness-reaching video tutorial (or several tutorials) coming soon!
Thank you for the podcast reviews!
- VeganDamo, from Australia, said, “… Daniel is the king of “Top 10″ style content, & while this can seem annoying to some, the way he fleshes out his topic is great. While I still haven't started my own podcast, Daniel is still inspiring me to eventually start one. …” Read the full review.
- BassCaster Bros. said, “We love it! It has helped us make our podcast better and continues to in every podcast. Daniel does a great job!”
- Leebruins said, “I’ve just recently started listening from episode 1, and can’t wait to get caught up! The tips and tricks Daniel covers in his podcast will be very helpful in starting my own. Thanks again!”
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