Should-podcast-be-in-iTunes-or-have-its-own-mobile-app

Most podcasters will consider iTunes as the podcast directory. But should you stop there? Or should you even bother with iTunes and get a mobile app for your podcast instead?

Challenging the Podcasting Assumptions

This is a special miniseries to challenge the ideas podcasters have accepted as truth for years. Some will stand up against the challenge while others crumble, and some will reveal new options you may have never considered.

Is iTunes really the place for podcasts?

In 2005, Apple released iTunes 4.9, which included its own podcast directory. Until then, the main podcast apps were iPodder, Juice, and some others (most of which are dead today).

Since 2005, iTunes has been as high as 90% of a podcast’s downloads. Is iTunes still relevant to the podcasting space today?

Clearing confusion: What iTunes actually does

iTunes is an app that connects people with your feed. You don’t upload anything to iTunes itself. You only give it your RSS feed, which it then publishes to its directory.

In order to operate quickly, iTunes caches information for its directory. This is like taking a snapshot of content and updating the snapshot every now and then. This is why you won’t see your latest episode immediately in the iTunes store, but subscribers have immediate access to your latest episode (as long as you don’t use FeedBurner or another feed service, or have problems with your feed).

How popular is iTunes?

iTunes is still the largest podcast consumption app. How big? Rob Walch reported %%%% across all LibSyn stats for May, 2014. In my own Noodle.mx Network stats, I see iTunes and the Podcasts app together representing 55.9% of our downloads. After web browsers, my next highest app is Downcast with only 3%.

Rob reported that Stitcher is at 2.57% of all downloads, more than any other podcast app combined (except for Apple’s app). This makes it the #2 app/directory for your podcast, after iTunes.

The iTunes API also powers several other podcast apps, and iTunes podcast links even work on the BeyondPod app. So listing your podcast in iTunes automatically puts your show in other apps and directories.

What’s the downside to iTunes?

There are plenty of people that hate iTunes and Podcasts for iOS for various reasons. One problem that has affected some podcasters is that iTunes comes with its own rules. Apple has technical feed and hosting requirements, as well as content restrictions. For example, you may not use profanity in your show title, episode titles, or descriptions. If you do, your podcast will be kicked out of iTunes.

Being such a massive platform for podcasts, we’re at Apple’s mercy for how podcasts appear in iTunes and the features the platform offers.

Is iTunes just about rankings, ratings, and reviews?

I’ve heard a couple podcasters who chose to avoid iTunes because they believed it was just a competition space. While it’s true that shows can receiving ratings and reviews, and that these affect your ranking. It’s mostly irrelevant to your audience who has already decided to subscribe.

Yes, being on a platform that allows reviews opens you up to potential criticism. This will be hard to hear: if you can’t take some criticism online, then you probably shouldn’t be creating content online. Imagine an author who removes their book from all bookstores, including Amazon.com, because they didn’t like that others could write reviews!

If you need help tracking your podcast reviews, check out My Podcast Reviews!

Conclusion: Yes, your podcast should be in iTunes!

Regardless of your opinion of Apple and iTunes, you should list in the #1 platform. This makes it much easier for your potential audience to subscribe by simply clicking or tapping a couple links. That’s much easier than asking them to copy and RSS feed into a podcast app.

Does your podcast need its own mobile app?

Mobile apps seem all the rage these days, especially with prominent podcasters (like Marc Maron, Pat Flynn, and more) having their own apps for their podcast. But should you get one for your own podcast?

What can your own app do?

Having your own app for your podcast can have several benefits.

  1. Reduce the complexity for new podcast-consumers. More people are familiar with installing apps than subscribing to podcasts.
  2. Grow your audience by being findable on app-only directories, like Google’s Play Store for Android.
  3. Notify users instantly when a new episode is available, when you broadcast live, or when anything important happens. (These are called “push notification.”)
  4. Make it easier for users to engage by simply tapping a button to email, text, call your voicemail number, or send an audio/video message.
  5. Make it easier for users to share your content by implementing your own sharing buttons for social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or whatever you want) as well as email or even SMS texting.
  6. Connect podcast subscribers with the other stuff your offer (other content formats, services, products, and more).
  7. Simplify the subscription process if you host multiple podcasts by offering a single app for all of your shows.
  8. Brand the experience completely to your show or network.
  9. Add additional, website-like features to the app, such as a chat room, social stream, live broadcast, forums, comments, and more.
  10. Use device features, like GPS, camera, microphone, and more.
  11. Gather personal information (with the user’s permission) to learn more about your audience.
  12. Make money by selling the app.
  13. Make money by incorporating your own ads in the app.

Yes, you can do many of these with a mobile-optimized website. But getting users to consume regular content by visiting a website on their mobile device is even more difficult for them. You also miss features like push notifications, offline use, and more.

Why you might not want an app

Before you jump into getting your own app, consider some things.

  1. Apps make you more visible, but ensure your content is worth finding and titled well for searches.
  2. Apps can cost a lot to develop, especially if you want to cover multiple platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry).
  3. Apps require maintenance with technology updates, and also need customer support to ensure your users are happy.
  4. You may not have a large enough audience that anyone would want an app.

Where can you go to get your own app?

There are several options for getting your own app made.

  1. Hire a custom developer or team through sites like Elance or Odesk Upwork.
  2. Pay extra for LibSyn’s app options, if you already host with them.
  3. Pay Spreaker $99/year for a super-basic app.
  4. Buy a template to customize yourself (requires some basic programming understanding) from places like CodeCanyon.

I’ll update this page with more resources for getting your own app as they stand out.

Conclusion: You should think carefully about your own app

Certainly, having your own app has many benefits. I do think it would be great if every podcast had its own app. But you must carefully consider whether the potential benefits justify the cost. Is growing your audience or making things easier worth $100 per year?

In case you’re wondering, I do very much want my own app for Noodle.mx Network. But I just can’t afford it yet. Running a network means everything is instantly more expensive.

Learn more about mobile apps for podcasts

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Disclosure

This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.

About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.

5 comments on Is iTunes really THE place for podcasts? Do you NEED a mobile app?

  1. I don’t have a podcast app of my own yet, and I just launched my podcast today, so I don’t foresee it. However, as a developer, I am intrigued by the challenge of making my own. Perhaps one day!

    1. If you’d ever like to practice by making someone else’s app, I happen to know a podcast network. 😉

      1. If I thought I could commit to the project, I would definitely get into it. However,, just launched my show, and start my final year of college this fall (not to mention full time job and 4 kids). But, I may just start tinkering to see what all is involved!

  2. sempei13 says:

    Hey Daniel. I’d love to do the “how to submit” videos. LMK what you need.

    Paul Clifford
    ChurchTechCast.com Network

    1. Hi, Paul! The best way to get involved would be to join the email list at http://podcastplaces.com. I’ll send the details there when I have them ready.

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