Is iTunes really THE place for podcasts? Do you NEED a 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 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, 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 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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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.
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Jason Bryant
10 years ago

Great episode DJL, because as many of you in the podcast space explain, podfading when you don’t stick to a consistent schedule is almost imminent. One thing with the podcasts I’ve hosted in the past were being consistent. In a news-based niche, trying to capitalize on the news can be great, until other things get in the way. With my current podcast, I’m setting consistent release times and I’m starting to see consistent numbers and some steady (slow, but steady) growth. I find I was initially doing the podcast (at first) the same day as a release and there was no rhyme or reason to it. Now that I’ve found a good MWF (two of the shows I produce and host myself) format, listeners are starting to become aware they are released on certain days and they’re already downloading the episodes before I even hit the social media blast on Twitter, Facebook and G+. This series has been fantastic. For some reason, I feel like I’m coming off as a fanboy with listening live and incessant commenting, but this series REALLY is helpful, even to those like me who think they’ve got some of the timing stuff figured out.

Jason Bryant
10 years ago

I always travel with a computer in case news breaks. I’m generally internet connected when I need to be. But I’m starting to make sure I have content in the hopper ready to go. An example is this coming week. I’m going to North Carolina for a wedding for about 5 days. During that time, I’ll have two shows to release. They’re already done. Just plug them into wordpress and auto post when the time comes and hit social media the days they auto post. It’s something I actually did when I traveled on my old show long before I’d ever heard of the John Lee Dumas, who I’ve actually only listened to once.

So I have Friday (of this week), and Monday (of next) already loaded and ready. Wednesday is the only show that’s recorded and released the same day, but that’s actually another show within my podcast. We record that show from a radio station in Iowa as part of our podcast, so that’s the Wednesday show. The only problem that can come up there is little tech knowledge at the station, so I use Audio Hijack to get the audio off the live stream (which can be risky at times, no the studio doesn’t seem to want to record the show for us unless they absolutely have to).

I’m trying to build up non-timely shows (since my offseason is interview based) to have ready to drop in within a two week period and then have the ability to move shows based on relevance. On Monday, I’d already released a podcast and was waiting for Friday to release a big name interview. Then there was a hire at a Division I wrestling program (new head coach). So I’ve got that person as Friday and bumping the previous guest show to Monday. I don’t actually publish the show on blubrry until I know my order, so I’m not saying “Episode 61” when it’s actually 62 or 60.

I also have the Roland ready to roll if I need to do things on the road. I always travel with my computer, even though I might not turn it on.

3 years ago

Hi, I am new to podcasting and would like to launch at the end of the summer.
I am familiar with WP and would use it to create a website as a place to house my podcast episodes etc.
I am thinking of going with Buzzsprout as a podcast host and I know they have a plugin with WP. So that’s good.
So my question is: do I need a site that will host WP? And if yes, what might work?

Thomas Byskov Dalgaard
Thomas Byskov Dalgaard
2 years ago

Hello Daniel!

Thanks for this great mini series. Are you aware that all these episodes (from 170 to 181) aren’t available via the rss feed” ?
Does this serie use it’s own feed?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

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