“Episode 0” is a common strategy to help you launch your podcast in iTunes and help you get into “New & Noteworthy.” But do either of these actually matter for starting your podcast?
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.
- Are you really a “podcaster” and should you really be podcasting? – TAP182
- Does your podcast NEED interaction or an email list? – TAP181
- Is iTunes really THE place for podcasts? Do you NEED a mobile app? – TAP180
- Does SEO really matter in podcasting? – TAP179
- Do you REALLY need to edit your podcasts? What about authenticity? – TAP178
- Do you REALLY need audio/visual branding or promos for your podcast? – TAP177
- Should you launch your podcast with Episode 0? Does iTunes New and Noteworthy REALLY matter? – TAP176
- Are episode numbers REALLY necessary? – TAP175
- Does audio/video quality ACTUALLY matter? Is a dynamic mic REALLY the best? – TAP174
- Do you REALLY need passion? Is consistency THAT important? – TAP173
Should you launch your podcast with “Episode 0”?
When you're starting your podcast, you must have at least one episode in your RSS feed. Nearly all podcast apps/directories require this. If you don't have at least one episode, your feed may even return a 404 “page not found” error.
A common technique for launching (without prerecording a few episodes) is to start with an “Episode 0.”
What is an “Episode 0”?
Most podcasters who use an “Episode 0” treat it as an introduction to their entire show. It usually answers questions like the following.
- Who are you?
- How are you qualified to talk about this?
- Why are you podcasting?
- What will this podcast be about?
- What can I expect about this podcast's format and schedule?
- Why should I subscribe? (What's in it for me?)
Each of these questions are important for you to answer, because your audience will ask them. But is an “Episode 0” the best way to do this?
Some podcasters will use an audio or video promo as an “Episode 0.” I think that fine and good to put in a short promo as your first episode, but this isn't actually an “Episode 0.” (The next episode in this series will be about whether promos and audio branding are necessary and worth the expenses.)
Why an “Episode 0” may be helpful
Because “Episode 0” is usually a full introduction episode, it can become a resource for referencing in later episodes. It's something you can send people to for more information on you and your show's purpose. At any point, you could say, “To learn more about why I do this podcast, visit myawesomepodcast.com/introduction.”
How do you think an “Episode 0” is helpful? Please comment and share your experience!
Why an “Episode 0” may be worthless
There are several reasons you may want to skip the “Episode 0”:
1. New people don't care about you
One of the hardest and most important things to accept and remember in podcasting is that nobody cares about you—at least not yet; people care about your content first. Remember that people want to be helped and entertained. It seems that most “Episode 0” content is all about the podcast host, about the podcast itself (maybe some “navel-gazing”?), and is neither helpful nor entertaining.
2. You need a great first-impression
The first episode in your feed will usually be the most-downloaded. So do you really want “all about me” content to be everyone's first and most popular impression?
(In my case, my top episode is actually #5 about Chris's Dynamic Compressor with more than 12,000 downloads, #3 about the bare minimums (which I should update) with more than 9,000 downloads, and then #1 about the POD of podcasting with close to 8,000 downloads.)
3. You need more than one introduction
An “Episode 0” may also be unnecessary and create an incorrect assumption in your mind. If you release an introductory episode, it's easy to assume that everyone has heard it and knows who you are and what your podcast is about. I recommend that you treat every episode as someone's first time consuming your content, so introduce yourself and the show every time. Because you do this every time, you need to figure out how to do it concisely. The more you refine this, the better your marketing will get.
You may remember that, for a long time, my introduction to The Audacity to Podcast was, “a ‘how-to' podcast about podcasting and using Audacity.” I later added “award-winning” to it. I would close with “Now that I've given you some of the guts and taught you some of the tools”—which has been part of my branding from the beginning—”it's time for you to go podcast with passion, organization, and dialog.” I've since refined that to remove the “cute” POD and be more practical.
Now, my intro is, “Thank you for joining me for The Audacity to Podcast. I'm Daniel J. Lewis and this is the award-winning ‘how-to' podcast about podcasting. It's where I give you the guts and teach you the tools to launch or improve your own podcast for sharing your passions and finding success.” (I never read this. It's such a part of my branding that I can say it without thinking.) It's accurate and tells new listeners and reminds existing listeners what my content is all about.
4. You don't need an introduction episode
Introductions as main content are very rare. You'll never see an introductory episode for TV shows, introductory movie for series, or introductory book for a series of novels. Each of these will often contain introductory content, but it is within the regular content and not content all by itself.
This doesn't mean you always have to jump straight into your regular format. It's okay to have your first episode help introduce your show, but you can make it so much better.
Think of how you can make your first episode helpful to your audience, and weave an introduction into that. Here are some random examples of valuable content that includes introductory content.
- For a show about video games, “The top 10 video games you should have played in the past 10 years”
- For an entrepreneur-interviews show, “10 steps to being a successful entrepreneur” (one of the steps can be “Listen to this podcast” and why!)
- For a podcast about a TV show, “What we hope to get from _____ TV series” or “Why you should be watching ____” (Check out what Ben and Daniel did at Welcome to Level Seven – the unofficial podcast for Marvel's Agents of SHIELD.)
- For a news shows, “The best news stories you never heard”
Remember that you don't have to record your first episode first. Actually, it may be better to record a couple or few regular episodes (before going live) and then going back to record your first episode. Then you can tease some of what's coming.
Conclusion: skip “Episode 0” and start with great content
It's up to you for what to do about an “Episode 0” you already released. If you decide it's not worthwhile, then you could either completely remove it, or replace it with something more valuable.
If you're starting your podcast, think outside the “Episode 0” and figure out a way to launch with great content to make a great first-impression!
Does “New & Noteworthy” really matter?
Several podcasters have been talking about the “New & Noteworthy” section in iTunes. It may not be as important and unreachable as you may think, or maybe more than you thought.
What is “New & Noteworthy”?
When you submit a podcast to iTunes Store, it is personally reviewed by someone on the Apple podcasts team. Sometimes, they'll decide to feature it in a special section of iTunes called “New & Noteworthy” (N&N). Every category and subcategory of the iTunes podcast catalog has its own N&N listing, and the store front page has an overall list, too.
But N&N isn't always new stuff. I've even had a couple of my old podcasts be featured again in N&N, and so have others. Thus, some people think it should be called “New or Noteworthy.” English grammar can sometimes get in the way of properly understanding the title of this section. It's not that every item in the list is both new and noteworthy. But this is a list of new podcasts and of noteworthy podcasts.
Why is “New & Noteworthy” such a big deal?
Podcasters want so much to be in iTunes' “New & Noteworthy” section because they want to grow their audience. It is irrefutably true that being in N&N will attract a lot of new people to your podcast.
My Once Upon a Time podcast was listed in N&N when the second half of the TV-show's third season return. Because Noodle.mx Network is a successful podcast network, I am Content Partner with Apple, which gives me access to stats. (Yes, it's true that there are stats from Apple! Just not everyone can get them—yet.) Here are my findings from 2014.
- March (season returned on March 9): 4,974 browsed to our iTunes listing, 484 subscribed
- April: 3,298 browsed, 256 subscribed
- May (season ended on May 12): 2,929 browsed, 289 subscribed
You can see that being featured again gave us a boost of twice the new subscriptions over the following months.
When I launched The Audacity to Podcast, it quickly jumped to the #5 slot in N&N and I was getting thousands of downloads and my subscriptions jumped into the hundreds right away.
The other truth of N&N is that the spike will die down when you're no longer featured. The above numbers indicate a large number of people browsing to our listing and maybe even sampling an episode, but fewer than 10% of those browsers chose to subscribe.
This is why each of your episodes should introduce you and your show's purpose!
So if you launch and want to get featured, you should ensure your first few episodes are some of your best content so you'll entice your browsers to stick around for more.
But if you don't get featured, then you have a good opportunity to improve over time.
How to get in “New & Noteworthy” on iTunes
Simple: submit your podcast to iTunes. That's all it takes to be somewhere on the complete list of new and noteworthy podcasts.
But most people have their eyes on the top thirty-two places that appear on the front page of the iTunes podcast catalog or within a category or subcategory of the podcast catalog. This is more about ranking and launching well.
Here are the basic steps:
- Have an audience eager for your content.
- Launch with at least one episode quality episode.
- Encourage your audience to subscribe, rate, and especially write reviews for your show in iTunes.
Those three steps are the most important, but here are some additional tips.
- Have great-looking podcast cover art.
- Have a thorough description.
- Use good keywords in your show and episode titles and descriptions.
- Launch with three or more episodes.
- Consistently produce content for month after you launch.
Can you be “noteworthy” again?
This is pure speculation! Yes, I think you can be noteworthy again when you truly deserve it. That sounds harsh, but here are two cases when your podcast as a whole (not an individual episode) may be noteworthy again.
- Your show returned from a planned hiatus (and you'll be consistent again!)
- You rebranded your show
Those two are the only scenarios I can see for deserving to be noteworthy again. If either of these are the case, you could try emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your show feed, iTunes URL for your show, and legitimate explanation for why your show should be considered noteworthy again.
Conclusion: N&N matters, but focus on launching well
Yes, the “New & Noteworthy” section in iTunes matters for your podcast and can help you find an audience you may have never reached. But look at this as a reward for launching with a great podcast instead of being part of your launch strategy or the requirement for a successful podcast.
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