Podcasters don't have to be perfect, and it's easy to fix most of our mistakes. But here are thirteen things that you can't fix later if you don't get it right when you start podcasting. Most of these apply to blogs, too.
1. Control your RSS feed
The RSS feed is the lifeblood of your podcast. Whether you have your own website, use a free service like WordPress.com, or you pay for premium podcast services, you must have full control over your RSS feed.
Feedburner is the best way to keep this control. Yes, it's owned by someone else, but it's the easiest and most effective way to control your feed, no matter what you do.
WallysModcast feels this pain, “Sucks using wordpress.com cause i can not change my rss.” And Ileane agrees on using Feedburner from the start.
Also check out “Feedburner vs. PowerPress” with my friend David Jackson.
2. Launch with at least three episodes
You can launch a podcast in most directories with just a single episode, but having more episodes to start provides several benefits.
- Shows prospective listeners that the show is already going strong
- Greater likeliness of being featured in iTunes
- Acceptance into more podcast directories
- Gives listeners more to listen to in order to get the feel for your show
3. Have podcast cover art when you launch
I work with podcast cover art as one of my freelance design services because it's crucial to podcasting. You don't have to hire me to design your cover art, but you shouldn't launch a podcast without some.
Launching without podcast cover art will prevent your being featured in iTunes or many other podcast directories.
4. Keep episode numbering simple
Illeane and Jim Kerwin both shared similar thoughts on episode numbering. Keep your numbering simple and understandable.
Don't harm your podcast's brand by mixing it up with several different episode number systems. When we launched Are You Just Watching?, we would have full episodes and initial-reactions episodes and number these differently. While we might be on “episode 15” of the regular episodes, we were also on episode 8 of initial reactions.
Separate numbering systems for a podcast make it confusing for you and your listeners. Does “ABC010” come before or after “XYZ020”? Also consider how you would number the episodes in the ID3 tags.
Keep it simple!
5. Offer standard formats
iTunes popularized “Enhanced Podcasts,” which were AAC audio files that offered chapter markings and changeable cover art. This sounds neat, but it's merely a novelty that isn't in high demand.
Adding these extra chapter markings and cover art produced a lot of extra work for an audio podcaster, and there aren't many programs for doing this (GarageBand on OS X and PodReel for Windows).
Enhanced podcasts also work only on iTunes and iOS devices. And don't assume that everyone who subscribes in iTunes wants only an enhanced podcast.
6. Split podcast and blog RSS feeds
A good podcast should also have some accompanying blog posts, especially if you don't write good shownotes. But using a single RSS feed for blogs and podcast episodes produces a few problems.
- Every blog post will bump a podcast episode from the feed.
- If you raise the feed items limit, you may max out your RSS size, and it creates a larger file than necessary for podcast subscribers.
- Titling your blog and podcast separately is an extra step for iTunes, but impossible for other feed-readers.
Instead, separate your blog and podcast feed by:
- pulling a category-specific RSS feed (/categoryname/feed/, if permalinks are enabled), and add Posts Per Category to adjust how many episodes appear in the podcast-only feed;
- using PowerPress and taking their podcast-only feed, which pulls podcasts from any category (also offers similar adjustments of posts limits); or
- combining both of these techniques to keep your podcast episodes in their own category, but use PowerPress's podcast-only feed.
7. Have and use your own domain
Regardless of where you host your podcast when you start, get your own domain and at least forward it to your website. This makes it a lot easier when you move to somewhere else.
Domains cost only $12–$15 per year, and are often included with web hosting.
8. Make a branded email address
When you have a domain, also use it for your email address. “firstname.lastname@example.org” sounds so much more professional than “email@example.com.”
It's easy to make an email forwarder point to whatever email address you use, and it's easy to send from that podcast email address, even without making an extra email account.
9. Use a media host, or not
A media host like LibSyn or Blubrry offer truly unlimited bandwidth for a limited amount of storage. This is great for podcasters because it means you can upload a single episode and not pay anything different whether its downloaded by just your mom, or by the entire world.
If your podcast could get popular, you must have a media host. Otherwise, moving your media from one place to somewhere else can be difficult or expensive.
But if you won't get popular (have realistic expectations), you may be okay with hosting your media with your website (ask them first), or using Archive.org (not recommended because they're so slow).
10. Encode your files well
If you use a media host, your monthly storage is limited. If you start podcasting in 256 kbps stereo, then you'll fill up your monthly storage very quickly.
64 kbps mono is fine for most podcasts, and saves space and download time.
11. Write at least basic shownotes
Google and other search engines like words. Start your podcast with shownotes containing at least a simple bullet-point list of your topics. Then Google and other search engines can start crawling your site and finding those keywords.
What you do with words on your website now will affect how easily people will find you a month, a year, or even further from now.
12. Reserve social accounts with your brand
I've made this mistake many times in which I started using a brand or trademark, but didn't reserve it in the right places:
- Facebook page
- YouTube channel
- Twitter account
- Email address
- Other social network IDs
Even if you don't use these social accounts, reserving your trademark on them will prevent others from stealing it, and gives you that option to do something in the future.
13. Start strong and on-topic
I recommend against an introduction episode or “episode zero.” Only your first listeners will hear it, but it will turn away prospective listeners looking for your content.
Most podcasts don't need a full episode as the introduction and should instead include an introduction or reminder in each episode. You hear this in The Audacity to Podcast when I say who I am and what the podcast is about.
But if your podcast is deeper and requires some fundamental knowledge, that is good content for a first episode, and then keep referring back to that episode for more information.
Make sure you get into your niche content right from the start. Despite my precise marketing of The Audacity to Podcast when I started it, people still thought it would be a podcast exclusively about Audacity. So when it took five episodes before I started talking about Audacity, I lost some listeners and earned some negative reviews.
14. Recommended: skip USB mics and buy a mixer and mic
Although not required, I highly recommend that you start with a real XLR mic and a real mixer. These are both upgradeable or easily replaceable, without having to replace everything. An XLR mic and mixer can grow with you more easily than a USB mic will.
Another podcaster's list of regrets
Chris Cowan sent a list of his podcasting regrets.
- Submitting iWeb's RSS feed to iTunes
- Changing podcast names
- Using Podcast Maker
- Enhanced podcast
- Didn't have specific purpose to podcast (people don't want random)
- Didn't plan with detailed shownotes
- Podcast title that doesn't describe the show
PowerPress 3.0 is out and offers several great features. Most notable is that the HTML5 audio player's button image can be changed.
DoubleTwist (Android app) no longer requires payment for podcast streaming [via AndroidCentral].
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Great post – podcasts are a great way for bloggers to spread their content in a different medium. Happy people like you are out there helping standardize the process and improving the end product.
Thank you, Andrew!
First, thanks for doing the podcast and with such detailed show notes.
Second, I’d like to distupte your last point: Not only is changing hardware something that’s easy to do after you’ve started, but using USB equipment is simpler than messing about with another box (the mixer) on you desk and you can get excellent results (just look at the mics from Blue). In addition, I like to mix post-recording, as that allows maximum flexibility in editing – for example, when hosts talk over each other (or sneeze).
Actually, a $30 dynamic mic kit produces better audio than most of Blue’s inexpensive mics. Using a USB mic is great if you never plan to expand or attempt to improve, but they lock you into one method. If you ever want to upgrade, you have to completely discard the USB mic.
Can you give an example of such a kit? I’ve listened to excellent audio produced by the humble Snowflake.
BTW, you will also discard an XLR mic when you want to buy a new one…
This is the Nady mic kit for under $30.
Yes, you may discard the cheap XLR mic, but you could also:
1. use it for a cohost,
2. use it remotely when you don’t want to take the expensive stuff,
3. or discard and keep the XLR cable and mic stand that were other parts of the $30.
So at most, you may “throw away” $10 worth of stuff.
But that’s a lot better than throwing away a $50–$100 USB mic and never have the option of blending it with other stuff.
Oh, in addition, I’m not sure I agree with point #4 – I fail to see what is so terrible with having a mismatch between episode number and RSS-feed-item-number.
For example, my podcast feed holds 166 items at the moment, but only 123 of them are proper episodes. Some of the others are bonus episodes which are structured differently, some are extremely short and others are in a different language. Using “simple numberung” on them doesn’t make sense and I’ve yet to hear any complaint from a listener about why Episode 98 is followed by Interview 5.
Numbering isn’t an issue of an RSS feed, it’s an issue of simplicity for you and the listeners. Here’s an example that I’ve seen on other podcasts:
Special episode 6
Normal episode 24
Live episode 2
Feedback episode 15
How in the world do you know which episode comes first? How is the podcaster supposed to tag these with track numbers in the ID3 tags (if they even take this important step).
Mixing blog and podcast feeds is a separate issue and here’s a practical example of its consequences. How will you distinguish the number of podcast subscribers from blog subscribers?
Daniel, The date and spot on the feed provide enough data to know which come first, and mostly it shouldn’t matter. Let the listener listen to special episode 6 before or after Normal episode 22, as long as he listens to the last before episode 23 it shouldn’t matter. If the ordering is important then there should definitely be strict numbering.
One thing you can do, and is something I do, is to make the special episodes part of the standard numbering scheme but different.
For example, full episodes are something like Wargaming Recon Episode 22: This is an Example
A special episode, where I make a brief announcement, would be Wargaming Recon Episode 22.5 (or 22 1/2): Just an Announcement. It is something to think about.
My listeners know when they see that 1/2 (or .5 or half) that the episode is out of the ordinary.
Thanks for this daniel,
So after trying to fix all my wrongs by making a new site. Everything worked out like changing my original feed in feed burner to all my plugins in word press. Now after a couple of days i am seeing this message on top of my site.
Warning: Variable passed to each() is not an array or object in /home/*******/public_html/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/powerpress.php on line 312
Warning: reset() [function.reset]: Passed variable is not an array or object in /home/******/public_html/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/powerpress.php on line 318
I am worried why i am getting this message and looks like it is coming from power press.
Thanks for everything
When i uninstalled powerpress these went away. Re install and they came right back.
Ok so it was the check box for Include podcast feed links in HTML headers. I had this selected and when i deselected it the messages went away. Hope this helps others.
Sounds like a theme incompatibility. What WordPress theme were you running?
Daniel, re: ” #Pocasting Stuff You Must Get Right the First Time”, a full transcript can help too as you’re bound to miss something with just notes. If your podcast is making money, a good transcription service can help in this area…
Do you have a transcription service you like and has a good price?
The only one I would not agree with is the USB mic. I get quite a few downloads (1.75+ million last year) and still don’t have a mixer. I have been podcasting since 2005.
It’s awesome that you’ve had so many downloads. But how might that number be different if you had an even better audio quality? What if you want to add a cohost?
It’s not a hard rule, but a USB mic makes it hard to upgrade later on.
Regarding the kbps issue, I was following your instructions for using iTunes to create my mp3s and I was using 128kbps. Should I change down to 64kpbs as I am only doing voice with intro/outro music?
Thanks for the podcast Daniel – I enjoy it and learn lots!
iTunes does things a bit differently from other encoders. If you select “Good quality (128 kbps)” in iTunes, and give it a mono file, it will encode as 64 kbps mono. This is good.
But if you want to use iTunes to change your audio from stereo to mono, then you need to customize the “import settings” and leave it at 128 kbps “stereo,” but change the channels to mono.
Why did you mark Enhanced podcasts as a regret?
(I thought I had already replied to this, so I’m very sorry it took me so long to randomly discover I hadn’t.)
I didn’t actually call enhanced podcasts a regret. But a podcast that publishes only an enhanced podcast, or only enhanced in iTunes, could lose a large portion of potential subscribers.
It’s not a good idea to release an exclusive, incompatible, nonstandard format first. Instead, release a standard, nonexclusive, fully compatible format in all directories, and only offer enhanced if you really think the listeners need it.
[…] validated (warnings are usually okay). I recommend four important things.Use Feedburner,Create a podcast-only RSS feed,Optimize your feed with your important podcast information in the RSS fields and iTunes […]
OK, so here is simple question, hopefully you can answer. My understanding is that using blubrry PowerPress, I can register a .mp3 file in a blog post, and can host that file locally. However, I should be able to update the link in the post to a new host (such as LibSyn) after the fact. (before submitting to iTunes) Especially if I’m using feedburner.
Does this sound correct?
Yes, that’s mostly correct. In this case, Feedburner really has nothing to do with it.
Once you attach a file to a post, you can checkmark “Modify existing podcast episode” to change the linked file and reverify it.
If you use Feedburner, I recommend a complete resync from Troubleshootize after doing this.
I know it’s been a while since this episode was posted (I just found the podcast and I am working my way through past episodes). But I thought I would expand on one of your points. I think your idea of having 5 eps to start is a good one. However, I think it should be more like: record 8 episodes and then delete the first 3. Don’t let anyone hear them, ever. Remove all digital traces of them.
My podcast (stuffsmartppllike.com) had the privilege of being featured in “new and noteworthy” in itunes when we released our first episode. We had about 10,000 downloads of the first episode. However, at that point we didn’t have our show chemistry and format down and worst of all, we had terrible sound problems. I was recording two people on one mic and another on Skype.
The first 12 reviews we received were all either 1 or 2 stars and nearly all of them complained about the sound (but not the content). Our downloads dropped precipitously and have stayed rather low since (with a recent uptick in the last few months).
All the reviews we have received since those initial reviews have been positive (usually 5 and sometimes 4 stars) but because of those early reviews our rating average is holding steady at 3 stars. If we had just kept those first few episodes to ourselves I think we would have been in a much better place than we are now. Don’t make the same mistake as us!
Thanks for the show, even after having recorded 76 episodes of SSpplL (and starting another smaller podcast on movies called “Prime Flix” primeflix.tumblr.com) I am still learning a lot. I hope my advice helps future podcasters avoid a similar fate.
Great thoughts! I think I’ll turn this into an episode.
[…] currently reading a great how-to from “The Audacity to Podcast“, which seems to be a great resource for the budding […]
Wow, I didn’t realize how old this episode was until I looked at the comments (I found it through a search on your site). I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the great tips I’ve learned from you here on this site and through the Podcasters’ Roundtable. You make podcasting seem so much more accessible to someone who might not be as tech-savvy as they think they need to be to begin a podcast. But, through Googling and listening to your podcasts about podcasting, I’m getting more and more comfortable with the ins and outs of what I hope to be my next adventure!
Just wanted to show you some love! Thanks again!
That would actually make for a wonderful review in iTunes. Hint hint. 🙂
Did you make any of these mistakes, too? Or did this help you avoid any of these?
4 years later, do you still find this list relevant? What has changed if anything?
I’m happy to say they’re all still relevant.
I do now have a couple caveats.
Under #2, “Greater likeliness of being featured in iTunes.” Being featured appears to have almost nothing to do with how many episodes you have.
“14. Recommended: skip USB mics and buy a mixer and mic.” I still recommend that, but I would now say it more like “Skip USB-only mics and buy a mic with both USB and XLR, or go straight XLR.”
Instead of using Blubrry can’t I use Mixcloud instead? They can do RSS but the problem is that they don’t do m4a files. Only mp3. Considering that I don’t have much cash do I go with Mixcloud or Blubrry?
Could you present Joomla as a platform? Then a How-to series.
I’m sorry, that’s not something I can invest in.