Apple has mostly ignored podcasting for a while. But in the last couple months, we've seen several updates to the podcasting specifications. They even emailed content producers to announce the changes!
PowerPress 4.0 has also been released to support many of these new features.
iTunes updates podcasting spec
Metadata Ping Service Upgraded
Remember when iTunes dropped pingPodcast and told me “Ping feature has been subsumed by Advanced in the self-calibrating RSS reader”?
Podcasts used to be just audio, video, and PDF. Now iTunes supports ebooks in the ePub format, which will make distributing written material via podcast to iOS devices easier. Yeah, that's niche.
New Server Configuration Requirement
iTunes now requires your media host to support “byte range requests.” All the popular media hosts (like LibSyn and Blubrry) already have this. Essentially, this allows you to press play on a website and it simulates streaming by playing while the rest is downloading.
Large Cover Art
Not long ago, iTunes quietly changed the podcast cover art recommendation to 1,200 x 1,200. I had suspected this would come with the launch of the new iPad. But iTunes has now officially announced that the spec is updated to 1,400 x 1,400—this makes even less sense than 1,200, especially since it's still smaller than the new iPad's screen (2,048 x 1,536).
Make sure you rename your image file, or the URL changes in some way (like using PowerPress to upload the image) if you want iTunes to recognize that it's updated.
1080p HD Video Support
720p has previously been the HD standard in iTunes, but now you can publish in 1080p, which will look great on the new iPad, the new Apple TV on HD screens, and even PC downloads with a large monitor.
But consider your bandwidth and hosting costs before you jump aboard and start publishing all video in 1080p.
FINALLY! iTunes indexes individual metadata in their searches. This means that summaries, titles, and keywords for each episode now help your podcast be more findable in iTunes.
You can enable these fields for per-episode editing through PowerPress settings > Basic Settings > Advanced iTunes settings, or let your post metadata automatically populate these fields (default).
New tags and features
iTunes has added support for several new RSS tags that translate to great features for podcasters.
- Is Closed Captioned—If your video podcast contains closed captioning for hearing-impaired, you can now indicate this with a simple checkmark in your feed or on a per-episode basis via the PowerPress settings.
- Order—You can now override the default episode sorting in iTunes. This works great for forcing downloads in chronological order instead of the default “most recent” style. But use with caution.
- Complete—If you stop podcasting but want your podcast to remain in iTunes, enabling this tag (which involves editing your wp-config.php file) will tell iTunes to stop updating that podcast feed, but keep you in the directory as a finished podcast series.
The new iTunes “Making a Podcast” page and specs contain a lot of really useful instructions, tips, and explanations. Even if you're not very technical, you'll learn some great things by reading the page.
For more thorough explanations of many of these changes, read “iTunes Podcasting Specifications Changed May 2012 – What That Means for Podcasting” from my friends at Blubrry.
PowerPress 4.0 podcasting plugin for WordPress
A big reason I love PowerPress and recommend it over Feedburner's SmartCast feature (though I still recommend Feedburner) is that PowerPress is quickly updated to support new podcasting features. PowerPress 4.0 is no exception!
Supports all the new iTunes tags
Large cover art and the new iTunes tags are immediately available for your use in PowerPress 4.0!
Taking advantage of iTunes's new “order” tag, PowerPress 4.0 lets you feature a single episode above the rest. This featured episode will download before any others. This can be your introduction episode (if you do this, please make it short!), most important episode, or however else you would like to use it.
If you're comfortable editing your own CSS (the web programming language that styles a website), then VideoJS allows you to completely style your video player. Just add a CSS class that makes sense to you, and you can style everything about the player through your own CSS.
Feed Episode Maximizer
If you have more than 30 podcast episodes, you should be concerned about your RSS size. It should never get above 512 KB, but I recommend keeping it even smaller. This new feature will help by distributing the complete podcast episode data for only the most recent ten episodes. Then it slims down to just the necessities for older episodes.
To use Feed Episode Maximizer, I recommend powering your podcast feed from the podcast-only feed that PowerPress gives you. Otherwise, you may be truncating older posts for the rest of your regular feed readers.
This feature is currently a little buggy.
Podcasting 101 track at BlogWorld NYC!
Please join me at BlogWorld in New York City on June 5–7. I’ll be one of the panelists in the Podcasting 101 track and presenting on the last day of the conference.
Register for BlogWorld NYC and use promo code “PodLewis10″ to save 10% off your admission!
Daily podcasting photos blog series
For the month of May, I'm blogging a daily photo with tools, tips, or cool things related to podcasting. Subscribe to the blog via RSS or email so you won't miss this fun series!
Please retweet this!
— Daniel J. Lewis (@theRamenNoodle) May 28, 2012
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