If you are
a podcast host and you want to maximize
your listenership, then you need to read
often forget how their listeners listen
to their broadcasts. The fact is that MP3
files have been around for some time now,
and there are thousands of different devices
out there to listen to them on. People
utilize their time to listen to content
where they can, which is why the iPod device
has been so popular as a portable media
player. Whether you are working out at
the gym, waiting at the airport for your
flight, or driving home from work, the
iPod is a great way to listen to podcasts.
However its not the only game in town.
There are so many other portable media
players out there from different companies
that MP3 playing is becoming more and more
available. There are even dedicated MP3
players for cars - I use one of these,
an 'OmniFi' DMP unit that has a 20GB hard
disk, and plays through my car stereo.
Of course the other most popular MP3 player
is simply your computer. Windows operating
systems include MP3 playing now as part
of the Windows Media Player, which is bundled
into the OS. But there are also plenty
of 3rd party ones such as WinAmp, etc.
have no idea what device or environment
that your listener is wanting to hear
your show in. Therefore you need to
be as accessible to them as you possibly
can be by correctly creating MP3 files
that work for everyone. The more available
you make your MP3 files in your Podcasts,
the more likely people will listen
This is all pretty much commonsense, right?
I mean you wouldn't go to all the trouble
to record your podcast episodes if you
didn't want people to listen to them. Well
if that is the case, why is it that the
vast majority of Podcast hosts out there
don't know the 'rules' with MP3 files.
More than half of the Podcasts that I subscribe
to incorrectly format their MP3 files making
it almost impossible to catalog and organize
the content. Hence they don't get listened
to. I just wished Podcast hosts would pay
attention to what its like to be a listener
to a Podcast. They need to subscribe to
a number of other podcasts out there and
realize how difficult it can be to organize
Here's the acid test: Subscribe to 5 different
Podcasts. Build up at least 10 episodes
on your iPod or other media player. Now
imagine you are working out on a treadmill
and want to hear some content. Just how
difficult is it to navigate through the
content and find the next show you want
to listen to? Or imagine you are waiting
at the traffic lights and want to play
another episode of a podcast in your car.
Can you easily and safely find the next
show you want by artist, title, etc? You'll
quickly start to realize just what your
listeners have to go through to find and
play your shows.
There are two main things that have to
be considered when creating a MP3 file
to get maximum exposure:
- Audio Properties
- ID3 tags
Audio properties simply refer to the quality
of the sound, and the size of the file.
MP3 files are 'compressed' audio files.
The standard for compression takes what
used to be a huge file in uncompressed
audio, and reduces its size greatly so
that it can be easily transported from
host to listener. If you are willing to
sacrifice audio quality, you can produce
a very small file indeed. However the quality
of sound is something we are all concerned
about, so there has to be a reasonable
expectation of sound quality vs. a reasonable
The key here is the Sample Rate. Sample
rate affects the quality of the audio, and
I suggest to all podcast hosts that you
want to record at 44.1khz sample rate.
In the old days, we used to refer to this
as 'CD Quality' as all commercial CDs were
typically recorded at 44.1khz sample rate.
If you encode your MP3 files at this rate,
you'll get something similar to CD quality
in your recordings. And with the availability
of bandwidth, this typically means that
a 30 minute podcast episode will store
in about 20mb of file size, which is easily
downloaded via a Podcast feed.
The one thing you DON'T want to do is
stray from the sample rate. The reason
is that the players that are out there
will expect 44.1khz for MP3 files. Some web
based players, such as those players that
are embedded in websites and written in
Flash, will attempt to convert your MP3
files to sample rate that is divisable
by 11.025 and consequently those that record
at some unusual rate such as 48khz, will
find their audio sounding like the Chipmunks
if played on a web page.
Again, I get back to the goal here. Make
your audio as accessible to the largest
audience by sticking to the standards.
Another important factor of the audio
properties of a podcast is compression.
Sound comes at us at different volume levels.
But a long time ago, some bright spark
invented a device that would reduce the
volume of LOUD parts of sound, and increase
the volume of SOFT parts of sound, making
it more comfortable to listen to a longer
broadcast. This is called a 'compressor'.
In the past they were rack mounted hardware
devices with meters, lights, etc. Today
they are found in recording software as
a 'Filter' or 'Tool' to be applied to the
audio once its recorded.
Compression is 'normal' in the audio
recording business, but often
completely ignored by MP3 file creators
for podcasts. You really need to run your
audio through a digital compressor before
releasing it, otherwise you will have a
very unhappy listener on your hands when
the volume of their iPod goes LOUD and
then SOFT. Yes, the players try to accomodate
these big drifts in volume levels, but
its really the responsibility of the audio
creator to properly use compression to
ensure that their audio is professional
in quality. Most recording programs that
you are probably using have some sort of
'Compression Tool' that will do this for
you. There really is no excuse not to use
it. Check the software you use to record
you audio and look for the compression
facilities. If you don't have them, you'll
probably need to run your audio files through
an external program to apply compression
to it. There are plenty out there and you'll
find what you are looking for with a simple
Now once you have a good quality MP3 file
recorded at the correct sample rates, and
with compression, there's one more thing
you need to do...
Since MP3 files are digital, they allow
you to describe information into the files
that can be used by the players to allow
easy organization and navigation of content.
This information is stored in what they
call ID3 tags. For example, when you see
the name of the artist, title and album
appearing on a MP3 file on your iPod, its
because the iPod read the ID3 tag information
in your audio file and is displaying it
to the listener.
The ID3 tag information is CRITICAL if
you want to keep your listeners happy. If
you neglect to include this, you will find
that listeners will give up on your podcast.
Why? Well its because with the constant
ongoing downloads of episodes that they
will get, they will get overwhelmed with
trying to organize the MP3 files. You've
probably heard friends bragging about just
how many thousands and thousands of songs
they have in their library. Well imagine
trying to organize all of this without
tagging information? It couldn't be done.
At some point it becomes so prohibitive
that audio files just get thrown away because
its too overwhelming to try and organize
You can ensure that your content doesn't
go the way of the trash can by including
at a minimum ID3 tagging for the following:
Use your name as the Artist Name. Use
the Podcast title as the Album. Then make
each episode have a unique Title. And here's
a tip.... Prefix the show title with a
sortable date (such as YYYYMMDD or as an
example 20071107 for Nov 7th, 2007). Why?
Well some players are just not that good
at organizing content and yet they will
sort the titles in an order that makes
the most sense (alpha sort). This way a
listener can keep an archive of your past
shows, but it makes it REALLY easy for
them to find the latest show and listen
Again if you make your shows easy to organize
they will be found and you'll increase
listenership. And I really mean this. You
could get an extra 50% listenership of
your shows if you just help out your listeners
by correctly tagging them.
And don't change the Artist Name or Album.
If you do, you'll force the listener to
now have multiple copies of your shows
spread throughout their collection - another
surefire way to make sure you lose listeners.
I hope these tips and tricks will help
you keep and grow your listenership. The
last thing in the world we want to do is
to turn off listeners from your show, and
something as simple as correct sample rate
and proper ID3 tagging of your MP3 files
makes all the difference.