It’s a fantastic day for audio fiction podcasts in Apple Podcasts (still far and away the most important discovery and listening platform for these shows).
See the new category listing here: ApplePodcasts.com/Fiction
For many years, a common complaint amongst fiction podcasts — spanning the range from full fledge radio drama/audio drama to narrative-based, single or multi-voiced productions — was that there wasn’t a sufficient ‘home’ for these shows.
Under the previous category structure in Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes), most shows awkwardly listed themselves under “Performing Arts” or perhaps “TV/Film” — odd, because most shows in these categories were actually shows ABOUT these subjects (e.g. Game of Thrones recap podcasts) vs. original content in and of themselves.
There is a long and ongoing conversation about the importance of category labels vis-a-vis discoverability, but suffice to stay it’s still important. Many people use Apple Podcasts to find new shows — especially since it became a standalone app in 2012 — and so the choices that Apple makes are important. Further, since Apple still drives ~80% of podcast traffic, their choices set the tone for how other indexes work, and hopefully we’ll see other podcast listing services adopt a dedicated category for fiction podcasts soon.
So What Does This Mean for Me as a Producer of Audio Fiction?
Nearly all of the major podcasting services have introduced compatibility for the new categories [see: Apple’s take on podcast hosts], and it’s pretty intuitive on how to change the category of your show… which you should do immediately.
I personally use Spreaker, you’ll find this option under the ‘RSS Customization’ section. Just look for the new ‘Fiction’ category, and use one of the sub-categories — Drama, Comedy, or Science-Fiction — if relevant for your show:
These new categories have been spotted in the wild as of early August, 2019, so don’t delay!
Some other Metadata wisdom, while we’re at it
This new update is a pretty quick ‘win’ for categorizing your show properly and making sure it is found (and competing for chart placement) in the correct location.
A few general best practices around marketing your show remain true:
- Cover art, cover art, cover art!!! — While you’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, we know people do, and people treat podcasts the same way. Imagine someone scrolling through top 100 charts and quickly getting of feel of ‘is this show right for me’ based on your podcast art. Is it legible when rendered on a iPhone’s screen? Does it stand up to getting maximized when someone drills down to see the show’s art blown up in full res on an iPad Pro? If the experience for the user is poor, it’s hurting your ability to get discovered and attract new listeners.
- Clear, clean art – character art can be gorgeous but if it’s too ‘noisy’ it’ll be hard to see on small screens
- High res!!! – Artwork should be 3000px x 3000px — it’s the only chance to be featured by Apple Podcasts
- Consistent naming of episodes — It’s super important that you use some of the newer RSS organization features such as Seasons, and labeling of content as Bonus content, Promos, etc. for optimal user experience in Apple Podcasts and other podcast readers. While Apple rolled back strict rules around including episode # in podcast episodes, it’s still ideal to use the iTunes title field to separate Season # and Episode # from the name of your episode Title, for ideal presentation in iTunes. More on this at Podnews. Note: Unlike the new categories, podcast hosts seem to be a little less savvy at supporting this metadata feature. So choose podcast hosts wisely!
- Build, and use, your network — The top way listeners discover new podcasts is through word of mouth… Which, by “mouth” in the 21st century we mean — sometimes literally telling other people with recommendations, using social media, meeting each other at podcast conventions to talk about favorite shows, and sharing shows on other shows (usually in the indie space done by trading 30-60sec promos vs. actually exchanging payment). As a podcast creator, developing a network of your fanbase, as well as other producers in the space, is super-critical to getting the word out about what you’re doing. If you’re wondering where to start, listen to the showcase anthology Radio Drama Revival (which I used to host, and currently am Executive Producer) to learn about the full breadth of the audio drama community.
- Take advantage of Apple Podcast’s marketing guidelines – Apple has provided a great resource for using the Podcasts brand to promote your show, as well as other promotion tips, at: https://www.apple.com/itunes/marketing-on-podcasts/identity-guidelines.html