Podcast development checklist

These are the steps you’ll want to take in the development of your podcast, to make sure it sits well within podcast directories and you’re positioned for growth.

Planning

These things will help you solidify your podcast offering for yourself and your audience.

  • Write a mission statement that clearly explains what the podcast is about, and who it’s for.
  • Write a Twitter bio for your ideal listener, so you can understand who you’re speaking to, not just in the audio, but in the marketing. Find out where this person hangs out online, so you know which communities you’ll need to engage with later.
  • Consider how many episodes you want to put out per month. Is it daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly or less regularly? Do you want to divide your show into seasons so you can take a break?
  • Think about how long each episode should be. Between 30 and 45 minutes is best (you may listen to longer podcasts, but the number of people for whom your podcast may be the first is increasing, so an unbroken three hour chat might be daunting). Think about how your content fits into their lives: their commutes, workouts, dish-washing, etc.
  • Find out if you can delegate tasks like writing (either your script or show notes), editing, social media, guest management, etc. The more you can delegate, the easier it will be to run a sustainable show.

Your podcast’s place in directories

  • Write a plain-text description of around two to three paragraphs. This will show up in the “Description” section of directories like Apple Podcasts.
  • Condense that description into a single, short sentence, called your “subtitle”. This is often shown underneath your podcast name.
  • Choose between one and three categories for your podcast, from Apple’s category list.

Think of your podcast name and subtitle like that of a self-help book. For example: The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness. That’s too long of a title, so it should be split up like this:

Title: The Chimp Paradox
Subtitle: The mind management programme to help you achieve success, confidence and happiness

Notice the choice of case in the subtitle. It’s a sentence, so it doesn’t need to be capitalised.

Avoid flashy or gaudy titling. Keep your name short and simple. Putting things in block capitals doesn’t make them stand out on the web; it only makes them harder to read.

You don’t need the word “podcast” in your podcast name, in the same way that the sitcom Friends was not called Friends TV Programme. Your podcast may exist as part of a larger brand, but new listeners likely don’t know or care too much to begin with, and won’t understand that you’re using the word to distinguish from your brand’s extension into other media. This only really extends to how your podcast is named within directories. It may make perfect sense for you to differentiate the offering within the audio.

Artwork

In order for your podcast to be accepted by the Apple Podcasts directory, your artwork must satisfy all of the following requirements, without exception. (This might seem an overly strongly-worded message, but it’s really common for people to overlook one of the points. However, every one is essential, otherwise the podcast submission will be automatically rejected.)

  • JPEG or PNG format
  • RGRB colour format (as opposed to CMYK which is used for print)
  • Square image (ie: the width exactly matches the height)
  • At least 1400×1400 pixels in size
  • No larger than 3000×3000 pixels
  • Both the width and height must be equal. I can’t stress this enough! Honestly, you think I’m overdoing it? I promise you I’m not. Make your image square!

If you’re in doubt about your artwork, ask the person who made it for you. If you made it yourself and you’re unsure about the dimensions, definitely consult a graphic designer.

Recommendations

These aren’t set in stone, but good things to abide by:

  • Minimal typography
  • Where there is type, make it large and legible

Although the image size can be quite large, your artwork will often appear in a list with lots of other podcasts, so you want something eye-catching and memorable.

Resources

Podcast hosting

I run Podiant, a podcast hosting company, but there are lots of companies you can use. You should probably pay between $5-25 per month to host your podcast. Any less — including free — and you may be unwittingly losing control over your content and/or your feed; any less and you’re likely just being overcharged.

Podiant provides hosting for the podcast audio files and an advanced website, which can all be managed via one CMS. Not all providers do this, so if you’re not using a more modern host, you might want to dedicate a space on an existing website, or setup a new website for your podcast.

Podcast hosting means a specific thing, so if you’re in doubt as to whether the host you’re looking into offers an RSS feed, ask them. If they don’t, they’re not a podcast host (YouTube, for example, is not a podcast hosting provider, and SoundCloud’s provision is very limited).

I’d avoid companies like LibSyn and Bluburry as they’re a bit stale. Their tech is OK but their user interfaces haven’t been updated since they launched in the early 2000s. The modern crop of services like Fireside, Simplecast and Pinecast are great alternatives to Podiant.

Avoid services like Acast and Audioboom unless you’re not that worried about engaging with your audience, and you just want a digital megaphone (if you do, that’s totally fine, but it’s not really something I deal with). Those services offer to help you find advertisers and give you a cut, which ends up being a fraction of the amount you can earn if you engage with the ad reads and your audience (the two are combined because your audience trusts you, which is what makes your ad reads more valuable. It also demonstrates that you’re invested in making the show succeed.)

Avoid Anchor as they aren’t focused on the medium, and only exist to be bought by another company (which they now have been).

Self-hosting is a great option if you’ve got the means to maintain the website. Plugins for WordPress like Seriously Simple Podcasting make it, well, seriously simple.

Domains and handles

Not every podcast needs its own domain name or social media handles, but if yours does, here are some considerations:

  • Avoid non alphanumeric characters like underscores or dashes that could be mistyped
  • Avoid words that sound like other words
  • Try to secure the same handle across all platforms
  • Make your domain name (website address) similar to your social media handles if possible (or vice-versa)

The reasoning behind these is that you’ll be saying them aloud on your podcast, and you don’t want to have to explain that the “to” in your podcast title is the number 2. If the best social media handles for your podcast name are already taken, that might be a sign that you need a new name.

Website hosting

As I’ve mentioned, Podiant provides website hosting for podcasts. Most services provide a fairly basis site, but if you need to go more advanced or you want more control, WordPress is a great way to go. Hosts like Podiant can integrate with your WordPress site via Zapier (so episodes are automatically posted to your blog), but we also provide an embeddable player for your entire podcast, so if you just want to dedicate a page on your existing website, and you can copy and paste some HTML, you can easily embed your podcast there.

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