When it comes to show notes and episode descriptions: Less is more.
It's natural for a podcaster to write in the way that we think or speak. However, we need to get to the point when it comes to the limited space iTunes/Apple Podcasts and other podcatchers give us to explain what's “today's episode is about“…
Twitter gives you 280 characters to compose a Tweet and Facebook will give you at least 200 characters before the infamous “… See More” truncates the rest of your writing. But podcast directories cut you off much sooner than that.
How many characters display in podcast directories?
While some podcast directories like the desktop version of Stitcher displays almost 1,000 characters of your most recent episode, none of the podcast apps I used displayed more than a couple sentences without tapping on the “more” button or going deep into the episode show notes.
Here's how many characters I saw:
- 45 on iTunes (desktop)
- 123 in Google Play Music (desktop)
- 25 on Podcasts App (iPhone 5S)
- <50 on Stitcher App (iPhone 5S)
- 23 on Overcast (iPhone 5S)
Note: iHeart.com, TuneIn.com, and Player.FM did not display any of the episode description without clicking on a “more” option. I couldn't even find a podcast in Google Play's mobile app (what's going on over there and why does it suck so bad?)
Don't Waste Valuable Real Estate in Episode Descriptions
With such limited space, it's more important than ever to begin episode descriptions with something shorter than your 30-second elevator pitch!
…but what do we do as podcasters? We start off by telling people what is in this episode…
Here's a new podcasting “Best Practice”: Do not begin episode descriptions with the following:
- “In this episode…”
- “Today we discuss…”
- The name of your show (have you seen Dave Ramsey's episode descriptions in iTunes lately?)
It is already implied that the information in your episode description is content that is in that episode. Saying “In today's podcast” is redundant and in accurate since podcasts are time-shifted.
So don't be that guy!
How to Write a Good Episode Description (and Title)
Here a few tips I have learned from working with a variety of podcasters:
- Guest's name: If you interview a celebrity or someone well-known in your chosen niche then put their name toward the beginning of the episode Title. But if they aren't well-known then put their first and last name toward the beginning of the episode's description. PT Money from Masters of Money does a really great job with this. Notice the TOPIC is the most important part of the episode Title, so he begins the episode Description off with the guest's name.
- Continue the story: Joe at Stacking Benjamins knows how to write a good title – but it doesn't stop there. Often he will lead off with an attention grabber, then teases you with more about it in the first few words of the episode Description. In the episode from December 15th titled “Why is Madonna Flying Coach? Plus, Other Important Questions (with an intro to Point)“, he continues the story with “Wait, who? Why is Madonna flying coach? Why would YOU fly coach if you had the money…“. You want to click “Play” to hear what it's all about, don't you? That's the point.
- Quantities or Top 10 lists: Daniel J. Lewis is famous for his “8 Ways to…” or “6 Reasons…” lists on The Audacity to Podcast. Numbers are attention-grabbers, but giving a podcast-surfer a little more information about the topic can help them press Play. I especially like how he followed up the episode title “24 Internet-Based Automation Tools for Podcasting” with the description, “Web services can automate parts of your podca…”. I'm interested Daniel – tell me more!
Now that you know how many characters display in podcast directories on desktop and mobile, re-think your strategy for writing episode descriptions.
Remember, the popularity of your next episode depends on how good the content is in the first episode a podcast-surfer listens to. Deliver what you promise from your the episode's title/description and watch your downloads grow.