I have been right there with you, podcaster. Slogging through all of the pre-production work. Sitting through multiple recording sessions. Slinging a slew of paper edits back and forth within your team. Writing out all the voice-over parts and working with talent to get their reads nice and tight. And then—finally—episode assembly begins. Which also goes through multiple revisions, as you add in the music, tweak the mix, and eventually send the episode off for mastering. And then it's time to start on all the promotional stuff, like finding and making great-sounding sound clips, creating audiograms, writing social copy, and even more.
So am I really going to tell you to do one more thing with your podcast episode before you release it to the world?
I will tell you the same thing I told you almost four years ago, back when Podcast Pontifications wasn't even a podcast: You need to stop writing shitty show notes. Or episode details as I prefer to call them.
My position is now what it was then; that episode details are required and not optional. Not if you want to make your podcast better, that is.
Though my point is still the same, I've updated why they are essential in 2022. But let me first be extremely specific about what I mean when I talk about episode details, which you probably call show notes.
What The Hell Are Podcast Episode Details, aka Show Notes?
Episode details are not the same thing as transcripts. That's not me poo-pooing transcripts. Transcripts are also required for podcasters in 2022. I make them available for all of my episodes. You should too. But transcripts and episode details are not the same things.
Episode details are not the blog posts or articles you write based on your podcast episode. Again, I think it's imperative that every episode you write has a lovely, designed-to-be-read-in-a-browser post or article that you place on your website, post on Medium, or anywhere else appropriate. But on-site pages are not the same thing as episode details.
Episode details are not video versions of your podcast. Episode details are not enhanced episodes of your podcast. Episode details are not the same thing as adding chapters to your episodes. All of these things—or, at least, some—are likely things you should seriously consider. Even if you've previously seriously considered them for your podcast in the past. Things change pretty fast in podcasting.
As important as those things are, I'm not talking about any of them when speaking of episode details and harping on the importance of getting them right.
When I talk of episode details, I speak of the written text that you enter into a field while publishing the episode via your podcast hosting company. They very likely call that section "Show Notes." Or maybe "Description." And they also very likely do not require you to enter any text in this large block, which is a shame. Because, in case you haven't caught my drift by now, this text is not optional. Or, at least, it shouldn't be.
Not only should you not consider it an option not to write episode details, but you shouldn't half-ass what you write. It's not a box to tick. It's a critical section of podcasting and one you need to get correct.
Five Reasons Why Episode Details Make Podcasting Better In 2022 (And Beyond!)
I started crowing about this in 2018 when I told the few people who watched me gripe about podcasting on Facebook Live or LinkedIn Video that I wish podcasters would stop making shitty show notes.
All of those reasons are still valid. But a lot has happened in four years, so I've come up with five new reasons why it makes perfect sense for you to spend the time crafting quality episode details for each and every one of your episodes.
ONE: Podcast players are getting better.
By better, I mean podcast apps are gaining more functionality, especially when it comes to displaying information to people who are listening to your episode right now.
Yes, I still have plenty of beef with all podcast listening apps; some are more forward-thinking than others. But many are now making it worthwhile for listeners to interact with their app as they listen to your episode. If that trend continues—and I think it will—it will become more normal for people to seek out information on an episode they're listening to in real-time with that app. And if they don't see engaging episode details on your show but do see them on other shows they're following in that app, they will start wondering why you don't care as much about their experience.
TWO: Podcast credits are becoming a thing.
It's 2022, and it has become common for many people with varied skills and specialties to be involved in making a podcast. Especially serious podcasters—perhaps like you—who rely on others for efficiency, quality, or other reasons. Editors, writers, production assistants, office staff... I'm encouraged every time I hear a 2–3 minute "credit roll" at the end of a well-produced podcast episode, where everyone on the team gets recognized.
But I'm often discouraged when I look at the episode details to learn more about those people. Far too few podcasters take the obvious next step and add those same credits mentioned in audio to their episode details, which is a shame because you can do so much more with rich text, like include links to their bios or even include images of them! There's no reason not to credit the people who make the show possible in your episode details, and creators who keep ignoring this may soon find themselves ignored.
THREE: Episode details are a good SEO practice.
I hate giving SEO tips because people think I'm an SEO person. And I'm not. I did enough of that during my tenure running agencies. That and podcast apps and directories are really, really bad at surfacing relevant search results.
But they won't always be (I hope). To me, it's rather apparent that episode details are a rich source of "meta" information about an episode. More podcasters taking the time to craft quality episode details might encourage more apps to use that information when evaluating search relevancy.
The words spoken—likely parsed via transcriptions, which you remember I said were also crucial but not the same thing—on an episode is the best way for those search algorithms to understand the context of an episode. But being able to cross-reference solid episode details will help reinforce that content, much like a page's description tag reinforces the contents and context of a webpage. More podcasters filling out episode details will eventually make podcast search better.
FOUR: Episode details make for great repurposed content!
Take your well-written episode details and turn them into a Twitter thread. They work great as long-form posts on LinkedIn. Or maybe they spark ideas for other types of social media posts that go beyond simply linking to your audio file or posting an audiogram with little context. In my experience, those low-effort things aren't nearly as helpful at getting people to engage with your content.
Your episode details can also be repurposed in online locations that allow you to link to the episode's webpage. They can serve as helpful summaries to post on your website. (Although I think you should publish more than just a summary of your website on your website). I've even used my episode details to put out a mini-version of this very podcast.
FIVE: Good episode details prime you to do more in the future.
Listening apps are evolving and adding more functionality. So getting in the habit now of taking the time to write quality episode details will keep your eye on the future. Chapters are becoming more common, with a lot of functionality. No, I don't use them in episodes of Podcast Pontifications simply because each one of my episodes is about one thing and one thing only. But I chapter the hell out of the episodes of The Download, the weekly podcast I produce for Sounds Profitable that covers the most important news of the week for people who work in the business of podcasting. I put in a screenshot and a link to every single article we cover on the show.
No, advanced features like chapters are not (yet) universally supported. And sadly, some media hosts—like the one we're using to host The Download—tend not to preserve chapters after they are published. But universal support is coming. Or universal-ish.
So there you go. Five reasons, updated for 2022, why you should stop writing shitty episode details—or show notes—for your podcast episodes. A big part of making podcasting better is making your podcast better. And having well-written detailed episode details on each episode is a part of that.
So do it for me. Please?
I shall be back next week with yet another Podcast Pontifications.