September always promises the following: back-to-school excitement/grievances, the roll-out of Starbucks’ ever-popular fall menu, and the annual announcement of Apple’s latest iOS update. This year not only marks the launch of iOS 11, but also the tenth anniversary of the device that innovated smartphone touch-screen technology, not to mention podcasts themselves—the iPhone.
Indeed, 89% of iOS users are currently updated to iOS 10, suggesting that a decent chunk of this number will install iOS 11 as it is available for update. And it isn’t just Apple users who have their eyes on how iOS 11 will change their mobile experience—it feels as if each update shifts how our social culture communicates, iPhone user or not.
A handful of iOS 11 features appear to be Apple catching up to its competitors by offering one-handed typing mode and wireless device charging—all features currently possessed by Google and Samsung devices. Apple’s innovation in this launch is moreso reflected in its brand-new Podcasting app, which has the potential to change how we consume and produce podcasts altogether.
What Do Podcasters Need to Know About the iOS 11 Update?
The update, set to be released on September 13th, has some big changes and this will affect podcasters. Though for diehard podcast listeners, the Podcast App may still need some more work after this update, the way podcast hosts upload to iTunes is going to become a lot more organized. Here at Podfly, we're excited for the new changes as it means our clients get to leverage a whole new set of fantastic features.
Podcast creators are in for a treat with iOS 11’s streamlined guide from recording to launch. For example, any podcast’s cover art is essentially its “product packaging,” so Apple has allowed creators to upload a 3000x3000 JPEG or PNG image to brand their show—all while keeping the image under 1MB to save space. As the previous image size was 512KB, this is a huge improvement in keeping one’s podcast art clear and legible.
Submitting one’s podcast to Apple for review and approval is also a snap. All the creator needs to do is log in to the new Podcasts Connect section, copy and paste the URL of their podcast from their preferred hosting site, and voila—iOS 11 has made it that much more straight-forward to upload to their immense catalogue.
What Sort of Features Can Podcast Hosts Expect with the New iOs 11 Update?
There are four main features you need to care about:
- Trailers, teasers, and bonuses.
- Podcast Analytics.
Let’s start with the launch of Episodic vs. Serial podcasts, which is how podcasts will be sorted in the new iOS 11 app. Right now, when listeners subscribe to a podcast, they receive the most recent episode downloaded to their phone. With the introduction of episodic and serial seasons, this means podcast hosts will need to include new metadata in the back end of the show (more on this later) to tell iTunes how they would like their show organized.
If listening to a stand-alone episode series such as Vicky Frasier’s Business for Superheroes, its latest episode will be shown and recommended at the top of the app, and individual episodes can also be downloaded. As for serial seasons, podcast hosts can set it in a way that the first episode in the season is what would be downloaded first. They will also be able to download the entire season in one go, and have it be played in order from oldest to newest. It’s a simple but effective tweak, similar to competitor app Overcast’s “intelligently inserted” episodes, but its categorization presents a shift in podcasting language—we won’t be surprised if all podcasting apps eventually present their episodes this way.
Trailers, Teasers, and Bonuses
Right now, when it comes to releasing teasers and bonuses for your upcoming podcast or season, it often clutters your 'true' podcast feed and this bonus episode will stay there like any regular episode would. This can look messy and disorganized. However, with the introduction of iOS 11, hosts will now be able to release bonus audio that complements the most recent episode and it would not clutter the main iTunes feed. This is great news as this means you can introduce teasers into your show without having it interfere with the overall podcast experience.
iOS 11 is also introducing three ways to label podcast episodes: full, trailer, and bonus. Full episodes are easy enough to categorize, as they are the most standard of episodes, but serial podcasts often start their seasons off with a trailer to entice listeners to subscribe to the full series.This labeling will further streamline the user experience of locating specific episodes in their Podcast library.
The real game-changer in iOS 11 is the ability to access analytics. Yep, it’s now possible to see specs like the listener count, where they are, and how much of the podcast they are completing—all inside the Podcasts Connect section under the Podcast Analytics tab. By understanding these metrics, it can really be a game changer to how you implement ads or even how long your show should -really- be.
Good analytics play a big part for several of our clients; it's what allows them to get sponsors and push their show to new markets. Right now, if you'd like to know how many times your show has been downloaded, you will have to go into your podcasting hosting provider. However, that's as far as the analytics go. Stats is a very difficult thing to track in the podcasting world and hopefully Apple will make it easier for everyone involved to hone down on their numbers and get to know their audience a lot better.
As mentioned in the seasons part of the article, in order for you to properly organize your show, you have to go into the back end and update the metadata so that iTunes understands how you'd like your show to be classified (episodic or season). Our good friend Daniel J. Lewis wrote an excellent piece on how to use the iOS 11 podcast tags effectively, which you should definitely check out.
For those of you doing the math, yes, podcasters with over 50+ podcast episodes will be looking at quite a bit of tedious work in order to get their podcast iOS 11 ready. However, the good news is Podfly will be offering services to help take care of all that post-organizational 'blah' in your show backlog. Feel free to reach out to us if you'd like more information.
How to transition appropriately on your hosting provider:
Apple.com offers a handy list of hosting sites that support the app for creators to choose their best option, as well as helping creators out with marketing by offering their Identity Guide. Creators can take advantage of the Listen on Apple Podcasts badge by placing it on their podcasting website or various social media channels, linking their content immediately with just one click.
We reached out to Podbean, Bluburry, and Libsyn about how they're preparing for the new changes and this is what they had to say:
"We're excited to see the rollout of the iOS changes which seem to be podcaster (and listener) friendly. We expect they'll help podcasters better organize their content for listeners, and perhaps help with the Apple podcasts search process. It's worth every podcaster taking a look at the updates and seeing how they might want to incorporate changes into their tags, titling system, etc. Shortly after the announcement, we upgraded the Podbean platform so podcasters could begin preparing for the new feed tags. As the system rolls out and more changes come, we'll keep abreast of them to help podcasters navigate them." --David Xu, CEO, Podbean LLC
The Podbean blog has an excellent post on how podcasters can get ready for the new iOS 11 changes.
“iOS 11 will give podcasters additional ways to highlight and organize their episodes. Those running seasons or serial content have some great new ways to display their shows in the Apple Podcast App. It is evident Apple is listening to the community as a whole and this is a response to that feedback. The new Apple Podcast App statistics that they will be providing at the end of the year will also give podcasters additional data to share with prospective sponsors and give them insight on how their show is being consumed on the App by their listeners.” Todd Cochrane, CEO, Bluburry.
Bluburry has an article on how to setup your iTunes podcast settings for iOS 11.
“The key to iOS 11 and Version 3.0 of the Podcasts App is understanding the new iTunes tags and what Apple wants to see shows do and not do. They do not want to see your show’s title or an episode number in the episode title any more. To that end, they’ve created a new field called - iTunes Title."
If normally you had some initials for your show title and the episode number in your episode title (normal practice to help sight impaired users) - such as this:
‘Tii 0441 - September 12th Event - iPhone 8, 8+, X and iOS 11 Gold Master’
This can remain your main title in your feed - but for the iTunes title Apple just wants to see this:
‘September 12th Event - iPhone 8, 8+, X and iOS 11 Gold Master’
There is a new iTunes summary - which is a quick description of that episode. Plain text - not special characters or links. If you have episode numbers - add them in as well for the new episode number field. If your show has seasons - add those in as well. And now - there is also a tag for iTunes author for that specific episode. If a show has guests - include the host and the names of all of the guests for that episode in iTunes author.
Apple is helping producers clean up their shows so they look better in iTunes. Libsyn has added in ALL the iTunes tags, so producers can follow the advice from Apple and clean up their shows.” - Rob Walch, VP of Podcaster Relations, Libsyn.
Libsyn has a live webinar going over the latest iTunes Tags (and more) in the Libsyn publishing platform.
According to Apple Podcasts Business Team manager James Boggs, consumers get excited by podcasts that “entertain, inform, and inspire” us. Boggs predicts a 20% growth of content in their Podcast catalogue all thanks to these key iOS 11 update, and Podfly will continue to monitor how this launch affects not only Apple’s market share, but podcasting itself. We predict we’ll be wearing shades to handle such a bright future.