Apple Podcasts 

Session 512 WWDC 2017

Podcasts reach millions of listeners around the world every year. iOS 11 upgrades the Apple Podcasts app to support new feed structures for serialized shows. Discover how to publish your own podcast and take advantage of all the features and capabilities in this comprehensive podcasting session.

Good afternoon.

Welcome to our thank you, thank you.

[ Applause ]

Good afternoon, and welcome to our session on Apple Podcasts.

We are thrilled to be with you here today.

I’m James Boggs.

I’m the manager of the Podcasts Business Team.

We’re going to start with an update on Podcasts worldwide, and I’ll welcome DJ Davis, Lead Engineering Manager for Podcasts Apple.

He’s going to cover Changes and Enhancements to the App with iOS 11.

After that, Garth Jantzen will give you a brief update on Upgrades and Additions to the Podcasts Spec. Then, because you’ll be so excited about our updates and upgrades, we’re going to give you some best practices and walk you through Creating and Launching Your Own Show.

But first, we want to talk for a moment about how we think about modern podcasts, long form and audio.

We get excited about episodic content that entertains, informs, and inspires.

We get excited in that many of our users have gotten excited too.

In 2016 alone, we served up over 10 billion episode downloads and streaming plays across iOS, macOS and tvOS.

That’s up from 8 billion in 2015 and just under 7 billion in 2014 when Podcasts app became preinstalled for the first time on iOS 8.

2017 is shaping up to be another banner year as new listeners discover podcasts and the great content inside the catalog.

We’re on track for more than 20 percent growth.

With more than 400,000 podcasts available, our catalog is more robust than it’s ever been.

We have more than a thousand new shows submitted each and every week, so there’s always something new and great to discover.

We have more than 14 million episodes in the catalog.

That’s mostly audio content, but we have shows and episodes in more than 100 languages.

Apple Podcast is available in 155 countries, not only for distribution of existing shows but for submission of new shows.

We’re particularly proud to have such a diverse content catalog, and we’re also proud to be one of the easiest ways to each a global audience for audio content.

We want you to join the incredible collection of media and broadcast organizations producing high quality podcasts, CNN, Disney, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, Bloomberg, Presa from Spain.

These are just a few of the global lineup.

We love working with our partners in public media around the world as well, whether it’s China National Radio, or CRI, ARD Germany, Radio France, the BBC and, of course, NPR and all the fantastic NPR affiliates here in the US.

Our international cohort of independent podcast networks is producing some of the most exciting content, such as scripted comedy from Wondery in Los Angeles; shows like Reply All and Crimetown from Gimlet in Brooklyn; comedy and cultural series from Binge Audio in Paris, and the Great Audiomatic programs from their headquarters in Mumbai, India.

These, and other Indie productions, such as Up and Vanished from Tenderfoot in Atlanta, have found a home in Apple podcasts.

This show, Up and Vanished, is an investigative story looking at the tragic and mysterious disappearance of a Georgia beauty queen and high school teacher.

It’s an 11-year-old cold case that has captured an audience around the world, and it’s delivered through the dynamic storytelling of amateur investigator, Payne Lindsey.

On the other end of the Indie spectrum is Reid Hoffman and the founder stories of Masters of Scale, which are truly epic.

Hoffman is teaching key business strategies, skills, and techniques through the anecdotes of some of the world’s best entrepreneurs and business leaders, including Brian Chesky of Airbnb, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

The audio production of Hoffman’s partners, Wait, What?

is really fun and entertaining.

Also fun and entertaining, Anna Faris.

Her podcast features relationship advice from completely unqualified Hollywood types, and it’s seriously funny.

This is an independent production, often recorded at her dining room table, and it features her beloved sidekick Sim and great conversation.

We recommend you check it out.

So our engineering teams have done a tremendous amount of work improving Podcasts app to enable discovery and enjoyment of these and other great shows.

Up next to tell you about Podcasts app in iOS 11 is DJ Davis, our Engineering Manager.

[ Applause ]

Thanks, James.

We have some great updates to Podcasts app in iOS 11, and I’d love to show them to you now.

First, you’ll notice, we’ve simplified the app.

There are four tabs across the bottom.

We’ll take a quick look at each one.

First up, Listen Now.

This is an upgrade to the unplayed tab from the previous versions of the Podcasts app.

Here, it’s easy to resume any episode you’ve already started listening to, or you could pick the Next episode from any of the other podcasts that you’re subscribed to.

This will be very familiar if you used Watch Now in the TV app before.

Next up is Library.

This is your personal podcasts library, all the podcasts you’re subscribed to, all the episodes you’ve saved.

You can view downloaded episodes.

It’s also really easy to get to your recently added podcasts.

Let’s dive into one of those podcasts.

Here, I can view all the episodes from the show that I need to listen to.

It’s really easy to pick up where I left off with Continue Listening, and from this page, I can also view the top episodes or scroll down and view all available episodes.

Here’s one of those individual episodes.

Here, I see the expanded show notes, and I can see exactly how much of this episode I have left to listen to.

Next up, we have Browse.

This will be very familiar if you’ve used the Music app.

We’ll dive into Featured first.

Each week our editors to scour all the latest shows and episodes to bring you the best of what’s new.

We can also look at Top Charts.

Here, we have all the top episodes and shows that are trending right now, and I can also browse featured providers or dive deeper into my favorite categories.

And finally, we have Search.

Here, you can quickly find any new show or episode in the Apple Podcasts catalog or just scope that search to your own library.

That’s a quick overview of the Podcasts updates in iOS 11.

This is our biggest updates to the Podcasts apps since we first launched in iOS.

We hope you get a chance to check it out in the iOS developer preview and give us your feedback.

Next up, I’d like to bring Garth Jantzen up to the stage.

He’s going to give you an overview of the updates we’re making to the Apple Podcasts Spec to support some of these great new features in iOS 11.

[ Applause ]

Thanks, DJ.

Great to see you all here today.

So, today, we are excited to talk about some updates we’re bringing to the Apple Podcasts Feed Spec. These updates will help podcast creators to take full advantage of the redesigned Apple Podcasts app in iOS 11 that you just saw, while also making it easier for listeners to discover and engage that content.

So, to provide some context, I’d like to start with an example of what you might see today in iOS 10 when you subscribe to a new podcast.

So, when you subscribe to a podcast, we automatically put the latest episode into your unplayed episode list, which is great for most podcasts.

But in the case of this example, there’s a couple of problems.

First, as you can see, this is Episode 4 of what looks to be Season 2.

So, in the case of this podcast, it’s actually intended to start from the beginning with Episode 1 of Season 2.

Also, it required that the podcast author put both the season number and the episode number in front of the title, which isn’t the best user experience.

So, going over to the feed tab when I look for Episode 1, 2, and 3, I find that they’re in the wrong order, and it’s difficult to add those episodes over to my unplayed list so I can start from the beginning and listen through in the correct order.

So, all I can say is that we think we can do better here.

So, to start, we’re happy to announce support for podcast seasons in iOS 11.

So, seasons will allow podcasters to group together episodes where it makes sense for their podcast content, and within a season they’ll also be able to choose the order in which those episodes are presented, whether it’s newest to oldest, or oldest to newest.

And utilizing the other tags we’re about to talk about that we’re adding, we’ll be able to present nice season headers and concise titles to best present the content.

New subscribers will also get full, the full current season automatically moved into their Library in a new section called My Episodes, which is going to be great.

We have a Quick Play action that will allow listeners to start from the beginning, as intended, or pick up right where they left off.

So, now, let’s look at the Spec and see how all this ties together.

So, first, we have a new tag for a podcast called Podcast type, and iOS 11, we’re starting off with two podcast types, episodic and serial.

So, first, episodic.

This is the default podcast type, and the one you’re used to seeing in Apple Podcasts today.

This is best for standalone episodes where listening order isn’t super important.

New subscribers as of today will receive the latest episode or the entire season, starting with the latest episode, if you’re using seasons.

So, serialize, this is new in iOS 11.

We’re really excited about this.

This is great where episodes are recommended from beginning, from oldest to newest, and it’s great for narrative, storytelling-type podcasts, where it’s important to start from the beginning of a season or show.

New subscribers will receive the first episode in their Library, or the entire season, starting with the latest episode, with the first episode if they’re using seasons.

So, next is title, which is a new tag, and it’s intended for just the title of the episode.

We’re asking that you leave off the podcast title, the episode number, season number, and the dates.

We’re going to use this differently, depending on the context of your podcast type.

So, in this screen, you can see that we’re combining it with some other metadata; in this case, episode number, to best represent an episode from a serial podcast where episode number is important.

And then, here, to best represent an episode from an episodic podcast, where episode number isn’t as important.

So, next, episode number.

So, this is a new tag, and starting with your first episode in your podcast, every episode should have an incremental number.

If you’re using seasons, the episode number should be specific to that season.

Then, we have season number.

Every episode that’s associated with a particular season should use the same season number.

We’ll collect all the episodes together and present them as seasons to listen to with a nice header.

We’ll also give precedent to your latest season first on your podcast page.

So, using a combination of episode title, episode number, and season number, we can choose how to best represent that content in different parts of the app, as you can see here.

So, next is summary tag.

This is an existing tag, and this is the tag that we’re recommending you use to store a descriptive sentence that best represents that episode.

We’ll use this in multiple places in the app, so we’re asking that you leave out HTML, CDATA, rich text formatting.

In fact, we’ll strip that out because that will let us handle the truncation, and it’ll let us handle that description in different parts of the app.

So, if you’re using a content management system that might truncate that beforehand, we’re asking that you leave that, that you don’t do that so that we can handle that and best present it.

So, content encoded, this is specific for your episode notes, and this is where you’re going to want to put that rich text, HTML, links.

We support paragraphs, lists, bold and italics, and we’re going to use this on the Listen Now view, as well within the Episode Detail view, so listeners can easily access any links and notes while they listen to your episode.

Another exciting update, we have podcast type.

We also have episode type.

So, in iOS 11, we’re coming out with three episode types, a full, trailer and bonus.

So, full is the default episode type, and it represents a standard episode that you’d expect today.

Trailer is a great new episode type that can be either a podcast level trailer or a season level trailer, depending on if there’s a season number present.

And this is great for teaser trailers before you’ve launched your show, or if you want to highlight a trailer for a new season.

Bonus is for an episode that contains bonus content, which is great for supplemental content associated with an existing episode.

After-show, or review, we’ll tie them together in the UI, and with the main episode, we’ll make it look really great.

So, we’re really excited to see how podcasters utilize these new episode types to make their content even more engaging.

So, lastly, I want to call out an existing, another existing tag on the episode, the GUID.

So, GUID is a permanent global unique identifier that specifies that episode amongst your podcast.

We’ve seen some cases where people end up changing their GUID, perhaps if you change hosting companies, or your RSS URL changes, but it’s really important that you not change the GUID on an episode.

This can result in duplicate episodes showing up in your subscribers’ Libraries, and it can even hurt your chart placement in the catalog.

So, those are the highlights of some of the updates coming to the Apple Podcast Feed Spec.

These and all feed specs can be found online in our Resources and Help section, and we’re really excited to see how podcast creators will use these updates to create even more content and better engaging content for our listeners.

So, now that you’ve heard our great updates, I’d like to bring James back up to talk about how to make the best podcast possible.


[ Applause ]

All right.

Thanks, Garth.

So, now that you’ve seen all the new features of Podcasts app for iOS 11, and the tags that we’re going to use, that we’ve just announced, to power those new features, let’s walk through creating and launching your own show.

Well, first, you need something to say.

You need an idea at the center of your podcast as a concept that will play out over the course of your seasons and your episodes.

Podcasts are unique in that they’re not constrained by the formats of traditional media, such as talk radio.

This is a place where great stories will play out in long form in audio.

So, our friends, Maria and John, they needed a great idea for their podcast project.

Maria has her Ph.D. in history, and because she’s passionate about food, she knows a lot about the history of different cuisines around the world.

And her sidekick, John, loves to eat.

So, what kind of a show could be a vehicle for their love of cuisine and maybe force them to do some awesome travel?

The Very Hungry Tourists; Around the world, one bite at a time.

They came up with their concept.

And now that Maria and John have a concept for their show, they dive into the research and planning phase.

What podcasts out there already cover their topic?

How could their podcast be different?

Where is their potential audience, and how would their themes play out over the course of their episodes?

How would they make their show sustainable?

Is this a hobby or a business project?

Well, sustainability is, of course, a key to success at podcasts, both creatively and financially, and Maria and John decide that making their production financially sustainable is important.

So, they looked at the biggest and best podcasts in the business models that they used.

They found that ads and sponsorship are by far the most common model.

Post-read ads, in particular are successful and profitable.

The second model, donation.

This is the public media style, listener and community supported model, another great option for podcasts.

Thirdly, they looked at upsell, which is the idea that the podcast audience coming to the free podcast could be converted to paying audience members through the for sale products related to the content of the podcast.

So, for example, Maria’s ancient, Book of Ancient Roman Recipes, available on iBooks, was a great target destination for the people interested in their podcast.

When it comes to production strategy, Maria and John recognized that some of the most popular podcasts in the world used world class recording studios.

The pristine sound and extensive post production that results from this kind of facility gives you a high quality of audio episodes.

It’s fantastic.

And incidentally, I hope you got a chance to try our podcast studio here at WWDC, above the main floor.

We’ve been around this week, and it has been a great success.

Maria and John, of course, they needed something a little less expensive than a traditional studio.

They wanted something portable and easy to use without the need of an audio engineer or a dedicated producer.

They found that the built-in mic and the variety of high quality, third-party microphones made for iPhone sound just great.

So, our heroes finished the production plan for Season 1 of The Very Hungry Tourists.

Now, it’s time to think about launch, and their go to market distribution strategy.

But first, they’ve got to consider the visual identity and the metadata of their show.

Cover art and metadata is the product packaging of your podcast.

So, the importance of these pieces is hard to overstate.

Maria and John, their first pass at cover art design had some challenges.

They’ve chosen to include both of their personal production company logos on top of their central image.

And the central thematic image, while it’s thematically relevant and appropriate, it’s complex, and it makes the overlaid text hard to read.

Also, the font size that they’ve chosen, especially on the subtitle, is really small and hard to read on mobile.

So, the duo then run through our best practices for cover art, using our checklist.

They lay out a 3000 by 3000 pixel JPEG or PNG compressed to be under 1 megabyte in size, so it’s nice and lightweight for download with a clearly readable title and one thematic image or logo central to the design.

This is a design first for mobile where most of their potential audience is going to live on iPhone.

So, the second pass at their design was much improved.

Maria and John ran through the checklist, and this was the result.

It’ looks great on mobile, and it becomes the basis for the visual identity of their podcast.

So, this runs across social media, blogs, traditional media, and other audience-building destinations for their marketing, a single design that’s reasonable and expandable.

Similarly, Maria and John run through our metadata checklist where they land on their concise, attractive title with thorough descriptions, both at the podcast level and the episode level.

They also make good use of our newly announced podcast type and episode number tags in their feed and, of course, thoughtful episode titles, putting the most important information about each individual episode, such as the subject matter or the guests right in the first bit of text of the title.

And of course, they provide a useful link for those super fans that want to go beyond the podcast, connect to [inaudible] on the greater Web and then have more.

So, distribution; once Maria and John have their podcast episodes recorded, they’ve designed their cover art, the metadata has been written, they need a hosting partner to distribute their content.

Our podcast resources and help site on features a handy list of Apple podcasts hosting partners.

These organizations are from different regions around the world, and they offer us different product packages and features and price points.

So, Maria and John shop around for the best package for them.

Launch planning.

Now, Maria and John can consider their launch and go to market plans.

They decide to launch with a trailer as a teaser bit of content to drive awareness.

They also look into marketing, social media; of course, paid and organic.

They look at podcast, app, and search engine ads to drive additional awareness and, of course, appearances.

This is the idea that Maria and John can not only appear on other existing and popular podcasts to make those audiences that are maybe thematically related to their show aware of their new content offering, but of course taking advantage too of any traditional media outlets where they can make an appearance and talk about their new show as well.

Maria and John also make good use of our marketing tools for podcasts, including our Identity Guide, which will give you best practices for using our Listen on Apple Podcasts badges for print, web, and broadcast appearances.

The Affiliate Program offers a unique way for people to link to their podcasts, and it features its own resources site.

Additionally, Maria and John research and implement our linking tools like Banner Builder and Widget Builder.

Our heroes, they’re ready to submit to Apple Podcasts for review and approval.

So, Maria logs into Podcasts Connect, pastes the feed URL from their hosting partner, and after approval of their podcast, Maria and John launch the Very Hungry Tourists.

What was once merely a moment of inspiration is now a written, produced, and easily available podcast.

The work of audience building now begins, and we wish them good luck.

We certainly will be listening.

We’ll be listening, but how many others are listening?

Once Maria and John launch and begin marketing their podcast, of course, they want to know how it’s doing.

Their hosting platform offers a nice variety of server side reporting, which is very useful, but they want to know what’s actually happening on Apple Podcasts.

How many people are listening?

How much do they listen?

Where are they listening?

So many questions about audience and usage, what could we do to help Maria and John?

Well, we’re thrilled to announce Podcast Analytics, and we want to give you a sneak peek today.

Yes, all right.

Thank you.

We’re thrilled to be sharing this with you.

Our new reporting tool for podcast providers will allow you to see how much of your podcast episodes are played and when on Apple Podcasts, compare the performance of your episodes and podcasts over time, and see which parts of your episodes are more interesting than others.

Are people skipping over your extended music intro, or maybe your second mid roll?

We’re doing this in a way that respects user privacy, aggregating usage data rather than sharing individual events.

Analytics are not tied to individual Apple IDs, and users can reset their identifier at any time.

We know that you’ll have lots of questions, and we’re excited about Podcast Analytics too, but we’re still in development, so we’re going to ask you to, if you can, hold questions until Podcast Analytics launches later this year.

Launching this week, updates to our Apple Podcasts Spec and the documentation to help you implement those changes.

New Podcasts app in iOS 11 developer preview with improved presentation of podcasts, and the infrastructure for Podcast Analytics.

There’s more information on our Session page on

Thank you very much.

[ Applause ]

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