When you’ve been listening to a podcast that you like, chances are you’ll feel like sharing it. You might do that in person, inserting references to your new favourite show into conversation with friends and family and painstakingly describing the best episodes you’ve heard so far.
The people who love you will either find this deeply irritating or incredibly helpful — if the latter, they may well search the name of the show in their preferred podcast app and start listening too. Word of mouth is a big part of how people find podcasts in the first place, which is why lots of shows do cross promotion and recommendations in their own episodes. It’s much easier to turn someone who already listens to podcasts into a listener of your show than it is to introduce someone new to the medium for the first time.
However, a lot of this word of mouth effect doesn’t take place in real life. Just like the podcasts themselves, it lives on the internet. You might choose to make your recommendation via social media, posting on Twitter or Facebook (or LinkedIn, if you’re some kind of monster) about what you’ve been listening to. Or you might introduce it into a chat thread on Messenger or Whatsapp. You might even, heaven forbid, include it in some kind of email newsletter. Whether you’re doing it publicly or privately, though, you’re going to need a link for the podcast you’re recommending.
This is where the difficulties arise. What link should you use? You could use a search engine or the Apple Podcasts app to find the iTunes-specific link for that show, but not everybody listens using an Apple device. Ditto Spotify — you could generate a link there, but not everybody uses it and not all podcasts are on it. You could spend some time finding out whether the podcast is distributed in platform neutral places like RadioPublic or Soundcloud or YouTube. You could link directly to the podcast’s RSS feed, if you can find it. Even then, you might not end up with something that when you friend clicks on it on their device opens the podcast in the app that they use for their audio subscriptions.
It’s for all of these reasons that I’ve always been a bit sceptical about the efficacy of social media as a way of directly getting people to listen to your podcast. How many people actually click on the link to an in-browser player in a tweet and listen then and there? Some do, I’m sure, but I think it’s much more likely that most people use podcast social media feeds as a kind of notification system. They see a post saying that a new episode is available, and they favourite it as a reminder to go into their podcast app later when they’re wearing headphones on the way home and listen. (Obviously there are other reasons for a podcast to use social media than just linking to episodes, more on this another time.)
So how should we link to podcasts? After lots of fiddling about with this, I think that using the podcast’s own website is the way to go. Ideally, you want to be able to link to the specific episode you’re recommending. Hopefully that page will also have some contextual detail and links, and possibly even a transcript. That way, the person receiving the link can read about the show, possibly play a bit of it in their browser, and then get all the information they need to be able to subscribe to it in their own preferred way.
More and more podcasters are realising the importance of having a website that’s easy to navigate and link to, I’m pleased to say (thanks Squarespace). But a lot don’t, or they do but it’s really hard to find links to individual episodes. Ideally, you want your listeners to be able to know what the link to an episode will be without actually having to look — one podcaster who is really good at this is Hrishikesh Hirway of Song Exploder. Say I want to recommend someone his episode featuring the band U2. I know that if I send the link “songexploder.net/u2”, it will take them to the right place. Job done.
In my opinion, the correct formula for a podcast episode link is nameofpodcast.com/titleofepisode (or .net or .org or whatever). The incorrect way is nameofpodcast.com/why/19290we09/somethingelse/whoknows. Random strings of numbers or unnecessary words are the enemy here. Make it really simple, and keep it consistent. If you make it easy for people to link to your podcast, they will help your show grow.
The podcast recommend
“Started by a friend of mine, Space Age Radio (and its companion video series Space Age TV) repackages public domain sci-fi radio broadcasts from the 40s and 50s, and recontextualizes them for modern audiences. It’s part escapist fiction, part history lesson, and I’ve really enjoyed helping bring the show to life. Simply put, it’s fun. It's a way to reconnect with our shared history, and to re-live a little bit of the thrill of the unbridled optimism of the space age. I’ve been helping with selecting stories to feature in upcoming episodes and, along the way, I've been able to sit around and listen to a lot of these broadcasts with my grandparents. We had such a good time that they made me teach them how the podcast app works, so that they can continue to follow the show.”
Do you have a podcast you’ve been listening to that you’re burning to recommend to someone? Tell me about it! I’ve set up an easy submission form here where you can do that. With your permission, I’ll include the best recommendations in a future edition of the newsletter.
The podcast links
Ira Glass spills the beans on what makes an engaging podcast — The Daily Texan
Explain the Content of Podcasts, Not the Technology — Radio World
The Season’s Hottest New Podcasts — New Yorker
That’s everything for today. Thanks for reading this far, and do get in touch if you have any issues with the No Complaints/PodMail switch over.