Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about podcast show descriptions — the bits of text that often appear in podcast apps to help listeners understand why they might want to hit play.
Show descriptions have been on my mind because we’re currently developing a new podcast series with a new client, and we’re close to launch.
We’re finalizing some of the show’s product packaging, and recently a colleague asked me, “How long should our show description be?”
Maximum length: 4,000 characters
According to the RSS Advisory Board, there’s technically “no limit on the length of character data that can be contained in an RSS element.” That said, Apple Podcasts imposes a 4,000 character limit on show descriptions.
But of course, most podcast apps won’t display your entire show description. Most will truncate it with a
see more or
… disclosure widget. Which means you should…
Front-load the most important details
Include the hookiest, most important human-readable details at the beginning of your show description.
I wish I could give you a specific character count beyond which most podcast apps will cut off your show description. But I can’t.
It differs from app to app, device to device:
On my personal iPhone XR, using Choiceology with Katy Milkman as an example, I found:
- Spotify cut off the show description after 120 characters
- Apple Podcasts cut off the show description after 150 characters
- Pocket Casts cut off the show description after 149 characters
- Castbox cut off the show description after 117 characters
- Castro cut off the show description after 134 characters
- Breaker cut off the show description after 137 characters
- Stitcher search cut off the show description after 72 characters
Your mileage may vary.
Write for humans
As I’ve written before, podcast copy should take into account the humans who will read it:
- Be clear and concise. Remember, most people will read your show description inside a podcast app.
- Explain your show’s value. Answer the questions, “Why should someone listen to my show? What does my show offer that is unique and different?”
- Avoid repetition. There’s no need to repeat your show’s
itunes:authorfields. Redundant. You also don’t need to include the word “podcast.”
Write for search engines, too
As NPR’s Ainsley Rossitto explained in her session at this year’s Podcast Movement Evolutions, SEO can have a big impact on the performance and discoverability of your show and episodes.
Not all podcast app search engines index show descriptions, but some do.
For example, Zendesk’s Repeat Customer is hosted by Mio Adilman. His name doesn’t appear in the show’s
itunes:author field, but it does appear in the show description. That means a search in Google Podcasts for “Mio Adilman” shows Repeat Customer at the top of the list.
Similarly, a Google Podcasts search for “irrational decision making” will yield Choiceology with Katy Milkman — presumably because that phrase appears in the show description.
What search terms do you want your show to appear in the results for? Are they in your show description?
How long is the average podcast description?
Because I love to analyze podcast metadata, I decided to crunch some show description numbers.
Using a sample of 706,123 podcasts from Apple Podcasts, I found:
- The mean average show description is 243 characters
- The median show description is 163 characters
- The shortest show descriptions I found were a single character (like this example)
- The longest show description I found was 3,899 characters
Here’s the distribution of shows, ordered by their description length (I threw away the few shows with descriptions longer than 1,000 characters):
There’s a pretty clear uptick around 600 characters. Perhaps a popular hosting platform imposes a character limit?
Given these averages, it seems clear to me that many podcasters don’t take full advantage of the 4,000 characters they have at their disposal.
Your show descriptions are an important part of your podcast packaging, and are used by humans and search engines. They should:
- Be clear and concise
- Explain your show’s values
- Avoid unnecessary repetition
- Be optimized for search, and include meaningful, relevant keywords
Half of all podcasts use less than 163 of the 4,000 characters available.
How long is your show’s description? Are you making the most of the space you have?