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How podcast show notes display in 19 different apps

October 31, 2017

If you're a podcaster, you've probably said: "There's more details in the show notes". It's an excellent place to put links to find out more, links to guests and hosts and their own projects, and occasionally acknowledgements and copyright information.

Research by podnews has uncovered large inconsistencies in the way different podcast apps display these show notes: and the most popular app, Apple Podcasts, may remove many links completely.

Background

For testing, we used the latest version of This Week In Tech, a popular tech news podcast. The show notes were in standard HTML, using p tags to separate paragraphs. In the RSS feed, the same text was in itunes:summary and content:encoded; the description field had identical data but an image inserted in the front (which didn't show on any apps). It should be noted that you can place different content into these elements.

The HTML contained a number of useful items to test. Use of the strong tag, which makes highlighted words appear in bold. Links to other content were mainly of word links, where the actual link is hidden but a word is clickable; but in one instance the link was visibly written out. One of the guests had a tilde accent above his name (the 'n' in Nuñes), allowing a test of accented characters.

We tested latest versions of various podcast apps (on October 31, 2017) on iOS 11 and Android 8.1.

We tested on five elements to arrive at a score out of 5:

Our findings

Out of the 19 podcast apps we tested, less than half managed to display the show notes correctly.

The market leader, Apple Podcasts, does worse than seven other podcast apps when playing a podcast you've searched for. It strips all word links, and also removes all formattting. However, when subscribed it displays differently.

Two apps do not appear to display show notes at all (or the UX is hidden enough to make them impossible to find).

There is no difference between Android or iOS in reproduction of show notes.

Recommendations

Our tests in full

PocketCasts (Android): 5/5 Links all work, line breaks display, formatting is respected, accented characters work.

Overcast (iOS): 5/5 Links all work, line breaks display, formatting is respected, accented characters work.

Castro (iOS): 5/5 Links all work, line breaks display, formatting is respected, accented characters work. (Bonus: how it looks on an Apple Watch).

Player FM (Android): 5/5 Links all work, line breaks display, formatting is respected, accented characters work.

RadioPublic (iOS): 5/5 Links all work, line breaks display, formatting is respected, accented characters work.

BeyondPod (Android): 5/5 Links all work, line breaks display, formatting is respected, accented characters work.

CastBox (red logo) (Android): 5/5 Links all work, line breaks display, formatting is respected, accented characters work.

Acast (Android): 4.5/5 Links are clickable. Line breaks are doubled. Formatting is respected. Accented characters work.

Apple Podcasts (iOS 11): 3.5/5 - when searching, only URLs are clickable. Other links are ignored. Formatting is ignored. Line breaks are shown. Accented characters are displayed. When subscribed (which research shows a minority of podcast listeners do), everything works as expected.

Podbean (iOS): 3/5; Podbean (Android): 4/5. Neither support formatting, and the iOS version corrupts accented characters. An earlier screenshot of ours showed a lower score; Podbean say this was a duplicate and incorrect listing in their database.

Podcast Go (Android): 3/5 no links are clickable. No formatting is respected. Line breaks are shown. Accented characters are displayed.

Otto Radio (iOS): 3/5 no links are clickable, and no formatting. Line breaks are respected. Accented characters work.

Google Play Music Podcasts (Android): 2.5/5 No links are clickable. New paragraphs are doubled, and HTML formatting is ignored. Accented characters display.

Podcast App (Android): 2/5 Only URLs are clickable. Other links are ignored. Formatting is ignored. Line breaks are partially ignored (single line breaks are ignored, double line breaks are displayed as single line breaks). Accented characters are corrupted.

Stitcher (Android): 2/5 no links are clickable, no formatting is respected. No line breaks. Accented characters display.

Spotify (Android): 2/5 no links work, no line breaks display, no formatting is respected. Accented characters do work.

CastBox (purple/blue logo) (Android): 1.5/5 no links are clickable, no formatting is displayed, no line breaks are shown and words run into one another. Accented characters display.

Leela (iOS): 0/5 doesn't appear to display show notes at all.

TuneIn (iOS): 0/5 No show notes are accessible.


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