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.
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 were unable to test Google Play's podcast support, since we are in one of the 178 countries that Google does not support podcasts. We were sent a screenshot by @virtualprawn.
- The folks behind Castro kindly supplied us with a voucher to purchase their app.
- The folks at Podbean contacted us with notification of a database error causing our 1/5 review.
- An earlier version of this confused CastBox with the purple/blue logo with the version with the red logo. We're happy to confirm - Red logo: good. Blue/purply logo: not good.
- We did not test apps without This Week In Tech in their catalogue, nor have we tested paid-for apps that we currently don't own.
We tested on five elements to arrive at a score out of 5:
- Can you see the show notes at all?
- Are all the links visibly clickable?
- Do the emboldened characters display as emboldened?
- Are line breaks respected and displayed correctly?
- Are accented characters displayed correctly?
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.
- Always show links with the URL visible. These links will be clickable in Apple Podcasts, and will be visible - if not clickable - in every app. Using word links won't always work.
- Formatting, like use of the strong tag, may be ignored by many podcast apps. Ensure your show notes don't require this to be faithfully shown.
- Be aware that accented characters may not display correctly.