Answers from an Actual Podcast Critic
You’ve put a lot of hard work into making your podcast and you’re feeling ready to send your show off to journalists in hopes of getting some coverage. Congratulations! Now it’s time to roll our sleeves up and get to work–you’ve got a few ducks to get in a row if you’re serious about making your show easy to cover.
Video content can be scrubbed to find key scenes. Books and e-books can be skimmed. Music albums generally come with liner notes and short tracks. Podcasts, on the other hand, are monolithic audio files that can only be referenced quickly if the listener has been taking note of timestamps while listening. Which is to say: the least-fun way to listen to a podcast.
Luckily there are a few steps you, a podcast creator, can take to make your podcast as journalist-friendly as possible, all of which come with the added side effect of making your podcast more accessible! Everybody wins! Here’s what you’ll need.
You need a website.
It’s shocking how many massive podcasts consider a Twitter profile with the “website” set as a direct link to their Apple Podcast subscription page to be enough. I notice those podcasts tend to be spearheaded by internet celebrities with pre-established fanbases. Unsurprisingly, the coverage they get is generic “this is a good show” single-paragraph recommendations on pop culture blogs. That might be good enough for their shows, but you can do better.
An easy-to-remember URL would be preferable, but anything is better than nothing. Be it a full-fledged fancy website or a simple handful of pages using free tools, your podcast needs a place where all of the necessary information is collected in one spot and easily navigable.
Bonus points if you include a way to listen to your podcast in-browser. A button to Apple Podcasts or Spotify doesn’t do me much good sitting at my PC wanting to listen to a specific episode with my good headphones without launching an app or fiddling with my phone. It’s not a required feature, but those who do like listening in-browser will love you dearly for that extra step taken.
You need a strong first impression.
Whether you’re about to launch or have been uploading for years it’s important to put your best foot forward. Are your early episodes representative of how the podcast has evolved over the years? Is there a strong first episode in your back catalog that would be better for a complete stranger to get a feel for the podcast over the actual first episode in the feed?
My Brother, My Brother, and Me used to make .zip files with a handful of popular episodes for fans to share with friends in hopes they would convert that friend to a listener. What episodes of your show would you put in a hypothetical .zip of your own show? Embed those on your “about us” page and mention them in your press kit.
I’ve got a spreadsheet in Airtable anyone can submit their podcast to with the understanding I might find it and review it someday. It grows at an alarming rate. Even reviewers I know who have stricter guidelines and limited submission windows are drowning in shows to try. We want to love every podcast, but we also have limited time–so make it easy for us.
You need production credits
Again, you might be shocked at just how many podcasts simply do not give proper credit to anyone involved in the production. From actors and guests to the royalty-free music tracks that explicitly require proper attribution, credits get dropped as production wears on and uploaders gain the bad habit of typing just a couple of sentences into the description.
It takes a lot of work to make a good podcast, usually by multiple people. It should be easy to find that person’s name, pronouns, job title, and a link to their own portfolio or socials. If the sound design in a fiction podcast is great, I want to be able to specifically name the person who did that work. If a host exists on a chat podcast, I’d like to know something as basic as how to spell their full name when talking about them. It may seem like the bare minimum (because it is), but it’s necessary information.
You need a press kit.
Press kits are the bread and butter of podcast coverage. My heart skips a beat when I find a show I like and they’ve got a kit. It serves as a one-stop-shop for any information someone writing about your podcast would need.
- An elevator pitch for the show’s premise.
- Your target genre / demographic.
- Upload frequency / schedule.
- Names and pronouns of people involved (hosts, actors, etc.)
- Background on the creators of the podcast (think the “about us” section of a website).
- Links to the social media account(s) associated with the show.
- Any listener metrics or audience engagement data you feel like showing off.
- Full-resolution show art. Bonus points if you can include landscape-style artwork in addition to the standard square. Podcast articles are infamously difficult to find visuals for and I’ve yet to come across a graphic included by a show I wasn’t able to use.
Yes, some of the information on the press kit is going to be easily found on other pages of the site, but the seconds you spend copy/pasting that information in one easily-readable location can help out a reporter trying to recall details about your show immensely.
As far as what a press kit actually looks like, follow your heart. Most I’ve seen use Google sheets to whip up a document, save it as a PDF, throw it in a .zip folder with your show art and any extra graphics, then toss it up as a downloadable link. If you feel like going the extra mile, populate all of that information onto the page where the press kit download lives. It’ll make information even easier to find and it might just help boost your site’s SEO in the long run. Much like a transcript! Speaking of...
You need transcripts.
Accessibility shouldn’t be a bonus objective for podcasting, it should be the standard. You can read more about the importance of transcripts and affordable ways to get your podcast transcribed here on the Simplecast blog. They make your show accessible, they boost your website’s SEO, and they have the unintended bonus of making life incredibly easy for podcast journalists. The ability to directly quote a scene is a breeze with a transcript to copy from, allowing me to actively show readers what is good about your show beyond “I like it.”
You need to submit (and follow the rules).
Transcripts in hand, website ready, press kit zipped, you’re ready to get your podcast out there! Find some journalists, carefully read their submission guidelines on their websites, and get your podcast out there! Just be sure to take that “carefully read” to heart. Some reviewers will only take submissions during specific windows of time. Some only take submissions for specific types of shows. Some might have rules against re-submitting one’s show in a certain period of time.
Most importantly, and this might sound like a joke but I promise it’s sincere, don’t just tag journalists on Twitter in a tweet promoting your podcast. It has never worked, it never will work, yet some keep shooting their shot. Journalists are friends with each other. Group chats exist. If someone’s a jerk on social media, that podcast probably is going to have an uphill battle making a good impression with others.
You got this. Take your time and recognize that time is precious. There’s no deadline for the milestones I’ve laid out above. Your own mental state is just as important as the .mp3s you’re uploading, nothing in this article should come at the expense of sleep or mental well-being. Take care of yourself out there.
Gavin Gaddis is a freelance journalist and podcaster. They've worked as a media critic in various positions since 2011. You can find them on Twitter or at The Pod Report.