Podcast Artwork

Your new podcast is your organisation’s baby. Things that seem important going into the process turn out to be less so. Much like thinking back to the birth plan for our first born, the highfalutin aims were tossed out once the plan hit reality. In podcasting a similar sticking point is the artwork. 

Before we delve a little deeper on the actual artwork, let’s look at its purpose.

What is the artwork doing for your podcast?

Catching the eye of a scrolling potential listener, a hint at the content, even if that hint can be as subtle as a sledgehammer, and as a reason to listen.

The first reason is what most organisations get hung up on, understandably. The thinking goes: See our artwork, be driven to listen and become a listener for life. This is a huge workload for a thumbnail image. The underlying assumption is: Individuals find podcasts by scrolling through lists of images until one catches their eye and they’re in.

This is rarely the case with podcasts. Most new listeners come from referrals. Some will come from seeing the artwork and so it shouldn’t be ignored but very few. A bit like “ratings and reviews to make it easier for more people to find us” shows a lack of understanding of the system Apple uses. 

I’m highlighting the Apple approach here as it still provides 60+% of downloads directly and about 30+% of the rest through other podcatchers who draw directly from the Apple Podcasts’ system.

To move up the charts, Apple uses a byzantine algorithm that’s apparently mostly influenced by two things: All time subscribers and the number of recent subscribers. It makes no use of the ratings and reviews a podcast may or may not have received.

The charts are fairly irrelevant too. Heresy! Maybe, probably not. 

I’ve discussed this with quite a few podcasters who naturally enough are also podcast listeners. The general consensus is that other people’s ratings and reviews are nice and all but have nothing to do with whether or not they listen. They tend to pop an area of interest description into the search function on their podcatchers and flick through the results, have a listen and then decide if the show’s for them. Podcasting is an intensely personal thing. Lots of shows in each niche, often covering the same topics but some resonate and some don’t. The host, the delivery then the content is the hierarchy of decision making.

Back to the artwork. The artwork is important. Particularly for an organisation. It should follow the basic branding decisions that inform all your materials. The same colours, fonts and so on with a clear, easily read, especially at the thumbnail size, title. Three max is good but longer can work. Look at the list of shows on the phone your podcast service person has. You’ll see, probably, over a hundred examples of artwork. Why those shows? Mostly because of the niche and the show material not because of the artwork.

Where the image can be more useful is in your emails. Including it in your signature with a direct link will do more for you than the podcast directory listings. Even if you don’t include it in your signature, a good image is great for letting your email list know your show is starting or a new season is about to begin. The image is also good for socials.

The image is a must have for registering your show in the podcast ecosystem but it is more a tool for off podcast promotions. Yet it must work in both. Stick to simple, clear images with brand logo and, most importantly of all, an easily read title.