FYB 68 | PowerPress

 

In this day and age, sticking to one platform for your business or show is not enough. People are everywhere; that is why you need to spread out more to get more connection and reach more people. This method is called syndication; and here, we break down the things you need to know about how to do it. Starting off with the announcement of Blubbry about their PowerPress plugins, we relate that to what it can do for your show and overall site such as using emojis. We also talk about the other PowerPress function called Skip to Position—how it can affect you and your listeners.

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Skip To Position: How PowerPress Plugins Affect Your Show

We’ve got a great topic. There was an announcement in the podcast world, a press release put up by Blubrry and they are the makers of the WordPress plugin called PowerPress, which we’ve talked about in past episodes for one reason or another. Many of our podcasts use them on their websites. You guys use plugins all the time and the PowerPress plugin is a very common one. It’s a free plugin. If you have your podcast published by your website in any way, even if you’re using podcast websites. Podcast websites are using PowerPress plugin as the backbone of their podcast’s publication on their websites. We have a lot of experience with this plugin and there are a lot of great things about it. It’s a fine plugin. I want to make sure I’m upfront about that. I am not disrespecting this plugin and there’s an appropriate situation where people might want to use it and it’s very useful to them.

There are also a lot of other plugins emerging on the market. In an effort to be competitive or in the news again, to be able to put out a press release, sometimes companies add features. That’s what they’ve done here is they’ve added some new features. The thing is we are always cautious about utilizing new and trendy features without a high level of testing first. There are so many feeds and so many directories that you are listed on, that your show should be listed on if you’ve done it yourself. If you haven’t listed your show on anything more than iTunes, first off, get on that. That is a huge mistake there because that’s a small subset of the audience.

Syndicating Your Show

You need to be on a minimum of six platforms. That’s what we put everybody we work with on for them, iTunes, Google Podcast, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spotify and iHeartMedia. Those are the top six and we’ll put people on more at their requests. There are others, some people like C-Suite Radio or they’re doing other things that are not the mainstream podcast destinations, but there are other places you can syndicate your show. You need to be everywhere as much as you can. That’s called syndication, that’s what we call that. You’re syndicating your show. Your show is still hosted on your website or hosted on your RSS server or wherever it is that you’re hosting from. Hopefully, Podetize would be nice but if not, that’s okay too.

You just need to be hosted from somewhere and part of that though is a distribution of platform. How are you getting out there and how are you publishing that article or that episode? We also have some language difference. People call them shows, episodes. It is weird because we call them show notes but it’s really episode notes. The traditional term is show notes, which we call it the full-length blog post, the transcription blog post. There’s some language differentiation between the old school radio people who started podcasting and what it has turned into now. I’m trying to clarify a few language things here for us. The way that we’re going to use it when we say show notes or episode notes, we’re talking about for your single show, not your entire catalog because that’s truly your show, your podcast.

These words do get tossed around interchangeably and this is not the main subject of this episode, but I want to clarify that. When you say you have a podcast and you’re a podcast host, typically if you go, “What’s your podcast?” My podcast is named Feed Your Brand in this case. I refer to that as, “My podcast.” I refer to it as my show and then when it comes to individual episodes, I refer to those as episodes most often. People will say, “My latest podcast,” and what they mean is the latest episode or the latest show. Some people might think that’s the latest episodes. These terms often are tossed around a little bit interchangeably. When we talk about a podcast or a show, we’re referring to your entire show, inclusive of all your episodes and then when we talk about an episode, we call it your episode or your blog instead of your show notes. That’s why I wanted to clarify that here because when you’re using a plugin like PowerPress, you’re only publishing a single episode at a time through the plugin. You’re not publishing your entire show. You’re publishing one episode at a time in the single plugin player.

FYB 68 | PowerPress

PowerPress: If you’re going to start using emojis, you need to test publishing.

 

What PowerPress is doing is using the blog post publishing function of WordPress to do two things at once. One is to publish your podcast episode, to syndicate that episode out to iTunes and all the other distribution channels and also to publish a blog post on your website. We have another episode where we talk about more deeply this plugin. If you want to hear that, definitely go check out that episode about The Best And Worst Podcast Websites on Feed Your Brand. It’s not listed as the worst. I want to clarify that, it actually is among the best. We’re critical somewhat of it. Still, it’s a great plugin but there are some things that we do caution people about that plugin but that’s not what this episode is about.

This episode is about the fact that they’ve made this press announcement that they’ve added some upgraded, cool features, updated features to the PowerPress plugin. What we want to caution you about is utilizing these can break some things in your syndication because we have seen it happen in other areas. We touched so many shows and so many different episodes every single week, we see things like this. They start to break down the feeds that are going out to the different distribution networks. While they say it’s compatible, remember every time you update a plugin on your WordPress site, if you have no experience doing this, it breaks your site more often than not. It can break your feed here. We want you to be cautious that it can cause problems.

Break Your Feed

Let’s talk about what break your feed means. Break your feed maybe is a little bit tackier. Maybe it’s going to alarm people. By break your feed, what we’ve seen happen is that certain other distribution platforms or plugins on your website may not be able to read your feed properly. One of the two changes of PowerPress is that it is now allowing you to use emojis in your podcast episode titles and descriptions. I’m sure for a lot of people who like emojis and like to use them, others want to appeal to more of the generations. For Millennials and younger generations, emojis are a very common part of their communication style. They’re thinking, “That’s great. We can use emojis.” This is a word of caution that we are bringing to you from Feed Your Brand is that if you’re going to start using emojis, you need to test publishing. Start with one episode that uses emojis and test it everywhere.

What we mean by testing it is you hit publish, you publish it in your PowerPress plugin, you publish your blog, then you go to iTunes and you check it. You go to Stitcher and you check it. You go to Google Play and you play it. You check it everywhere and you check how it visually looks because you may end up with weird characters with disruption. Sometimes they break the rest of the description and the rest of the description doesn’t feed in. These are things that can happen because of character problems in the feed.

The folks in Blubrry in this press release claim, and I have no reason to doubt them, that the emojis are compatible with both iTunes, iOS podcast and Google podcast apps. That’s great that they’ve done that testing. I’m sure they’ve worked with those people behind the scenes and made sure it works, but those are not the only two platforms out there that people are listening on. Spotify is becoming incredibly popular as is iHeartMedia. A lot of new things have been happening on each of those platforms and they haven’t said anything about it in this press release. That doesn’t mean it won’t work there. I’m just saying if you’re going to do this, you need to test it. It’s not as easy to get on iHeart and Spotify and stay in the listings there and be found. The last thing you want to do is break that.

You lose value when someone is not listening to you all the way. Click To Tweet

If you don’t test this and make sure it works everywhere, it may be a long time before you figure it out. It becomes a much more difficult situation to try to fix it after you’ve published many episodes that might have special characters in it. Here’s another example. Let’s assume that all the other distribution channels, they tend to follow iTunes in terms of their technical capabilities and what they’ll allow in your podcast’s RSS feeds. Let’s assume that they all are following whatever changes have been made to iOS and Google Podcast and these emojis or any other special characters will appear properly and your feed will load properly.

That’s not the only place that you need to confirm and test this. We have experienced with some of our customers when we are creating their blog post on their website, there are other plugins that people use on their websites to distribute their podcasts. One of those plugins that’s very popular is the Smart Podcast Player, which is a paid plugin that creates a very nice-looking player, usually on your podcast page on your website. It also has a very nice-looking and customizable looking track player that you can put into your blog post, so people could listen to your episodes. We encountered with somebody we worked with that all of a sudden, the Smart Podcast Player was not loading on their website. It was just a spinning wheel all the time and it wouldn’t load any podcasts. We thought, “What’s going on?” We were checking it everything. First was with that plugin and the Smart Podcast Player, “Is it up to date? Is it the latest version? Is the license code correct? Was something about the license code inadvertently changed?” All of that checked out.

Through a very lengthy and frustrating process of elimination, we discovered there were some special characters. This particular customer that we were working with had emojis in their descriptions and had some other special characters. It was one of these special characters used in either the title of the description or the episode, I forget which it was, that was incompatible with the Smart Podcast Player reading of the RSS feed. Because it wouldn’t read that one episode, it wouldn’t read any of them and it would not load, it was going to spin indefinitely.

We have this problem again and again with people who have custom coding on their website or a section of custom coding. Whoever did their coding is no longer working with them and they don’t even realize they have custom HTML code on their site. These things happen all the time. If you do not have a lot of skills here and a lot of ability to update and check all of these things, you need to be very cautious with just jumping on board and saying, “I get to use emojis. My daughters would be thrilled.” You also have to be careful. The other thing I also want to mention and caution you is that there are some inappropriate emojis. May I remind you that you must mark your show explicit and not explicit and I’m very certain that this is going to apply to your emoji characters as well.

We have seen more and more people. I’m a member of a lot of podcasting private community groups on Facebook and other places. There have been a lot of discussion about podcasts that have been taken down by iTunes without warning because they had some explicit words in the description of an episode. Even if it wasn’t a word that was spoken in the episode. You weren’t able to listen to it if you’re listening to the show, that explicit word wasn’t there but it existed in the description or the title of the episode. Apple is cracking down on that stuff now. I’m sure emojis are going to be the same. That’s when we do highly recommend, especially on this explicit stuff.

FYB 68 | PowerPress

PowerPress: If you do not have a lot of skills and ability to update and check, then you need to be very cautious with just jumping on board.

 

Be respectful of the fact that we have kids in our cars and we’re searching through titles and we’re doing these things. Even if your show is marked explicit, we like to keep the titles and the descriptions clean just for that purpose because you don’t know. It’s a good idea to do it. Obviously it’s your show, it’s up to you but it’s a best practice. I don’t think it has much of a street value or credibility to have an explicit word or character emoji in your description. Even if those words are contained within the audio of the episode that you’re going to listen to, I don’t know that it’s going to draw on a lot more listeners. It’s probably a good idea to keep those things out of your titles and descriptions in general.

Also, just a general public service announcement regarding WordPress plugins, I think most of us have WordPress websites and you should. When we talked about best and worst podcast websites, WordPress is our favorite platform from a position of a lot of long, hard experience. It is very important, and this is a public service announcement recommendation from Tom and Tracy that always be cautious when updating any plugin of any kind on your website, whether it’s podcast related or not. We have experienced all kinds of nightmare scenarios when people have auto update configured on their plugins on their website. Whenever there’s a new one, the website will update the plugin automatically and you don’t get a choice to manually do it or to prevent it from doing it. Even a plugin that would seem innocuous and has nothing to do with podcasting. It could be a Gravity Forms plugin. There are lots of plugins that relate to how websites function that seemed very benign, but when you update these things, it can cause conflicts and problems with other plugins on your website.

If your podcast is publishing from PowerPress, which is a function of your website, the last thing you want to have happened is an update to some other plugin all of a sudden conflicting with PowerPress and taking down your podcast from publishing in iTunes and everywhere else. We’ve seen this happen. It does happen periodically. It’s one of the reasons I’m not the biggest fan of using PowerPress because so many things with your website can then interrupt the distribution of your podcast unknowingly. It is a fun plugin and a lot of people use it very successfully. For people who are doing it yourself, it sounds easier because you’re going to publish a post and you’re going to do it all in one place. When you’re using a service like ours, it just doesn’t make sense to do it because why not have us take the extra step to keep it separated for you and keep your RSS server the place that serves your podcast to all of those directories, keeping it separate from things that go on in your website. Keeping it isolated prevents one from infecting the other and we think that’s the best practice.

Skip To Position

The other function though of PowerPress that is notable that we want to mention is called skip to position. If you’ve been on a podcast for any length of time or you’re a longtime podcast listener, you probably have noticed in the past when you go to a show notes post on somebody’s website, sometimes they have what I would call timestamped highlights of things that took place in the episode. In the old school sense years ago in podcasting, this was much more common than it is today, it was always used as a reference point, “If you want to hear where my guest talks about this subject, go to seven minutes and 32 seconds in the episode and you can hear that.” Before plugins made this automatic, you would just play the track player and slide ahead or click ahead until you get to about seven minutes and 32 seconds and start playing. In certain plugins in the past, I think Simple Podcast Press does this among others, you can make that timecode clickable. If somebody clicks on it, the podcast will start playing and jump ahead to that point.

That’s the same thing PowerPress has done here and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a good function. Except that I hate it from the standpoint of a marketing machine that you are supposed to be in. With the efforts that you’re putting into your blog posts, your audios, your videos and all of these things that you’re doing, the last thing you want is people start skipping ahead. I want to make sure this is clear to our audience. We’re not just talking about PowerPress here. We’re talking about any of them that do this, any of them that provide you even time stamps for where things are for you to even manually go to skip ahead with a track player or the ones that make it clickable. We’re saying, we don’t like that. We don’t do it for some very good reasons. I think that they do podcasters a disservice, quite honestly.

Just because it's available doesn't necessarily mean it's in your best interest. Click To Tweet

They’re going to do your show a disservice at the end. You lose value by someone not listening all the way through an episode on you. Every time somebody plays it and they haven’t played the whole episode, you’re not getting the value count from that in the overall count and statistics to your podcast play that you want or the episode play that you want. You’re devaluing your show that way. That’s something we don’t want to see happen to you. There’s also a great benefit in putting things in context. You want them to listen to what came before and what comes after that rather than just skipped ahead. You also have your show notes. You have your blog post notes and when you’ve got your blog post notes, you’ve got highlights and you’ve got headlines and subheads, and you’ve got things boldfaced and you’ve got those links right there and quotes pulled out.

If there is something important, it’s already going to be highlighted as you scroll down the page and it will be very easy to see it. What you do want them to do is scroll down your blog post and find it because when they scroll down your blog post, they’re also sitting on your page longer, which is giving you higher Google ranking. Overall it does a marketing disservice to you to use timestamps. We don’t believe in them. We won’t be using them. We never have used them. We advise clients against them and we never have done them on any show notes except at a client’s request.

We worked with hundreds of different podcasters and I can count the number of people who required timestamps on the fingers of one hand. It’s a few digits and that I think because the reality is you’re inviting people to skip ahead and pull things out of context and I don’t like that. The only way that this seems remotely reasonable to me is if a host wants to provide a convenience for their listeners in that they’re assuming that their listeners listen in the car or while they’re at the gym and they can’t skip ahead to anything or they can’t rewind easily and listen to something again, but they heard something they don’t remember the detail and go, “I’d like to hear that again.” Later they might go to the blog post and with those timestamps that are clickable, you could then allow them to get right to it and get that one thing they wanted. There may be some justification for that, but the occurrence is incredibly limited and rare.

For the amount of effort, it takes for you to put those timestamps and make them linkable and do all of those things in terms of effort of your time spent. If you hot jarred or checked out the scroll on your page and how many people were using those links, you will find they have a low return on investment of time. It does you a disservice because at the end of the day, you now become a less ad worthy show. You have hurt the monetization value of your show because no advertiser wants to put their ads into a show or sponsor a show of which they could skip your ad.

You should be thinking about even if you don’t have paid sponsors, but you have your own promotions for your own book, your speaking event, your own courses, your consulting, whatever it is that you are trying to build awareness of through your podcast. It allows people to skip over those things where otherwise, it’s not the easiest thing in the world on certain phones and certain podcast players or you’re controlling through your iWatch or however it is that somebody is listening to your podcast and consuming it. It’s not the easiest thing in the world or the most intuitive thing in the world to be able to skip ahead. I know there are functions that allow you to skip 30 seconds if you want to, but when most people are listening, it’s not convenient for them to do it and by and large, the research, these are the real hard data from Nielsen among others who are studying podcast listenership. It’s just not that common that people do it. They don’t mind listening to ads within podcasts of podcasts that they’ve opted into and they want to hear the content. They don’t mind listening to it.

FYB 68 | PowerPress

PowerPress: It’s not the easiest thing in the world or the most intuitive to be able to skip ahead.

 

Why are we going to invite them to do it? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Invite more work for yourself. I’m all about it here. This is part of why we started Feed Your Brand is we want you to do less effort for more return. This is more effort for less return, for less value at the end of the day. It’s great they’re adding features to it and I hope it makes them more competitive against some of the other plugins, which are not as highly featured as PowerPress is. They have a lot of great features, but I don’t think that you all want to go in blindly using these things because they are new and they sound cool.

You might set yourself up for getting a lower return on your time, effort, and money you’re spending on your podcast. That’s not a good thing. Maybe things will change at some point with Alexa and the Google Assistant that at some point there will be a lot more functions where we’ll be able to say, “Alexa, replay that or skip to this portion,” or whatever and it will be a lot easier to do passively. I think Google Podcast, that’s likely the case because they are already voiced recognizing and in a sense tracking what’s going on in the voice sense of it. I think it’s going to happen too but it’s not something we’re going to have to spend time programming.

We won’t have to, but I also think it’s going to be a little weird when Alexa goes, “Smiley face, high-five hand.” Emojis are just going to be weird. We should test this on TuneIn. We’ll have to experiment that. That may be interesting for a future episode, but I wonder how these special characters and emojis are going to play on the audio. When I have my text messages read back because my mother will send like five heart emojis. It’s weird when the voice reads it back to me on because I have Google on my phone.

I think these things are naturally going to happen as podcasting evolves, as the internet evolves, as these plugins continue to be updated. It’s naturally lots of these things are going to happen, but just some cautionary concern that we have for you. Consider these things, test, test, test and also we wanted to give you our true sense about the timestamps and skipping to position. Just because it’s available doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in your best interest or you should use it. We want to make sure you get the most out of your time, effort and money spent on everything you do to Feed Your Brand.

We’ll leave it there. Thank you so much. You can find us anywhere on social media, @FeedYourBrand. This has been Tracy and Tom on Feed Your Brand.

 

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