- Without ID3 tags, your podcast (or other audio file) will languish un-played because it shows up as “unknown” in media libraries on computers and portable MP3 players.
- Believe it or not, there are people who don’t use iTunes. That means they won’t get ID3 tags from your RSS feed, so you have to make sure to add them directly to the MP3 file.
- Even people who do use iTunes might download a test episode from your website to listen to before committing to a subscription. That means they won’t get the ID3 tags from your feed, either.
- If you don’t add ID3 tags, you are missing a marketing opportunity. Put your URL and other contact info into the comments field.
- ID3 tags help make your MP3 file accessible and searchable. You want people to find your podcast in Google, don’t you?
Most video editing software lets you export to MP3 format along with creating iPod or Flash video for uploading. Here are five good reasons why you should.
- Bandwidth. The so-called broadband in Central America and Australia is not very fast. In fact, the so-called broadband in the US is pathetic when compared to speeds available in Western Europe and Asia. And many people in the US are actually still on dial-up. There’s just no way that they’re going to be able to download a video file.
- Media Player Limitations. Not everyone uses a video-capable media player. Pity the person who tries to put your .m4v file on her Sansa Clip—or even her iPod Shuffle.
- Listening Habits. Many of us prefer to listen to podcasts while doing something else, like driving a car. Since you can’t watch video and drive anyway, forcing those listeners to download a video rather than an audio just fills their players up with useless megabytes.
- Learning Styles. Roughly 1/3 of the population are hearing learners. They don’t remember or learn from what they see very well. What they hear is much more important. These are the people who turn up the volume on the TV and walk out of the room. No matter how visually interesting your podcast is, all they care about is what you have to say.
- Show Length and Format. While many people will take the time to watch a short (less than 5 minutes) video online, they may not have the patience (or time) to sit through something longer while chained to their computers. Also, the longer the video, the higher the production values people are likely to want. If you have a long interview where the video really just shows a couple of talking heads, you might be better off showing a short clip in video format but making the full-length version available as audio.
As a general rule, keep the video for things you really have to show, like demonstrations, and break those down into multiple short videos.
I’ve written about the importance of ID3 tags before, but that was two years ago, and apparently many people are still not listening. (Shocking!)
The Personal Problem
Besides, my most recent MP3 player (a Sansa Clip) has special new tricks in the podcast sorting department that mean I have to do extra tweaking on files that used to be fine. That’s a problem I should address to SanDisk rather than the general public, but just in case there are other Sansa users out there wondering why so many podcasts end up clumped under “Unknown”: you have to have an episode (track) number. It doesn’t matter what the number is. You could number every single episode of the podcast with “0” or “1” and it wouldn’t care, as long as there’s a number. But without it, it will stick the podcast into “Unknown” even though everything else is all right.
What’s more, the Sansa Clip insists on sorting podcasts by Album. Only. It will sort music by Artist, the way I used to sort my podcasts on my earlier Sansa, but this one groups podcasts by Album. This has proved to be a problem in several cases:
- NPR. I subscribe to the “Business Story of the Day” podcast, which, for some reason, uses the podcast episode title as the album.
- BlogTalkRadio. Any podcast they produce has “BlogTalkRadio” as the album. Um, no. I really want “Addicted to Race” listed separately from “The Publishing Insiders.” So I have to edit the ID3 tags myself before copying the files to the Sansa.
- FIR. Shel and Neville, you know I love you guys, but where everything used to show up together under “Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz,” the FIR Cuts are now in one place, the FIR Interviews in another, FIR Live in a third, and the Hobson and Holtz Report in a fourth.
All of these fall into the category of “minor nuisance,” since editing ID3 tags with AudioShell doesn’t take very long, but still, it’s a pain.
The Systemic Problem
Individuals producing podcasts through their own show blogs can learn to include ID3 tags in their MP3 files as well as in their feeds for iTunes. But what about podcasters who use third-party services to record?
When BlogTalkRadio first started producing podcast feeds, they didn’t have any non-iTunes ID3 tags at all. I talked to someone I knew who worked there, and they fixed that, or at least, they fixed it part way. (BlogTalkRadio should really come under “compilation” rather than “album” in the tags, the way Podiobooks.com does with their shows.)
TalkShoe’s podcasts still have no ID3 tags at all, and they’ve been around longer than BlogTalkRadio. Anytime I download an episode of WordPress Weekly, I have to fill in a whole lot more than just the track number, and I’m not even sure yet whether I like the show enough to take that much trouble.
And then there’s AudioBoo, the new kid on the easy-record podcast block. Not only “boos” short on ID3 tags (I’ve only seen title filled out), every single AudioBoo from every single user has the same file name: “recording.mp3.” Yeah, that’s really going to help me keep track of which one is which, or encourage me to subscribe.
And then there are all those free conference call services that offer to record your teleseminars, many of which will now produce a podcast feed for you. These often have gibberish file names and, at best, a title tag that says “Recorded call.” Really useful branding, that.
Since I don’t use iTunes, not having an iPod, I don’t know whether the tags are any better in iTunes. Perhaps I should try subscribing to some of those shows there, and find out. It might almost be worth it.
No. It couldn’t possibly be worth it. (Am I the only person in podcasting who thinks iTunes is an unbearable pain in the anatomy?)
Someone (uh, that would probably be you, ”˜Professor’ Goetsch, since you’re so passionate about it) needs to lobby these services to offer and encourage ID3 tag editing for the MP3 files they produce.
And someone—which would also be me, and which I’m trying to do by writing this when I should be engaged in something billable—needs to educate podcasters and others who want to use audio in their marketing and consulting about why ID3 tags are so freakin’ important. Hmm. I feel a “top 10” article coming on. Or at least a “top 5.”