The art and science of naming your podcast
A deep dive into podcast show titles, by the numbers
Naming a new podcast can be tricky.
It’s tricky because choosing a show name is a creative challenge with many technical considerations. Show titles should be clear, concise, unique, specific, and evocative. They need to telegraph a show’s content, tone, treatment, and values. Show titles also need to be optimized for search, avoid redundancies with other metadata, and display cleanly in major podcast apps.
That’s a lot to do in 255 characters (or less).
Earlier this year, I was in a meeting to discuss the name of a new podcast series. Several of the proposed show titles felt really long, which made me wonder, “What’s the average length of a podcast title?”
So I crunched some numbers. I analyzed metadata from 658,957 podcasts, and here’s what I found:
- Half of all podcast titles are between 14 and 29 characters
- The most popular title length is 16 characters
- The mean average show title is 23.9 characters
- The median show title is 20 characters
Here’s a breakdown of podcasts by title length:
Even though podcast titles can be up to 255 characters long, very few are. 75% of all podcast titles are 29 characters or shorter.
How long are the titles of popular shows?
What if we only look at the most successful podcasts? I did that, too.
Among the Apple Podcasts US Top 200 on May 2, 2019:
- The mean average show title is 22.6 characters (slightly shorter than the overall average)
- The median show title is 20 characters (exactly the same as the overall average)
And among the ~12,000 shows that appear on one of Apple’s many top 200 lists across all categories (and subcategories):
- The mean average podcast show title is 27.8 characters
- The median podcast show title is 23 characters
So, the titles of shows that appear on one of Apple’s many charts tend to be slightly longer than the overall average, while the titles of the 200 most popular shows in the US tend to be a bit shorter than the overall average.
One of the most important reasons to think about the length of your show title is how it’ll display in popular podcast apps. Long show titles can be clipped in certain contexts. For example:
There are, of course, several factors here, including title length, screen size and resolution, and a user’s font size settings. As a general rule, the longer your show title, the greater the chances of it being clipped.
The word “podcast”
Back in 2015, Apple’s Steve Wilson offered some sage show-naming advice on Twitter:
Fast forward to spring 2019, and a full 21% of the podcasts I analyzed include the word “podcast” in their show title.
- 15% of the Apple Podcasts Top 200 shows on May 2, 2019 included the word “podcast” in their titles, including shows like The goop Podcast, RISE Together Podcast, and the BBC’s Global News Podcast
- 27% of the ~12k shows that appear on at least one of Apple Podcasts’s category charts included the word “podcast” in their titles
Don’t stuff keywords
Apple explicitly discourages keyword stuffing:
If you make your title a long list of keywords in an attempt to game podcast search, your podcast will be removed from the Apple directory.
When I look at the longest show titles in my sample of 658,957 podcasts, many of them seem to be stuffing keywords, often separated by pipes. For example:
- [Show name]: Downtempo | TripHop | Ambient | Chill Out | Lounge | Independent Electronica. Curated by [show author]
- [Show name] Short Inspiration, Motivation, Positivity, Mental Health, Self-Help, Esteem, Improvement, Growth
- [Show name] Everyday Property Manager | Customer Service | Communication Skills | Multi-Family Housing | Management | Community Manager
In November 2018, Daniel J. Lewis wrote up his experience of being removed from Apple’s directory. It’s a cautionary tale, and a good reminder to avoid the temptation to inflate your podcast title.
Podcasts travel by word-of-mouth. Ambiguously spelled/pronounced/typed show titles can be a speedbump to word-of-mouth discovery.
One of my favourite shows is Dallas Taylor’s Twenty Thousand Hertz, but it can be tricky to recommend without sending a link.
- Homonyms introduce ambiguity (is it “hertz” or “hurts”?)
- Acronyms and symbols introduce ambiguity (is it “Hertz” or “Hz?”)
- Numbers introduce ambiguity (is it “Twenty Thousand” or “20000” or “20k”?)
Podcast search isn’t perfect, and human ears aren’t great for parsing text. Avoid ambiguity where you can.
Make it unique
Choose a unique name that’s all your own, and avoid show names that are too similar to existing shows.
Slack has a show called Work in Progress. LinkedIn also has a show called Work in Progress. Obviously, this could create listener confusion, and isn’t ideal for search.
Do your homework, and avoid stepping on other shows’ toes.
The case for self-evident show titles
Your show title is an important part of your show’s product packaging. That’s why I’m a huge proponent of self-evident show titles.
What do I mean by self-evident? Here are a few examples from podcasts, TV shows, and books:
- Planet Money
- Blind Date
- How to Win Friends and Influence People
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Do any of these titles leave you with questions about their subject matter? Is it abundantly clear what they’re about? Do these titles make a promise about what you’ll get if you press play or pick up the book?
Self-evident show titles can be long or short. The point isn’t their length. The point is that they clearly telegraph what a potential listener will hear if they choose to sample your show.
With more than 700,000 podcasts available to date, can your show afford to have a cryptic, non-obvious title?
- Show titles should be clear, concise, unique, specific, and evocative
- Across all podcasts, the median show title is 20 characters
- You (probably) don’t need the word “podcast” in your show title
- Ambiguity is a roadblock. Avoid it.
- Self-evident titles are a strong component of podcast packaging
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