Podcasters can now breathe easy.
Apple is walking back an emailed statement to podcasters on Wednesday that seemed to suggest shows would be rejected or removed from Apple Podcasts if the episode numbers were included in episode titles.
The Cupertino, CA-based company rushed to send a clarification email on Thursday making clear that shows were not going to be removed if they historically included episode numbers in their titles.
The confusion began earlier this week when Apple sent out an email with a list of best practices for podcast metadata — information connected to each show detailing titles, authors, and episode descriptions. The company recommended avoiding using placeholder text such as “[Title goes here]” and spamming keywords for blatant SEO purposes in podcast descriptions.
One recommendation in particular, however, caught the eyes of the podcasting community. Apple said to avoid numbering podcast episodes in the titles, a practice that’s become quite the norm for many podcasters.
“These practices could result in your show being rejected or removed from Apple Podcasts” stated the Apple email, immediately following the episode title tip.
Podcasters were outraged.
FYI Podcasters: Apparently if you have numbers in your episode names you can be removed from iTunes. I’m already hearing that this is actively being enforced by Apple already, so like… that’s cool. I love having notice to make changes to my show before a new policy is enforced. pic.twitter.com/rbdjEeIA98
— RPG Casts (Tess) (@rpg_casts) February 27, 2019
I and many other podcasters have received an email from @ApplePodcasts telling us we shouldn’t put episode numbers in our titles, or risk expulsion.
Hey, Apple, maybe we wouldn’t need to if you displayed the right number in your ruddy iTunes app. pic.twitter.com/RkYFkAYYCC
— Graham Cluley (@gcluley) February 27, 2019
literally every podcast I’m subscribed to has episode number in the title
— Ilya (@13xforever) February 28, 2019
It sure is nice that podcasting is such a lucrative business that we all have producers who can drop everything and get to work when Apple is like, “We might drop your podcast if you do something as egregious as putting an episode number in the title of your episode.” pic.twitter.com/dgzF7WV8pZ
— Dave Frost (@slomotionwalter) February 27, 2019
According to Apple’s email, it certainly sounded like a podcast could face removal from Apple Podcasts if a user did not abide by these tips. In fact, Apple has been known to actually go ahead and remove or reject podcasts which take part in the spammy “keyword stuffing” practice.
If the email was to be understood as it was written, podcasters would need to go back through their archives and remove any episode numbers from their show titles. This would be a rather time-consuming task if a podcaster had a long-running show.
However, podcasters no longer have to worry. Apple has clarified their original poorly-worded email. The company now states that while it discourages episode numbers in podcast titles, it will not remove podcasts from Apple Podcasts for this reason. The company, however is still urging podcasters to instead add the episode number via podcast metadata features launched with iOS11.
Apple’s original email to podcast publishers is posted below:
Dear Podcast Provider,
To improve your experience with Apple Podcasts, we want to share the following information and updates.
Optimize Your Show’s Metadata
The metadata of your show is your product packaging. It includes all of the details about your show — such as title, author name, description — that potential listeners will see on Apple Podcasts. High-quality metadata can help your show be discovered and grow your audience, as it ultimately determines whether it appears in relevant user searches.
Conversely, poor-quality podcast metadata may affect new submissions as well as active shows to ensure our platform meets Apple’s quality standards.
Here are some things to avoid:
Including placeholder text from your hosting provider. For example, descriptions such as “Podcast by [author name],” “New podcast weblog,” “Cover art photo provided by [name],” or “Description goes here.”
Verbatim repetition of the title or author name in the description. For example, “The Very Hungry Tourists by Dr. María Sánchez and John Appleseed.”
Incorporating irrelevant content or spam. For example, show titles like “The Very Hungry Tourists | Travel | Explore | Learn” or author names like “Dr. María Sánchez, coach and travel enthusiast.”
Adding episode numbers in titles. For example, show titles like “The Very Hungry Tourists Episode 01” or episode titles like “01 Broken Heirloom.”
These practices could result in your show being rejected or removed from ApplePodcasts.
Review the resources below to learn more:
Resubmit RSS Feeds in Podcasts Connect
Users now have the ability to resubmit rejected feeds.
Should your show fail our review process or be removed from our catalog for the reasons described above, review your RSS fields to ensure compliance. Then, revalidate the feed and resubmit it via Podcasts Connect.
And here’s the follow-up email with Apple’s update on the situation:
Dear Podcast Provider,
We’ve received a lot of questions about metadata best practices on Apple Podcasts. We want to provide more details and clarification as you think about improving your show’s metadata.
Your Show Won’t Be Removed for Having Episode Numbers in Episode Titles
Starting with iOS 11 in September 2017, we introduced modern RSS tags to improve podcast metadata. These tags include support for seasons, trailers, and episode numbers. The new tags help us present your show to your listeners on Apple Podcastsand present listening data to you in Podcast Analytics.
We encourage you to use the itunes:episode tag to send us your episode numbers. If you decide to include episode numbers in your episode title tag, you should also provide an episode title without an episode number in the itunes:title tag. Remember that itunes:title should not contain episode or season numbers. Your show won’t be removed only for including episode numbers in episode titles, but we encourage you to use the episode tag as a best practice.
We do want to discourage spam or irrelevant content in show metadata, including episode numbers in your podcast title. This is part of our overall standard of high-quality metadata, which improves discovery and listener experience.
Our list of Apple Podcasts Hosting Partners contains more information on hosting service providers.
The Apple Podcasts team