What Format Should Podcast Shownotes Be Written In? Podcasting Q&A

I’ve been working with a lot more people on setting up a podcast website recently, through the podcast production service we run at The Podcast Host. One of the most common questions in that process is that of show notes. What form should show notes take, and how much effort should we put into them? Well, today I received the following, and thought I’d share the answer:

Can you advise me on the podcasting website – How should the show notes work? Do I just set them up like a blog? Unsure how this works. Don’t want to set something up only to have to re-do it.

The short answer is, yes, podcast show notes are pretty much just a blog post with an audio file attached. But let’s delve into a little deeper.

My Recommended Podcast Show Notes Format

Podcast Show NotesThe normal format I advise is to offer a 1 or 2 paragraph introduction, just summarizing the episode to start with. Then below that we’ll have the audio player, generated in whatever host you normally use. We normally just use the default BluBrry player which works brilliantly, but others use Soundcloud for the fact that it’s player is just so damn pretty. Then below the player you go into a bit more detail, covering the main points of the episode and a little explanation around them.

You also link to resources mentioned in the show within these sections, so people can easily find anything you mention in the show. Or, you can have a resources link list at the start or the end of that section so that links are all nicely collated and easily found.

Brief Show-Notes: Sacrifice Content for Sustainability

Some people find it a bit ardous to do full blog-post style show notes every week, so an alternative is to keen ’em shorter and forget about the content marketing benefit. In this case, just do the 50 word intro paragraph and then some pretty functional links and short descriptions of the resources you mentioned. You could even dispense with the descriptions altogether, and just list links, as I’ve seen Andy Brown do recently.

Comparing the two, the long blog-post style format offers a lot more value in terms of content marketing. The show notes, acting like blog articles, start to gain traffic, since they’re much more likely to be found and indexed well in the search results. On the other hand, there’s no point getting that extra value if it’s unsustainable. If adding that level of detail takes enough time to stop you podcasting altogether, then it’s better to do less and get the show out regularly. It’s a balance between time and wider content benefit really.

I think it can depend a lot on the context, particularly whether the podcasting website is brand new, or whether the podcast is being added to an existing website. In the case of a brand new podcasting website, the show notes could be worth investing time into as they’ll start to build out the written content and give the site some meat. Adding very thin podcast show notes pages to an already thin website is unlikely to help the site gain any type of authority.

In contrast, a well established site can stand to gain a few thin pages and you can spend time on your wider blogging instead for that content benefit.

What about Transcriptions?

As a possible third idea, it might even be worth considering transcriptions. You can pay around $1 per minute to have a full transcription done of any show. If you’re doing quite short, focussed episodes, these transcriptions can be very useful and readable for your listeners. As a bonus, they’d give you some really long, meaty content for the site with no extra time effort, just a bit of cost.

If you did that, you’d only have to write a 50 word intro para yourself, then add the transcription after the player. You could go through the transcription and add links where appropriate as well, to make sure the listener can find the relevant resources. Although, in this case, a collated resource link list may be useful so the ready doesn’t have to trawl a long transcription.

A Question for you: How do you do Shownotes?

How do you create your show notes pages? Please let me know what format you follow in the comments below, or tweet me at @thepodcasthost. Why did you choose that format and have you had any feedback from listeners on it?

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About the author: Colin Gray

Colin has been teaching people how to podcast since 2007. He's worked with Universities, businesses and hobbyists alike. He started The Podcast Host to share his experience and to help as many people as possible get into Podcasting. He runs Podcraft, to spread the art of podcasting, and does the Mountain Bikes Apart podcast whenever he can. Who doesn't like to talk bikes, after all!