Apple's new podcast metadata rules ban episode numbers, threaten removal [u: episode numbe...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 28
Apple has contacted the makers of podcasts hosted on iTunes and details how they should write the metadata that details the show, episode and so on, with the biggest changes forbidding podcast show names in titles as well as banning episode numbers.




Apple has emailed podcast producers with advice on how to describe or list their shows -- and says that failure to follow these instructions "could result in your show being rejected ro removed." The instructions are mostly sensible advice on topics such as not forgetting to write an episode description, but some of Apple's guidelines are causing confusion and may prove problematic.

Headlined "Optomize Your Show's Metadata," the email describes metadata as "your product packaging." It points out that writing this well helps listeners find your show but also says that poor-quality metadata affects the company's aim to "ensure our platform meets Apple's quality standards."

As well as advising producers to write non-generic descriptions and avoid placeholder text, the email says that they shouldn't make the description be a verbatim repeat of the title or author name.

The new rules are ostensibly about presenting useful, clear information that can be displayed against a podcast series or episode title. However, Apple then specifies that podcasters should avoid putting episode numbers in titles.
Adding episode numbers in titles. For example, show titles like "The Very Hungry Tourists Episode 01" for episode titles like "01 Broken Heirloom."
Podcasters have legitimate reasons to include a number in their episode titles. The West Wing Weekly for instance, currently has around 120 episodes and every one's title begins with a number. Each edition examines one episode of The West Wing television drama and its titles begin with the season and the number of that episode.

The aim is that a listener can quickly see whether, say, "6.09" -- season 6, episode 9 -- has been covered yet.

Apple's Podcast app with (center, right) two very well-made shows that may be affected by these rules
Apple's Podcast app with (center, right) two very well-made shows that may be affected by these rules


Similarly, a podcast like the design series 99% Invisible -- which has a number in its show title -- will periodically run linked episodes with titles such as Mini Stories: Volume 5. The aim is to help people find other parts in those linked episodes and that is surely useful.

That show does also include a number in its episode titles, as do many others, and the most recent edition is 343 Usonia Redux. The email from Apple is not at all clear about whether a show like this will have to strip out the numbers forcing a re-index the content. Series like 99% Invisible are among the very best-produced podcasts on iTunes and Apple's email is not at all clear about whether it or others will have to re-do the metadata for hundreds of episodes.

AppleInsider has reached out to Apple for comment and clarification of the new rules, including timetables for when it expects the changes to have been made.

Update: It appears that Apple has reconsidered its podcast episode naming policy, and in a follow-up email to content creators said, "Your Show Won't Be Removed for Having Episode Numbers in Episode Titles."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    What possible reason could Apple have for creating these guidelines?
  • Reply 2 of 30
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,162member
    What possible reason could Apple have for creating these guidelines?
    Just speculation on my part but it might have to do with some podcasters playing fast and loose with their metadata to get an advantage in the search/discovery process.
    racerhomie3randominternetpersonleavingthebiggchasm
  • Reply 3 of 30
    Optomize?
    andrewj5790tokyojimuSpamSandwich
  • Reply 4 of 30
    I would suggest using Roman numerals, but the lack of a classical education amongst Americans would be as confusing to podcasters seeking to circumvent this arbitrary rule as it would be to Apple employees who sit around making this stuff up.
    gutengelfotoformat
  • Reply 5 of 30
    I would suggest using Roman numerals, but the lack of a classical education amongst Americans would be as confusing to podcasters seeking to circumvent this arbitrary rule as it would be to Apple employees who sit around making this stuff up.
    True. The only place most Americans encounter them is for the SuperBowl.
    fotoformat
  • Reply 6 of 30
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,709member
    Why would they want to remove episode numbers?
  • Reply 7 of 30
    Things like this are attributed to Apple, but it was really a small number of people sitting in a meeting thinking of ways to justify their employment. They came up with this bizarre idea and ran with it. In a few weeks no one will remember it ever happened. With thousands of employees "doing their jobs" things like this will happen from time to time. 
  • Reply 8 of 30
    Apple should really optimise their search engine. It's inexcusable that in 2019 you still have to write an app, song, movie name perfectly spelled to be able to find it. And that 'search by lyrics' featured on the music app, never worked for me. But hey, Tim is expending 3Bs on tv shows/movies, so that's something useful!
    davencgWerks
  • Reply 9 of 30
    Ridiculous? To me, yes.
  • Reply 10 of 30
    jungmark said:
    Why would they want to remove episode numbers?
    I doubt they want to abolish episode numbers entirely. The simplest answer is they want to separate episode number from the title field. I haven’t done the legwork to check, but there must be another metadata field for episode numbers. Then podcast players can choose how to display the episode number field, likely [episode number field] - [episode title field]. 

    Does anyone remember the sad state of MP3 file naming back in the pre-iTunes world? They often started with a track number which carried through to the song title field in the player software. It was ugly and an organizational disaster. 

    Structuring the metadata is smart.  
    edited February 28 StrangeDaysrandominternetpersoncornchipminicoffeewlymjstaggielolliver
  • Reply 11 of 30
    gutengel said:
    Apple should really optimise their search engine. It's inexcusable that in 2019 you still have to write an app, song, movie name perfectly spelled to be able to find it. And that 'search by lyrics' featured on the music app, never worked for me. But hey, Tim is expending 3Bs on tv shows/movies, so that's something useful!
    Not just Podcasts either. Search in any of the App Stores or on iTunes store is very marginal.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 12 of 30
    http://producer.musicradiocreative.com/how-to-optimize-your-podcast-metadata/ 
    This is a much less sensationalized take on the changes. Episode numbers should be in metadata. And the policy does not say no numbers in titles, only not to put the episode number in it. I suspect that a lot of podcasts have only been putting the episode number in the title but not in metadata, which complicates presenting an organized list of episodes.

    Apple originally announced this at WWDC 2017: http://schoolofpodcasting.com/apple-set-to-enforce-no-episode-numbers-in-your-podcast-title/
    edited February 28 StrangeDaysracerhomie3rcfan2itivguyrandominternetpersonlolliver
  • Reply 13 of 30
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 1,381unconfirmed, member
    Episode numbers were really complicated and annoying. Last I remember they were labeled something like:

    01 Podcast Name Episode 00 March 3rd 3018
    02 Podcast Name Episode 01 March 13th 2018

    Of course the Podcasters named their shows this way. Why Podcasters complicated things so much, I have no clue other than lack of understanding aesthetics.

    plovell said:
    I would suggest using Roman numerals, but the lack of a classical education amongst Americans would be as confusing to podcasters seeking to circumvent this arbitrary rule as it would be to Apple employees who sit around making this stuff up.
    True. The only place most Americans encounter them is for the SuperBowl.

    Sorry I understand most Americans(people in general) are dumb but adopting an outdated numeric format to further complicate things is not smart either.

    polymnia said:
    jungmark said:
    Why would they want to remove episode numbers?
    I doubt they want to abolish episode numbers entirely. The simplest answer is they want to separate episode number from the title field. I haven’t done the legwork to check, but there must be another metadata field for episode numbers. Then podcast players can choose how to display the episode number field, likely [episode number field] - [episode title field]. 

    Does anyone remember the sad state of MP3 file naming back in the pre-iTunes world? They often started with a track number which carried through to the song title field in the player software. It was ugly and an organizational disaster. 

    Structuring the metadata is smart.  

    Imagine asking Siri "Play Episode one of Podcast Name" and it plays 01 "Podcast Name Episode 00" instead.

    Apples rules are common sense to me but this should have been standardized 15 years ago. More evidence Apple doesn't care about Podcasts.
  • Reply 14 of 30
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,989member
    polymnia said:
    jungmark said:
    Why would they want to remove episode numbers?
    I doubt they want to abolish episode numbers entirely. The simplest answer is they want to separate episode number from the title field. I haven’t done the legwork to check, but there must be another metadata field for episode numbers. Then podcast players can choose how to display the episode number field, likely [episode number field] - [episode title field]. 

    Does anyone remember the sad state of MP3 file naming back in the pre-iTunes world? They often started with a track number which carried through to the song title field in the player software. It was ugly and an organizational disaster. 

    Structuring the metadata is smart.  
    I'm pretty sure iTunes still uses the track number and song title as the filename, at least by default, and to be apparent when viewing those files in a Finder window.  Thankfully iTunes itself doesn't give a jot what the filename actually is, just what the metadata is.
    polymniarandominternetperson
  • Reply 15 of 30
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,790member
    Some of this seems pretty stupid. Episode numbers in the title are perfectly fine. I hate when book series don’t have numbers. When it’s a trilogy, it’s not bad, but when it gets up there, who really remembers the individual titles? It’s the same thing here.

    if it’s woodworking. Ideas, as an example, it may have several episodes. I thing that having the title such as “Building the End Table: prepping for the finish. Episode #6” is a perfect title. Not everyone new to this will understand that earlier episodes need to be viewed in proper order. Numbers establish that. Having it directly in the title is very helpful.
    shamino
  • Reply 16 of 30
    eliangonzal said:
    I would suggest using Roman numerals, but the lack of a classical education amongst Americans would be as confusing to podcasters seeking to circumvent this arbitrary rule as it would be to Apple employees who sit around making this stuff up.
    And there’s the issue that Roman numerals would sort alphabetically and not numerically, so they may not support display of the podcast episodes in order. 
    edited February 28 AppleExposed
  • Reply 17 of 30
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,790member
    Episode numbers were really complicated and annoying. Last I remember they were labeled something like:

    01 Podcast Name Episode 00 March 3rd 3018
    02 Podcast Name Episode 01 March 13th 2018

    Of course the Podcasters named their shows this way. Why Podcasters complicated things so much, I have no clue other than lack of understanding aesthetics.

    plovell said:
    I would suggest using Roman numerals, but the lack of a classical education amongst Americans would be as confusing to podcasters seeking to circumvent this arbitrary rule as it would be to Apple employees who sit around making this stuff up.
    True. The only place most Americans encounter them is for the SuperBowl.

    Sorry I understand most Americans(people in general) are dumb but adopting an outdated numeric format to further complicate things is not smart either.

    polymnia said:
    jungmark said:
    Why would they want to remove episode numbers?
    I doubt they want to abolish episode numbers entirely. The simplest answer is they want to separate episode number from the title field. I haven’t done the legwork to check, but there must be another metadata field for episode numbers. Then podcast players can choose how to display the episode number field, likely [episode number field] - [episode title field]. 

    Does anyone remember the sad state of MP3 file naming back in the pre-iTunes world? They often started with a track number which carried through to the song title field in the player software. It was ugly and an organizational disaster. 

    Structuring the metadata is smart.  

    Imagine asking Siri "Play Episode one of Podcast Name" and it plays 01 "Podcast Name Episode 00" instead.

    Apples rules are common sense to me but this should have been standardized 15 years ago. More evidence Apple doesn't care about Podcasts.
    That’s wrong. Obviously, if you can’t figure out how to name your episodes, you’ll have problems. Wha else is new?

    i can’t u defat and why there should be a dual numbering system. Perhaps Apple should go away and not add their own nonsense to this.
  • Reply 18 of 30
    crowley said:
    polymnia said:
    jungmark said:
    Why would they want to remove episode numbers?
    I doubt they want to abolish episode numbers entirely. The simplest answer is they want to separate episode number from the title field. I haven’t done the legwork to check, but there must be another metadata field for episode numbers. Then podcast players can choose how to display the episode number field, likely [episode number field] - [episode title field]. 

    Does anyone remember the sad state of MP3 file naming back in the pre-iTunes world? They often started with a track number which carried through to the song title field in the player software. It was ugly and an organizational disaster. 

    Structuring the metadata is smart.  
    I'm pretty sure iTunes still uses the track number and song title as the filename, at least by default, and to be apparent when viewing those files in a Finder window.  Thankfully iTunes itself doesn't give a jot what the filename actually is, just what the metadata is.
    Exactly. iTunes shipped files with structured metadata from day one. You can’t embed track numbers into track titles in the iTunes Store. It’s about time they got around to enforcing the same structure into podcasts.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 19 of 30
    Apples rules are common sense to me but this should have been standardized 15 years ago. More evidence Apple doesn't care about Podcasts.
    Rather than “Apple doesn’t care” I think this is evidence “Apple didn’t care”

    The fact that they are tightening any policy relating to podcasts is evidence the do care now.

    Why now is anyone’s guess. Spotify? Changing listener habits? I listen to more podcasts than I used to. Business reasons? Podcasts don’t cost Apple anything (no royalties). 
    AppleExposedrandominternetpersonminicoffee
  • Reply 20 of 30
    melgross said:

    if it’s woodworking. Ideas, as an example, it may have several episodes. I thing that having the title such as “Building the End Table: prepping for the finish. Episode #6” is a perfect title. Not everyone new to this will understand that earlier episodes need to be viewed in proper order. Numbers establish that. Having it directly in the title is very helpful.
    It’s semantecs - numbers in titles are fine and can be helpful.  In this example, perhaps a better title would be, “Building the End Table - Step 6 - Prepping for the Finish”.  Seems arbitrary (and actually confusing) to incorporate an episode number in the title.

    Apple is late to the game in getting this sort of thing straightened out but it’s a step in the right direction.
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