Getting Smart About News Podcasts
See how simple podcast show notes can be?

(NOTE: I just published this on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, which is mainly read by mainstream journalists and journalism educators, but I thought Contentious readers might find it interesting, too.)

Like many net users, I get a lot of my news via podcasts. I’ve sampled several news podcasts and have settled on a few favorites as my current primary daily heads-up on the top stories: AP Newsbeat (1 min.), Denver Post All News (8-10 min.), NYT Front Page (5 min.), NPR News (5 min.), WSJ What’s News (3-4 min.) — and, of course, The Onion Radio News (1 min., a complete story, not a summary). Occasionally I also listen to BBC Newspod but that’s rare, since it typically runs 35-40 min.

(UPDATE Jan 24: If you want to subscribe to my favorite news headline podcasts all at once, I created a Mediafly public feed for them.)

That may sound like a lot, but since I listen to them while I’m doing other things (cleaning, cooking, e-mail, exercising, etc.). It’s actually pretty efficient, especially since I like to see how different news orgs are choosing stories on any given day. And I’m not alone in that — most news junkies follow multiple news venues daily.

There is a problem, though: None of my favorite news podcasts exercise their full potential for engagement. But used wisely, a good headlines podcast can support any news org’s bottom line.

If you want to get more direct benefit and mileage from your news podcasts, here’s my advice…

1. Keep it short. Most of my favorites get this right: Top stories, delivered in an snappy, lively style, ideally five minutes or less. You can offer longer feature-style shows too — but make sure you have an overall headlines show for news junkies and news grazers.

2. Intrigue as well as inform. Get right to the point: What are the top stories today, why does each one matter, and why might I want to read or listen to the full version on your site?

3. Link to your stories! This is the most important part of engaging your podcast audience. It’s also something that every single headlines podcast I’ve listened to so far has neglected to do. It’s simple:

  • Post daily show notes. I’ve complained about this before, but it’s worth restating: Create a blog for your headlines podcast and use it to post daily “show notes” — live links to the full online versions of stories mentioned in that day’s podcast, in the order they were mentioned, plus a direct link to the downloadable MP3 file. It’s not a transcript, just a list of links. Simple, obvious, and direct. If you produce multiple podcasts, each should have its own show notes blog. Also, some content management systems can be configured to automate the production and posting of podcast show notes.
  • Make it easy to find. Give your show notes blog a short, simple, easily-to-spell URL or subdomain redirect (like
  • Tell them exactly where to go. At the beginning and end of your headlines podcast, mention the show notes URL and tell people to check there for links to the complete versions of the day’s stories. Don’t just give your site’s home page and expect them to search — busy news grazers hate that. Also, include the link to the show notes blog in the ID3 tags for your podcast.
  • Post mobile-friendly show notes, too. More and more people are starting to listen to podcasts on cell phones. Make sure your show notes blog is easy to find and use in both formats — and that the links in the mobile version of your blog link to mobile-friendly versions of complete stories.

When you follow those steps, you’ll create a convenient gateway for news junkies and daily news grazers. When a teaser story in your show piques their interest, they’ll know exactly where to go online to find a link to read or listen to the full version. If they see that you reward their interest and don’t waste their time, they’ll be even more likely to click through to your site more often.

Measurable benefits: You’ll get more traffic, and be able to attribute it to the podcast. You’ll also know which stories are most engaging to your podcast audience, which will help you refine your show to suit them. Plus, you’ll be more likely to attract news grazers and turn them into regular readers or listeners of your core products.

Have you seen any headlines news podcasts that meet all of these criteria? I haven’t found one yet — at least, not in a non-tech show from a mainstream news org. If you have seen this done right by a mainstream news org, please link to that show in the comments below.

Also, if your news org is podcasting but is not following one or more of these steps (especially the show notes), why not?

6 thoughts on Getting Smart About News Podcasts

  1. You inspired me to keep my blog and posts shorts whenever possible! I hope some of these newscasters/podcasters realize that brevity is key.

    As a resident of New York City, I watch our local cable news channel – NY1 – every day. Every 30 minutes they repeat the top stories and that is usually how I get my news in addition to reading here online. I check out Further, in the morning, NY1 will summarize the main stories from major news papers!

    I have not utilized Podcasts as much but from your eloquent presentation, I have set up my iTunes Podcasts to start listening on a regular!

    Thank you!

  2. You should create a public profile on to allow people easy access to those feeds. Or, take their public RSS aggregated feed and put it on your blog, then people just need to sign up for one feed instead of all of them.

    Just a thought. Thanks for the news tips. A couple of those were new to me.

  3. Carson, I agree — easy access to the feeds is a good idea. I’ll try mediaFly

    Although for the original publication of this post on Tidbits, I linked to the news orgs’ sites because, frankly, many journos still don’t have a clue about feeds and podcasts.

    – Amy Gahran

  4. Pingback: - Get my favorite news headline podcasts via MediaFly

  5. Pingback: The Journalism Iconoclast » Podcasts can drive traffic for newspapers

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