For many new podcasters, getting added to iTunes’ “New and Noteworthy” section is the Holy Grail. While there is a lot of conjecture about the exact number of downloads and reviews a new podcast needs to amass in the first few weeks after launch to make it to the N&N list, mysterious strategies seem to have allowed shows with less than 100 downloads and just a couple of reviews to make it onto the list. The mystery surrounding the New and Noteworthy list seems to hold new podcasters hostage, with marketers selling “guaranteed” strategies to land a show on the list and podcasters feeling like failures if they don’t make it.
But are there any tried-and-true strategies for landing on the N&N list? And how important is it, anyway?
How It (Really) Works:
All podcasts that exist in the iTunes directory wind up in the “new” part of New and Noteworthy, explains Angelo Mandato, CIO of Blubrry. “There are about 10 thousand rotated through that section, and they’re ranked based on download and play popularity on iTunes itself.” But while “they say” you can stay in the “new” section for 8 weeks, he explains, the truth is a little trickier. “There are 1,200-2,400 shows added each week to iTunes, and they rotate through. So if it’s been 5 weeks and 1,200 shows were added each week, you’ll still be in the new list – but if they added 2,400 each week, your show rolls off New and Noteworthy sooner. It’s not set by time, but how many shows are added at a given time.” That means that if your podcast’s category happens to be seeing a lot of action right now, the chances of your show making it to the top of the list or staying on it the full 8 weeks will go down.
And when it comes to the Noteworthy part of N&N, Mandato explains, it’s out of your hands. “Podcasts in the “Noteworthy” part of New and Noteworthy are hand-picked by Apple staff, and you cannot influence that,” he says. “For example, around the Stanley Cup playoffs, Apple staff may pick 2-3 hockey podcasts to appear in New and Noteworthy.” Of course, putting out a high-quality, consistent show will make it much more likely your show will catch Apple’s eye. And there are other strategies you can employ, says Mandato, such as having a few episodes already published when you launch and then promoting hard so you can raise your show’s visibility. But there’s no “formula” that can ensure that your show appears in the Noteworthy section – it’s more about overall cachet and timing.
Why New and Noteworthy’s Prominence Is Dying Down
While newbie podcasters still covet that prized N&N recognition, Mandato points out that changes in the way podcasts are consumed has greatly reduced its overall effect. “In the iTunes desktop, the New and Noteworthy section was the first thing someone would see when navigating into the podcast portion of the app. That’s why in the past it was rather fortunate to be in the top of New and Noteworthy in particular categories,” he explains. “Today, though, the mobile app has the bulk of podcast consumption, and the mobile podcast iOS app does not display New and Noteworthy unless the user navigates into it. Usually folks navigate into the search or directly into their current subscriptions.”
The Bottom Line
When it comes right down to it, your podcast’s success will be determined much more by long-term effort than any get-big-quick schemes. “Getting on the New and Noteworthy list is great for ego, but there’s very little – if any – long term-gain, in my opinion,” says Todd Cochrane, CEO of Blubrry.
So what’s an ambitious new podcaster to do? While getting on the N&N list might be a nice temporary boost, publishing a quality show, doing plenty of listener outreach, and being consistent and patient will yield much better results over the long haul.
And just as importantly, don’t forget that iTunes is in itself a search engine. “Users rely heavily on searching for podcasts, so it’s important that you have a search strategy for your podcast,” says Mandato. It’s important to note that web SEO and podcast SEO are two very different things, and that using the free PowerPress plugin will help you maximize both.
So there’s the bottom line. Focus on quality, publish consistently, and put the bulk of your efforts into strategies that will help you over the long haul. That way, if you land on the New and Noteworthy list, it’ll be just a nice perk – not your show’s make-or-break strategy.