It can seem that every man, woman and dog in the world is starting a podcast — but listeners still have the same 24 hours a day to listen. And despite clear growth, even power users struggle to give much more than an hour a day to the medium. Add in the competition from celebrities with their ready-made audiences, and any advantage your podcast can get should be grabbed with both hands.
One of the biggest boosts a podcast can get comes direct from the two main listening platforms: Apple Podcasts and Spotify. With their featured slots, they can put shows in front of millions of potential listeners who could otherwise be completely unaware that your show exists.
But how do you get featured on Spotify or Apple Podcasts? Well, it’s a mixture of process, quality and luck. But if you get the first two locked down, then you increase your chances with the wildcard third.
This is actually the easy bit. Both Apple and Spotify have forms that podcast makers can fill in which puts your show in front of key decision-makers.
When Spotify first announced its Editorial Submission Form, the company’s ForPodcasts Twitter account boasted that its superlisteners spend around 20 hours per week listening to podcasts (though Bloomberg reported on cuts to the podcast editorial team just five months later, so the total number of hours consumed may have shrunk in the intervening year).
Nonetheless the form still stands as a way to “give voice to all creators and give them a place where they can be featured, celebrated, and grow their audiences”. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, this only applies to US podcasts.
How to use Spotify’s Podcast Editorial Submission Form
Spotify allows you to submit your podcast via a simple AirTable form. The form is mostly made up of administrative details like the name of the podcast, its genre, its network and social handle(s). There are a couple of fields that will help to make or break your application, however.
The first is “Favourite Episode URL”, which you can use to put your best foot forward — so if you have an episode which is especially insightful, or has a notable guest, then lead with that.
The second is the final field: “Would you like to share anything else about your podcast?” Yes, it’s maddeningly open-ended, but this is your opportunity to make a case, so don’t waste it. Spotify suggests this is a point to highlight a timely topic or notable guests, but essentially add anything here that can make you stand out — just don’t push it with an enormous word count.
Apple’s form is referred to as “promotional requests” which makes it sound like a sponsored thing — but it isn’t.
“If you’re launching a unique podcast or releasing an interesting new season, channel, or episode, we want to know about it,” Apple explains on the support page. “Apple Podcasts editors routinely feature compelling shows to help listeners find new favorites.”
How to use Apple Podcasts’ promotional request form
To access Apple Podcasts’ submission form, you’ll need to log in with your Apple ID. Apple’s form is more direct, asking podcast makers to justify their inclusion in the country of their choice, which can feel a little daunting, but it does at least make it clear what’s important to highlight.
The available fields give you plenty of opportunities to stand out, so take advantage of them if you can. The ability to upload custom artwork for Apple’s Storefront makes life a lot easier for them, as does the option to include a bit of sample audio to grab their attention.
Obviously, the main criteria is the quality of your podcast. We wouldn’t recommend sidling up to Apple or Spotify with the debut episode of your show unless you have a very good reason to do so (previous successful podcasts, a knockout guest, et cetera). With competition so fierce, taking the time to learn the craft, perfect your editing and optimize your recording environment should all be a given before you look to be featured.
Assuming you’re an old hand at the actual production and storytelling side, however, what can you do to stand out? Helpfully, Apple has a whole page dedicated to this, and it explains that the best applications include the following elements:
- Compelling subject line
- Engaging, but brief, synopsis
- Clear description of the podcast’s format, such as interview, narrative series, or conversation
- Brief background on the hosts and guests
- Brief overview of marketing plans with dates
- An art submission that meets our specs
- Details about how your content will appeal to audiences
- Why this is the best time for a feature from an audience’s point of view
- A description of any paid subscription benefits (exclusive, bonus, early access, or ad-free content)
Alongside these general points, Apple says you should pay attention to the episode titles and consider your timing in relation to when the company refreshes the app, your PR plans and the news cycle.
It also wants “eye-catching art” and notes that if it's omitted or incorrectly formatted, you won’t be eligible for a promotional slot in the carousel. We’ve got some advice for podcast art here.
Spotify used to have similar resources for podcasters looking to get featured, but the links now all redirect to the Spotify for Podcasters news page. Fortunately, the Internet Archive has captured some of its guidance for posterity.
The archived general submission guidelines are more technical than artistic, but there’s some helpful advice in an interview with three of the company’s curators from last year.
In general, Brianne O’Brien explains, the company is looking for “creators and storytelling that have the ability to move listeners in both big ways and small.” But there are also some specific qualities that the team looks out for:
- Hook us and give us a reason to keep listening
- Both educate and entertain us (e.g., narrative, investigative journalism, etc.)
- Authenticity and inclusivity
- Enlighten or challenge us through compelling conversation
- Are consistent across theme and production value
- Are packed with twists and unexpected surprises (e.g., true crime, documentary)
- Are personality-driven and/or have incredible host chemistry (e.g., interview-driven shows)
- Are well-researched and include a range of voices (e.g., news & politics, science, history)
- Deliver a frictionless listening experience
- Are experimental in format (e.g., fiction, music, comedy)
Notably, recording quality won’t make or break your application as long as it’s not actively offputting. “It doesn’t have to be a full professional studio, but the production value should not detract from the listening,” explains Isabella Way.
Ultimately, however, no matter how well you present your podcast, there’s a huge element of luck involved here.
Not only are there millions of podcasts out there, but you have no idea what will have been submitted on any given week. There’s also a chance that whoever listens won’t click with your style for any number of reasons, given the subjectivity of taste. In other words, the form remains a moonshot.
The good news is that there’s nothing stopping you from trying again — Apple says you can have another go in six-to-eight weeks, and Spotify’s old guidelines suggest that it allows repeats once a month, assuming you have at least two new episodes since the last application.
As Spotify curator Deontay Morris says: “Podcasters are humans that grow and perfect their craft over time, so we definitely revisit shows all the time.”
We wouldn’t recommend overdoing this, as familiarity can breed contempt, but if you’ve genuinely improved or have a killer story or guest lined up, then there’s no harm in trying again. If at first you don’t succeed…