MP3 files can have a range of ID3 tags buried within them providing additional data about the track, such as artist name for example. If you produce your own podcasts, you could embed an array of these descriptive ID3 tags in your podcast files, but which tags should you really be using?
Whenever you play a podcast on your portable MP3 player or PC, you will invariably see a host of information about the track on the player’s screen. This information typically includes the cover art for the track, the album, artist and track name, its genre and track number.
Such information is stored in the MP3 file itself using ID3 tags. However, in addition to the tag information in the example above, the ID3 tag standard can support over 80 different tags. So, out of this vast array of tags what are the key tags that you should consider using in your podcasts?
What are ID3 Tags?
ID3 tags are a simple and convenient way of embedding descriptive data about an MP3 track within the track itself. This descriptive data is sometimes referred to as metadata, which is data describing other data. The ID3 tag data describes the audio data of the MP3, e.g. the track title, artist name etc..
For a fuller and more in-depth description of ID3 tags, check out my previous post: What are ID3 Tags in MP3 Files?
Downloaded podcasts will already have ID3 tag data buried within them, but if you produce your own podcasts, you have free reign to add whatever ID3 tags you wish. However, you could fill up your tracks with 50 different tags or more, but who is this really going to benefit? Not you for certain; it’ll probably take you longer to add all of these superfluous tags than it did to record the podcast in the first place.
Brevity is the key. Just include the bare minimum that users are likely to need, any more and you’re wasting your own time and wasting space in the MP3 file storing useless junk.
The tags serve two purposes. The first is to provide general information about the podcast that the user is likely to want to know, while the second is to enable the user to search through a large collection of tracks at a later date and hopefully filter out your podcast via its tags.
This is undoubtedly the most important tag, being the title of your podcast episode and is a fundamental tag that should not be missed.
By way of example, the title I use for my monthly podcast, is the generic title of the podcast with the month and year appended:
The Internet Monthly – June 2009
Another important tag to consider is the cover art tag. As the saying goes; a picture speaks a thousand words, and this tag gives you the option to brand your podcast in glorious colour, forever etching it in the user’s memory.
However, while this tag will help to connect the user with your podcast, it’s unlikely to serve much use when trying to search for the podcast later on.
If you’d like to learn more about embedding images into your podcasts and what image types and sizes to use, then check out my previous post on: Embedding Album Art in MP3 Files.
This is the producer of the podcast. For example, I record a monthly podcast for Zen Internet to a script that they provide, so I add their name as the artist, as it’s essentially their creative work:
Zen Internet Limited
While this tag is designed for use with music albums, where it refers to the album which an individual track belongs to, in podcast terms it is commonly used to refer to the series name of the podcast (assuming the podcast is not a one off, in which case this field would be left blank). For my monthly version of the Zen Internet podcast, I use the following album tag:
The Internet Monthly
This isn’t often used in podcasts unless you have a concurrently running sequence of episodes, in which case you could use this field to denote the episode number.
This is the year in which the podcast episode was first published. This field is probably not of much interest to the user under normal circumstances, but can prove useful later on when searching through an archive of tracks to narrow down the search:
Again, this tag is not of much use other than for categorising the track for archiving and searching purposes. For podcasts, the de facto standard entry for this tag is unsurprisingly podcast, although sometimes you may come across alternatives of speech or vocal.
Interestingly podcast is not defined in the list of genres in the official ID3 tag specification, even though it is common practice to use this as the genre name for podcasts. Both speech and vocal are officially recognised as legitimate genres however.
I decided to go with the flow and hopefully the specifications will catch up with conventional wisdom:
This field is often used for show notes and additional information pertaining to the podcast. Some people use this field for copyright notices, although if this is your intention, their is a specific copyright tag field dedicated to the purpose.
As I produced the monthly podcast for Zen Internet, I use this field as a slight promotional opportunity:
Produced by Richard Farrar
Instead of using the comment field for your copyright information, this is the correct tag for the purpose:
Copyright (c) 2009 Zen Internet Limited
Invariably your podcast will be associated to your website, so why not embed your website’s URL into your podcast? This way if the podcast gets distributed via other means than your own website, you’ll have a way of driving traffic from interested listeners back to your site:
The key ID3 tags that you should consider using in your podcasts, that will give the most benefits to your listeners without overloading them with information are:
- Title – The podcast title
- Cover Art – Thumbnail of the podcast art
- Artist – The artist that recorded the podcast
- Album – Which series the podcast belongs to (if applicable)
- Track – The track number from the podcast series (if applicable)
- Year – The year the podcast was published
- Genre – The type of track, e.g. podcast, speech, vocal
- Comment – General comments
- Copyright – Copyright notice by the copyright holder
- www – The website address for the podcast