Captivate Your Audience: The Power of Episode Art in Podcasting

Every piece of your podcasting puzzle slotted in the right place is one step closer to success. In this episode, Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard delve into the often-overlooked but powerful world of podcast episode art. Tracy emphasizes the importance of creating unique episode images for each podcast episode, highlighting how it can enhance visibility and engagement. They also discuss the impact of visuals on the brain, and the significance of episode art in various contexts like podcast apps and social media, and provide practical tips, such as using consistent branding, proper text scaling, and avoiding unnecessary numbering. Throughout the episode, Tom and Tracy share valuable insights aimed at helping podcasters maximize the potential of their episode artwork. Learn to captivate your audience more by tuning in!

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Captivate Your Audience: The Power of Episode Art in Podcasting

Welcome to the show. We are here to talk about some of the nitty-gritty things in podcasting, which is episode art.

This is one of my favorite topics. It also, at times, becomes a little bit of a pet peeve for me. I will admit. I’ll try to keep from expressing frustration here. It is so highly underrated. That’s one of the things that I want to say. It’s all too often overlooked. For people who self-publish podcasts, the reality is all you’ve got to do is create your unique MP3 file, give it a little title and a little description, publish it, and you’re done. As my family used to say when I was younger, “Bob’s your uncle. You’re done.”

It’s underrated and underutilized. I can say this from experience because I meet with usually between 6 and 8 different podcasters every day to review their shows, provide some insights, and help them get the most out of their shows. The vast majority, unless they’re already somebody who’s been working with us already, do not have any unique episode or each episode at all. Even if they do, they’re usually not uploading it as the featured image in their podcast RSS feed. Let’s cover that first. Especially for any of you that are new, you can do that. You can post a unique image for every episode, and that goes in the RSS feed. It’s used in the vast majority of listening apps as the artwork for that episode.

Except Apple.

That’s ironic because Apple invented the industry. They are still where the majority of podcast plays are coming through for most podcasters. We find that in a typical show, between 50% and 90% of their plays are coming from an Apple listening app and an Apple device. Why does Apple not do it? I don’t know. I’ve spoken with Apple executives and they say,  “I know we’re not doing that. We should be doing it.” I’m like, well, “What the heck is the matter with you?” Note to Apple, get your butt in gear.

Different Types Of Arts

It’s powerful. Here’s the thing. I want to explain the difference between some of the arts. The cover of your show or the icon that is your show is called cover art. It’s the cover of the album. It’s the cover of the show. Cover art is the default. In other words, if you don’t put anything in episode art in a single episode and give it its unique image, that would be episode art. It’s a square, mind you. It’s still a square.

It has the same specifications as the cover art for the square image. It’s a unique one for the episode.

That’s right. If you don’t put one there, it’s going to automatically load your cover art into that position. It’s not like you’re going to have nothing there. You will. It will, by default, come to your cover art. We have one more thing. A lot of people put blogs on their websites for their episodes. Almost every blog has a header image. It’s not always, but it is usually a panoramic, a landscape size, or a horizontal view image that is at the top of a blog. That’s also another image that you might have. You call it the blog image or the blog header.

Often, a lot of people will also add information about their podcast in there and they make that an additional episode art. It’s the episode art landscape, if you want to call it that. There might be these three types of things. Most people also use that header image. Especially one that’s stylized happens to have the title of the episode, maybe an episode number in it. If you’re still doing that, they also become YouTube thumbnails. That is YouTube video thumbnails, not a YouTube short thumbnail. The panoramic or landscape view is important. The aspect ratio of that is important for YouTube. Often, the same thumbnail we use on YouTube is also used on our blogs.

To add to that point, Tracy, which is an excellent one, very often, the square episode art, the square version of the landscape image that you’re talking about, is also used on most websites for the featured image for the blog. It is so that when there is a blog feed, a blogroll, a carousel of featured images of blogs, or whatever you might have on your website, it uses the square to display info about that blog rather than the full wide landscape image.

 

Feed Your Brand | Podcast Episode Art

 

Often, what we’re seeing is that you’re making these. You’re making them for YouTube or making them for your blog, but you’re not using them in the RSS feed. That’s what we wanted to hit on and talk about. We’re talking about taking those square featured images that have to do with the episode content that reinforce what this episode is about and using that in the RSS feed, inserting it in the episode image space, and making sure that you’re using it because it has a power to the viewer, the reader, or the listener.

Reinforce The Titles

Here’s where I want you to think this through. I found your podcast and I’m looking through and scanning your episodes. There’s an episode image on the side of that that is reinforcing something in my head about the power of it. Maybe it’s the color of it. Maybe it’s bright red and it says, “Mistakes people make with a webinar.” That’s the topic of your episode and the image is red. I go, “I’m going right there. Mistakes. That’s what I don’t want to do. That’s a don’t. I wanted to go to the don’ts.” You can reinforce the title and the image to make people take action. That’s the power of your feed.

Let’s talk about why that happens for a moment here because this is important. In case you don’t know, all of you readers out there, and this is scientifically tested and proven and not according to Tom Hazzard, people’s brains process images or graphics faster in their brain. They interpret it and process it faster than they read words. Their brains interpret what those words really mean. People gravitate to visual images faster and process them faster. It attracts them to something faster.

If you’ve got the same image, your show cover art, in every episode, you’re making people read through all your titles to decide what episodes they may want to listen to next. I can’t even tell you how many people don’t even read titles, quite honestly. That’s a whole nother subject. We do believe in engaging titles. There are a lot of shows that title things very poorly. I see people use only their guest’s name as their title. That doesn’t tell me anything about what you’re talking about if you tell me who’s there on the show with you. My point, and not to go down a deep rabbit hole on titles, the images are so important.

They can reinforce the power of what you’re talking about. You can make it so that they’re not all the same. You can not overbrand it. We are big fans of the titles being on there, but it’s a short title. It’s like the catchphrase, if you want to think of it like that. It’s the keyword from an SEO standpoint, Search Engine Optimization.

Webinar Mistakes might be on that example that I have, but that’s it. That’s the same title that’s going to go on my YouTube thumbnail because YouTube doesn’t want you to have a big long title on it either. It likes Webinar Mistakes. We might make that color stand out amongst the other ones. That’s great. Most people will go for the easy branding or the same exact template. That’s almost no better than using your cover art.

There are exceptions to that, and that is when your guests are unknown. Putting their image there isn’t going to help you. We have a client who has a famous former football player who’s a quarterback. People recognize his face. Putting him in that episode image will stop people in their tracks because they will recognize his face before they see the words or before they see his name. If they’re a fan, they’re clicking on that episode. It can really have a power, creating stickiness for the episodes that you’re creating. Think that through.

If you cannot take the extra time to make everything original, you could change the colors. You could create a differentiator between them. If you have guest episodes and topic episodes, you could make sure that the topic ones have words and maybe the episode with interviews has pictures or has a picture of the guest. It is so at least someone knows when they’re going through the feed, “These are interviews and these are topics.” That is helpful in navigating through your feed. There are some other reasons for it in terms of applicability, readability, and navigation where you can help people find what they’re looking for faster in your feed. That’s critically important as well.

Guest Image Headshots

I want to talk for a moment about the guest images or headshots. You made a very good point. There are good reasons why. In certain contexts, you may very well want to use it. That will help attract people to try it out. It will foster click engagement only if they’re well-known at least nationally. If you have a niche audience and they’re easily recognized in your niche, that would also apply.

We also have podcasters we work with who have been doing it the same way for years before they knew us. We’ve given them the good reasons why and they say, “Tom, thanks. I appreciate knowing that I’m comfortable where I am. I’m going to keep doing it my way.” I’m like, “It’s your show. That’s your choice. You can do it.”

 

 

I have a podcaster that’s a good example to me of what not to do because even on the podcast page on their website, they’re using a featured square image for every episode. It is entirely a guest headshot with no text on it whatsoever. There’s no name of the person, no name of the show, no identity of the show, and no title of an episode. It’s literally just a face. I don’t believe all those faces are well-known even in the niche for this podcast.

When you do that as a podcaster, you’re giving up a really good brand opportunity. You’re giving up an opportunity to share your brand and make sure your brand is more widely recognized. You’re also giving up on any kind of opportunity to pique curiosity and get people to click to learn more. You’re not taking advantage of the potential to get more click engagement.

Each episode image may be unique. That’s fair. It is, but there’s no good reason why I want to click on this person’s face versus that face. Human nature is that people tend to like people like themselves. If they see a face that’s similar to theirs, maybe they’ll click on it, but I guarantee you. If they see an image that is truly relevant to the topic that’s discussed in that episode, the good reason why I, as a listener, want to click it is that I’m going to learn something, there’s going to be some amazing story about this, or whatever it is, that’s what we’re talking about here. It’s the opportunity that you have to do this. It’s free other than your time to create the image. It’s free to put that image out there with your episode.

Lack Of Shareability

I want to stop you right there and talk about shareability because this is where you’re really not using the power of episode art. You’re creating a lack of shareability. If I’m the guest on your podcast and I’m that guest whose headshot you used, the easiest, fastest way for me to share the episode is to go and click Share.

When it shares, all it does is show a picture of me. It’s more work for me to replace it or delete it, and then it becomes a text-only share. I’m less likely to do that. You’re not getting your guest to do some of the heavy lifting on the sharing part. You want them to do that. I’m not going to share it if it’s my picture because my picture’s already on the profile of my social media. Why would I do that again?

The second thing is if you are continually sharing your cover art again and again and you’re not sharing episode art, then your readers and the people going through your feed or your followers on social media think you’re promoting. Remember. They’re very quickly looking at the visual image. They would think you’re promoting the same thing again.

If I’m promoting my show and it has red, blue, and white ingredient branding or stylistic branding in my episode art but the image in the middle is different, then they know, “She’s sharing something about her show. We already know about her show, but I should stop and pay attention to what she’s sharing.” That’s what we want to have happen. There’s enough of that visual difference where our eyes go, “Brain. Stop. Take a look and see what’s going on here. That’s what we want to have happen in our feeds.” That applies to our shareability and our social feeds as well.

For those of you reading, I want you to know that Tracy in the video version here, and you can see that on YouTube, was using her mic flag on her microphone that has a Podetize brand on it. She turned it since it’s three-sided and showed The Binge Factor cover art there.

I’ll flip the other one, too, for those of you. Nazanin commented before. She was like, “That looks really cool,” and I flipped the wrong way. I have all three of the shows that we record. I have them all on the same mic block so I can flip them around easily. It’s a branding thing. What I want to touch on again here is that the shareability of your show matters. Getting people to say, “I haven’t heard that one yet,” is critically important. The visual trigger is critically powerful in making your brain and that person’s stop.

It’s incredibly powerful. If any of you readers out there want to go see what we’re talking about with this unique episode art, there are lots of apps that do it. You can pull up Spotify. A free version is fine. You don’t have to have a Spotify paid account at all. Search up The Binge Factor. Go look at that show. Searching in Apple then after for a comparison on a show, they go below the fold to scroll down to where you’re going to see episode results. I put the show results first up top. A lot of people, especially new ones, don’t even know not to scroll down below the fold. Scroll below the fold and see all of those episodes. Here’s what happens. It happens in your social media feed if you’re on LinkedIn, Facebook, or any place like that. It happens on your own website.

Feed Your Brand | Podcast Episode Art
Podcast Episode Art: Shareability of your show matters and getting people to say, “I haven’t heard that one yet,” is critically important. The visual trigger is critically powerful in making your brain and that person stop.

 

If you have a blog post for every episode and there’s a blog feed there, and you scroll through and it’s the same image over and over, most people are like, “Keep scrolling. I’ve seen it. There’s nothing new here.” That’s because they’re not reading the titles or the dates to say, “This one was published more recently.”  The image makes the difference. It is a game-changer for getting people’s attention, piquing curiosity, and building anticipation for people to click to learn more.

The Context Of Your Square Images

The cliche that exists, and we’ve all heard it, that a picture is worth 1,000 words, that cliche came about for a reason once photography started to happen. They probably even said it with painted pictures before photography. An image communicates so much. Our brains engage with them faster. If you take nothing else away from this episode, please take that away. It is critically important, but that’s not all. I do want to talk a little bit about the context of these square images and where people are seeing them because that is important.

I agree with you. One of the places that is really powerful is your car. How many of you listen to podcasts in your car? We typically run the show off my phone in the car, and I run in an Android. You get the episode art imagery there. It shows up. When you play it from an Apple device, you don’t. You get the show. When it goes from episode to episode, sometimes, you don’t realize that you’re in a different episode.

Apple, are you reading this? Please read. Can you fix this, please? This is ridiculous.

I know. You can’t really read the title. You can’t do it while you’re driving. With the episode art image, you know you’re on a new episode, it’s a good brain trigger to let you know a new episode started and what it’s about. You’re good to go. You get engaged. It’s a great way for that to happen in that listening-in-the-car model.

There are other places that you’re going to be in the context of places where this is going to be shared. That’s what we want you to remember. Not only is it viewed this way within the app, but it’s also viewed in search. There’s a search within the app. Let’s go back to my example of webinar tips. You’re like, “How do I create the best webinar?” Webinar tips might be what I type into the search engine. It’s going to give me shows and it’s going to give me episodes. I have the ability to search through either.

When I see the same image that’s above in the shows and I didn’t pick that show for a reason, and all I do is see it again down there, you don’t have a second chance of capturing me. If I skipped your show up at the top because your cover art, the name of your show, or whatever it was didn’t do it for me, there’s no way I’m going to click again in the bottom part of the episode. If your episode art is different, there’s a chance that I might click it and give your show a chance even though I wrote it off above. What else? What are the other contextual ways?

When you have decided that you’re going to, when you haven’t before, create unique artwork for every episode, or if you’ve already been doing it and you want to up your game and make them the best they can be, then you need to consider a few things. Scale is one of the biggest things you have to consider. Please go test. Search in several different places for your favorite listening app you use. Try some other listening apps. Go look on social media. You could do it on your computer if you want to do that. Do it on your phone especially because what I want you to see is how small these images are displayed in many contexts.

They’re like half an inch.

This is also true. I’ve talked about this in other episodes. I conduct webinars with podcasters regularly. I talk about the context of your cover art because a lot of people make the same mistakes with their show cover art. What I want to talk about is text. I understand branding guidelines. You have a brand book. You have your format that your brand strategist tells you, “Your brand needs to be shown this way everywhere.” I understand that, but look at the context. If you’ve got this beautifully, incredibly thin font, you better make sure you can read that when the entire image is three-quarters of an inch square on your phone. It might even be smaller than that in some apps, so scale.

When you only use a headshot as a square image, as a podcaster, you're giving up a really good opportunity to share your brand. Share on X

Scale matters.

Scale of text, scale of whatever logo pieces you might have, or scale of whatever image you’re using. We talked about headshots or using other images. Whether they’re original images, stock images, or whatever image, make sure you have the rights to use them and then put them in as an ingredient in your episode artwork. Even if people won’t necessarily understand everything about why you chose it or exactly what it is, if it doesn’t pique curiosity, it’s like, “I’m not exactly sure what that means, but that’s pretty cool. I want to learn more,” you won.

When you’re thinking about episode art, there are two things that you have to think about. One is how it looks small in the feed as Tom’s pointing out here, but also how it looks when it’s shared. If I clicked that and shared your show and that episode image, would it give me enough information about the show? Is it letting me know that it’s a podcast? Is it doing things differently in that model?

It’s okay if those things are tiny in the app because I know I’m on a podcast. I know I’m on the show. I know this is the show already. If it’s too tiny to read, that’s okay because then when it’s shared and it’s on Instagram, it’s a much bigger square that is filling up half my phone, and I can see the Feed Your Brand’s ingredient in the corner, that’s a good thing there. It’s okay to make it too small in one aspect where it doesn’t matter and another to make it bigger where it is.

Here’s the other thing. Numbers. Don’t put numbers on these things. I wish you all would stop numbering your episodes. That’s a whole nother episode. Don’t put your numbers on these things. It’s a total waste of time. What happens when you delete an episode or when something changes? Are you going to fix all your graphics?

What happens when you have a teaser episode and in the system, your numbers are off? I say I’m on number 101, but it’s really number 102, and because of the order of things and the way that it happened, my teaser episode became number 1 instead of 0. It messes everybody’s brains up. There’s a cognitive dissonance with that. Don’t do that. Don’t bother. It’s a waste of space.

In some of the apps, Goodpods does this. I can share from Goodpods and say, “Share this particular episode,” and it will share that episode art. It’s sharing out something. I want the show brand to be in there somewhere. Keep it small. You can make it like a watermark. You can make it ghosted in the corner. You don’t have to use the actual whole square. You can use the words Feed Your Brand or whatever the words of your show are.

Stop putting your image there. That’s another thing. If you are doing a share of your guest, stop repeating your image there. You are the host of the show. It’s unimportant in the scope of things. You are the one who’s sharing it on social. It’s already your feed. You don’t need to have the repetitive things that are not selling that episode for you and then be thinking about when it’s shared on social media, what is the essential thing for them to know so they can find it. That’s it. That’s all they need. It’s to know where to find it. Everything else, they’ll find if they’re interested. If it was shared in a valuable way, I’m going to go look for it. If the only thing I have to remember is the name of the episode and the show it was on, done. It’s easier.

The same thing happens when you share a blog post for your episode on social media and you share the URL for that blog post. This is even true if it’s a summary show notes post, although we don’t recommend doing that. If you’ve tuned into this show long enough, you know that. We recommend a very comprehensive blog post for a lot of good reasons.

Let’s say it’s a typical short show notes blog post. You have a header image and a featured image. If you share that blog post on social in any way, the social media channel scrapes the blog for that featured image and displays the image. You’re not posting text out there of the name of your show and a link. If you put a link in and make a post, it pulls up the image from your blog and displays it as the main visual part of the post.

Feed Your Brand | Podcast Episode Art
Podcast Episode Art: Keep your art high-resolution and powerful as that will be useful everywhere.

 

When people click it on social media, guess where it takes them? Back to the blog on your website, which is an excellent way to share your post. You get a bunch of those posts in your feed over time. People scroll through your feed. If all those images are the same, people keep scrolling. It’s an endless scroll. They’re like, “I’ve seen it.” They won’t click.

Recap Of The Elements

There are so many powerful reasons to do it. Here’s my basic recap of the elements that you want. First off, it needs to be 3000×3000. You keep it as high resolution and as powerful. That will be useful everywhere.

I’d like to interject. Save it efficiently. Keep the file size low because you don’t want it to bloat your podcast RSS feed. You can have 3000×3000 images that are really efficient half a megabyte or so, sometimes even less.

It has been recommended to us that if you’re going to put it in your blog, make it a .WBP so it’s not scrapable but it’s embedded there. You can do that. JPEG is the next version that you want.

In the RSS feed standard, Tracy, it has to either be a JPEG or a PNG. You can’t do that web format in your RSS feed. You can on your website though.

If you’re going to only want to save one format and don’t want to do that work, my recommendation to you is a JPEG. As Tom put it, keep it as small as possible in terms of its size. Make sure it’s compressed properly, but you’re keeping that size. It must be 3000×3000 to be visible and valuable when it gets blown up on social media. It will get rejected in the feed anyway if it’s not the right size. You want to do that. It’s standard everywhere. That will work for you.

You want to have an ingredient somewhere of your show brand, your cover art brand, or the name of your show. You want some kind of watermark for it. Put it in 1 of the 4 corners of it. Keep it consistent. Keep it in that corner every single time. It makes it easy to find. It makes it easy to overlay. It makes it easy to do unless there’s some compelling reason why you need to switch where it goes. Do it for yourself. It’s super simple. Create it like an overlay and drop it in. We’ve been using watermarks in all of our stuff. We do it on YouTube. You can add it to all the YouTube shorts. You drop a watermark in. Lots of you probably already have that. Use it when you create this image.

The last thing that I want you to keep in mind is that you do need text on this. However you choose your images and whatever you’re doing in the background, text should be somewhere on it. It should be no more than three words. Think about that. You could put really tiny of the if you needed to or the in the corner. That’s okay if you expand beyond it, but there should be three normal-sized words somewhere in this. That’s about it in terms of a thumbnail visual that you want. You don’t want more than that on any kind of small graphic. If you do more than that, it won’t fit.

Try not to go for the big, long words. Transformation is way too long to squeeze on there. By the time you do it, it will be so tiny. Try to use active words like transform. Even if in your title it’s transformation, that’s great, but maybe you use transform on the short graphic. It’s okay to have it be a variation on it. It does not have to be an exact match. It has to mean the same thing.

PSA: Be A Podetize Customer

Last customer service announcement before we go, Tom. I cannot stress this enough. If we have not convinced you to use episode art, the last thing I want to say is if your picture or photo is on the cover art of your podcast, you must get episode art. Tom and I probably have 100 episodes where we’ve said this to people. Get your picture off your cover art. It’s one of the most powerful things you could do to attract people to your show.

Get your picture off your cover art. It's one of the most powerful things you can do to attract people to your show. Share on X

Do you remember when I was explaining that search engine optimization thing where you’re seeing those episodes? If your picture is on every single one of those episodes, no one is going to click it. Here’s why. It’s because I think you’re going to lecture me. I think you’re going to tell me all about you and not tell me about what I want to know.

If I’m searching for a topic that I desperately need information on and your picture’s all over it, it is not going to help me. Use episode art. If you have a self-titled like It’s the Tracy Show and/or a self-image show cover art, it is essential that you do that. I guarantee that you are going to see a lift in your listenership almost immediately, and it’s all going to come from that search.

It doesn’t matter if your episode is going to help me, the listener. It may very well help me. You may have things to share with me that I really need to know and I will learn a ton, but your image will keep people from clicking and trying because the image makes it look like it’s all going to be about you.

That’s my last message about the power of episode art versus your cover art. Those are two different things. Use it. I’m so positive. You are going to see an overall lift in listenership. You’re going to be shocked by the value of it. In this world, this is not complicated. Go to Canva. For free, you can create episode art. You do not have to have a paid Canva account.

This is so easy. There are so many square images. You can use one of the Instagram squares. You can use any one of those kinds of things. They’re so simple to use out there. There’s no excuse for it. Go create some cover art. It takes moments, but the power to the clickability and the future downloads of your show are so powerful.

Let’s leave it there. Thanks for tuning in, everybody. We’ll be back with another great episode.

 

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Tracy Hazzard and Tom Hazzard

As podcasting and monetization marketing experts, husband and wife team, Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard help major publications, sports stars, and entrepreneurial influencers broadcast their original messages. A highly successful inventor and product designer, Tom has been rethinking brand innovation to build in authority and high-converting revenue streams. Tracy brings an insider media/promotion perspective as a former Columnist for Inc. Magazine, contributor to BuzzFeed and international speaker. Together, they are the blog writers and podcast co-hosts for Feed Your Brand and The Binge Factor. They provide businesses of all sizes actionable tactics and strategies to spread marketing messages, grow valuable audiences, and retain valuable platform authority without a lot of time, cost or effort.
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