Chapters and Enhanced Podcasts

Podcast Chapter Marks and Enhanced PodcastsChapters and enhanced podcasts are not very effective in podcasting — here’s why.

Chapters in podcasts, also referred to as enhanced podcasts, are audio media files that include additional images, titles and web links within specific time positions or segments of the recording. Some players will display images and/or web links when playback is within the specified segments. Some players display the chapters as a way to jump to specific sections.

Chapters and enhanced podcast effectiveness

Ever heard the saying “It’s like watching paint dry?” That’s essentially what you are asking someone listening to your podcast to do when adding chapter links and images. Most listeners who consume podcasts do so in situations that do not permit them to watch or interact with their devices, such as driving, jogging or while at work.

Chapters, when used as a way to jump to specific segments in your episodes, can be useful but are problematic depending on the player. Currently, chapters as a means to jump to specific segments works on the official iOS Podcast app by Apple as well as iTunes desktop. Web-based players do not have native support for chapters.

Chapter images are not supported by some chapter enabled players. The official iOS Podcast app by Apple does not display chapter images.

Web links in chapters are only effective if the recording refers to them during playback. A web link that appears between minutes 2:30 and 3:30 requires the user to know to look at their device during that time of play. If your podcast does not mention in the audio to view the chapter information to click the link, the listener will more than likely never know the link was there.

The creation of chapter based enhanced podcasts needs to be well thought out before recording to reference the marks during playback. In your recording, you might want to reference the chapter title, but be careful not to refer to the chapter time as that may change during editing. You may need to educate your audience every time you mention a chapter, as well as disclose that the option might not be available depending on the player they are using.

Enhanced podcasts are not ideal for images

If you have images you wish to incorporate into your podcast you may want to consider creating a video podcast instead of an enhanced audio podcast.

Enhanced podcasts are not ideal for web links

If you want to incorporate web links, you might be better off including such links within your podcast show notes.

Enhanced podcasts can be used as a way to jump to segments

Chapter marks are ideal if you want to provide an easy way for your listeners to skip to specific segments of your episodes.

Software for creating chapter marks

You can no longer create enhanced podcasts with GarageBand. Apple discontinued chapter marks in GarageBand 10, released in October 2013.

There are a handful of options for creating chapter marks:

  • GarageBand versions 4, 5 and 6 include chapter tools to insert images with web links to m4a audio files.
  • Auphonic online service can add chapter marks including links, titles and images to mp3, m4a, ogg and opus audio files.
  • Podcast Chapters for OS X 10.10 or later can add chapter marks to mp3 audio files.
  • MP4Box command line tool can add chapter marks to m4a audio files.
  • Podreel for Windows can add chapter marks including links, titles and images to m4a audio files.