Your Podcast Needs Cover Art (Here’s Why, And How To Get It Made)

Getting a podcast up and running is a feat in itself, sometimes. You’ve recorded. You’ve edited. You’ve found a great podcast hosting service, and you’ve uploaded your first episode! It’s something worth celebrating, to be sure! But now there’s the question art work or “cover art” for your podcast. Do you need it? What should you do with it? Why should you bother? And how do you get something made, with no artistic ability or design experience? 

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So why do you need cover art for your podcast? Isn’t it enough to just have it online?

Reason #1: Because iTunes Wants One

iTunes is easily the most popular podcast directory in the world. If your podcast is not listed in iTunes, there’s a high likelihood that you are missing out on a large audience. Even people that don’t have iPhones use iTunes to listen to podcasts – myself included! 

Like other podcast directories, iTunes will use the podcast cover art as an icon for your podcast in it’s directory listing. When you search for a podcast, you see the cover art. When you open iTunes and look for podcasts, you are presented with a list of icons and text based descriptions. Here is what I see when I search for Entreprogrammers, for example (my entrepreneurial/developer podcast):

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But iTunes does more than just display the image for your podcast. It also uses the image to determine whether or not your podcast shows up in the “New & Noteworthy” list on the podcast homepage!

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If you don’t have artwork for your podcast, you will not be listed here. Once you get your artwork in place, though, iTunes will have the option of showing your podcast in the New & Noteworthy section for up to three weeks (sometimes longer!). Having your show pop up in front of millions of people in this list creates a tremendous potential for people to find you and begin to engage with your podcast. 

From the Apple article on Making A Podcast:

Apple periodically features podcasts in the iTunes Store that have compelling, new, or unusual content. The following elements can give your podcast a chance of being featured:

  • Attractive, original cover art that does not include Apple-branded content

Right there, the very first criteria that Apple gives for featuring a podcast is the cover art! Without this (and the other criteria listed on the page) you won’t have a chance of being listed.

But the listing in iTunes isn’t the only reason you should have cover art. There’s another reason that may be even more important.

Reason #2: Stand Out In A Crowd; Be Recognized

Imagine opening iTunes and seeing a wall of this:

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You can’t scan this list, visually. You have to read the names, which takes a lot longer to do than if you saw a list like this:

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Having images available in the list of podcasts to which I have subscribed, allows me to very quickly scan and find what I want. I don’t have to take the time to read every title, hoping I don’t skip past the one I want. And let’s face it, humans scan before they read. It’s the way we operate, visually. We don’t take the time to read something until we know that we are interested. This is not just something that “busy” or “lazy” people do, either. Nearly all of us scan text and images very quickly, looking for points of interest that draw our eyes and attention before we take the time to read.

If you want your podcast to quickly be on the regular listening list, then, you need to have an eye catching image; something unique, something memorable, something that can easily and quickly be recognized while scanning over a list of podcasts in iTunes and other podcast players. 

With cover art for a podcast being so important, then, how do you get it created? What format does it need to be? How do I know if I have it done correctly?

The Technical Side Of Podcast Cover Art

When setting out to create your podcast cover art, you need to follow some guidelines that Apple has published. Going back to the same article on Making a podcast, Apple provides the following list of criteria for your podcast art, when considering whether or not you will be featured in the New & Noteworthy section:

[Your podcast must] include a 1400 x 1400-pixel JPEG or PNG file in the RGB color space for your cover art to be eligible for promotion.

The cover art, and all other podcast elements must be original and cannot contain any of the following:

  • Pixelation, artifacts, high-contrast background art, blurry or hard crops (unless stylistic), or other style issues
  • References to illegal drugs, profanity, or violence in the title, description, or cover art
  • Images or language that could be construed as racist, misogynist, or homophobic
  • Images depicting sex, violence, gore, illegal drugs, or hate themes
  • Third-party trademarks without authorization or usage rights
  • The words “iTunes Store,” “iTunes,” or “Apple Inc.”
  • iTunes Store logo, Apple logo, or the term “Exclusive” without prior authorization from Apple
  • Any visual representation of iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or any other Apple hardware

Clearly some of these criteria are not things that a computer can recognized. For example, “original”, “pixelation”, “artifacts”, “blurry” – these are things that humans recognize, but which a computer has a hard time determining. This list, then, suggests that Apple has a manual approval process for being listed in the New & Noteworthy section. Your podcast will be scrutinized by a human being before being listed, so be sure you get all the details set up and set correctly in your artwork and the rest of your podcast. 

This is all great – you have the information you need to create your cover art now. But what happens if you don’t have the creative ability to make something unique and interesting? Not to worry – there are some cheap and easy options for getting your cover art created.

Options For Creating Cover Art

The first option is to create one yourself, of course. If you have worked with graphics and design in the past, you can use the above specifications to create an image that can be added to your podcast. This isn’t always an option, though. Many of us just don’t have the talent or time to create something. 

If your podcast is promoting a specific business or brand, it is likely going to be worth your time and money to have a cover art image professionally created. Work with your design agency and tell them that you need an image with the above specifications for a podcast. This can be an expensive option, but if you are dealing with branding and brand recognition, it is usually worth the price. A professional design agency is likely going to create an image that will be of high quality in both content and design. 

For those of us with less time, less money and no brand awareness to track, my favorite option for creating podcast cover art is the site Fiverr.com. I’ve personally used Fiverr half a dozen times to create images, logos, artwork and other bits that I needed for my podcast. The Entreprogrammers podcast, for example, has three stylized pictures of the hosts – all of which were created by an artist I found on Fiverr. 

A quick search for “podcast cover” on the Fiverr website returns a number of talented persons that will very quickly and very cheaply create cover art for your podcast.

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With all of these options available, you should be able to get your cover art created with relative ease! Now all you need to do is update your podcast settings to include the image, and you will be good to go! Log in to your hosting account, edit the podcast and add your art.