Making Accessible Podcasts Content Creators Guide
Recently, the podcasting industry has boomed. Nearly 51% of US adults listen to podcasts. As of 2023, Apple Podcasts hosts over 2.5 million podcasts with over 82 million episodes.
Podcasts cover an endless range of subjects and interests. There’s something out there for everyone. However, not everyone can access their special something. Many podcasts remain inaccessible to people with disabilities and impairments.
The podcasting industry is predicted to reach $4 billion by 2024. Podcasting has real money-making potential if you know how to go about it. An essential part of this is opening your podcast to as many people as possible.
Globally, over 15% of the population has a disability. This is also 15% of your potential audience. By making your content accessible to everyone, you’re increasing your audience and earning potential. On top of this, the UN states that digital accessibility is a human right. Everyone has a right to access the content they want or need. Accessibility is a choice that benefits everyone.
It can be tricky to know where to start. More so because podcast accessibility is often overlooked. That’s where we come in. This guide gives you simple suggestions so everyone can access and enjoy your podcast.
Loud and Proud
Sound quality is the most important factor in starting a successful podcast. It’s also one of the most critical elements in improving podcast accessibility. Take a moment to think about your podcast. Is your audio loud enough? Is it easy to understand everything you’re saying? Are your podcasts free from background sounds and unnecessary noises? If the answer to any of these is no, then it’s a clear sign that you need to make some adjustments.
People often think good audio equipment equals expensive, but this is untrue. You can find loads of cheap but highly-rated microphones online. USB microphones with pop filters are available on Amazon for as little as $30. If you want to improve the sound on a microphone you already own, buy a pop filter. These cancel out plosives and only cost around $5. This also reduces the amount of sound engineering needed post-production.
You need to make the most of your voice. Speak in a loud, clear voice for the entire recording. Enunciate every word. Keep it to one speaker at a time. Take a moment between topics and sentences to let people process what you’re saying.
Choose a Good Platform
Your podcast can never be accessible if the platform it’s uploaded to is not. Not all platforms are made equal! The most popular podcast platforms are not necessarily the best. So, you need to choose wisely.
The best way to increase accessibility is to provide multiple options. Upload your podcast to a few different platforms. One of these should include an accessible media player. These offer features like full keyboard navigation, clear labels, and no auto-play. Some options for this include AblePlayer and JW Player.
Use podcast apps with features like voice recognition, customizable playback speeds, and dark/light mode. The app must have buttons and text that are amply sized. The app should also have a minimum text-to-background contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. For large text, the minimum contrast ratio is 3:1.
Make all your podcast episodes downloadable. Not every platform will suit specific needs and preferences - even ones designed for accessibility. Downloadable episodes mean users can listen on a platform that works for them.
Write It Down
People are unable to listen to podcasts for various reasons. Often, this is the case for people with hearing impairments or cognitive disabilities. However, this does not mean this should prevent people from accessing audio-based content. Transcriptions are a great way to let more people consume podcasts whilst improving SEO.
Transcriptions are not just a case of writing down all spoken content. It’s about recreating the feel of the podcast. This includes details like sound bites, laughter, and music. These small details make a big difference. They can prevent your transcription from feeling lifeless.
You can transcribe the podcast yourself or with a transcription service. AI transcription services are usually far cheaper than manual transcription services. This makes them a popular option. However, you can’t guarantee accuracy. Make sure to double-check any AI transcriptions before publishing.
Using voice-typing on Google Docs or Word is a free and easy transcription method. However, this method definitely needs human editing as it won’t automatically punctuate your document. You also need to check for accuracy errors.
Transcriptions aren’t just for people with disabilities. They’re also used by:
people who consume your podcast in their second language;
individuals who are using your podcast for educational purposes;
people who are only interested in a specific topic within your podcast;
people who cannot listen to your podcast due to situational circumstances such as a noisy environment.
Posting across multiple platforms means more people can access your content, boosting views and accessibility. It can seem like a lot of effort to record your podcast in different formats, but it pays off.
People watch one billion hours of YouTube every day. Videos are the most popular content type according to HubSpot. Adding a video component to your podcast instantly boosts viewership and accessibility.
But why do videos help accessibility?
For one, you can caption them. Transcripts can be massively helpful for many, but some people prefer following along in real-time. Being able to see the host’s reactions also adds a personal touch which transcripts can’t always achieve. Adding a visual element is also beneficial for people relying on visuals for context. For example, people who use lip reading or rely on facial expressions to discern tone and emotion.
Additionally, it’s simply a more popular form of digital content. This means more people are likely to find it. This instantly opens your content to a wider array of people.
Cover All Bases
A lot of people will decide whether to listen to a podcast or not based on its cover alone. For many, an inaccessible cover will instantly translate into an inaccessible podcast. This will turn a lot of users away.
Simplicity is key. Use bold colors, lines, and shapes. Any text on your cover needs to be of an ample size. The font should be clear and easy to read. Use a contrasting or darker background against your design elements. Putting graphics or text on top of an image is difficult to discern. Stick to solid colors instead.
Your cover should be high resolution. This increases clarity and makes it look more professional.
Our world is wonderfully diverse! It’s full of people of all ethnicities, genders, sexualities, abilities, and disabilities. It’s important to remember this when creating any kind of content. Since many podcasts are opinion-based, it’s vital that you are respectful toward everyone. Use inclusive and gender-neutral language to make sure your audience feels comfortable.
Digital content stays online forever. Never express opinions that you may wish to retract in the future. Consider whether you would feel comfortable with your employers or family knowing about it. If not, then you should not post it online.