Why Podcast Cover Art Matters
The Role of Podcast Cover Art
Everyone knows the importance of first impressions. You already emphasize quality in each and every episode because you never know which will be someones point of entry. However, the true first impression comes before someone even hears the first beat of your intro music. [clickandtweet handle="" hashtag="" related="" layout="" position=""]Cover art is the face of your podcast. It's the first thing everyone will see and you need it to not just catch their eye, but draw them in.[/clickandtweet] Remember that people's time is valuable so it is no small thing to ask them to try a new show when there are so many other things they could be doing or listening to. They need to be intrigued enough to give you that all-important click.
Most podcasting platforms want you to have cover art when you upload your show, but don't think of this as just some hoop to jump through; this is a great first opportunity to connect with people. Of course the content and quality of your show is what will actually grow your audience but a lot of potential listeners won't even give you a chance if your cover art is ugly or sends the wrong message. Making a serious investment upfront to get cover art that sends the message you want to send. Whether you want to be seen as "professional and knowledgeable" or "quirky and fun" you need a quality design for your cover. An amateur design will reflect poorly on you; making you look like an amateur. Professionally designed cover art will make you look like a professional who takes podcasting seriously. The listeners' experience starts the moment they see your cover art; why should your potential audience care about your show if it is apparent that you do not?
Stand Out From the Crowd
Just how many podcasts are there? After a bit of google-fu, I couldn't find a definitive answer the this question, though some articles put the number as high as 250,000 and counting. That's a lot of podcasts, so it's more important than ever to find ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. Making a meaningful investment (time or money) in your cover art is a powerful way to stand out from the majority of podcasters who are too lazy or just don't care enough to bother with it.
Believe me, people can tell when you don't put much effort into your graphics and they are much more likely to click on a design that is professionally designed to connect with them. You put so much time and effort into producing your show, but potential listeners can't hear that; they only realize how great your podcast is once they actually listen to it. Great design is there to bridge that gap. Podcast cover art is a great way to visually demonstrate to people how much you care, to help turn them into listeners.
Now, effort and polish aren't all it takes to make really effective cover art. Your design needs to be aimed specifically at your target audience. Truly great cover art will make a connection with your audience. It should be interesting enough to garner a second look in a sea of podcasts and it should be meaningful enough to resonate long after they've become loyal listeners. Cover art is just one more opportunity to build brand equity with your audience; take advantage of that.
Hopefully you're starting to understand that obtaining excellent cover art can be a tall order, but don't be discouraged. It will take commitment and sacrifice to get the cover art that your show deserves, but that investment is what will ultimately set you apart from the competition and put you on a path toward success.
So How Do I Get Great Cover Art?
If you are a capable designer yourself, make the sacrifice to put in the time to create something that truly serves your brand effectively. This should not be a quick afternoon project. Put some thought and some sweat into it. If you need some direction, be sure to keep checking back here. In the future, I'll be writing about things like "Keys to Effective Podcast Cover Art" and "Cliches to Avoid in Your Cover Art" as well as the more technical details of designing cover art for podcasts.
A word of caution here, you need to be brutally honest with yourself about your design acumen. Do me a favor and open iTunes right now. Pick a category, click on "See All" and just start scrolling. See all that crappy cover art? Yeah, those people also thought they were good enough to design their own graphics; it's something to think about. Being an awesome podcaster does not make you an awesome graphic designer; and that's ok, it's an entirely different field. If you really care about your podcast, your best bet may be to find a professional designer who you can trust with the creation of your cover art.
Getting to the Big Leagues
It is possible for a great podcast to overcome subpar graphics, after all content is king. If you're hustling to consistently putting out great shows and connecting with your listeners you can build a successful show without investing much in your cover art. But why? It's like driving a car with the parking brake on: you can get there if you're determined, but everything is just that much harder. The goal should be to leverage exceptional podcast cover art, not to overcome a lazy solution. Having a great design can be a powerful tool to attract new listeners and differentiate yourself from the competition. Just check out the "Top Podcasts" or even the "New and Noteworthy" section of iTunes; all of the shows listed there have clearly made their visuals a priority. If you want to get there someday, you should follow their example.