What is Podcast Metadata? How to Create and Edit ID3 Tags

Learn How to Create and Edit Id3 Tags to Get the Most Metadata Traction

Podcast and Editing MP3 Tags

The term meta or metadata is thrown about quite often, but what is it and what does it mean? The word meta originally came from the Greek word meta, and it meant “after or beyond”. Now it usually means information about itself or referring to itself. Therefore, metadata would be information about the data.

Before libraries had digital catalogs, they had card catalogs. These were long, musty smelling file drawers containing 3x5 cards with information about the books located in that library.

Things like the title, author, and location of the book were listed. This information was an early use of metadata or information about the book.

In web pages and HTML, a meta tag will give information about the website. Things like page description, keyword, and the author are included in HTML meta tags. Podcast metadata is information about a podcast. More specifically it is information about the MP3 file of the podcast. This MP3 metadata is used in the creation of your podcast RSS feed and in podcast directories like iTunes.

What Are ID3 Tags?

Podcasts are in an MP3 audio format. The MP3 file will contain the audio data or file along with embedded track data. The embedded track data will contain things like the title, artist, and album name. A plain MP3 file will just have the audio with no additional information. To add the embedded metadata, tags need to be added to either the beginning or end of the file in an ID3 format.

The Background of ID3 Tags

In 1991, the MP3 format was first defined. Early MP3 files contained no additional metadata information. They were audio only files. In 1996, ID3 version 1 was defined.  ID3 is short for Identify MP3 or ID3. Although, the tagging system now works on other audio files too. This version of ID3 put metadata at the end of the MP3 file and had a restricted field length with a 30 character limit.

In 1998, ID3 version 2 came out and allowed the metadata to be put at the beginning of the file in frames. Each frame contains one set of data. There are 83 types of frames declared, plus applications can declare their own data types. The common data types used for MP3 files are as follows.

  • Title – The podcast or episode title and number

  • Artist – The artist or host

  • Album – The title of the podcast

  • Track – Your episode number, this will help sort episodes chronologically

  • Year – The year published

  • Genre – The genre

  • Copyright – Copyright information

  • Album Art – Album or cover art

  • Comment – A short summary of your episode, you may add keywords

  • URL – The website address for the podcast

The Importance of Metadata

MP3 metadata is important if you want to show the name of your episode, the chronological order, the description, or any other identifying information that would make your show indexable and searchable. Another important use of the metadata is showing artwork and keeping the cover art information and location up to date.

Have you ever downloaded a podcast and noticed it didn’t have cover art? This means that the ID3 tag for the cover art has either not been uploaded with the MP3 file or that the location is incorrect.

Even if the cover art shows up in podcast directories like iTunes, it won’t show up with the downloads unless the ID3 tag is configured correctly. The reason that the cover art shows up in iTunes is that it comes from the information in the RSS feed not the actual MP3 file of that episode.

How to Add ID3 Tags to MP3 Files

ID3 tags can be added and edited in media players like iTunes and Windows Media Player, but it’s better to make sure that the data is exactly what you want by using an ID3 editor. You will want to fill out the important tags for your show and not worry about the rest. The podcasting fields you should focus on are track, title, artist, album, year, genre, comment, copyright, URL, and album or cover art. There are several ID3 tag editors available, below we will go over two free options for Windows and a paid option that will work for Mac or Windows.

MP3tag

MP3tag is a free download for Windows and it can be used to add and edit your tags for your MP3 files. It supports batch editing for multiple files covering several audio formats. It also uses online databases to look up information. What this means is that you can use it to tag your existing music collection if things like artwork or the correct titles aren’t showing up. This is a bonus function but for our purposes, we are going to focus on how to use it to edit our MP3 podcast files with metadata so that we can upload it to our podcast host.

A quick refresher on podcast creation:

  • Record your podcast

  • Edit using your podcast editing software of choice

  • Export or convert the file to MP3 format

  • Add metadata using ID3 tags and an ID3 editor

  • Take the new MP3 file with metadata and upload it to your podcast host

Using MP3tag editor to upload your metadata is easy. Find the file on your computer,  and make sure the information is filled out correctly. A lot of the information will be the same from your previous edits, and you can just reuse it. If you want to do something unique with your show like have a special cover or put keywords in the comments, you can do that since you are editing the ID3 tags for that specific episode. The main window is where most of the podcast editing options will take place.

EasyTAG

EasyTAG is another free ID3 editor option for windows. It’s supposed to be a simple application for editing and viewing ID3 tags in audio files. EasyTAG supports multiple formats and can be used with Windows and Linux operating systems. It can be used to auto-tag and organize your MP3 collection and edit your MP3 metadata in an easy to use format. They have an easy to use interface that makes it easy to browse to the file on your computer or cloud storage and then fill in the blanks to edit the most common tags.

ID3 Editor

ID3 Editor is a paid program that will work on Windows or Mac. It is not free, but it is very inexpensive. This editor has a slick interface that makes editing podcast ID3 tags easy and simple.

It even has a command line option which enables the user to create a script that can be used to create a feed prior to loading. This editor is simple and is designed to edit the metadata of MP3 files using ID3 tags. It also cleans up old tags and will add ‘copyright’, ‘URL’, and ‘encoded by’ which ensure your audience knows where your files originally came from. This is a clean simple tool that is designed to do exactly what podcasters need.

iTunes and ID3 Tags

If iTunes changes some of your tags it is because they have taken the information from the RSS feed instead of the MP3 file ID3 tags. If you use the Blubrry PowerPress plugin to publish your podcast on your website, it is easy to override these settings. Just go to WordPress > PowerPress > Basic Settings and check the fields you may want to override and then save the changes.

Some things you may want to change are the keywords, subtitle, summary, and author. Changing the summary can make your podcast stand out and be more searchable. The summary will either be your blog excerpt or your entire post. You may want to make the summary more user-friendly for iTunes and iPhone listeners. A shortened summary with a punch or a bulleted list might spark the listeners interest.

These are a few tips that can make your podcast more professional and polished looking in iTunes and other directories. Even though, metadata and ID3 tags sound like a lot. Optimizing them is relatively simple. Find an easy to use editor and make sure that the final product you upload to your podcast hosting account is the best it can be. Don’t skip the little steps that really make all of your hard work shine.