Tips for Writing Expert Show Descriptions

Photo by Fernando Lavin on Unsplash
Photo by Fernando Lavin on Unsplash

They’re an essential tool for reeling in new listeners, and there are ways to make them do a lot in a little space.

When a potential listener visits Spotify's revamped show page for your podcast, the description is one of the first things they see. It's an invaluable opportunity to get them interested and excited enough to press play. A great show description is a delicate balance between the interesting things you say about your podcast and the language choices you make when saying them—and also, the things you leave unsaid. The smartest way to find that sweet spot varies slightly depending on genre, but there are some overarching best practices that will benefit any show.

Economy of language

A new podcast entitled Supernatural with Ashley Flowers, from Parcast, a Spotify-owned company, does a great job introducing listeners to the premise, the host, and some basic information many show descriptions forget to include.

New listeners are given a clear explanation of the podcast's premise: It's a podcast that looks into the stranger cases in true crime. On its own, this would be a perfectly fine way to bring in new listeners, but where this description soars is in its use of descriptive language. Using tone-heavy words like "strange," "surreal," and "bizarre" helps emphasize how mysterious and intriguing the cases are.

But Supernatural with Ashley Flowers's show description isn't just great because of the language choices in it; it's also great for the way the facts are laid out plain and clear. First, the description explains exactly who the host is and what her credentials in true crime are. For Ashley Flowers, that includes a stint as the co-host of the popular show Crime Junkie. Then, it gives a one-two punch on what listeners need to know: New episodes are released every Wednesday, and each one discusses a different case rather than following a serialized structure.

Form and also function

If your podcast follows a specific structure that sets you apart from the crowd, use your show description to talk it up. Song Salad explains itself with a quick, snappy formula.

Like Supernatural with Ashley Flowers, the show description for Song Salad uses its words wisely to convey what the podcast is all about. Instead of going for tone, though, Song Salad focuses on its structure. The formula that opens the description is an easy guide to the format of the podcast, combining a random topic and a random music genre, but to make sure the structure is clear, they go into a more thorough explanation of how the podcast works.

The use of goofy phrases like "the salad spinner of fate" and the joke about the word "successfully" also make it clear that the podcast isn't some intense competition or challenge. It's a lighthearted comedy show, and its hosts are happy to make fun of themselves.

Leave them wanting more

But what if your podcast has a story you want to explain without giving everything away? The Two Princes is a fiction podcast with a show description that hooks listeners over and over.

The show description for The Two Princes explains the set up when the season starts, but it focuses on the conflict and obstacles. The first sentence introduces the listeners to the ideal situation the protagonists want: their wedding day. The next two sentences talk about the conflict (the sorceress) and how they have to overcome that conflict (magical items). Focusing on the conflict gives the description a high-stakes feel. Starting with what's actually at stake gives listeners a reason to care.

The summary of the plot ends quickly, without giving too much away, and then the description pivots into the star-studded cast list. Including not just the actors' names but also their previous roles gets listeners excited even if they're not familiar with those actors. Fans of musicals will be excited to see some modern classics listed, and for those who aren't into musical theater, titles like Orange is the New Black and Booksmart showcase the cast’s connection to TV and film. But it’s also okay if your cast hasn't been in huge productions. Mentioning their previous work always shows that they have experience. If your cast is made up of all new actors, use that to excite your audience about the talent you're bringing to the podcast industry.

Your show description is a vital way to whet potential listeners' appetites before they click through, but with just the right touch, the audience will gobble it (and your podcast) up.

— Wil Williams