Hey Podcasters, SoundCloud doesn’t care about you (or your podcast)

I am an avid podcast listener, meaning, I have a pool of 200+ podcasts that I have subscribed to and choose episodes from on a weekly basis. (I know, it’s a fuckload)

In any case…earlier this year, I started my own podcast and was looking for a place to host it.
I signed up for a SoundCloud Pro Unlimited account (~$135/year) almost a year ago while they were still in beta. I have used SoundCloud for quite a while now and as a podcaster, I am having second thoughts. I chose SoundCloud over other competitors on the assumption that their new podcasting platform would be superior since they were the ‘new kid on the block’ and I wanted to be directly involved in helping them improve their podcasting platform.

Is SoundCloud for musicians? or podcasters? or both?

My frustration began when SoundCloud disabled html show notes/track descriptions. (I am not the only one, a lot of podcasters are angry about it too)

Since then, my frustration has begun to compound after SoundCloud has repeatedly told me that they are not interested in re-enabling embeddable HTML show notes.

Embeddable HTML Show Notes in Podcasts are important, because:

They allow the listener to focus on listening to the podcast instead of having to take notes or waste cognitive energy remembering references made in the podcast. Most podcast listeners are avid multitaskers and forcing them to remember in-show references makes for an unpleasant listening experience. With html show notes, the listener can easily click a link directly within the podcast instead of having to open up another browser and search. Imagine listening to a 2-3 hour podcast with 20-30 in-show references (i.e: online resources, books, media etc) — without clickable show notes, it would be a nightmare for listeners to find stuff.

You could post show notes on an external websites (which is what I am doing at the moment), but why create an extra step?

Embedded HTML Show notes also help listeners save time. A listener could easily spend 30 seconds skimming the show notes (and checking out key topics/references) to get an idea of the content covered in the podcast and decide if they want to listen to the show.

Those are the main reasons why I believe embedded HTML Show Notes are vital for podcasts. Most of my favorite podcasts already use them and it makes my life easier.

When I asked SoundCloud why they removed this feature, I got the following response from Gina:

I know it’s super frustrating when there’s a change in a product that negatively affects your use. You absolutely were not alone in your frustration, there were many users who used html links in their profile to promote their music and that’s what we are here for – to promote your music.

Sadly, spammers and other malicious users abused the availability of html links. The security of our users is of the utmost importance and in this case, the amount of potential harm was not something we could permit or ignore. You can still add links to descriptions, but they will display as full URLs rather than displaying text that links.

Again, it sucks that we had to do this! We never imagined it would be used against us and our users but that was the case and the reason we removed html code links.

Did you hear that? Spammers and malicious users abused the availability of html links.

Hmmm.

On the surface, this may seem like a legitimate reason, but is it really? I don’t think so.

For one, there’s a widely accepted XML standard called CDATA that allows links in a podcast feed. Even Apple recognizes the CDATA standard. Furthermore, most of the well known and established podcast hosts (i.e: libsyn, podbean etc.) allow html links in their description/show notes section. Not to mention, most well known podcasts are using embedded html show notes!

So, why is it that most of the well known podcast hosts are allowing dangerous, malicious HTML show notes without any issues?

Perhaps because It’s NOT.

This is why I am not buying SoundCloud’s “..Spammers and malicious users abused the availability of html links..” argument.

Furthermore, it’s not difficult to build a parser (by using Markdown for example) that will allow SoundCloud users to use HTML in their track descriptions/show notes without giving them direct access to HTML. For example, one could use [link][/link] tags instead of <a href=”..”></a> tags.

Which leads me to conclude that, podcasters aren’t much of a priority for SoundCloud. It’s primary focus appears to be for musicians.

If SoundCloud doesn’t figure out it’s identity and improve their platform for podcasters by the end of year, I will be jumping ship. I am considering hosting my podcast on my own server or using Amazon Web Services for greater control over my feed.

Are you a SoundCloud user? How has your experience been so far?

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  1. I’m going to go out on a limb here…

    1. You are technically correct.
    2. There are other reasons POSSIBLY involved.
    3. It is likely you are getting first line response, which the masses “understand” and accept (who wants viruses… but let’s not even go down that road… different discussion)
    4. If you escalate it nicely, you’ll get to talk to a tech and probably get the truth.
    5. By bet is it’s a business decision based on complaints/work by database admin all too regularly where WEIRD STUFF HAPPENS! And this is one easy way to deal with it.
    6. It CAN be done. Not hard but not trivial.

    Having said that…

    Let me tell you why YOU MIGHT NOT want to do that.

    There are a number of technical reasons behind #5 and a lot of baggage that goes with it.

    HERE IS WHY:

    After TEN years, podcasting (and RSS) are about to take off. There will be MUCH MORE passing of those XML fields from one hand to another to another… with MANY chances to get MUNGED along the way.

    For now, keep it plain… for the feed.

    Absolutely, you should DRESS UP YOUR website but don’t force that on others downstream because it is likely to make EVERYONE look less professional.

    The point here is concentrate on the content and contact aspect… writing and links… and YOUR DATA will end up appearing in a LOT more places in a variety of LAYOUTS and it is GOOD EXPOSURE for you. Depend on the final data destination to present it properly.

    I can see why a content creator may not like full control everywhere… but web multimedia is becoming an INTEGRATED ENVIRONMENT and it will be great for everyone involved.

    Once we get there.

    Reply

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