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Above-the-fold podcast subscription banners

Apple now recommends podcast subscription banners above-the-fold on our websites. Should we, and how?

In Apple’s recent podcast best practices, the company recommends having our podcast subscription banners above the fold on the show’s website. In this article, I’ll clarify this —now anachronistic — term, why Apple’s suggestion makes most sense for consumption on mobile devices, and three different ways to accomplish it for WordPress sites, one free and two paid.

What is above-the-fold?

Above is an example of a famous newspaper where only the above-the fold portion is visible on a stack at a kiosk.

Originally, the term above-the-fold referred to the top half of a traditional newspaper. It was the part of the publication that was visible to people who glanced at it before having to pick it up to see the bottom half. In web page design, the term above-the-fold anachronistically refers to what is visible before scrolling down, at least with the smallest of popular screen sizes, either on desktop/laptop or on mobile devices like smartphones.

How to achieve above-the-fold with a responsive theme

The nature of most responsive web themes is that sidebar items appear at the bottom. This means that if your only subscription banners are even at the top of the sidebar, someone visiting your website on a mobile device will have to scroll all the way to the bottom to see them. In this article, I am covering three ways to achieve the above-the fold goal with a responsive theme in WordPress, the most popular CMS (Content Management System) nowadays: one free solution and two paid ones.

Free solution

The above screenshot is simulated to be on the iPhone SE (Special Edition), “the Miata of iPhones”, which Apple sadly just discontinued.

The free solution I am covering (and have already implemented on BeyondPodcasting’s website) is the PowerPress Subscribe Sidebar Widget from Blubrry (illustrated above), although not in the sidebar as the name suggests, but in the top bar, to allow to be above-the-fold, even on mobile devices. The PowerPress Subscribe Sidebar Widget comes as a free accessory with the free PowerPress WordPress plugin, which I covered briefly in two of my recent articles: Google & Spotify now favor self-hosted podcasters… and Branded RSS in the era of platform expulsion. The free PowerPress plugin works for Blubrry paying customers, self-hosted shows (like four of mine, James Cridland’s Podnews, Leo Laporte’s TWiT network and the US FCC’s More Than Seven Dirty Words) and even those that use a competitive media host.

In a recent interview I did with Angelo Mandato, CIO of RawVoice (parent company of Blubrry) and creator of both PowerPress and its PowerPress Subscribe Sidebar Widget, Angelo indicated that this widget was originally designed (as indicated in its name) for use in a sidebar, even though I am using it at the top bar as explained and shown above. Angelo added that he liked the idea of creating a similar one made specifically for use on the top bar, to take advantage of more horizontal space when permitted, i.e. on desktop or on mobile devices when in landscape (horizontal) mode. Angelo and I both agree that for the top bar, it is best to have very few subscription options, while on the side bar it is advisable to have more. Ideally, I would like to have a maximum of three in the top bar, but while Angelo (hopefully) creates a separate widget specifically for the top bar, I am still very glad to have the current one located there in the meantime.

Two paid solutions

Here are the two paid solutions I investigated:

Social Subscribe & Follow Icons

Social Subscribe & Follow Icons is a plugin from Daniel J. Lewis. Just as I did with the creator of the other two solutions, I invited him to discuss it on BeyondPodcasting. However, he has not yet replied so far, after several weeks. According to its web page, Social Subscribe & Follow Icons currently costs US$25 per year plus a US$24 setup fee for up to five websites, or more money for more than five. From what I can tell on the website, it can offer either small icons as indicated in the above screenshot, or longer banners. Like the free solution shown in the prior section, Social Subscribe & Follow Icons is a widget, so presumably it will work with any WordPress theme that supports widgets in the top bar, as does the theme I currently use on BeyondPodcasting, CapicúaFM, Tu salud secreta and Tu radio global.

Sonaar Podcastr WordPress theme

The above screenshot is simulated to be on the iPhone SE (Special Edition), “the Miata of iPhones”, which Apple sadly just discontinued.

Unlike all of the two solutions presented before, Sonaar Podcastr is a WordPress theme, which offers built-in subscription banners which happen to be above-the-fold on mobile devices. Beyond that, Sonaar Podcastr also includes a visually interesting audio player and even creates a podcast-compliant RSS feed, so it would replace the PowerPress plugin if you are currently using it for your show. Simultaneously replacing both a WordPress theme and a critical plugin like PowerPress (if it is what is currently generating your RSS feed) is a major undertaking and must be done quite carefully, i.e. with a staging site first to be sure that everything is perfect and then finally switching to it to guarantee a seamless experience, both for website visitors and subscribers to your show via RSS. Because of that caveat, Sonaar Podcastr will be most attractive to producers who are about to create a new website for a new show, rather than for existing PowerPress users. The Sonaar Podcastr theme currently costs US$79 or US$249 for lifetime access.

Just as I invited Angelo Mandato and Daniel J. Lewis to discuss the prior solutions, I also invited the creator of Sonaar Podcastr, Maxime Jutras. However, Maxime agreed to an interview only via email, since he doesn’t yet feel comfortable with his English verbal skills. He is from Quebec and his first language is French, and does not want to be interviewed (audibly) in English or Castilian.

Conclusions

I hope this article has shown you three ways to achieve above-the fold podcast subscription on your show’s website. Even though Apple would prefer that we only use their banner to Apple Podcasts above-the-fold, that is not good for producers, considering at least 50% of the potential listeners on smartphones are using Android.

 

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FTC disclosure

No manufacturer is specifically paying Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC to write this article or the mentioned books. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur , BeyondPodcasting or TuRadioGlobal programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs. Allan Tépper’s opinions are his own.

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Born in Connecticut, United States, Allan Tépper is an award-winning broadcaster & podcaster, bilingual consultant, multi-title author, tech journalist, translator, and language activist who has been working with professional video since the eighties. Since 1994,…

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