Does your podcast need chapters?
Chapters can help break down long podcasts for listeners
Chapters are a helpful feature that break your podcast down into its logical segments. They aren’t for everybody, but when they’re appropriate, they can be time-consuming to create. Using AI tools can give you a huge head start on creating chapters.
What exactly are podcast chapters?
Podcast chapters are segments that divide a podcast episode into sections, normally based on some topic. Each section is given a title, making it easier for listeners to navigate and find the content they’re interested in. Chapters can be added to a podcast by either:
as ID3 tags in the actual .mp3 file, which is how Apple podcasts (and others) pick them up.
Some podcast players, like Fathom, will use AI to segment a podcast into chapters right inside the player, if the podcaster didn’t provide their own via any of the above methods. Ideally, you want to supply chapters in both your description and via ID3 tags, so all major streaming platforms can understand them, and your listeners using those platforms can interact with chapters using their player’s interface.
At the bottom, you can see how the Fathom podcast player will create chapters for podcasts (if the podcaster didn’t provide their own).
When a podcast has chapters, listeners can see the chapter titles in their podcast player and can skip to the section they want to listen to. This provides a two-fold benefit—listeners can find a nice starting point based on their unique interests, and they get a bird’s-eye view of where the podcast goes.
Should you add chapters?
Chapters aren’t appropriate for all genres of podcasts, e.g. storytelling podcasts like Snap Judgement or The Moth, where you’ll definitely want to listen to them start to finish. But for informational podcasts like The Huberman Lab, or even podcasts like the Joe Rogan Experience which are far less structured and meander a lot, chapters can be a great way to pin down the “key segments” to function as a map for listeners.
As a podcaster, you’ll have an intuitive understanding of whether or not chapters would be appropriate for your podcast. A great way to get a sense of what chapters “feel” like is to use a podcast player like Fathom (which reads chapters that podcasters have created, or for many podcasts which don’t provide chapters, uses AI to create them based on the actual topics within) or even watching videos on Youtube, many of which have chapters.
What’s the best way to add chapters to a podcast?
You can type up chapters manually to paste your show notes after listening back to your podcast, or using editing tools like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere to place “markers” in the sequence timeline while editing, and export those markers (but usually, it still requires some manual finessing to paste them legibly in your show notes).
Hosts like Buzzsprout allow you to add chapters using their publishing interface (see this video), which can be very convenient.
But adding chapters can be one of the most arduous parts of the production process for your podcast. I’ve talked to producers who will listen to their podcast a total of three times—even if the podcast is 3 hours long—to get everything they need to publish successfully: chapter markers, clips for social media, audio quality checks, etc.
Because of this, chapter generation is actually one of the first things that podcasters will turn to AI tools to help them with. AI tools like Podium will listen to your podcast, transcribe it, and then analyze the transcript to distill the proper chapter segments, and finally output exactly the right text you need to add to your show notes so that players like Youtube and Spotify will read them. Usually they’ll appear something like this:
(0:00:00) - Efficiency and Collaboration in Team Building
(0:04:09) - The Origin of Liquid Death
(0:08:11) - Building a High Performance Brand
(0:12:21) - Brand Differentiation and Alienation
(0:17:55) - Owning Your Brand
(0:29:42) - The Power of Creative Entertainment
(0:35:16) - Successful Low-Budget Content and Celebrity Ambassadors
This can save hours of listening back to your podcast.
If you’re afraid or skeptical of using AI tools, I understand—there’s a lot to digest and keep up with! The idea isn’t that they create perfection and replace you, but rather give you a huge boost, something solid to build on—so that you’re done in minutes and not hours. You’re responsible for the perfection part.
You don’t have to listen to me, though—take it from the podcasters and producers themselves.
It’s worth noting that most other AI tools currently don’t do chapter generation—this is due to the fact that they almost entirely piggyback off the publicly-available AI tools that developers use, which are good for transcripts and summaries, but not chapter segmentation, which is a tougher problem.
At Podium we’ve built several proprietary made-for-podcasting AI pipelines, including ones to find chapters in podcasts specifically, so you can save a ton of time by getting a head start on chapters for your podcasts.
Chapters aren’t for every podcast, but when they’re appropriate, they can be difficult to create—taking up a ton of time and sometimes requiring advanced editing tools built for professional producers. AI tools can drastically help with creating chapters for your podcast, especially if you’re a solo podcaster who wears all the hats managing your podcast.