Sensible Podcast File Names

Please give your podcast files sensible names. By sensible, it means I should be able to look at your podcast files on my MP3 player or server, identify they are yours, and easily sort them chronologically.

Here are some guidelines to help do that.

Briefly identify the podcast source. And I do mean brief. It only needs to make sense to a person who knows they've subscribed to your podcast.

The "Science Talk" weekly podcast from Scientific American, for instance, names its files something like sa_podcast_080813.mp3. The simple "sa" is good enough to identify the file as a Scientific American podcast episode. I'd argue the "podcast" part of the name is redundant, and thus noise. I think a better name would be scitalk_080813.mp3. (But probably not better enough for them to bother changing.)

Another important guideline—maybe the most important guideline—is name the files so I can tell the order. I should be able to tell, from podcast file names, which is newest and which is oldest. When I list the podcast files in a directory, the files should appear in chronological order.

The Scientific American podcast does this well, because it encodes the podcast date into the name. The "080813" means August 13, 2008. The YYMMDD form is a good way to ensure the files order correctly.

Encoding the podcast date in the file name is one of two easy ways to order your podcast files. The other is to encode the podcast episode number. For instance, the FLOSS Weekly podcast uses a file name such as FLOSS-033.mp3. I can tell from this file name that it's the 33rd podcast they've done.

The final guideline is to keep the file name lengths within reason. I'd say no more than 20 to 25 characters including the mp3 extension. The filename only needs to hint at the contents. More complete information may placed in the MP3 meta-information embedded in the file. (And that could be a topic for a whole 'nother post.)

I've cited some examples of good podcast file namings. What got me thinking about this issue is that my local NPR station does a daily news podcast (yay!) that uses a nonsensical naming scheme for the podcast files (boo!).

Here are the podcast filenames they've used over the past couple weeks:

  • fridaypodcast.mp3
  • newspod_thursday2.mp3
  • wedpod.mp3
  • PODTuesday.mp3
  • mondaypod.mp3
  • fripid.mp3
  • Thrusday_Pod.mp3
  • wd_pod.mp3
  • Newspod_Tuesday.mp3
  • Monday_Newspod.mp3
  • Friday_Pod.mp3
  • PODTHURS.mp3

Can you pick out yesterday's podcast from that list?

A naming convention they could be using that satisfies all these guidelines is newspod_080815.mp3 (for the Friday, August 15 episode).