How to set the order of podcast episodes
To help listeners easily browse the Apple Podcasts catalog and start listening from the correct place, specify a show type for each podcast. There are two show types: episodic and serial.
Episodic shows are those that can be listened to in any order, though listeners are likely to play a recent episode, if not the latest episode. Podcasts with an episodic show type are often those that contain news briefings, interviews, and discussions among hosts. When you set your show type to episodic, episodes are displayed in reverse chronological order with the newest episode at the top of the show page and the oldest episode at the bottom.
All shows are categorized as episodic by default.
In 2014, Apple Podcasts introduced the serial show type. Serial shows are designed to be listened to in sequential order — from the first episode to the last. These include documentaries, investigative reports, scripted dramas, and fictionalized narratives. When you set your show type to serial, episodes are presented in sequential order with the first episode at the top of the show page and the final episode at the bottom. Episode numbers are also displayed above the episode title instead of the publishing date in the Browse tab and once a listener follows a show.
You can further organize serial podcasts into seasons. When season numbers are added to the corresponding metadata fields for each episode, the show page displays the newest season by default. Listeners can navigate to a specific season for any show by tapping See All on the right. When listeners follow a show, Apple Podcasts displays the season they’re currently listening to.
If a serial show is not organized into seasons, episodes are presented in reverse chronological order by year with the latest year displayed at the top.
In your feed on Apple Podcasts, placement of bonus episodes can vary depending on how season and episode numbers are used. If your bonus episode includes:
- Season number and unique episode number: Your bonus episode is ordered by episode number.
Season number and duplicate episode numbers: Your bonus episode appears after the full episode with the same episode number.
Season number only: Your bonus episode appears after all the episodes of the same season.
No season number: Your bonus episode appears at the end of all seasons and episodes.
You can also mark a serial show — whether it has one season or many — as a “complete series.” This means all episodes have been published and no additional episodes are expected. When selected, the show page displays Complete Series next to the category and the first season by default.
The Smart Play button
For listeners on iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and macOS 11.3 or later, the Smart Play button located at the top of each show page automatically presents a show’s trailer, if available. Otherwise, the Smart Play button will present the latest episode for episodic shows and the first episode for serial shows. When a serial show is organized into seasons, it will display the first episode of the latest season. And for complete series, it will display the first episode of the first season.
Apple Podcasts handles automatic downloads for episodic and serial shows differently to ensure listeners have access to the episodes they desire. Learn more about how automatic downloads work.
Optimize your show
To ensure episodes display as intended:
- Select the show type that best suits your podcast. Episodic will be selected by default.
- Include episode and season numbers in the corresponding metadata fields or RSS tags for all episodes.
- Do not include episode or season numbers in the episode title. Apple Podcasts does this automatically when the corresponding metadata fields are supplied.
- For episodic shows, make sure episodes do not have the same publishing date. For example, if you intend to publish two episodes at the same time, check that the first episode has an earlier publish date than the second. This ensures that your episodes display in the correct order for listeners.
If a serial show is organized into seasons and contains an episode without a season number in the corresponding metadata field, it will be categorized into an Unknown Season. This will prevent the episode from automatically downloading and appearing in Up Next. To check if your podcast includes an Unknown Season, go to your show page, tap See All on the right, and scroll down to the bottom. Any episodes without a season number will be displayed here. You can easily fix this by ensuring all episodes contain episode and season numbers in the corresponding metadata fields.
Your can further organize specific episodes using episode types. Learn more about episode types.