The explicit tag for your podcast is a really big deal

Free speech is a big deal in the U.S. – which is where I’m broadcasting from, and I’m not one to say that you or anybody else can’t say whatever you want to say in whatever way you want to say it.

BUT it’s only common sense to realize that people or companies who provide the platforms upon which you say what you want to say in the way you want to say it have THEIR right to limit what you say over THEIR platform.

Did you get that? It’s THEIR platform. They get to make the rules – and they do. They have created criteria you must agree to if you’re going to use their platforms to make your content available to people.

For some reason it’s easy to forget that web services like Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, and even Facebook for that matter, are THOSE kinds of platforms. But they are.

Today’s episode is focused exclusively on the “explicit” tag in Apple Podcasts.

You may think this doesn’t apply to you… after all, you keep your show clean all the way around. That’s great. You may be right that you’ll never have to deal with this issue at all.

But what if some day you have a guest on your show who’s native language in the 4-letter-word? What are you going to do then?

Some folks would beep out every instance. That’s cool if that’s what you want to do.

But what if it’s not as bad as all that? What if they only use one or two colorful words and they actually lend to the emphasis or context of what they’re saying?

That might be a good time for you to know how to use the “explicit” tags the right way, on an episode-level. That way you can label that ONE episode “explicit” and the rest can keep their “no rating” or “clean rating” tag intact.

Did you know you could do that? Label JUST ONE episode with “explicit” and leave the rest of your show non-labeled or clean?

You can. Keep listening and I’m going to tell you how to do it using two of the most popular avenues – Libsyn and Blubrry.

Before we get into the details, let me say this:

I’ll be referring to some very specific functions inside the Libsyn interface and the Blubrry PowerPress plugin – and being an audio podcast I’m going to do my very best to describe exactly how you can find them. But in case you need to see the visual or re-check what I say, you can find all those sorts of things in the show notes for this episode. They’ll be at OR

OK – let’s get going

Why the “explicit” tag is important

I covered this a bit in the last episode but let me quickly sum up…

The “explicit” tag’s main use is two-fold:

  1. It’s a “heads-up” to potential listeners that they may get an earful of colorful language or topics in your show
  2. But more importantly: It’s used by the iTunes search filters to make the “parental controls” of the directory work.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about that but I will quickly tell you that if a parent sets their parental controls in iTunes to block explicit content and little Johnny downloads your show that is NOT tagged as “explicit” but it DOES indeed have explicit content – you’ve just made an enemy.

And they may complain to iTunes.

And your show may get the boot.

Find out more about iTunes Parental controls

OK, let’s move on…

What qualifies as “explicit” and what doesn’t qualify as “explicit”?

Some people are a bit confused about this, so let’s do what we can to clear it up.

Is one F-bomb considered explicit? What about the S-word, or the A-word, or a reference to the sex act?

It does get a bit fuzzy when you boil it down like that. And Apple doesn’t give us any kind of specifics to tell us what THEY mean by explicit.

So… here’s what I’ve been able to discover.

In a quick online chat with Todd Cochrane over at (a great media hosting site and the creators of the Blubrry PowerPress plugin) – he said that in his years of experience dealing with iTunes and many podcasters who use or have used their service, shows that contain X-rated content typically don’t show up in the iTunes directory at all after a while.

So on the far extreme there appears to be one clear boundary. X-rated content is out.

On the other end, curse words, crass language, and even references to sexual topics or things are OK to include within your content IF you use the “explicit” tag – at least on that episode.

That leads us to the guts of what we want to talk about – HOW to tag your show or episodes as “explicit”

There are two ways you can use the “explicit” tag – and I’ve already referred to both – #1- By tagging the entire podcast feed OR #2 – By tagging an individual episode.

Let’s start with the Entire podcast feed.

This is what you’ll want to set for your show if it’s going to be “explicit” most or all of the time. By “feed” we mean the entire podcast, the whole enchilada. You’re going to set this up in the place where you generate the “feed” that you submit to iTunes.

I’m only going to cover the two most popular options: Blubrry PowerPress and Libsyn. Now some of you are still using Feedburner – and I guess that’s OK for now, but my advice is to RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN!

You can find out more about that issue and why I would say that at the very end of episode #9 –


First you’re going to install the Blubrry PowerPress Plugin and get it set up with your normal podcast stuff.

If you don’t know how to do that, there are plenty of great tutorials on YouTube to get that going for you.

An exhaustive video by Daniel J. Lewis (51 minutes long) – “How to Use PowerPress to Setup Your WordPress Blog for Podcasting

But moving on… you can find all these details in the show notes for this episode at

The first thing you want to do is to go into your PowerPress plugin settings on the left hand side of your WordPress dashboard

From there, go to the top of the window that opens and click on the “iTunes” tab

Once that window opens, scroll down the page until you see the “iTunes Explicit” drop-down, and choose “Yes – explicit content.” That will set your ENTIRE PODCAST to show on the iTunes directory as “explicit.”

The other two options are:

  • No – display nothing – which literally shows no rating at all – which most podcasters choose
  • Clean – no explicit content – another option if you want to emphasize that your show is not explicit.

Then be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page and hit the “Save” button. If you don’t and close that window, you just did a whole lot of nothing and your changes will not appear.

One last thing… these settings take effect in iTunes ONLY if you’re using the feed provided by the Blubrry plugin AS the feed you submit to iTunes. If that’s what you’re wanting to do, you’ll go back to the Blubrry Powerpress settings > the FEED tab > then copy the feed address you see there to submit it to iTunes.

The good news about everything I just described to you is that if you’re using the PowerPress generated feed like I just described, you can go into these settings and make adjustments at any time.

And keep in mind what I just described is ONLY for the ENTIRE SHOW explicit tags. We’ll get to the episode-level explicit tags in a bit.


Now let’s talk about how to accomplish the same FEED-WIDE explicit tagging on Libsyn. The reason I’m talking ONLY about libsyn and not about some of the other media host solutions out there is because it’s the Big Boy in the industry. But I have used some other platforms and know that all of them have some kind of setting similar to what I’m about to describe to you.

If you use something other than Libsyn to produce the feed you send to iTunes, you’ll have to poke around in their interface and find the explicit tag setting yourself.

So Libsyn – step 1 – Setting up your podcast with the right “explicit” setting

When you first log in to your Libsyn account you’ll have to go through all the hubbub of entering your description, etc. Go ahead and do all that if you never have. Part of that process will give you the option to set what Libsyn calls your “Content rating.”

If you’ve already set up your show on Libsyn you can still change this setting at any time, but it’s not really intuitive as to how you’re going to do that, so let me walk you through it.

First, login to your Libsyn dashboard, then choose the “Destinations” tab at the top.

Once you do you’ll see a page full of options. Scroll down to the “Destinations” section and choose the “Edit button” on the one that says the name of your show.

Scroll down until you see the “Content Rating” option and choose the one you want. Be sure to hit save at the bottom of the page.

And keep in mind, this is the option you’ll use if you’re submitting your LIBSYN FEED to iTunes.

You can find that feed address by going back into the Dashboard > Destinations > and copying the first feed link you see.

Now let’s talk about episode-only explicit tags

To set an individual podcast episode to be “explicit” when the rest of the feed is not labeled that way is not all that difficult. In Libsyn, it’s very, very simple so let’s do that one first.


Log in to your Libsyn dashboard and post a new episode just like you always do by clicking the Content > Add New Episode options.

As you fill out all the information for the episode, you’ll come across the Rating option. Under the “iTunes Style” section just choose the one you want.

Be sure to “Publish” or schedule it for your setting to take effect.


PowerPress is not any more difficult, but there is one little tick-box you have to set up before you’ll have the option to choose “explicit” on your episodes.

So, go back into your Blubrry PowerPress settings on your WordPress blog

Choose the “Basic Settings” tab at the top.

On the page that opens, scroll down to find the tick box for “iTunes Explicit field.” Tick the box.

Don’t worry – you’re not setting your entire podcast to explicit, you’re just giving yourself the option to indicate if a particular episode is explicit or not.

Now you’re ready to indicate specific episodes as “explicit” or not. You do that on the individual blog posts where you publish your episodes.

So, go to a blog post where you’ve already published an episode and scroll down to the PowerPress field where you typically enter the URL for your media file.

You’ll see a convenient little “iTunes Explicit” drop-down. Choose the one you want.

Be sure to publish or schedule your post.

That’s how you set up your “explicit” tags the right way – on episode-wide or episode-only levels.

Let me know what you think of this episode and any others by commenting on the show notes page at And if you’ve got any questions about podcasting or topics you’d like me to research and cover. I’d be happy to do it. Reach me at carey AT podcastfasttrack DOT com.


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