Troubleshooting Missing Timestamps in iTunes

This post comes from Senior Producer Mindy, who edits podcasts and troubleshoots technology.

Most of the posts you’ll find on the Winning Edits blog focus on writing, publishing, and editorial strategy (and sometimes dog farts), but this one is a little bit different. In addition to producing and editing content, one of my jobs at Winning Edits is Content Administrator, which is a fancy way of saying that I make sure everything published on our clients’ websites looks right.

Recently I had the opportunity to solve a confounding problem with a podcast—and because massive amounts of Google searches didn’t turn up a viable solution, I wanted to record the fix here in case you ever encounter this with your own podcast.

Hey iTunes, Where’d My Timestamp Go?

When you publish a new podcast episode in your feed, iTunes pulls a variety of information—often called “tags”—from the MP3’s metadata. One of those tags is duration, which tells iTunes how long the podcast is.

The duration tag on a recent episode of Non’s podcast, Joy Sandwich. This episode is 1 hour, 10 minutes, and 0 seconds long.

The duration tag on a recent episode of Non’s podcast, Joy Sandwich. This episode is 1 hour, 10 minutes, and 0 seconds long.

For a reason that we could not uncover, the duration tag suddenly stopped populating in our client’s podcast RSS feed, which means iTunes looked like this:

Empty time duration in iTunes

Empty time duration in iTunes

A missing timestamp is annoying for your listeners—a lot of podcast listeners choose episodes that will last the length of their commute, their workout, their bath, etc. Here’s how we fixed this problem.

Adding a Duration Tag Manually with PowerPress

This podcast’s feed is set up using the Blubrry PowerPress plugin, which is a popular WordPress plugin that allows the podcaster to set up a custom podcast feed through their website. PowerPress is designed to manually detect the episode duration, but you can override that. 

First, open up your podcast’s post, and then scroll down to PowerPress’s Podcast Episode box. If you’ve already published your post, check the box next to Modify existing podcast episode to expand the box.

Enter your file length in Duration → Specify

Enter your file length in Duration → Specify

It’s easy to overlook, but in the Podcast Episode box, there’s a section called Duration. Enter your file’s audio length (in hours, minutes, and seconds) in the specified section.

Finding this information is easy on a Mac; look in your Finder window. Set your Finder view to Columns (image below, blue circle), and duration will be displayed when you click on your MP3.

Duration is displayed underneath your MP3's image

Duration is displayed underneath your MP3's image

If you aren’t a Mac user or you don’t see the duration listed in Finder, open your MP3 in a podcast player like Quicktime or iTunes or Windows Media Player. MP3 file length is always displayed in these players.

After you enter the file information into the PowerPress Podcast Episode box, be sure to update your post.

A note for non-PowerPress users: You’re much less likely to run into this problem if you use your feed directly from your podcast provider (like Buzzsprout or Libsyn). If you do use your feed directly and you find your duration tag empty, reach out to their customer support for help.

Happy podcasting!


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