Podcast Management for Podcastees

15 May 2008

Up to about a year and a half ago, when my storage was somewhat limited, I chose to archive a number of episodes in order to free up space on my main drive and to reduce the number of records in the iTunes database, theoretically to improve iTunes performance. I have recently changed this approach.

I used to have a 10Gb monthly allowance from my ISP. Anything downloaded at the time was precious to me because I paid dearly for it. Thus I hoarded every episode that I downloaded. I filled the drive and archived onto DVD. That didn’t work because I felt compelled to modify some of the tags and before I knew it, I started to have differing versions. I scrapped the DVDs and used a small old external hard drive that was big enough to store the archives. This allowed me to modify the tags and overwrite the existing file. Multiple-version problem solved.

Ephemeral Podcasts

Now that I’m on a 30Gb monthly allowance, and even though I’ve got plenty of storage, I’ve decided that I am no longer going to keep everything. A number of podcasts, e.g. Geekbrief.tv, MacMost, The MacObserver‘s Mac Geek Gab and Triple J‘s Sunday Night Safran, are topical or ephemeral and I consider that they can be deleted after listening or watching. I think a copy of every episode should be retained, but the responsibility for this I leave up to the podcast producer. I certainly would hoard my own work if I were podcasting.

I’ve changed the podcast option to keep All unplayed episodes:

Keep All Unplayed Episodes
(Click to enlarge)

Now every podcast episode with a play count of 0 will be retained, but anything with a higher play count will be deleted. The deletion occurs when the podcast is checked for updates.

Podcasts to Keep

There is another class of podcast which you will want to keep, due to sentimental, timeless or other characteristics. Examples of this for me are the first Ricky Gervais Show (this was produced shortly after podcast support came to iTunes and is significant to me because I really like him), Puffcast (unfortunately now defunct but awesome, timeless dub/reggae) and Scott Sigler‘s first podcast novel Earthcore, which I not only enjoyed and would consider listening to again, but I could conceivably give to someone else so that they didn’t need to download it. All the episodes of a podcast can be protected from deletion by right-clicking the podcast title and selecting “Do Not Delete”:

Do Not Delete
(Click to enlarge)

Note that you can selectively do this to individual episodes without affecting the other episodes of the same podcast.

The Problem

There is a caveat: while you can protect all the episodes of a podcast, this only applies to the episodes existing at the time you applied the command. Future episodes will not be protected and will be deleted if not individually protected before their play count reaches 1. This is a non-intuitive behaviour and should it offend you, you should complain to Apple about it.

My Workaround

Create a smart playlist called Podcasts to Keep. The criteria are as follows:

Podcasts to Keep
(Click to enlarge)

You will fill in the album name for any podcasts that you want to keep. This keeps a running master collection of every episode you want to keep. You can add to this from time to time if you later subscribe to a new podcast that you want to keep.

Create a second smart playlist called Podcasts to Be Processed. The criteria are as follows:

Podcasts to Be Processed
(Click to enlarge)

This playlist is the one you will work with. Every now and then (if you get new episodes daily like me, do this daily), click this playlist in the sidebar and see if there are any episodes in the righthand pane. If there are, select them all, right-click and select “Do Not Delete”. When an episode is played (i.e., reaches a play count of 1), it will disappear from the playlist but will remain in your Podcast library.

An Alternative Approach

There is another approach that works the other way around. The disadvantage is that you’ll be filling up disk space with played episodes you don’t want to keep unless you check it frequently.

Change the podcast option to keep All episodes:

Keep All Episodes
(Click to enlarge)

Instead of the Podcasts to Be Processed playlist, create a smart playlist called Podcasts to Be Deleted with the following criteria:

Podcasts to Delete
(Click to enlarge)

Check this playlist from time to time. If you see any episodes, select them all and delete them.


Unless Apple solves the problem above, investment in podcasts can mean an investment in management, but I feel it is worth it. Use this as a guide to determine whether you are willing to make that investment.