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Most podcasts have show notes that describe the individual episode. In iTunes, you can see these show notes by clicking on the episode, then clicking on the "i" at the right of the episode description; in the iOS Podcasts app, you can see these show notes by tapping the podcast's "album art" in the Now Playing screen.

Often these show notes are written to include links to web sites, but AFAIK neither iTunes nor the iOS app treat these links as other than plain text; there does not seem to be any way to actually open them. See for example the screenshot below; notice that in the middle of the paragraph (about five lines down) the words "click here" appear, but are non-functional.

Screenshot

I suppose it is possible that the the responsibility for this rests with the publisher (i.e. maybe they are just copy/pasting text from their website and not properly coding the episode description) but if so it seems to be a universal problem; I've never seen a podcast in which this did work. It seems more likely to me that neither iTunes nor iOS is set up to handle live links in episode descriptions.

Am I right about this? Are those links supposed to work? Or am I just doing something wrong?

Edited to add: If the answer to this question is "No, those descriptions don't work", is there a better Podcasts app that does handle those as live links?

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The short answer? You cannot click on those links and they are not there to begin with. The reason you can read that text is lazy content management on the podcast production side; nothing more and nothing less.

The longer answer? Read on… The text you are referencing comes from the summary or description XML data field in the publisher’s iTunes RSS XML feed. To better understand the overall way one creates a podcast for iTunes, check this comprehensive document as well as the RSS 2.0 spec here. Here is the recommendation on the usage of the <itunes:summary> and <description> tags:

Take advantage of the <itunes:summary> tag. The <itunes:summary> tag (or the <description> tag if <itunes:summary> is not present) allows you to inform users about your podcast. Describe your subject matter, media format, episode schedule, and other relevant information. In addition, make a list of the most relevant search terms for your podcast and build them into your description. Note that the iTunes Store removes podcasts that include irrelevant words in the <itunes:summary> or <description> tags.

Now, nothing in these specs explicitly references disallowing links within summaries/descriptions but I do know from being a web developer that RSS feeds can be messy to deal with to say the least. Meaning, in general, RSS feeds—and not just podcasts—are not meant to be full replacements for content; they simply act as a way to convey a quick “Hey, check out this stuff!” information about something. In this case, a podcast episode with the only link being the link to the actual podcast itself.

So my gut tells me the reason you are seeing “click here” text is a simple result of lazy content management practices on the podcast publisher’s side. Meaning looking at the specific TLDR episode (#44, “Prostitute Laundry”) on their actual website shows the following; screenshot attached for reference:

enter image description here

And all of those links are indeed active on their website, but not in the podcast info. Meaning that the way WNYC seems to be generating podcast RSS XML data is by taking the “description” that is used for their blog post, stripping out links and extraneous HTML and repurposing it—dual purposing it?—for the podcast description/summary RSS XML datapoints. A more content-aware way of doing something like this would be to have a separate “Podcast Description” field in their content management system, but that would mean someone would have to essentially write two descriptions for each podcast which might be too time consuming.

Which is all to say, the text might be saying “click here” but not only is there no way to remedy that on the user end, the core reason comes down to the podcast content producer’s not making much of an effort to tailor their summary/descriptive content for different media/audiences. So when you say this:

Maybe they are just copy/pasting text from their website and not properly coding the episode description.

You are on the right track, but it’s more automated than “cut and paste” it seems. I would say the RSS XML generation code they are using simply grabs the description text from their database, strips the links and then sets that as the “description”/“summary” for the iTunes XML feed.

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    Thank you for providing such a thorough response. That is more-or-less what I suspected but it is nice to have informed confirmation. – mweiss Feb 5 '15 at 15:43
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Apple's podcast specs explicitly discuss how to embed HTML links within the Summary field:

Text Encoding

Use plain text UTF-8 encoding for your podcast feed (no markup or HTML, except as described below).

Tag values are limited to 255 characters, except for , which can be up to 4000 characters. Don’t add leading or trailing spaces to your values.

Enclose all portions of your XML that contain embedded links in a CDATA section to prevent formatting issues, and to ensure proper link functionality in the Podcasts app. For example:

<itunes:summary><![CDATA[<a href=“https://www.apple.com”>Apple</a>]]></itunes:summary>

Several popular podcast clients support this — Overcast, Pocket Casts, Downcast, among others — ,and I believe Podcasts on iOS does now as well.

See for example this screenshot from Macstories' review of Overcast:

[Overcast Screenshot

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