iTunes changes podcast specs and features

iTunes 10.6 about screen

On Monday, March 26, iTunes sent an email with the subject, “iTunes Podcasts: Provider News & Announcements,” to all podcasters in their directory. I'll explain what this means and how it applies to you.

Dear Podcast Provider,

Follow us on Twitter @iTunesPodcasts for our “Episode of the Day.” If we feature your podcast, please re-tweet.

Metadata Ping Service Upgraded
The podcast ping service has been upgraded to a self-calibrated indexing system, which improves iTunes Store responsiveness to changes in your feed. We now detect updates in proportion to how often you change your XML. The more frequently you update your podcast, the more frequently we check your feed.

ePub Support
iTunes Podcasts now support ePub. Independently publish your documents in ePub format, then downloaded to and read from the iBooks iOS application. Our online technical spec has details.

New Server Configuration Requirement
Podcast streaming playback on iTunes now requires all hosting servers to enable Byte Range Requests. Please confirm your hosting servers have this functionality enabled. If you work with a third-party hosting service, please contact them to confirm this functionality is enabled on their servers. Further details in our technical spec.

123 Countries & More Than 40 Languages
iTunes Podcasts has launched in additional countries around the world. Note that reviews and ratings are unique to each country. Podcasts are published in more than 40 languages.


The iTunes Podcast team


iTunes has been on Twitter for a long time. Now it seems they're getting more active and randomly promoting podcasts to their 125,000+ followers. This can be some great random promotion. Follow them and see when you or your favorite podcasts are mentioned!

Metadata Ping Service Upgraded

A while back, the hardcore geeky podcasters were in an uproar over iTunes removal of “pingPodcast.” This was a simple URL you can enter in your browser that would alert (or “ping”) iTunes that you had updated your RSS feed, so the iTunes directory would know to prioritize a refresh of your feed for the iTunes store. This affected only your listing in the iTunes podcast directory, and did not affect your current subscribers or cause any delay in episode delivery.

This new upgrade means that iTunes will learn how frequently you update your RSS feed, and adjust a refresh schedule accordingly. Thus, if you publish a podcast once a week, it will look for a new podcast episode once a week.

Again, this will not affect your current subscribers because your subscribers are getting updates directly from your RSS feed, and iTunes is only the software for downloading the media. But this will affect your podcast's listing in the iTunes directory.

Initially, this seems like a bad thing because it sounds like any deviance from your normal publishing schedule will miss a directory update by iTunes. We'll see how this plays out in real life.

ePub Support

The technical description of a “podcast” is audio, video, or PDF media put into an RSS feed with a special tag called an enclosure. Apple is now updating their spec to allow for ePub format, too.

ePub is the format Apple uses for ebooks on iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad), as well as Mac PCs. ePub is a better format for ebooks than PDF because ePub is more dynamic—the content can flow based on the size of your reading device and how large you scale the text. PDF ebooks were more challenging to read because the layout was static and wouldn't reflow based on your device or text size.

This means nothing to most audio and video podcasters. But if you've been interested in publishing a written book in an ebook format, this will appeal to you.

New Server Configuration Requirement

This sounds very, very technical because it is. But let's break it down.

Most likely, your host already has “Byte Range Requests” enabled. This allows data to be downloaded by the byte so media can start playing immediately, or “streaming.”

For example, you go to a podcast website that has an hour-long episode, which is a 50 MB file. When “Byte Range Requests” are enabled, you can press play and the podcast episode will start playing almost immediately. If “Byte Range Requests” were not enabled, then you would have to wait for the entire 50 MB file to download before it would start playing.

I've requested official word from Blubrry and LibSyn on this, but the answer is definitely a yes for them and most likely any other host you have.

UPDATE: So far, LibSyn has confirmed that they do have “byte range requests” enabled.

123 Countries & More Than 40 Languages

Global audience. That's what you need to know. This also means you may be receiving podcast ratings and reviews in a different country's store and you don't see it in your iTunes. Simple click your country's flag in iTunes and change your current country to the country you want to check. Change back to your country when you're finished.

I'l also received unofficial word that the new iTunes podcast spec also includes 1,200 x 1,200 podcast cover art. I had already predicted this upgrade with the new iPad's retina display, but I'll address it further when there's official word.

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About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.

8 comments on “iTunes changes podcast specs and features

  1. Nonniequiltingdreams says:

    thanks Daniel.. still clear as mud to me a self taught non techy but that is my problem and has nothing to do with the explanation.  I will be contacting POD-BEAN to be sure they are  Byte Range Requests” enabled…. here is hoping I do not have to do anything more technical than that….


    1. Here’s a way to test. Go to your website and press play on your podcast. If it starts playing almost immediately, then you probably have “byte range requests.” If you have to wait several minutes before anything plays, then “byte range requests” isn’t enabled and you would need to contact PodBean.

  2. Nonniequiltingdreams says:

    Thanks Daniel… podcast on PodBean played in less than 3 sec so I guess it is enabled. 

    Thank you for your fast response.  I never could get my art work seen on iTunes which really bummed me out… looking forward to your further information then maybe I can rectify the problem.


  3. JJ Valentine says:

    Oddly enough I didn’t get this email, should I be worried?

    1. If you didn’t receive this, you may have the wrong email address in your RSS feed, because that’s what iTunes will use for contacting you.

  4. You’re welcome! I’m glad it’s helping you.

    1. ds says:

      Daniel- the post above is not praise for your podcast, it is spam (see the link for “drug rehab” embedded within.)

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