As you podcast consistently, you'll build up a back catalog of episodes. But should you keep all of those episodes available, or should you limit how many are in your podcast feed?
This subject was inspired by feedback from my listener Marc Johanssen:
I'm seeking an instructional resource (aka a link) that I can forward to a podcaster in order to “nudge” them to take action(s) needed in order to allow access [to] ALL their earlier podcast episodes. At present, one can only access [the latest 50 episodes] via an app or via their website ….
Here are some things to consider!
1. Podcast feed versus website archive
Think about the main two places your episodes live: in your podcast feed and on your website (you do have a website for your podcast that has a separate webpage for each episode, RIGHT?).
Many publishing systems will let you limit how many episodes are in your RSS feed (the most-common defaults are 10, 50, and 100), but such limits most likely won't affect your website. If an episode is no longer in your feed but still on your website, it is technically still online and available, but it's no longer very practical because it's not available in your audience's podcast apps. Unless they have smart tools for moving website audio into a podcast app, the only way your audience could hear or watch that old episode is through the webpage and their browser. That makes it difficult for your audience.
Thus, most of these considerations will focus on what is in your podcast RSS feed, but keep your website in mind, too!
2. Is your content still valuable?
When your podcast episodes from months or even years ago are still valuable and relevant today, then you've made timeless content.
Timeless content is highly valuable for both you and your audience. It gives you more content that you can promote, either through marketing or direct recommendation. For example, I still send people to my episode from 2014 about whether episode numbers are really necessary. Even when I considered reapproaching that content (and ultimately made a completely new episode about episode numbers in titles), I listened to that old episode and realized it was still just as relevant today as back then.
Timeless content also gives your audience more great stuff to enjoy or learn from—either for the first time or to replay later!
The other kind of content is time-sensitive. It's when your podcast episodes have a kind of “shelf life.” Imagine a “best if used by” date on your episodes. This is common for podcasts about current events (like the news). Podcasts about current trends (such as a TV show) are mostly time-sensitive—because most people will be interested only when that trend is current—but this can still have some timeless value. In the case of a simultaneous TV aftershow podcast, the value might be more difficult as people can more easily binge the show and your episodes will be easily outdated. But if someone gets your podcast while watching the show, as it was back when the show was live, then they could experience it all the same way, except without the direct engagement with your podcast and community. Alternatively, a rewatch-style podcast (such as Office Ladies) weighs more on the timeless side because such a podcast can discuss the show without theorizing or worrying about spoilers, and it's designed generally for people who have already seen the show and not necessarily watching it for the first time.
Ask yourself, “Will most of my episodes still be relevant in a year?” If yes, then you probably have timeless content and should consider keeping your episodes available. But if not, it would probably be okay to limit how many episodes are available.
3. Does your old content have good SEO?
Most podcast apps will search episode titles. So your episodes become a portfolio that helps your podcast be found for all kinds of keywords! Instead of trying to stuff those SEO terms into your podcast title (and risk getting kicked out of podcast apps), make separate, well-titled episodes about those subjects you want people to search for and find your podcast. This helps in podcast apps, websites, and social networks.
If your old episodes have good search-engine optimization (SEO), then I highly recommend keeping them available, both on your website and in your podcast feed. This will ensure your podcast can still be found for those things you talked about and found wherever people are looking.
4. Do you sell your back catalog?
A good way to monetize a popular and deeply engaging podcast can be to limit the number of publicly available episodes (in the feed and on the website) and then sell access to the rest.
There are several ways to sell access to your old episodes:
- Through a creator-support platform like Patreon, Glow.fm, or Supercast
- Through your own membership system, like with WordPress and MemberPress
- By bundling episodes together and selling them as downloadable packages, like with WordPress and Easy Digital Downloads
- Using podcast subscription platforms like the Apple Podcasters Program and more (and these might integrate with Patreon, Glow.fm, Supercast, and the like)
This approach works great for podcasts that aren't designed to sell something (like your own products and services) except for their own inherent value. And this only works when the audience will actually want those old episodes. I see this used most often for entertaining podcasts, like a comedy show where your old episodes are just as funny as the new episodes, or the older seasons of a drama are available only for sale while you keep your current season free.
If you sell your old episodes, please remember to remove any advertising from them! And this would be the ideal situation to limit your feed and website to only your latest episodes.
5. What P.R.O.F.I.T. are you seeking with your podcast?
I make “P.R.O.F.I.T.” stand for something! It's what both you and your audience can gain from your podcast: popularity, relationships, opportunities, fun, income, or tangibles.
If your episodes regularly help build your PROFIT, then it would probably be most profitable for you to keep them online as long as possible. If they have good SEO, they'll continue attracting people. And if they have good calls to action or other PROFIT-building value, then they'll probably continue returning that value for as long as they stay online!
For example, I still get a request every now and then for me to design a website or podcast cover art for someone because I had promoted those personalized services back when I offered them myself—years ago! (I now refer that out, so you're still welcome to ask for my recommended referrals!) And I continue to receive new subscribers to my email newsletter through past episodes that promoted exclusive resources. I also continue to receive new members to My Podcast Reviews and customers to my other products and services because of how they were relevantly promoted in timeless content, even from years ago!
If I took my old episodes offline, I would be losing all those opportunities to build my brand, authority, and influence!
So if your podcast itself is a form of marketing for something else you offer, then you would probably want to keep the older episodes online.
6. Is your feed getting too big?
A complication arises when you have so many episodes and such large notes for each episode that your podcast RSS feed grows to multiple megabytes (MB). With my own article-style notes for each episode, multiplied by the hundreds of episodes I've published, I only recently realized my own RSS feed was over 5 MB! I never really noticed because I use Blubrry's Podcast Mirror service as a proxy for my RSS feed, to keep it fast and stable. But it was still so big that some podcast apps and services were starting to choke on it, even causing some old episodes to not display anymore.
I could have reduced the number of episodes in my feed, but then that would have cost me SEO (#3) and PROFIT (#5). And until my proposal to support notes in chapters is adopted into Podcasting 2.0, or PowerPress changes how it generates podcast feeds from WordPress, I didn't want to remove my full articles from my RSS feed. Instead, I enabled PowerPress's “Feed Episode Maximizer,” which allows full content on only my latest 10 episodes, and then minimal content (especially omitting my lengthy articles) on all older episodes. This reduced my feed with nearly 400 episodes from over 5 MB to the sweet spot of under 1 MB.
I highly recommend you listen to or read these past three episodes/articles to learn more about feed limits and considerations:
- What You Need to Know about Episode Limits and Your Podcast RSS Feed
- How to Shrink Your Podcast RSS Feed and Why It Matters
- What to Do When You Have Too Many Podcast Episodes in Your RSS Feed
So consider the complexity you might be introducing by allowing all your episodes to remain in your feed, and look for optimization options.
7. Think carefully before expanding your RSS feed
If you've decided you want more of your old episodes in your feed, you need to know what could happen if you expand the limit.
First, there's the size to consider, as I addressed in #6.
There are also potential consequences for automations and the audience experience.
Most podcast apps track each podcast episode by the episode's globally unique identifier (GUID). This is an RSS tag you don't have to worry about unless you're migrating hosting providers or publishing tools—in which case, worry a lot because the GUIDs should never change! Some apps will remember only the GUIDs that still exist in the feed and forget anything no longer in the feed. When you expand the feed to include more old episodes, those old episodes might look completely new to podcast apps because the apps have forgotten the GUIDs or they've never seen those episode GUIDs). Then, the app will probably download or redownload those old episodes, even if they were already played. At the least, they might be displayed as new and unplayed, and thus confuse or frustrate your audience.
Unfortunately, how these apps handle your reappearing old episodes is outside your control. So consider whether this “cost” is worth it to you and your audience.
Alternatively, you could create a separate RSS feed to hold your older episodes, like 100 episodes at a time, each with its full-text content. This would keep those old episodes available (especially if you submit the archive feeds to podcast apps and directories), but their own SEO would build the archive feed's ranking, not that of your active feed. If you make archive feeds, this would be a great opportunity to do two important things:
- Insert audio in all those archive episodes to promote following your active podcast for your latest episodes.
- Create a “channel” with Apple Podcasts and the upcoming Podcasting 2.0 alternative.
When old episodes reappear in your RSS feed, you might also have similar troubles with some automation tools. For example, something that automatically tweets whenever you publish a new episode. But from my observations, most of these tools look for only what's new at the top of an RSS feed (where new items are) or only episodes the have a date more recent than the last time the automation ran. Thus, reappearing old episodes probably won't trigger any automations, but it's still possible, and you might not even know until it happens.
I'm available to help you podcast!
If you need one-on-one help or you haven't launched your podcast, yet, click here to request a personal coaching and consulting session with me and I'd love the opportunity to help you podcast better!
Ask your questions or share your feedback
- Comment on the show notes
- Leave a voicemail at (903) 231-2221
- Email feedback@TheAudacitytoPodcast.com (audio files welcome)
Follow The Audacity to Podcast
- Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, other Android apps, or in your favorite podcast app.
- Join the Facebook Page
- Subscribe on YouTube for Podcasting Videos by The Audacity to Podcast
- Follow @theDanielJLewis on Twitter
This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship. I may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.