What is RSS? And why you MUST own yours – TAP167


RSS makes podcasting possible. I'll explain what RSS is and why not owning your RSS feed could mean losing all of your subscribers.

What is RSS?

In plain English, RSS is a specially formatted webpage that allows news-readers and podcast applications to subscribe for syndicated content.

Without RSS, you may be used to visiting your favorite news sites, browsing to your favorite sections, and looking over the latest items to see what's new before deciding what to read or watch. RSS simplifies this by offering a summary of site updates. When you subscribe to an RSS feed, your software will check that one address for updated content, and display the summary or sometimes even the full content of the post (depending on the publisher's choice).

More technical definition of RSS

“RSS” stands for “Rich Site Summary,” but it is also known as “really simple syndication,” “RDF Site Summary,” and “Real-time Simple Syndication.” RSS is a collection of XML (“extensible markup language”) standard formatting.

An RSS feed is mandatory for hosting a podcast. “Podcast” is a actually a label for a particular kind of distribution, not a style of show. Just like “radio show,” “TV,” “DVD,” and “magazine” describe the media and distribution. “Podcast” is, by technical definite, downloadable episodic multimedia (audio, video, PDF, and ePub) syndicated through RSS via the <enclosure> tag.

XML allows the creation of any kind of machine- or human-readable data. For example, I could have an <awesomeness>  tag, which I define as a numbered rating from 1 to 5. Or my XML could look like the following.

  <why>Because it's BACON!</why>
  <sayswho>The Internet</sayswho>

RSS will be formatted the same way, but will follow clearly defined standards. For example, here are some excerpts from my own RSS feed.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" media="screen" href="/~d/styles/rss2enclosuresfull.xsl"?><?xml-stylesheet type="text/css" media="screen" href="http://feeds.noodle.mx/~d/styles/itemcontent.css"?><rss xmlns:content="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/content/" xmlns:wfw="http://wellformedweb.org/CommentAPI/" xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/" xmlns:atom="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom" xmlns:sy="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/syndication/" xmlns:slash="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/slash/" xmlns:itunes="http://www.itunes.com/dtds/podcast-1.0.dtd" xmlns:rawvoice="http://www.rawvoice.com/rawvoiceRssModule/" xmlns:feedburner="http://rssnamespace.org/feedburner/ext/1.0" version="2.0">
    <title>The Audacity to Podcast – how to launch and improve your podcast for success</title>
    <description>Giving you the guts and teaching you the tools to podcast with passion, organization, and dialog.</description>
    <lastBuildDate>Sat, 29 Mar 2014 18:02:38 +0000</lastBuildDate>
    <itunes:summary>Award-winning podcast for you to learn about podcasting, Audacity, and WordPress from Daniel J. Lewis. Awarded #1 technology podcast in 2012 by people's choice. Podcasting is a exciting and personal way to share your message with others, but how do you do it? What equipment, software, and skills do you need? Daniel gives you answers to these and more podcasting questions. Many episodes focus entirely on Audacity. Send your questions and feedback to Feedback@TheAudacitytoPodcast.com or call (903) 231-2221.</itunes:summary>
    <itunes:author>Daniel J. Lewis | Noodle.mx Network</itunes:author>
    <itunes:image href="http://media.libsyn.com/noodlemx/tap-cover_art_2-1400x1400.jpg" />
        <itunes:name>Daniel J. Lewis | Noodle.mx Network</itunes:name>
    <managingEditor>feedback@TheAudacitytoPodcast.com (Daniel J. Lewis | Noodle.mx Network)</managingEditor>
    <copyright>© 2010–2014 D.Joseph Design</copyright>
    <itunes:subtitle>Giving you the guts and teaching you the tools to podcast with passion, organization, and dialog.</itunes:subtitle>
    <itunes:keywords>Daniel J. Lewis,podcasting,audacity,podcast,wordpress,microphone,mixer,audio,editing,technology,how to</itunes:keywords>
    <image><link>https://theaudacitytopodcast.com</link><url>http://media.libsyn.com/noodlemx/tap-cover_art_2-144x144.jpg</url><title>The Audacity to Podcast</title></image>
    <itunes:category text="Technology">
        <itunes:category text="Podcasting" />
    <itunes:category text="Business">
        <itunes:category text="Management & Marketing" />
    <itunes:category text="Technology">
        <itunes:category text="Software How-To" />
        <rawvoice:location>Cincinnati, OH</rawvoice:location>
    <atom10:link xmlns:atom10="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom" rel="self" type="application/rss+xml" href="http://feeds.noodle.mx/theaudacitytopodcast-mp3" /><feedburner:info uri="theaudacitytopodcast-mp3" /><atom10:link xmlns:atom10="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom" rel="hub" href="http://pubsubhubbub.appspot.com/" /><item>
        <title>10 super-simple tricks for speeding up your podcasting workflow – TAP166</title>
        <pubDate>Mon, 24 Mar 2014 20:16:18 +0000</pubDate>
        <guid isPermaLink="false">https://theaudacitytopodcast.com/?p=5881</guid>
        <dc:creator>Daniel J. Lewis</dc:creator>
        <category><![CDATA[Adobe Audition]]></category>
        <category><![CDATA[Adobe Premiere Pro]]></category>
        <description>Imagine publishing podcast episodes faster! These simple hacks will improve your podcasting workflow in the little details. Each of these may take only a few minutes to setup and may not seem to save much time. But even saving 30 seconds per day adds up to more than two hours per year.<img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/theaudacitytopodcast-mp3/~4/QagtYoqATiM" height="1" width="1"/></description>
        <enclosure url="http://media.blubrry.com/noodlemx/media.blubrry.com/theaudacitytopodcast/www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/traffic.libsyn.com/noodlemx/tap166.mp3" length="22672032" type="audio/mpeg" />
            <itunes:keywords>Adobe Audition,Adobe Premiere Pro,audacity,editing,WordPress,workflow,writing</itunes:keywords>
    <itunes:subtitle>Imagine publishing podcast episodes faster! These simple hacks will improve your podcasting workflow in the little details. Each of these may take only a few minutes to setup and may not seem to save much time.</itunes:subtitle>
        <itunes:summary>Imagine publishing podcast episodes faster! These simple hacks will improve your podcasting workflow in the little details. Each of these may take only a few minutes to setup and may not seem to save much time. But even saving 30 seconds per day adds up to more than two hours per year.

1. Change file associations to your regular editors
2. Use an FTP client for uploading to your media host
3. Have templates
4. Make macros and “droplets”
5. Work in mono
6. Use TextEpander or PhraseExpress
7. Paste without formatting
8. Write show notes directly in WordPress
9. Create bookmarks, favorites, and shortcuts
10. Learn keyboard shortcuts

Hire me to help you launch or improve your podcast! https://theaudacitytopodcast.com/consulting

Follow me on http://twitter.com/theRamenNoodle

Links and shownotes at https://theaudacitytopodcast.com/166

Call (903) 231-2221
Email feedback@TheAudacitytoPodcast.com
Send a voice message from http://TheAudacitytoPodcast

The Audacity to Podcast
PO Box 739
Burlington, KY 41005</itunes:summary>
        <itunes:author>Daniel J. Lewis | Noodle.mx Network</itunes:author>

How to make an RSS feed

There are essentially three ways to make your own RSS feeds.

  1. Automatically from a content-management system (such as WordPress, Drupal,  or LibSyn)
  2. Manually with a standalone application like Feeder
  3. By hand with any text- or code-editor

If you want to live a long and happy life, I recommend letting your RSS feed be created automatically for you with intelligent software. You still have to enter the information for the feed—title, description, keywords, and each individual post—but you do it through an easy-to-learn system like WordPress.

If you have a WordPress website, then you already have more RSS feeds than you would ever need! Just add /feed to the end of your domain and you'll get your default site-wide RSS feed. (If you don't have permalinks set, use/?feed=rss  instead.) Every time you publish a new post, WordPress automatically updates your RSS feed so that newsreaders and podcast apps can see the latest updates.

Content-management systems (CMS) often create several RSS feeds, such as for each category, media format, tag, or search result.

Learn more about the iTunes podcasting specifications and how to change your podcast information in iTunes.

Why you MUST own your RSS feed

There are many ways to make RSS feeds from different services, and other services to enhance your RSS feeds. But you must be careful! Your RSS feed is how your subscribers get your content. If you give them someone else's URL that you can't control, then you don't truly own your audience.

Soundcloud is a big offender in this way. While they're a great platform with cool options, the beta podcast feature often produces invalid code. But what's even worse is that if you ever want to leave Soundcloud and you published your podcast with their RSS feed, you can't keep your current subscribers. This problem happens with many other platforms, like Podbean, Tumblr, Blogspot, and more.

There are only three ways to keep your audience from being held hostage by these providers.

  1. Use FeedBurner or another third-party feed service. Run your feed through them and then publish your other feed. But take caution here, too! You may fall into the same problem, which leads to the next option.
  2. Implement a permanent 301 redirect. Setup a redirect so any request for your old RSS feed gets automatically forwarded to the new RSS feed. These redirects should never be removed.
  3. Add the <itunes:new-feed-url>  tag. This is  more technical but potentially more possible with some hosts. But it only works for iTunes and other apps that use the iTunes API.

Third-party, hosted platforms usually don't offer any such freedoms. So if you want to leave, you'll lose your audience, lose your iTunes reviews (unless you beg Apple), or you'll have to ask your audience to unsubscribe and resubscribe (don't do that!).

The best way to own your RSS feed is if you control the URL you publish in podcast directories. This could be some technical backend stuff going on, or that the RSS feed is hosted on your own domain with WordPress or something similar.

The only third-parties you can trust with your RSS feed are LibSyn and Blubrry. They both allow you to implement a permanent 301 redirect and the <itunes:new-feed-url> in your feed from their service. (Use promo code “noodle” with either company for a free month!)

FeedBurner's future is in question, but at least even they allow you to either place a permanent 301 redirect or use your own domain. If you must use a third-party, like Soundcloud or Podbean, for your podcast, then run the feed through FeedBurner and submit that URL to iTunes. Otherwise, say goodbye to your subscribers.

Why you need a podcast-only feed

If your website contains blog posts and podcast episodes, then you may be hurting your podcast growth by using your site-wide RSS feed. Use a podcast-only feed for iTunes and other podcast directories so that blog posts don't take up the limited space in your RSS feed.

I've previously shared more details about how to create a podcast-only RSS feed and why you need one. In short, you can use PowerPress's automatic feed by adding /feed/podcast  to your domain, or use LibSyn to power your RSS feed.

What to do with your RSS feeds

If you have setup your sites well, then you should have a site-wide RSS feed (blog posts and podcast episodes) and a podcast-only feed.

  1. Submit the podcast-only feed to podcast directories, like iTunes, Stitcher, BlackBerry, Microsoft, and other mobile apps.
  2. Link to the site-wide RSS feed prominently on your site.

I suggest my Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for making RSS and even podcast-only-RSS icons anywhere n your WordPress website.

Need personalized podcasting help?

I no longer offer one-on-one consulting outside of Podcasters' Society, but request a consultant here and I'll connect you with someone I trust to help you launch or improve your podcast.

Ask your questions or share your feedback

  • Comment on the shownotes
  • Leave a voicemail at (903) 231-2221
  • Email feedback@TheAudacitytoPodcast.com (audio files welcome)

Connect with me


This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and 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.

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.

36 comments on “What is RSS? And why you MUST own yours – TAP167

  1. What would the downside be for creating a SoundCloud account and uploading old episodes. It could help find a new audience.

    1. I totally agree with that. But Soundcloud’s free plan is limited to 2 hours (total), so you could only host one or two episodes at a time.

      Their plans are really horrible.

  2. Danny Rebelo says:

    Just curious if it is possible to create an RSS feed living on a WordPress site that simply copies the RSS feed created by a host like Libsyn. That would simplify things by letting the host create the RSS feed, but the podcaster can still own the feed that is being shared to the audience. This would also negate the value of using FeedBurner.

    1. LibSyn provides a service called “OnPublish” that can automatically crosspost uploaded episodes to a WordPress blog. I don’t recommend it, but it can work.

      However, what you’re describing sounds like complicating things rather than simplifying.

      Like I said, LibSyn and Blubrry are the only third-party services you can trust with your feed.

      1. I see. I think what I am imagining is something like a WordPress plugin that copies or mirrors an RSS feed from a third-party service onto a self-hosted WordPress site. That way if the third-party goes under, the audience is still looking at the RSS feed on the self-hosted WordPress site and the podcaster can make a switch.

        Maybe this is not feasible due to the nature of RSS feeds.

        1. Stuff like that does actually exist. But you still have a single point of subscription in your feed URL.

          If you want to consider stability, the LibSyn feed is actually potentially more reliable than your own. Because on your site, all it could take is some bad code, an outdated plugin, or a hack to break your feed.

          But you still have far more control and freedom if you own the platform creating your feed.

  3. Russ Johns says:

    Daniel, thanks for the great information and sharing your knowledge with us. I was curious what your thoughts are for platforms that are being developed to record and broadcast like Spreaker and MixLr and Audibase. I am attempting to learn more about RSS and what to get your feedback on the these new platforms.
    Enjoy the day,

    1. I love Mixlr. Spreaker is okay. But I haven’t used Audibase.

      With any of these, I recommend recording yourself instead of using their recording. Their is more compressed than your own.

  4. Mike Gantt says:


    In the most recent Libsyn podcast, Rob Walch says that while WordPress (which presumably means PowerPress specifically) represents only 10% of the RSS feeds carried by iTunes, they represent the biggest single trouble ticket issue. By way of explanation, Rob says that WordPress plugins eventually break the RSS feed. That is, sooner or later, a WordPress user employs a plugin that will have compatibility issues with PowerPress, thus corrupting the RSS feed in some way. Based on this, Rob recommends using the Libsyn RSS feed, which he says is far more stable.

    What is your view of this and how does it relate to the advice you have given in the post (podcast) above?

    1. Yes, it’s true that the WordPress feed can be broken with a bad theme or bad plugin. But I disagree with LibSyn that their feed is the “best.” Using LibSyn’s feed means duplicating your efforts, or not optimizing your own platform.

      But for some people, using the LibSyn feed is actually better than trying to make their site feed work.

    2. We had this problem recently with the recent WordPress 4.5 update. Currently our web host is “working” to solve the problem. Oye Vey!

  5. Hey Daniel! I just sent you a Facebook request but I’m not sure if it will get buried… SO, I just wanted to make sure I said thank you for this timely article! All of this RSS stuff seems to have numerous variables and pitfalls attached to it. I’m still working my way through this content but also enjoy your presentation approach. Keep up the great work!

  6. Nadeem Haque says:

    i have set up a podebean podcast and have an rss feed from there. My question is can i take that rss feed and use it on soundcloud? How?

    1. No. SoundCloud would be a waste anyway.

  7. Le Café des Créatrices says:

    Hello Daniel,

    First of all a warm and sincere thank you for your great podcast. It’s my favorite one and helps me to learn a lot about podcasting. – to launch my own one soon I hope. 😉 FYI I’m French and I’ve only found 2 blog articles about podcasting after many researches… France is just very late on podcasting! So I’m thankful my English is good enough to listen to your show. And I guess it’s the same for other non-English speaking countries unfortunately.

    This episode was probably the more difficult one to understand for me. You have helped a lot because your explanations are pretty clear but there’s something I’m not sure I’ve understood so I came to read the show note, hopping that maybe reading and not listening will enlighten me – but it didn’t so I was hoping you could guide me. 🙂

    You say that there are 3 ways to make an RSS feed. I would like to use the first / automatic way thanks to Libsyn but: can I own the feed thanks to this way or will Libsyn “take in hostage” my podcast? Do you think a tutorial exist somewhere? You and other podcasters have emphasized so much the importance of owning the RSS feed that I’m kind of scared to host on Libsyn, get the RSS feed from them and then realize I misunderstood something and that I’m screwed. 😉

    Many thanks for your precious help,

    1. Yes, you can use the Libsyn RSS feed. But you need to remember that if you want to leave and cancel your account, they can place a permanent redirect on your feed for a one-time fee of $25. But for as long as you stay with them, you can redirect your feed wherever you want.

      1. Le Café des Créatrices says:

        Noted, a big thank you for your answer. 🙂 I’m going with Libsyn, they provide the relevant service for me. Thanks for your advice!

        1. Great! Remember to use promo code “noodle” and you’ll get your first partial + full month free!

          1. Le Café des Créatrices says:

            Hi Daniel. Yes I know, I had this code, but when I tried to use it, it didn’t work. Are you sure it’s still up to date? Best.

          2. I’m sorry about that. I contacted Libsyn and they fixed it. Please try again.

          3. Le Café des Créatrices says:

            Verry sorry but I have already subscribed about 3 weeks ago. 🙁 I couldn’t wait for the code to be fixed so I had to go anyway. My apologizes, it was a way for me to support The Audacity to Podcast but I couldn’t wait too much longer.

  8. Michael Davis says:

    If I have runningafever.com/rss redirected to libsyn, and I switch hosts, can I just change my redirect for runningafever.com, or will that break subscribers?

    1. It depends on what kind of redirect. But generally, you should now redirect your old feed _and_ the Libsyn feed to the new URL.

      1. Michael Davis says:


  9. Matthew says:

    Hi Daniel, thanks for all the work you do to make the technical details clear for the rest of us! I have one question I can’t seem to answer: how do I own my own feed without storing the actual episode files on my own server? Do I need to go with LibSyn or Blubrry to do this? Your article here answers a lot of important questions, but for a newbie like me this part is still opaque. Thank you! Best, Matthew

    1. Hi, Matthew!

      You can “own” the feed by either controlling the URL and publishing platform yourself (like using PowerPress on your own WordPress website), or by using a podcast host that gives you control over your own feed (I recommend Captivate: https://theaudacitytopodcast.com/captivate).

      If neither of those are an option, then you can at least keep ownership of your URL by using PodcastMirror.com to create a new feed URL that you can redirect to anything you need. I’ll talk more about this in a future episode.

      1. Matthew says:

        Thank you, Daniel! I’ve just secured media hosting with Blubrry, installed PowerPress, and am going through the settings now.

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