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>
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="Podcasting" />
<itunes:category text="Management & Marketing" />
<itunes:category text="Software How-To" />
<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>
<dc:creator>Daniel J. Lewis</dc:creator>
<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
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.
- Automatically from a content-management system (such as WordPress, Drupal, or LibSyn)
- Manually with a standalone application like Feeder
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Submit the podcast-only feed to podcast directories, like iTunes, Stitcher, BlackBerry, Microsoft, and other mobile apps.
- 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?
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
- Subscribe to The Audacity to Podcast on Apple Podcasts or on Android.
- Join the Facebook Page and watch live podcasting Q&A on Mondays at 2pm (ET)
- Subscribe on YouTube for video reviews, Q&A, and more
- Follow @theDanielJLewis
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.