I wanted to make this episode to explain the basics of podcasts RSS feeds: What an RSS feed is, why you need one, and a few other things you need to know about them. My hope is that I can clear up a lot of the confusion and mystery around them so you can gain a better understanding of the relationship between podcast RSS feeds and the podcast apps and directories.
RSS Feeds Explained: How to Get Your Podcast Into All the Places
Q: What is an RSS feed?
An RSS feed is a formatted text document that contains all the important information about your show. It's hosted on a server somewhere (usually public) and has a URL so anyone can view or access its contents. It contains info about your show and your episodes: Things like your show’s title, description, episode titles, and links to the audio files for the episodes.
It is possible to write and update an RSS feed yourself, but it’s time consuming and errors or typos can break things, so managing the RSS feed is usually handled by a podcast host.
Q: Why do I need an RSS feed?
The RSS feed is basically your show. Without it, you’ll just have blog posts or audio files, but no way for people to subscribe and get new episodes unless they visit your website (or SoundCloud page or Youtube channel, etc).
Your show’s feed is what podcast apps and directories (like Apple Podcasts, Google, Spotify, and so on) will use to display your show and episodes in their apps.
People can also bypass the podcast directories and subscribe to your feed directly using any compatible app. Since RSS is an established standard, there are many apps that can subscribe to and display info from RSS feeds. In fact, I use a mac app called Reeder to subscribe to the RSS feeds for multiple blogs and websites.
Q: How do I make sure my new episodes get into Apple Podcasts and the other directories?
In order to get your show into Apple Podcasts and the other podcast directories, you’ll need to submit your show’s RSS feed URL to them. This is almost always done via a web portal, like Apple’s PodcastsConnect website or Spotify’s Podcasters.Spotify.com portal. Once they approve your feed (most places will within 48 hours), they will use the info in the feed to display your show in their directory. They’ll also check the feed regularly for changes and new episodes.
Here's how it works: Your show has an RSS feed and you’ve already submitted the feed url to the directories. You add a new episode and some lines are added to the feed. Since the directories are checking your feed, they see that a new episode has been added, and they use what’s in the feed to display the episode in their app. Your subscribers will also get the new episode in whatever app they used to subscribe to your show.
Q: What do I do if my new episodes don’t show up in the directories right away or at all?
As long as you included the required info about your episode when you published it, the directories and apps should see the changes and update pretty quickly, although Apple says it can take them up to 24 hours to update their podcast directory.
If you can’t see the new episode in any of the podcast apps or directories, then it’s likely an issue on your end. Check with your podcast host or whoever manages/updates your show’s feed.
If you can see the episode in all the apps/directories except one, then it’s likely an issue with that directory and not anything wrong with your feed. If you’re concerned, reach out to that directory’s support team and ask if they would mind taking a look.
Q: Can I change podcast hosts or RSS feeds without breaking things or losing my show’s subscribers?
You can move hosts anytime, although it’s easier with some hosts than with others. Most hosts will copy an existing RSS feed and audio files over to their service.
After you have the URL for the new feed that was setup for your show, you’ll need to update the podcast directories so they check your new feed for updates and new episodes instead of the old one. This is usually done through the same web portal that you used to submit the show, although some places require you to send an email. Your host should be able to help if you have questions.
You can check out an article I wrote for Simplecast that includes links and instructions for submitting and updating feeds: https://help.simplecast.com/publishing-your-podcast/which-podcast-directoriesapps-do-i-need-to-submit-my-show-to
Q: What is a 301 redirect?
The 301 redirect directs anyone who visits the old feed over to the new feed url for your show. It’s kind of like setting up a mail forward. Your host should allow you to add a 301 redirect to your old feed if you’ve moved your show to a new host and gotten a new feed for your show.
Q: I’ve read or heard about an iTunes new-feed tag that needs to be added to a new feed. What’s that?
The iTunes new-feed tag just lets Apple know that this is a new feed URL for your show. I’m not sure why they ask for this if you also have to log into PodcastsConnect, but they do. Your host should handle this for you (Simplecast adds this tag automatically whenever a show is imported).
- You don’t have to be afraid of RSS feeds. They are just formatted text documents that contain info about your show. You can access or copy them anytime.
- If you move your show to a new host and get a new feed, you’ll need to add a 301 redirect to your old feed, and also update the podcast directories so they check the new feed for updates instead of the old one. You won’t lose any subscribers if you follow these steps.
News and Updates:
- Rode releases a new audio interface for podcasters: It looks real nice. It’s called to RodeCaster Pro, it’s got 4 mic inputs, the ability to record phone calls via bluetooth, 4 headphone ports, pads for playing sound effects, and more. Looks really solid for podcasters who have to record multiple people in the same room. Price is $599, check it out.
- Join me for Dribbble’s Hangtime conference in LA December 4th! Tickets are still available and there are some incredible speakers for this event, including Paula Scher, Pablo Stanley, Meg Lewis, Jen & Amy Hood, and more. If you like Dribbble, you’ll love this. Simplecast is sponsoring the afterparty which is free for everyone to attend, so if you can’t make the conference, at least plan to come out for the afterparty. More details at https://dribbble.com/hangtime. Hope to see you there!
That’s it for me for now, have a great week, stay safe, and take care of and be kind to the people around you. I’ll talk to you again soon: Happy podcasting!