What Is A Podcast RSS Feed?

Last updated on December 5th, 2019

An RSS feed contains information about your podcast and its episodes then passes that information to podcast directories, like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This enables listeners to tune in to your show. The RSS feed link is generated in two ways, either by a podcast host provider or through your own website. Since every podcast needs an RSS feed, it’s important to understand the basics of how it works and how to create one for your show.

What Is A Podcast RSS Feed?

RSS, Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, is part of the group of web feed formats. Websites and podcast listening platforms use RSS feeds to distribute frequently updated information. The feed eliminates the need for a user to manually upload updated content across each platform. Instead, podcast directories consistently monitor updates to the RSS feed and display the new information as it’s added to the feed.

A podcast specific RSS feed is different than one used by a website. To function correctly, a podcast RSS feed needs to provide additional information like a title, description, artwork, category, language, and explicit rating.

How Does An RSS Feed Work?

How an RSS feed works is usually the concept that’s most difficult to grasp for new podcasters. Many think they’ll record their first episode then simply upload it directly to Apple Podcasts and that’s that. But the actual process follows a different set of steps and this where the RSS feed comes in.

After recording and editing an episode, you need to upload and store the mp3 file to either a podcast host provider or your website. Each option acts as a warehouse, holding all of your audio files and podcast information in one secure space. In order to access what’s inside this warehouse, the podcast host generates an RSS feed link. This link then becomes the middleman between you and your audience, establishing the pathway for your episodes to leave the warehouse and be featured on podcast directories.

To create that pathway, you submit the RSS feed link to each directory when you set up an account for your podcast. When someone plays your episode within Spotify, the RSS feed asks your podcast host provider for the correct audio file and seamlessly delivers the content back to Spotify then your listeners. As you continue to upload new episodes to your podcast host provider, the RSS feed automatically gives the information to each directory so your audience can access the latest content.

Do I Need A RSS Feed To Start A Podcast?

Yes, absolutely, 100 percent. A podcast’s RSS feed is the only way an audience can access a show’s content. Without an RSS feed, your podcast will not appear on your website or any podcasting directories, making it impossible for people to listen to it.

Every podcast needs an RSS feed, there aren’t any exceptions.

RSS Feed Components

Every RSS feed has two main components, the channel information and episode information. Each piece provides different facts about your show to the podcast directories.

Channel information

The channel information describes your podcast as a whole. You’ll fill in this information wherever you decide to upload your audio files, either a podcast host provider or your website.

You’ll have to include things like your show’s name, subtitle, and description. Then upload your cover art which is thumbnail image listeners see across the directories. Your cover art image requires very specific specifications, it must be between 1400×1400 to 3000x3000px and in a square ratio. Next, add your podcast’s basic information like copyright disclaimers, the language, and include an explicit rating if needed.

For podcast directories to better understand what your show is about, you’ll also include category tags and show type. It’s beneficial to keep SEO in mind when thinking about which tags to use so listeners can find your show easily when searching podcast directories.

Episode information

Once you’ve have the information about your podcast as a whole, it’s time to think about the information about each episode.

For Apple Podcasts, there are a handful of episode-specific fields that will be filled in each time you upload a new episode to your podcast hosting provider.  These are:

  • Episode title
  • Publish date
  • Description
  • Summary
  • Media file enclosure
  • Duration
  • File size
  • Explicit rating
  • Series number
  • Episode number
  • Featured image (if applicable)

An Example Of A Podcast RSS Feed

Below is what Apple Podcasts calls a “well-formed RSS feed example”.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<rss version="2.0" xmlns:itunes="http://www.itunes.com/dtds/podcast-1.0.dtd" xmlns:content="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/content/">
  <channel>
    <title>Hiking Treks</title>
    <link>https://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/</link>
    <language>en-us</language>
    <copyright>© 2019 John Appleseed</copyright>
    <itunes:author>The Sunset Explorers</itunes:author>
    <description>
      Love to get outdoors and discover nature's treasures? Hiking Treks is the
      show for you. We review hikes and excursions, review outdoor gear and interview
      a variety of naturalists and adventurers. Look for new episodes each week.
    </description>
    <itunes:type>serial</itunes:type>
    <itunes:owner>
      <itunes:name>Sunset Explorers</itunes:name>
      <itunes:email>mountainscape@icloud.com</itunes:email>
    </itunes:owner>
    <itunes:image
      href="https://applehosted.podcasts.apple.com/hiking_treks/artwork.png"
    />
    <itunes:category text="Sports">
      <itunes:category text="Wilderness"/>
    </itunes:category>
    <itunes:explicit>false</itunes:explicit>
    <item>
      <itunes:episodeType>trailer</itunes:episodeType>
      <itunes:title>Hiking Treks Trailer</itunes:title>
      <description>
        <content:encoded>
          <![CDATA[The Sunset Explorers share tips, techniques and recommendations for
          great hikes and adventures around the United States. Listen on 
          <a href="https://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/">Apple Podcasts</a>.]]>
        </content:encoded>
      </description>
      <enclosure 
        length="498537" 
        type="audio/mpeg" 
        url="http://example.com/podcasts/everything/AllAboutEverythingEpisode4.mp3"
      />
      <guid>aae20190418</guid>
      <pubDate>Tue, 8 Jan 2019 01:15:00 GMT</pubDate>
      <itunes:duration>1079</itunes:duration>
      <itunes:explicit>false</itunes:explicit>
    </item>
  </channel>
</rss

How To Create A Podcast RSS Feed

There are two main options to create your own podcast RSS feed: do-it-yourself or with a podcast hosting provider.

Castos generates RSS feeds that are compliant with every podcast directory like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Our customers can customize the information within their RSS feed with ease.

Step 1: Fill in your podcast’s information

When you sign up for Castos, you’ll be prompted to add your podcast’s information like the title, description, cover art, and a few more important fields.

Complete each part to define the channel information we described above!

Step 2: Upload a new episode and complete the required fields

When you’re ready to publish a new episode, you start with uploading the audio file and completing the episode’s identifying details.

We’ll ask you for an episode’s specific information each time you create a new one.

Step 3: Link your RSS feed to each podcast directory

Each podcast directory has its own syncing instructions but in general, you’ll need to create an account with their platform then submit your RSS feed. Inside your Castos dashboard, your RSS feed is found in the Distribution tab.

How To Verify Your RSS Feed Is Working

We recommend using a free tool called podba.se In podba.se you can enter your RSS feed URL and it will run diagnostics on your feed to ensure that there aren’t any issues. We suggest verifying your feed prior to submitting it to directories.

Here you can see that our example RSS feed gets the proverbial Green Light and is ready to be submitted to Apple Podcasts.

One very important thing to point out is that just because your feed is valid when you submit your podcast does not mean that it will stay this way forever.  Things like uploading an image that doesn’t fit the size requirements of Apple Podcasts or having HTML in your iTunes description field will invalidate your feed. This means any new episodes you publish or changes you make to your show to not be reflected in those directories.

With your valid RSS feed in hand, you are now ready to start submitting your show to Apple Podcasts and the rest of the podcast directories.

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