Your RSS Feed: What it is, Why You Need It and How to Use it

(Updated November 2019) You’ve probably heard the term RSS Feed, but do you know what a podcast feed means and how important it can be to your podcast and its success? Most people don’t, so don’t worry if you fall into the last category. That’s why we want to breakdown exactly what the term means, why it’s so crucial to getting your podcast heard and how to use it to its maximum potential for your podcast!   

RSS Feed: What is it?

Before explaining the ins and outs of exactly what an RSS Feed is, let’s look at what the acronym actually stands for.

RSS literally means ‘Rich Site Summary’ but it is also commonly known as ‘Really Simple Syndication’.

Why? An RSS Feed offers users a summary of website updates and therefore simplifies their life! By pulling together content into a feed (think of it like a basic version of your Facebook feed), users don’t have to constantly check back on their favourite sites to see if new content has landed. The great part is that for anyone creating web content they can use it to distribute their blog posts, articles or podcast! An RSS Feed is mandatory for manually distributing or syndicating your podcast as it is literally the URL for your podcast! However, if you want to go the automatic route, take a look at our one-click distribution and we’ll look after getting your podcast out there! 

What does a podcast feed mean? Once you set up your Feed your content will be ready to be submitted to podcast applications or news readers to subscribe to your content. If you’re wondering which are the best popular podcast feed readers, some suggestions are: Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Stitcher and CastBow. It is crucial that you create a podcast only RSS Feed, rather than one which has other content, otherwise the “podcatching” apps will not recognize the RSS tags correctly and will reject the entire RSS feed. Once you have your podcast specific Feed you need to submit it to any and every podcast app and directory! So great places to add your podcast feed to are Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Google Podcasts (if you’re unsure on the difference between the two, we’ve written a handy blog post covering how to submit your podcast to Google Podcasts).

create podcast only rss feed

RSS feed: Why is it so Important?

Simply put: It contains all of your podcast’s information: title, image, description, mp3 file URL, and category. All the information necessary for your podcast to be distributed outside of your hosting platform. RSS allows you to syndicate content to different platforms so that you can reach diverse audiences without the need for them need to visit your website directly.

podcast hosting

What are the benefits?

For listeners: it means they don’t need to sign up for emails or push notifications for podcasts which interest them, they can stay-up-to-date and find all their favorite podcasts in one podcasting app.

For podcasters: it makes it easy to reach new listeners without having to invest great amounts of time in creating e-mail databases or newsletters, also you can improve your engagement by linking back to your website via the RSS Reader. However, the real bonus for you is that you only need to upload your content to one place as your RSS Feed will distribute your podcast for you! It also means you can edit from one location too!

upload your content to one place

RSS feed: Where Should You Host Your Podcast?

In answer to this question, there’s no hard and fast rule – it completely depends on the sort of podcaster you are! The first thing you need to ask yourself though is whether you want to self-host or use a hosting platform and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Self-hosting – by hosting everything yourself it means that you have complete control over your Feed, you own it and your workflow is simple – in turn, this means if anything happens to your website, your podcast goes down too. Furthermore, shared hosting means lots of people using the same resources which can lead to technical problems. Bear in mind that you will need to have some technical skills in order to know how to code and build the RSS Feed and to always know what’s happening in the industry which might require an update to your Feed!

podcast rss feed example

Host – host platforms are designed to handle the specifications and needs of a podcaster, this means the technology behind the sites are able to scale with your podcast as it grows! As they are developed for end-users they also have excellent support teams who are on hand to offer technical support when needed!

your feed is the skeleton of your show

When weighing up the positives and negatives of where to host your RSS Feed, consider this: your feed is the skeleton of your podcast and when deciding your host location you absolutely need to make sure your hosting service allows redirection. The most popular hosting services generally allow this and Spreaker includes this option in the RSS Customization option.

For example, you can edit specific tags on your RSS Feed without digging into the XML code, like the <googleplay:email> tag required from Google Play to submit your podcast. This will simplify your life as it will mean that you won’t need to manually write your RSS Feed and check it’s ok for every platform you submit to.

google play email tag

With Spreaker you can also apply very specific changes according to the devices in which your listeners are listening to your podcast, like iOS11 and the Season and Episodes tags. You can also apply changes from Spreaker CMS that will come through as tags in your RSS feed’s metadata, such as: your seasons, episode order and episode labels. To read more about this, check out our previous blog post on adding tags to your podcast.

iOS11 seasons and episodes tags

RSS feed: How Do I Stay in Control?

Nowadays, podcasters or whoever is using an RSS Feed have a high level of control over it, users can manage, move and customize their feed to exactly how they want it. Most podcast hosts allow podcasters to customize different fields of their RSS Feed with categories, author’s name or e-mail. For example Libsyn and Blubrry’s Powerpress both offer extensive RSS Feed customization.

The option to have full control of the RSS feed also offers the chance to redirect the RSS Feed and to add a prefix to the RSS Feed. Redirecting a feed means fully owning it and it’s worth noting that in the future you might want to host your podcast somewhere else and if you forward the old one to your new host it will mean that you don’t lose listeners who are subscribed to the old feed.

submit podcast feed

Adding a prefix allows you to be able to use additional services which your host platform might not provide or work to the level you hope and you don’t need to switch host provider! Technically speaking, a prefix is a URL address which is placed at the beginning of your episode URL and runs each time your episode is played or downloaded. Currently only Spreaker and SoundCloud allow users to directly add a prefix to their podcast but in the future more and more services will have the ability to run via a prefix.

At the moment, with a prefix you can:

1. Get advanced statistics (for example Podtrac). Podtrac offers podcast measurement technology to track your RSS Feed downloads info. It works like this: it redirects your podcast traffic through a Podtrac server that collects and analyzes information about download requests across all sources of podcast traffic and then sends it on to where your media file is hosted.

tracking URL prefix for Podtrac

2. Insert for free advertising (for example Dynamo). Dynamo offers a similar technology but instead of collecting info for your podcast, it lets you insert pre, mid and post roll adverts into your RSS with total ease. Just plug in your RSS Feed and create an account and your feed will automatically update with a new RSS prefix as soon as you start placing ads! You will be able to choose target segments that are relevant to your subject matter and earn revenue on your evergreen content.

how to get a podcast feed address

Round Up

Whichever route you choose to go with your RSS Feed, self-hosting or using a provider, always make sure that you stay in control as it’s the key to utilizing it to its maximum! We hope that by using our guide you now feel confident in answering some of the key questions on the subject, such as: what does podcast feed mean? or where to submit podcast your feed. Good luck in making the most of your podcast RSS Feed!

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