Exploring the new standard for podcast RSS feeds

April 8, 2021

The podcasting space lacked a real standardization in the RSS feeds for many years. While many people know what they are, and what they are being used for, there are many ways to create one . Before we dive in to the nuts and bolts of “modern” RSS, let’s start by doing a quick overview.

RSS feeds are being used for podcasting since the very early days of podcasting. RSS (stands for “Really Simple Syndication”) is a web-based feed that is being used across a variety of industries. News feeds, blogs, podcasts, and generally any web-based platform that wants to grant access to updates by users or other applications uses RSS feeds. Users can “subscribe” to those feeds and automatically get new content as the creators add it to the feed itself.

To be able to get the content in a readable manner you need an RSS reader for regular text-based feeds. For podcasts you’ll need a podcast app/ website that can transform the feed into episodes with audio player.

RSS feeds are typically written in a (semi) standardized XML format. The initial version of RSS goes all the way back to 1999, and it’s still being heavily used around the web.

podcast rss feeds

RSS feeds for podcasting

In our previous article, we’ve reviewed in-depth the role of RSS feeds for the podcast world. In short, RSS feeds let the podcasters update their subscribers (listeners) and the apps that pull the podcast content like Apple Podcasts, Spotify and the rest of the gang. The biggest problem with podcast RSS feeds is that it lacks a standardization that is specific for podcasts.

Many podcast hosts, platforms or independent podcasters or podcast agencies often create their own podcast RSS feeds. The actual way the RSS feed is being built and the tags being used can vary quite a lot between one provider and the other.

Podcasting, the web, and technology in general has changed a whole lot since 1999, there’s no question about that. As podcasting is becoming more and more popular, it’s going to be hard to create a sustainable standard for RSS feeds that can evolve and help push the podcasting industry into the future & modern web.

Remember, the podcasting format is an “open” format, meaning anyone can create a podcast RSS feed and submit it to any platform or even serve it from their own servers. There are several industry giants like Apple, Google, Spotify and others that are heavily invested in the podcast industry, so keeping the format open and accessible is key to the future of podcasting.

In October 2020, this wild west has started to change – Podcast Index has released their first proposal for a new “namespace” that would help podcasting take the next step towards the future. Podcast Index is an open project (built publicly on GitHub) that aims to create a more wholistic standard for podcast RSS feeds.

Podcast 2.0 – a new “namespace” for RSS feeds

As mentioned above, Podcast Index is creating a new “namespace” for the podcast RSS feeds. This new namespace would help with standardization and create better RSS feeds.

You must be wondering what this means by now, so let’s get right to it. Here’s a list of the new tags that Podcast Index added to the new namespace as of April 2021 –

  • <podcast:locked> – A (boolean) tag that helps determine if a podcast is allowed to be “moved” or imported into another platform.
  • <podcast:transcript> – The transcript tag can contain a link to each episode’s transcript, in a variety of formats. You no longer need to add the entire transcript into your RSS feed. This would make your feed load faster and look much cleaner, if you already use full transcripts within the feed.
  • <podcast:funding> – Contains a list of donations or funding links for the podcast.
  • <podcast:chapters> – Links to an external file that contains a JSON chapter data for the episode.
  • <podcast:soundbite> – Adds “Timestamp” or “Soundbite” indications for various segments of the episode.
  • <podcast:person> – Adds data about the persons involved in each episode. This can be guests, editors, hosts, and others. The person tag can include a link, an image, and the name of the person.
  • <podcast:location> – The geo-based data about the podcast. (Assuming how easy it is to record a podcast remotely this might become outdated in just a few years 😀)
  • <podcast:season> – The season tag is identical to the existing itunes:season tag, but can also contain the name of the season alongside the season number.
  • <podcast:episode> – The episode tag is similar to the itunes:episode tag and can contain the number of the episode.

What we do at Podcastpage.io to help?

podcastpage

First of all, we’re happy to announce that we’ve added support to the following Podcast 2.0 tags –

  • <podcast:transcript> – Import your transcript automatically from your feed to the website.
  • <podcast:soundbite> – Add audio soundbites/timestamps automatically and jump across segments of each episode. (this would only work when using our custom audio player, not with external/embed audio players.)
  • <podcast:person> – Include podcast guests automatically in each episode.
  • <podcast:season> – Import podcast season name or number automatically.
  • <podcast:episode> – Import episode number automatically.

Beyond adding support for existing and future tags, we’ll try to contribute to the project when possible and help push the new standard even further.

Podcasting is at an intriguing stage, gaining popularity rapidly and becoming more and more accessible to all. We’re excited to see what the future hold for podcasting and for the Podcast Namespace in RSS feeds, and we hope to be able to participate in setting the new Podcast 2.0 standard.

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