Podcast RSS feeds: Everything you need to know

April 21, 2023

If you’re a podcaster, your RSS feed is pretty much like an address or profile/username you can share so people can find and subscribe to your show. RSS feeds are essentially web-based text documents that contains all your podcast data and allows you to distribute it just about anywhere.

The technology behind RSS (stands for “Really Simple Syndication”) is quite old, dating back to the 90’s, but it’s still a great tool for podcasting. It’s true that there may be faster or easier alternatives (like JSON or other formats). That said, RSS is still a well-respected format. It works perfectly well for millions of podcasts, websites and other online content aggregators.

To put it simply, an RSS feed is a text-based file. This file is (usually) available online and made public. This means that you can access it from anywhere. (just like your actual podcast website). The fact that RSS feeds are distributed and available to all is highly important. This is what makes podcasting so popular and easy to consume. You can aggregate all your episodes in one feed, and submit it to all podcast directories (Apple Podcasts, Spotify etc.). Eventually you can also update that feed whenever you release new episodes or content.

Many new podcasters don’t really understand why you even need an RSS feed. The last thing you want to deal with when you start a new podcast is some weird code or file format. The good news here is that you don’t really have to do anything. Most platforms would create the RSS feeds for you and you don’t have to do any daunting task on your own.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the key characteristics of RSS feeds, we’ll explain the meaning of RSS feeds being an open format, who uses RSS feeds besides podcasters, how to create your own RSS feed and more. Let’s dive right down to it!

podcast rss feeds

How do I create my own RSS feed?

This article is written for the (estimated) 99% part of podcasters who don’t really manually create their feed from scratch and/or coding it themselves. So if you’re among the 99% – relax – you don’t have to code, set up complex files or formatted documents, or learn a new programming language. It’s as easy as it gets nowadays.

In most cases, creating your feed would only involve setting up a podcast on your favorite hosting platform. This means you just use your web browser or app to log in, upload/record your podcast audio, add some show notes, titles, artwork etc., and voila – there’s your podcast RSS feed.

On most platforms, your feed is automatically generated based on the content of your podcast/episodes and you simply get the link from the platform. You usually don’t really have to do anything else or literally create the feed file or anything like that.

Podcast feeds are pretty much standardized, so every feed would usually include the same set of tags and required information about your show. It normally includes the title of your podcast, all the episode information like the episode titles, audio file links, show notes, categories, artwork and much more.

What should I do with my podcast RSS feed?

You’ve created a new podcast, planned a bunch of episodes, recorded and edited the first few. You have your RSS feed URL and you may be asking yourself – what do I do now?
Well, the good news are that the larger chunk of the work is behind you! Take a deep breath and congratulate yourself.

The next step is to actually distribute your RSS feed to podcast directories. Your podcast hosting platform can usually help with distribution, so with a couple of clicks they can already submit the RSS feed for you to a bunch of apps.

You can always also submit your feed manually to platforms like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts etc.

Once you submit your feed, you’ll start seeing your show on those platforms like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify etc. but also on smaller “Podcatcher” apps like Castbox, Podcast Addict, Podchaser, Overcast and more. (these apps typically rely on your podcast information that is available on Apple Podcasts or similar larger platforms).

The next step is to probably create your own podcast website. Luckily here at Podcastpage we automatically integrate with your RSS feed in order to build the website. Once you import your feed, it creates individual pages for all your episodes. It also imports reviews of your podcast from Apple Podcasts and Podchaser. The platform continues to sync directly from your RSS feed and creates new episode pages straight away.

Do I really need an RSS feed for my podcast?

Absolutely. Podcasting started as an open format, and feeds are the number one facilitator around that. Without feeds, podcasting can become much more complex to find and consume. Feeds make it easy for podcast listeners to find new shows on any of their “Podcatcher” apps, subscribe to certain shows and get notifications whenever there’s a new episode released.

In the past few years, giants like Spotify and Apple began offering hosted podcasts services without creating proper RSS feeds for each show. If you were using Spotify for Podcasters (previously Anchor.fm) to create your podcast, you don’t get a feed by default. You’ll have to explicitly enable the feed creation and it’s important you do so.

Without a feed, millions of potential listeners won’t be able to find your podcast. You probably don’t want to “educate” listeners and force them to use an app they don’t use or don’t like.

The beautiful thing about podcasting is that any person can use nearly any app to consume episodes. You create and manage your podcast in one place, but it can be consumed in dozens of apps or websites. That’s a huge part of what makes podcasting so popular. Think about it – if you had to manually submit your show to dozens directories or podcast platforms – what a nightmare. (let alone update every new episode separately). With RSS being an open format, you can maintain just one feed and let the directories and aggregators do their own thing and pull your content from that feed.

It’s a little like websites and browsers – you can’t really limit your site to just one browser. (so long, Internet Explorer) If you want to reach more people, you have to ensure anyone can access it with any of their favorite browsers.

How do podcast RSS feeds work?

So, how do these RSS things actually work? There are dozens of RSS “aggregators” available. Some are built to consume any type of feeds, and some (often called “Podcatchers”) are dedicated for podcasting. An RSS aggregator automatically checks for newly published content and episodes and then pulls the relevant content to your feed reader.

Listeners can “subscribe” to any of these feeds, and so they’d get a notification every time there’s an update to the feed. Subscribing to a podcast is literally the same as subscribing to an RSS feed.

As mentioned above, these feeds contain ALL of your podcast information. This includes links to the audio files or artwork, all the text-based content (podcast title & description, episode show notes and titles etc.) and so aggregators can easily consume this content all at once and “translate” this RSS file full of weird code into something much nicer – just like what you see on your favorite app, directory or podcast website.

Technical requirements for podcast RSS feeds

As mentioned before, nowadays you don’t have to be a developer or even understand the specifications or requirements for RSS feeds in order to create one. Most podcast platforms would do this for you.

That aside, if you want to learn more about the tech side of things, you can read more on this resource page from Apple Podcasts. If you’re creating your own feed, it’d help you understand the requirements, what to include and how to structure your RSS feed. We also wrote a little more about RSS feed requirements in a previous article.

In the last couple of years, a great open-source initiative (by Podcast Index) called “Podcast Namespace” has emerged. This aims to keep podcasting open, modernizing the namespace spec, and empowering podcasters and companies in the podcasting industry. We elaborate a little further on that in the following article – How Podcastpage adopts the Podcasting 2.0 standard.

podcast rss feed

I already have a website, do I still need a feed?

Yes. Your feed doesn’t necessarily have to be on the same domain, but that’s always possible.
Having a website for your podcast is a really great idea. Having a feed alongside of the website is just as important.

We always recommend that you have a feed for your podcast no matter what. Whether you do or don’t have a podcast website. Or whether you use “Spotify for Podcasters” (who won’t generate a proper feed by default) or any other hosting platform.

The cool thing about RSS feeds is that they’re not limited to podcasting or just one format. Many blogs and website building platforms (including Podcastpage) would generate an RSS feed for you. These feeds can include the latest blog posts or just any type of new website entries. The feeds can then be used for subscribing to a specific stream of content updates. Alternatively, you can use those feeds as a base for marketing automation. (With tools like Zapier or Make.com)

RSS feeds are also a great way to stay in the know for news resources, websites/blogs, podcasts, video channels and more. You can always subscribe to feeds, even if they’re not solely for podcasts.

Do I need a feed for my video podcast?

Sure. A podcast that includes video file formats is still a podcast. Just like audio-based podcasts, you can submit video-based podcasts to many directories or create a full Podcastpage.io website for it.

If your podcast is on YouTube, you may notice that they don’t generate RSS feeds for now. You’ll have to use a separate service for that, or import your YouTube channel to a website instead.
Just like Spotify, YouTube wants you to send all viewers to their own platform. This isn’t always in your best interest. You generally want your content to be available in as many places as possible. (Also, you probably want to own your content and publish it on your own URL or domain name)

Not all podcast hosting providers allow videos in podcast feeds, but if your favorite platform does – it should be a breeze to distribute a video-based podcast.

Launch a beautiful podcast website in minutes with Podcastpage

As a podcaster, you rely on your website and branding to do your content justice. Podcastpage offers endless benefits. Not only is it effortless to set up a website (with no coding required whatsoever), but creating your podcast website with Podcastpage also means your website will get updated automatically whenever your RSS updates as you release new episodes or modify existing ones.

Our podcasting tools and automation will save you valuable time, giving you more time to focus on perfecting your podcast and less time worrying about that. Check out Podcastpage today to grow your show and reach new heights.

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