What is an RSS Feed for Podcasting? Saying Yes to RSS

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An RSS feed is how a podcast episode gets from the media host to the audience. Here's how it works, and why it matters.

Some aspects of podcasting are invisible, but crucial to your podcast's success. One of them is an RSS feed. Some people say that you don't need an RSS feed at all to make a podcast. Others claim that RSS is the crucial difference between a podcast, and any other kind of streaming content. In this article, I'll show you what is an RSS feed for podcasting. We'll also discuss why it matters, and how to see this elusive creature in its native habitat.

What Is an RSS Feed?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Syndication means the transfer of content from one organization to another. For example, when a TV sitcom's reruns go into syndication, the original production company lets another tv network control the back catalog of episodes, and show them to their audiences.

RSS is a web feed that transfers content from the media host (where the file is stored) to an app or a directory where people can consume it. For example, digital editions of newspapers and magazines send new articles to newsreader apps, where people can read or listen to them.

What's an RSS Feed For Podcasts?

An RSS feed brings a sound file (in this case, podcast episode) from the media host to podcast directories (such as Apple, Spotify, The Podcast Index, and so on), where audiences can find and listen to them.

When you upload your podcast to a media host, your RSS feed is the URL that you submit to directories. A URL is a uniform resource locator, or a web address. Here's an example of how it looks in Buzzsprout.

Here's an Analogy.

Let's say that your podcast is a train. The episodes are the individual train cars, packed with cool people and ideas. The RSS feed is the railroad track route, on which the train travels. The station is where people meet the train.

The train chugs along from the railyard (the media host) along the route (the RSS feed) to the train station (the directory) where its friends (the podcast's audience) are waiting to greet them. They don't need to know anything about the train tracks, how the train works, or where it came from. All they know is that there's stuff on that train they want (your podcast's content).

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a podcast train travels to the audience via RSS

So, Ms. Analogy, what's the engine, then? That's the beauty of the RSS feed. Once you set it up, when you publish an episode, it's delivered. There's no engine, the tracks bring the train to the station.

The RSS feed is a standardized, computer-readable format, for consistency. This way, the train can use that route without getting lost or derailed every single time. Because the route is standardized, the people waiting at the station know the train will arrive.

A conveyor belt is probably a better analogy. or a monorail. Monorails are cool.

How Do Podcasters Use an RSS Feed?

Like I said before, it's a computer-readable web feed. A person can't “read” it. But, a podcast listening app or directory can decode it. You can use an RSS feed to:

…and, in the future, probably more.

What About YouTube?

If you want to have your podcast on YouTube, go for it! I heartily applaud your decision. It's important, now more than ever, to diversify your podcast distribution and make sure it's available wherever people consume content.

Oh. Did you mean, only YouTube? Well, that's fine. You can certainly upload videos with your audio files attached to YouTube and share them that way. I wish you as much success as possible.

But, people who search for podcasts to listen to are more likely to use a podcast directory, and search by topic, or browse categories. That's not to say that there aren't millions of people who watch YouTube every day. Of course, they could be interested in your podcast. But, if you only have your podcast on YouTube, it won't be available at any of the podcast directories. This is where people are looking for podcasts. YouTube doesn't share its content with podcast directories.

Why Are RSS Feeds Essential for Podcasting?

RSS feeds are stable, standardized routes that information can use to travel where people need it. Posting your content within only one company's system (such as “exclusive” podcasts, or within a social media platform) is limiting. Your podcast might be subject to the whims of the platform owner. If they pull up stakes and disappear one day, your content won't reach its audience anymore. Plus, when podcasters control their RSS feed, they control how they monetize their content. In a recent article, Acast CEO Ross Adams wrote,

“RSS and the open ecosystem promote innovation and forward thinking… Your bond with your listeners is the most important relationship in all of podcasting — and it needs care and respect. You’ve no doubt nurtured it for years already, working hard to build your audience and keep them coming back every time you publish a new episode. Your RSS feed allows you to own that relationship.”

Ross Adams, CEO of Acast

It's a URL, and So Much More

The humble RSS feed, that no one ever sees, is a uniform resource locator. It indicates a stable web feed, where information travels between creators and audience. It's a beautiful thing. You'll see it in your media host, and you might see it if you subscribe to a private podcast. More often than not, it works for you invisibly.

Podcasting is both a science and an art form. It's not difficult to learn, but once you get started, you'll find out there's more you want to learn. Fortunately, that's where The Podcast Host Academy comes in. We have loads of courses, downloadable tools, and more, to help you understand how to make a good podcast great. Not only that, but also, our all in one podcasting tool, Alitu, makes it easy for you to get started. Join us, won't you?

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