All About Feeds and How to Create One for Your Podcast

Syndication and Seo All Rolled up Into One Little URL

Podcast RSS Feeds

In order to syndicate a podcast, you need a way to automatically update the show with new episodes. RSS is the way to do this. In 1997, a programmer named Dave Winer designed and implemented an XML syndication format for his weblog. This format evolved as did the syndication of weblogs or blogs. By around the year 2000, audio blogging was catching on, and Dave knew a way to syndicate media files to an RSS aggregator was needed.

Dave discovered that he could add an enclosure tag to his RSS XML file that would point to a media file. In 2003, Winer encouraged other podcast aggregator developers to support the enclosure tag. With a little help from podcast pioneer and former MTV VJ Adam Curry, modern podcasting was born. Dave Winer was instrumental in developing the RSS format and how we syndicate media today.

What Is an RSS Podcast Feed

An RSS feed is a file similar to a simple HTML file, but it is made with XML. Like HTML, XML uses tags to read and apply the information contained within them. There is often confusion about the difference between an RSS feed file and an RSS feed URL. The RSS feed URL points to the actual RSS feed file on the server that it is stored on. The media file, meaning your podcast, is stored on either your media host or web server, and the URL of that location is between the enclosure tags within the RSS feed XML file.

Most bloggers are familiar with RSS feeds. A few years ago, having a feed reader filled with blog subscriptions was very common. The RSS feed or XML file is a file filled with information designated between tags. The URL of this feed can be used to pull all of the freshest posts into a feed reader, or it can be used to pull updated podcasts into a podcast directory like iTunes.

Feeds use the Resource Description Framework (RDF) as a guide to tell a feed aggregator how to read it. A feed is a file that uses extensible markup language (XML) tags around information. For a podcast, this would be things like the title of the podcast put between title tags, the description put between description tags and the iTunes categories between specified iTunes category tags. If you are interested in manually creating a feed or just seeing how it works here is a nice breakdown. The feed URL that points to the feed file is what is submitted to podcast directories like iTunes.

How to Create a Podcast Feed

Creating a feed file and URL is not complicated, but it is more coding that most average podcasters want to take on. Fortunately, it’s not necessary to manually create a feed. There are plenty of tools and services available that will create a feed, and all you have to do is fill in the blanks with the required information. Without a feed, it would not be possible to publish your podcast to iTunes or other podcast directories, and there would be no way for users to subscribe and get updated shows. Podcast files need to be readily available for download with no bandwidth restrictions.

Hosting podcast files on a media host is not only a solution for bandwidth issues, it is also a solution for podcast feed creation.

Creating Podcasts Feeds From Your Media Hosting

Libsyn is a solid podcast hosting option with multiple plan options. They also make creating and changing a podcast feed very simple. When you sign up, you fill in the blanks with information about your podcast. Some of this information is Libsyn specific, some of it is iTunes specific, and some of it is required for podcast directories and podcast syndication in general. Their software then generates a feed URL that can be used in iTunes, other podcast directories, and in a podcasting plugin on your WordPress site.

Create Podcast Feeds From a WordPress Plugin

Blubrry is another media hosting option where you can host your podcast media files and create a feed.

The feed creation is different than with Libsyn because the feed creation actually takes place on your WordPress site using the PowerPress Plugin. You can use the PowerPress Plugin in two ways. If you are using a media hosting method other than Blubrry or you have already created a feed, you can just enter the feed URL into the feed URL field within the PowerPress settings when uploading your podcast episode to WordPress.

If you are hosting your podcast files with Blubrry, all you have to do is click on the PowerPress settings and browse to find your media file, and the feed will be created. You can use this feed to submit to iTunes or any other podcast directory.

Important Feed Takeaways

You want to be able to control your feed. There are some podcast hosting options that control or change your feed and make it hard to leave the service. Having a media host or plugin that helps with feed creation is convenient, but you still need to maintain control of your feed. Your podcast feed is your intellectual property, and it is how you syndicate and distribute your podcast. Without a feed, you won’t be able to get subscribers and update your show.

For bloggers, there was a time when FeedBurner was the standard RSS creation tool. FeedBurner also has a podcast tool called SmartCast. A decade ago, Google purchased Feedburner and stopped supporting it. There have also been some reports of  SmartCast changing episode descriptions in iTunes. The bottom line is FeedBurner and SmartCast are options, but not very good ones.

ID3 Tags

ID3 tags are metadata for MP3 and audio files. These are things like the title, description, album art, etc. Here is a list of possible ID3 tags you may want to use for your podcast.

  • Title – The podcast or episode title and number

  • Cover Art – Podcast cover art

  • Artist – The author or host that recorded the podcast

  • Album – The title of the podcast. This is the whole show, not the individual episode

  • Track – Your episode number, this will help sort episodes chronologically

  • Year – The year the podcast was published

  • Genre – The type of track, e.g. podcast, speech, vocal

  • Comment – A short summary of your episode, you may add keywords

  • Copyright – Copyright notice by the copyright holder

  • URL – The website address for the podcast

When you publish your podcast to iTunes most of the ID3 information will be pulled from your RSS feed. You can also edit additional information in iTunes. There can be SEO and iTunes ranking advantages to editing ID3 tags. For instance in iTunes, you can right-click an episode and edit ID3 information. Under artist, you may want to put your name, but also add some keywords. For album, you can put your podcast name and tagline. You can also put keywords in the comments box along with your short summary.

It’s also possible to use an ID3 editor to edit your ID3 tags. The editors usually use ID3 version 2.3 which is compatible across all directory platforms. A popular paid editor is ID3 Editor while MP3tag and EasyTag are free options. The same way you want to own and control your feed, you also want to have a handle on the ID3 tags or information attached to your podcast file. It’s a best practice to develop an editing and tagging strategy that can be implemented and repeated without a lot of effort. Having a standard operating procedure SOP list can make your tagging and editing procedure consistent.

There are multiple options available for hosting podcast media files and for creating podcast RSS feeds. There are also multiple WordPress plugins available for podcasting, and there are standalone feed creation tools. This article features the most popular and easiest methods for media hosting, feed creation, and publishing your podcast to WordPress. This should free up your time and energy to focus on the most important aspects of podcast production which are creating great content and proper tagging for maximum exposure.