The Correct RSS Feed to Submit to Podcast Directories

Back in the day, it used to be that the only way to submit a podcast to iTunes was to drop your RSS feed into a submission form via the iTunes app. This created a lot of problems when someone wanted to change their RSS feed, either because they’d decided to change media hosts or because they’d restructured their website — there was no easy or direct way to tell Apple that your feed had changed and so you’d have duplicate entries on the iTunes Store for a while. iTunes fixed this with the podcastsconnect.apple.com portal, but many other listing services — some of them new, like Spotify — still have this problem.

You must be able to manage your feed directly.

What do I mean by “Manage Your Feed”?

I mean the ability to change your RSS feed address and have that change be updated in all the places you list your podcast. Let’s look at two examples, Self-Hosted and not.

Self-Hosted

When you’re self-hosted, which you should never be but that’s for another discussion, your feed is likely something like mywebsite.com/podcastname/feed and that’s the feed you’ve submitted to iTunes and Spotify and iHeartRadio and Google and all those places. If you decided that you wanted to change the structure of your website (maybe as a result of a snazzy new redesign), your feed will likely change. After the changes the address might be mywebsite.com/podcastname/episodes/feed.

So now what are you going to do? You’re going to have to do one of two things:

  1. Create a 301 Permanent Redirect from the old feed address to the new feed address or
  2. Manually update every listing with the new feed address

The problem with 301 Redirects is that you forget about them and a couple of years down the road someone makes a change that breaks the redirect and your whole podcast is tanked and it takes forever to figure out why. Also, maybe you’re not technical and you’d rather not deal with this.

The problem with manually updating every listing is that some podcast directories, like iHeartRadio, Spotify, and others, don’t provide you with any after-submission management ability. Once you submit your podcast to Spotify, for example, it’s there forever and it will always reference the original RSS feed you gave it.

3rd Party Hosted

Some 3rd party hosts will submit your podcast feed to certain directories for you, and that creates a situation where the relationship with the directory isn’t between you and it, it is between them and it — you have a middleman, and if you leave that host one day, you don’t have a way to update the submitted feed.

So what’s the best practice?

Apple has the answer, and it has for quite some time. Remember when you submitted your podcast to iTunes? You may not have noticed but at the time your podcast was approved and published to the Apple Podcasts catalog, it was also assigned a Mirror URL.

This is the RSS Feed you should be submitting everywhere else because, even when you change the primary URL, this mirror URL remains the same. So, submitted to Spotify and can’t update your feed? Not a problem, if you submitted the Mirror URL.

If you’re confused at all, maybe this will help, this is how a user connects to your audio regardless of what app their using:

Listening App > RSS Feed > Mp3 URL

If the RSS feed is variable and you don’t have direct access to changing the listing, the listing will always point at the RSS feed you’ve given it.

But if it looks like this:

Listening App > Mirror URL > RSS Feed > Mp3 URL

The Mirror is static, but it points to a variable RSS feed that you have control of. In this example Spotify will always point to that Mirror URL, but now that doesn’t matter because the Mirror URL will always point to the variable RSS feed which you now control.

Another *possibly* important reason you should do it this way

Because when someone subscribes to your podcast by RSS feed or through an app other the iTunes — iTunes doesn’t know about it. But when it goes through the mirror, it gets picked up by Apple and their new beta analytics tracker. True, your host almost certainly tracks this information too, I suspect Apple is going to be rolling out some killer features to the Podcasts Connect Portal in the coming year or two.