Own your podcast feed

If you’re starting your own podcast, make sure you OWN YOUR PODCAST FEED.

There can be benefits to allowing a third-party service to manage and host certain kinds of data, but your podcast RSS feed is not one of them. It is the delivery mechanism that syndicates your media, your episode metadata and blog post / episode show notes to your audience.

Podcast Feeds are Simple

A podcast feed (and blogging RSS feed) is not much different than a simple Web page. It includes markup in the form of XML (very similar to HTML) with references/links to Web pages, links to images and podcast media files. Any Web server that can host a website can host a podcast RSS feed. It is not dependent on any one service or feature.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization is important, even for podcasting. Though we’re not going to explain SEO best practices here, we will explain why tying your podcast feed to your blog is an important relationship you want to keep.

By creating your blog/show episode notes pages on your WordPress blog, you are creating a landing page for each episode on your website. When you use the podcast feed from your website, the links go directly back to these pages. In SEO terms, this is a good thing.

If you create your show episode notes on pages that reside on another service, that traffic will not benefit your website, it only benefits the service you are using to host those pages. Still SEO, but it doesn’t directly benefit you.

If you create your show episode notes on pages on your website, but use a third-party service to produce your podcast RSS feed, unless the links go directly back to your website (which would be nearly impossible for any third-party service to guarantee), you will have disconnected content that will harm your SEO.

Do not play games with search engines, use a platform such as WordPress on your own website for both your podcast episode pages and your podcast feed. This gives you 100 percent control and SEO benefits.

Your Feed is Intellectual Property

Your podcast RSS feed is as important for podcasting as your Web domain (www.example.com) is for websites. If you believe having your own domain name is critical to your success, then you definitely want your podcast feeds (and blog feeds if you’re also blogging) under your Web domain as well (www.example.com/feed/podcast/).

Your unique podcast feed is Intellectual Property. By keeping that under your own Web domain (example.com) it remains under your ownership. If you give this URL to a third-party service, you give that control to that service. If that service were to shut down, have an outage or decide to manipulate your feed beyond your expectations, you are stuck. Here is a list of the many reasons giving control of your feed can lead to problems:

  • Service goes out of business (many podcast companies have done just that, leaving podcasts with no way to continue)
  • Service ends podcasting support (many popular video sharing sites have ended their podcast support)
  • Service injects advertising into content (we’ve seen many services do this if you don’t upgrade to a certain account level)
  • Service doesn’t keep up with changes (many of the podcast services out there aren’t even keeping up with the latest iTunes specifications, leaving you stuck with outdated features)

PowerPress Plugin Podcast Feed Benefits

  • Up-to-date standards – Podcasting is constantly evolving. Using WordPress along with PowerPress ensures that you have the most up-to-date RSS and podcasting standards.
  • Feed maximizer – With feed maximizer in PowerPress, you are free to have the maximum number of episodes in your feed and still stay under any feed size limits. Not all third-party feeds will do this.
  • SEO – PowerPress includes addition SEO features to help you maximize your feed attributes for searching on iTunes and web search engines.
  • Branding – Blubrry believes that you should promote yourself and your show / brand instead of promoting us or anyone else. PowerPress allows podcasters to create an entire brand on their WordPress website. It’s your show. It’s your site. Control all of it.

Hosting Your Own Feed Poses No Risks to You

There are many ways to host your podcast feed on your own website. We recommend using WordPress with our PowerPress plugin not only because we back the plugin, but also because it utilizes built-in functionality found in WordPress, a very popular and commonly used blogging and CMS platform. You can also use other CMS platforms such as Joomla or Drupal, or use software such as FeedForAll to create and manage your podcast RSS feed directly. Whatever route you take, your feed hosted on your own Web server works just as well as the feed being hosted on some other service, the main delta is that you are in 100 percent control of the feed. Remember, a podcast feed is not that much different than a simple Web page.

WordPress Feeds are Reliable

We have noticed on Google hangouts and other social networking groups that some organizations have claimed that WordPress feeds are not reliable. This is not the case.

WordPress is a content manage system originally designed for blogging. As of 2013, 19 percent of the websites online use WordPress. More interestingly, 52 percent of the top 100 blogs use WordPress (source). Because RSS feeds are an integral part of blogging (just as podcasting), RSS feed support in WordPress is and has always been built-in, and with more than 10 years of providing RSS feeds to hundreds of millions of blogs and websites, it has a solid track record.

As long as you maintain your WordPress site, you should not have problems. If a problem arises, follow these instructions on how to resolve feed issues.

Why You Should Not Host Your Feed Elsewhere

Allowing your feed to be controlled by anyone other than you can be detrimental for many reasons. Certain situations can arise that would cause problems down the line. Such as:

  • Mercy of companies – You will always be at the mercy of whomever manages the service. If you decide that you would like to move it may become hectic. Though they may claim to allow redirecting your podcast feed, such claims can change without notice. Essentially you could lose all of your subscribers.
  • Domain name – Your domain name will not be found as part of the Web address. This is an opportunity to put your brand in your URL, which is essential to your podcast. You purchased a domain name for your website, why wouldn’t it be important to use your domain name for your podcast?
  • Linking back – The links and content found in your podcast feed may no longer link back to your website. You are now handing over episode web traffic that would have been going to you. This now goes to a third-party, and that Web traffic does not benefit your website at all.

Podcasters should be in control of their entire podcast. This means the RSS feed for the show, blog, brand and domain. Take the lead with your podcast.

Addressing concerns from LibSyn’s marketing

One of our competitors is threatened by podcasters using our free tools. The fear is real, technically there is no reason to host your media at LibSyn once you publish your podcast from your own website. To combat this threat they have launched a smear campaign using fear to scare customers into signing with their service. Below we address the claims they make so you understand the truth behind owning your feed and the smear tactics they are using to scare you into using their service.

First, we translate their purposely written responses to what they imply. They always bring up that the top 200 podcasts on iTunes do not use WordPress implying that if you want to be in the top 200 you cannot use WordPress. This is beyond false. If you look at the grammar they use they imply a lot by associating one fact with another. This is all smoke and mirrors. We will address the claims which are implied in their writings.

Libsyn claim 1: You cannot use PowerPress feeds to be in the top 200 on iTunes – Not true

Though there are about 15-20 shows in the top 200 on iTunes using PowerPress, this is not because of feed issues. The top 200 list on iTunes for the most part has not changed in over 5 years and is dominated by large radio stations such as NPR and ESPN. More importantly PowerPress powers over 20% of the top 100 shows under each iTunes category. If the “top” is a concern, that should eliminate this concern.

Libsyn claim 2: Your website bandwidth will not be up to the task to host your feed – Not true

In truth if your website is not be up to the task to host your web traffic then you may have feed issues as well. If your website cannot handle your web traffic your search engine optimization (SEO) will be harmed first and foremost long before your podcast feed becomes a concern.

To put this into perspective, search engines consider a page load over 2 seconds as an issue and will use that as a negative factor when indexing your website. Podcast services and applications however use a 10 to 15 second timeout when accessing your feed. Keep in mind the performance of page loads in WordPress is relative, so if your feeds take 5 seconds to load then more than likely your pages will take 5 seconds as well. Again, if you have this problem, it effects your web SEO first and foremost and should be addressed by switching web hosts. Simply hosting your podcast feed elsewhere does not fix the underlying issue that your web host is under performing.

If you are not concerned about your website performance then you are more than likely not concerned about Search Engine Optimization (#1 item on this page). If that is the case, you can still use PowerPress with your poor performing website by using a service such as FeedBurner to host your podcast feed.

A web hosting service designed specifically to host WordPress will have features built-in which give you superior performance for your website. Such services will cache your web pages and podcast feed and serve them quickly and without issues.

Specifically, Blubrry’s PowerPress Sites (a managed WordPress services specifically for podcasting) uses special page caching to guarantee fast page and feed performance.

Libsyn claim 3: Feed size causing bandwidth issues – Not true

iTunes and other podcast applications do not download your feed many times a day. Such applications and services do ping (check the feed) for changes many times a day but this in itself does not create excessive bandwidth usage. The protocol widely used today is HTTP/1.1 which includes special logic to determine if a page has changed or not. A feed ping consists of a HEAD request (which does not use any bandwidth) followed with a special HTTP 200 request with if-modified-since request headers. If the feed contents did not change, your web hosting will return the appropriate response (304 not modified) which uses essentially zero bandwidth.

As long as the web hosting service you use is HTTP/1.1 compliant you will not have bandwidth issues because of your podcast feed. Luckily HTTP/1.1 was introduced in 1997, it will be very rare to find a service that does not support HTTP/1.1 protocols.

Furthermore, most web hosting services include compressed content encoding for html and xml based files. This compressed encoded (sometimes referred to as deflate or gzip) will take an RSS feed that is 500KB (0.5MB) in size and serve it compressed in the 100-200KB range. You can test your feed for such compression using the HTTP Compression Test service.

PowerPress Sites managed WordPress hosting service is 100% HTTP/1.1 compliant, supports HTTP/2, and includes compressed content encoding.

Libsyn claim 4: 3rd party plugin issues – Not true

In the past it is possible for other plugins to break your podcast feed. For example, the WP caching plugins would add an HTML style comment at the bottom of your podcast feed which would cause your podcast feed to not update on services such as iTunes. Such conflicts have been resolved in PowerPress years ago.

In addition, as of PowerPress version 6.3+ we’ve added new logic that prevents other plugins from modifying podcast feeds. So as long as you use a “podcast only” feed provided by PowerPress you have nothing to fear.

Libsyn’s real issue: What we provide our users threatens their business model

We do things which Libsyn does not and it hurts their business model:

  • We provide a true Post-Upload-Publish experience all from within your WordPress site. Simply create a blog post, click the Blubrry icon to upload your media, then click publish.
  • We provide FREE phone support to help new customers get started. We want you to succeed, it is worth our time to help you get started.
  • Provide subscribe sidebar and subscribe page tools to help you convert your web visitors to podcast subscribers.
  • Podcast web links in your feed link directly back to your blog post content keeping your website in the SEO loop.
  • We can also host your website through our PowerPress Sites service (coming soon). If you need a place to host your WordPress podcast but do not want the hassle of selecting and updating themes and plugins, then PowerPress Sites is perfect for you.

We know Libsyn is threatened by our service and free resources because it puts the decision making solely in your hands. When you use our free open source plugin, you can decide where to host your media, what fields you enable/disable for each episode, and what podcast services you list your podcast on. You truly have the Power with PowerPress.

If you are considering using PowerPress for your podcast website but Libsyn as your media host, please consider using Blubrry Podcast Hosting instead. Our service integrates seamlessly within your WordPress site so you can save time doing everything from within your blog.