Jason Rigden

S1E9 - What is an podcast RSS feed?

The Podcasting Questions Podcast


Arthur from the underwater city of Atlantis ask,

Hello old chum! What is an RSS feed?

Well Arthur I’m glad you asked. There seems to be a bunch of confusion about this.

A podcast’s RSS feed is file on the internet. Your RSS Feed URL is the location of the file on the internet. A URL is that thing you see in your web browser. Like https://google.com/index.html. URL stands for uniform resource locator. It is used to locate things on the internet. So, your RSS Feed URL tell people and computers where to find your RSS Feed.

Now the file itself is really just a text document. You can open it up with any text editor. It might look a little strange to though. It is written in a computer language called XML. This language allows us to format data that can be read both by humans and computers. So, XML files can store data.

What kind of data can an XML document contain? Well let’s talk about podcast RSS feeds. So these are a type of XML document. These feeds for all kinds of data about your podcast. For example, this RSS feed will contain the name and description of your podcast. It will also have data about your podcasts episodes. Every time you release a new episode this file is updated with new data.

That is why we give people that RSS Feed URL. We are telling people and computers where to find the file on the internet. They will download that file and get the data about the podcast and it’s episodes. Now, when we release an episode the RSS feed is updated with the new data. So, those podcasting clients will need to check that URL periodically looking for updates. And that is how podcasting clients work.

This is the real beauty of podcasting. There is no central authority out there running everything. It is not like YouTube or Twitter. Those are centralized. Podcasting is decentralized. It is just a huge bunch of RSS files sitting on servers all over the world. When you have a podcast you control that RSS feed. You are in charge. When you have a YouTube Channel, YouTube is in charge.

I hope that kind of answered your question Arthur. I could talk much more about the technical aspects of XML and RSS but it is a little hard to do with just audio. If you want to learn more, just check YouTube. Lots of great tutorials on there. But I have you a basic not technical understanding of the technology.