Setting up your RSS feed, metadata and images

Now that the front end of our website is ready to go, we need to look at the RSS feed and the data we submit to iTunes.

I’ve already covered RSS and the role Apple plays in podcasting with the iTunes store, but let’s have a quick recap. An RSS feed is a piece of data - a file, basically - that tells a piece of software about the content of a website. It lists important things like the title, content and date of an article, and in the case of podcasting, includes an enclosure tag which points to the audio or video that listeners and viewers will play.

Podcast directories like iTunes use the data within your RSS feed to determine under which categories to list your show, so it’s important to set that up before we submit our podcast. You can change it later, but if it’s not there to begin with, the directory you’re submitting to may reject your podcast.

Let’s head into the Settings section of the Podcast menu and take a look round.

What’s great about Seriously Simple Podcasting is how flexible it is. You can use it to drive one podcast, or a whole collection of them. I make a bunch of podcasts on my own site, and use SSP’s Series taxonomy to give each podcast its own feed, and thus its own place in the iTunes store.

OK, let’s back that truck up a little. A taxonomy is basically a type of category. WordPress comes with two main taxonomies: category and tag. Each category or tag is called a “taxonomy term”, and you associate one or more taxonomy terms with your posts.

If you’ve blogged on WordPress before you’ve probably used tags and categories. Tags are just keywords that explain the kind of topics you’ve covered in a post. Sometimes people agree on specific tags, like hashtags on Twitter, because they help make content more discoverable.

Categories are a bit looser in that sense, but reflect your own idea of how you want to organise your content. A blog about cooking might have a recipes category, an equipment category, and one on cooking techniques.

With the Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin, a series works just like a category. You can assign an episode to multiple series, which means it’ll appear in multiple feeds. But for the most part, if you’re hosting more than one podcast on a site, you’ll assign one series to each episode.

Don’t think of series in the British sense, or what Americans call “seasons”. They’re not meant to break up episodes like that. They’re just a way of saying “I host more than one podcast on this site, so these episodes belong to this podcast, while these other episodes belong to this other podcast”. Each series has its own feed, and its own settings. Here’s a quick look at how I use multiple series within WordPress.

Lastly, let’s talk about the artwork for your podcast. It’s important to have an image that’ll stand out when viewed with a bunch of other competing podcasts in a directory like iTunes. You want something memorable, that captures the essence of your show. It doesn’t necessarily have to contain the name of your show as that’ll be displayed alongside the artwork, but it should communicate an idea of what listeners might expect.

The size of image you include for your podcast is important. iTunes will reject new podcast submissions if the thumbnail size doesn’t meet their requirements, so whether you’re commissioning artwork or producing it yourself, it needs to be 1400 pixels wide, by 1400 pixels tall. Apple enforces this requirement so that podcast artwork looks good whether displayed on a small screen, a high-quality retina display like an iPad, or on a big screen via Apple TV.

Don’t be tempted to take a small image and blow it up. This never works, and will make your artwork look blurry. Start with as big an image as you can, and scale down.

If you’re commissioning artwork, try and get it at print quality. That’ll mean a bigger file, but you can scale it down to 1400x1400, and it gives you room to scale up should you need to at any point, without having to go back to the original designer.

So that’s the imagery sorted. In the next chapter, we’ll look at hosting your audio files.

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