This document covers the following topics:
Submission and Feedback Processes
Creating Your Feed and the Importance of Good Metadata
Understanding the iTunes Client and the iTunes Store
Testing Your Feed
Submitting Your Podcast to the iTunes Store
Submission Errors and Duplicate Feeds
The Submission Queue
Linking to Your Podcast
Troubleshooting Your Feed
Removing or Blocking Your Feed
Changing Your Feed URL
Being Featured on the iTunes Store Podcast Page
An Example Feed
iTunes RSS Tags
Defining Tags with the iTunes Podcasting Namespace
Use and Display of Common Tags in Channel and Item Sections
Formatting Video for the iPod or Apple TV
iTunes Categories for Podcasting
More information can be found in the following locations:
FAQ: For Podcast Makers
FAQ: For Podcast Fans
Producing Podcasts Discussion Forum
Submission and Feedback Processes
Podcasting on iTunes requires several steps:
Creating your first episode, which can be an audio recording, video, or even a text document. Supported file formats include .m4a, .mp3, .mov, .mp4, .m4v, and .pdf.
Posting your episode file(s) on a server with a publicly accessible URL.
Creating an RSS feed (an XML file) that:
conforms to the RSS 2.0 specification
includes the recommended iTunes RSS tags,
contains pointers to your episode.
Posting the RSS file on a server.
Submit the URL for your RSS feed to iTunes.
The rest of this section covers the submission process. The remainder of this document focuses on technical aspects of preparing your RSS feed.
Creating Your Feed and the Importance of Good Metadata.
There are a number of applications and online services that will assist you in the creation of your podcast’s XML feed; you can even create one by hand using nothing but a text editor. Refer to those services or other documentation for the details of creating a feed. However, here are a few tips:
Pay very close attention to the title, author, description, and keywords tags at the level of your podcast feed, because these are the fields that iTunes indexes for search (iTunes does not index episode metadata). This metadata, along with your podcast art, is your product packaging. It will affect whether your podcast shows up in relevant searches, and whether users who find your podcast are likely to click the Subscribe button.
Make your title specific. A podcast entitled “Our Community Bulletin” is too vague and will attract no subscribers, no matter how compelling the content.
Take advantage of the tag. The tag (or the tag if is not present) is your chance to tell potential subscribers all about your podcast. Describe your subject matter, media format, episode schedule, and other relevant info so that they know what they’ll be getting when they subscribe. In addition, make a list of the most relevant search terms that you want your podcast to match, then build them into your description. Note that iTunes removes podcasts that include lists of irrelevant words in the iTunes:summary, description, or iTunes:keywords tags.
Minimize keyword usage. Almost nothing belongs in the keywords tag that isn’t better handled in the title or tag. The best use for keywords is to include common misspellings of your name or title, to ensure your podcast is still searchable despite a misspelling. To prevent keyword abuse, iTunes indexes only the first 12 keywords found in this tag.
Be sure to include a valid iTunes:category. Podcasts that have a category can appear in more places in iTunes and are more likely to be found by users.
Pick a reliable podcast host. Too many podcasters create a feed and then find that their ability to move or edit the feed later is limited by the podcast’s host. Make sure your podcast is hosted in a place where you are in control of the content.
Create a graphic for your podcast that is easy to recognize when scaled down to 50×50 pixels. Good art communicates the value of the podcast with a simple picture and a few words. Before you create your podcast art, go to the Podcast page in the iTunes store, click on Top Podcasts, and note which art works best and why.
Understanding the iTunes Client and the iTunes Store.
“iTunes” is one word that is used to refer to two things: 1) a client application that people install on their Mac or PC to manage their music, podcasts, movies, TV shows, etc., and 2) a server-side online site called the iTunes Store (iTS). Before you submit your feed to the iTunes Store, it’s critical to understand this difference. Most misunderstandings regarding iTunes and podcasting stem from a failure to clearly distinguish between the client and the Store.
When you submit your podcast, you are notifying iTS that you have a podcast feed that is located in a particular location (the feed URL). If your feed is accepted, iTS simply reads your feed each day and updates the podcast directory with any new or changed information about your podcast. Note that iTS does not cache or make a copy of your feed, nor does it cache or make a copy of your episode files. For podcasts, iTS is acting in a capacity similar to a web directory.
When users find interesting podcasts in iTS, they click the Subscribe button, causing the podcast feed URL to be copied from iTS to the user’s iTunes client. The iTunes client reads the podcast feed that is located at the feed URL, then downloads the media file for the podcast’s most recent episode from the web server where it is hosted.
There are two important consequences of the subscriber’s iTunes client reading directly from the web server where the podcast is hosted rather than accessing the podcast via iTS:
The user’s iTunes client does not look to iTS for new information about your podcast. If iTS is not yet showing your most recent episode, that doesn’t mean your subscribers can’t download the episode. Furthermore, if you move your podcast to a new location, you need to communicate the location of the new location not only to iTS, but also to all of the iTunes clients that are subscribed to your feed. For more information, see the “Changing Your Feed URL” section below.
The user’s iTunes client does not report any information about episode downloads to iTS, and it does not tell iTS if the user unsubscribes from your feed. Just as a web directory can’t tell you how much traffic your web site has, iTS can’t tell you how many users have downloaded your podcast episodes. This information can only come from the server on which your podcast feed and (more important) episode files are hosted.
Testing Your Feed.
When you have created your RSS feed and posted it to a server with a publicly addressable URL (i.e., not behind a firewall), you should test your feed to see if it works with iTunes:
In the Advanced menu, select Subscribe to Podcast.
Enter your feed URL in the text box and click OK.
iTunes displays your Podcast playlist, which shows all of the podcasts to which you have subscribed. Next to the new podcast subscription, you should see an orange circle, which indicates that iTunes is downloading your most recent episode. When the orange circle disappears, you should be able to see your podcast title, a list of all the episodes referenced in your feed, and a check next to the most recent episode, indicating that it has been successfully downloaded. Double-click on the episode to play it in iTunes. If you can successfully play the episode, then your feed is working and you can submit your podcast to iTunes.
If the orange circle is replaced by an “i” in a black circle, iTunes encountered a problem with your feed or episode. You should troubleshoot your episode and feed before submitting it. Please do not submit your feed until you can successfully subscribe using the Advanced menu.
In the left navigation column, under iTunes Store, click on the Podcasts link to go to the Podcasts page.
In the left column of the Podcasts page, in the Learn More box at the bottom, click on the Submit a Podcast link.
Follow the instructions on the Submit a Podcast page.
Note that you will need a valid iTunes account, and you will need to be logged into iTunes. If you are not logged in, iTunes will prompt you to do so before accepting your submission. By requiring you to log in, iTunes increases the likelihood of valid contact information for each submission. Your credit card will not be charged for submission of a podcast.
If you have created an RSS feed with all of the recommended iTunes tags, you will see a summary page immediately after you submit your feed URL. If you have not included , , and tags in your feed, you will see a second screen prompting you for this information. Please note that you can change this information at a later date by including the tags in your feed. Your RSS feed is considered the current and authoritative source for information about your podcast.
Submission Errors and Duplicate Feeds.
There are a variety of errors that iTunes can encounter when you submit your feed. Almost all of them can be avoided by testing your feed using the Advanced menu prior to submitting your feed.
In some cases, when you submit your feed URL, iTunes will respond by saying that the feed has already been submitted. There are two possible causes:
Someone has already submitted the same feed URL.
Someone has already submitted a feed with the same content in the and
In either case, iTunes blocks your feed to avoid listing duplicate podcasts.
If the submission is blocked because the feed URL has already been submitted, and you are in control of the RSS feed, then you don’t have a problem: your podcast is in iTunes and you can control it by editing your feed.
If you are the feed owner and the feed that is listed in iTunes is not under your control, you can attempt to contact the owner by finding the feed URL and examining the code for contact information. You can also contact iTunes by navigating to the podcasts page (where all of episodes for the podcast are listed) and selecting the Report a Concern link. In the Choose Reason list, select “is mine and I would like it removed from the Music Store” and provide a detailed explanation of the problem as well as contact information. See the Frequently Asked Questions page for how to determine the feed URL currently used by iTunes.
The Submission Queue.
Upon submission, your podcast is placed in a queue for review by the iTunes staff. Your podcast may be rejected for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
Technical problems, usually the lack of episodes or the inability to download or play episodes. These problems can almost always be avoided by testing your feed using Subscribe to Podcast in the Advanced menu prior to submission.
Requirement of a login or password to access the feed or any of the episodes.
Strong prevalence of sexual content.
Use of explicit language in the title or description of the podcast.
Use of explicit language in the podcast when the tag is not set to “yes”.
Apparent misuse of copyrighted material or other violation of third party rights.
Inclusion of offensive material, such as racist content or child pornography.
Misrepresentational use of Apple copyright, including “iPod” and “iTunes.”
In general, if there’s something that you want to convey about your feed, please do so in the summary field in your RSS feed, not in the content of an episode.
Normally, podcasts that are added to iTunes will appear first in iTunes search, and later in iTunes browse. Appearing in the browse category that you specified can take up to five days. The image associated with your podcast may also require additional time to appear, because images are edge-cached by iTunes and must propagate across the caching servers.
Linking to Your Podcast.
If your podcast is accepted, customers will be able to discover it in the iTunes Store via search or browse. But you can also create links directly to your podcasts and share those on your website or in email. There are two linking methods:
iTunes Store Link: The following link goes directly to your podcast page in iTunes, where users will have the opportunity to subscribe to the podcast. This link can be found for any podcast by control + clicking (or right clicking in Windows) the podcast’s art on its page in the iTunes Store: http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=FEEDID
Note that a shorter but functionally identical link is also available: http://www.itunes.com/podcast?id=FEEDID
This is the preferred method among podcasters, because it results in an action (the user clicking on the Subscribe button in the iTunes Store) that is registered by iTS and will drive your podcast up the various automated charts.
Direct Subscribe Link: The following link automatically subscribes the user to the podcast in iTunes. Note that this method fails for Windows users who do not have iTunes installed, so it should be clearly noted that the link is intended for subscription with iTunes.
Also note that this method will not push your podcast up the various charts in the iTunes Store. It is a direct call to the user’s iTunes client software and sends no information to the iTunes Store. If you want to increase the visibility of your podcast, we recommend that your web site and other marketing materials use the iTunes Store link described above.
Whenever you create a new podcast episode, you should add a new section to your podcast feed. The iTunes directory will list the episode the next time it reads your feed. The order in which the episodes appear is based on the pubDate for each item, with the most recent episodes appearing at the top of the list.
By default, the iTunes directory reads every feed once per day. The subscriber’s iTunes client picks up new episodes based on the preferences set by the user.
If you need to request that iTunes update information about your podcast immediately, you can ping the iTunes server in one of two ways: using an XML POST or by entering a URL in a browser.
The XML POST should be addressed to https://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZFinance.woa/wa/pingPodcast and formatted as follows:
where PODCAST_NAME is the title of the podcast, exactly as it appears in the tag, and FEEDURL is your podcast feed URL.
You can also ping the iTunes server to update your podcast information by entering the following URL into a browser:
where FEEDID is your iTunes podcast numeric ID. You can also use:
where FEEDURL is the url for your feed.
Regardless of the ping method you use, iTunes will return an HTTP 200 code.
Troubleshooting Your Feed.
iTunes should update your listing at least once every 24 hours. If you made changes more than 24 hours ago that are not yet reflected in your iTunes listing, there is a good chance that your feed has broken. When iTunes encounters a broken feed, it ignores the feed and continues to display the old data.
Here is a set of recommended steps to fix your feed:
Ping your feed to make sure iTunes has attempted to update your feed recently.
Review the technical spec, particularly the example feed, to ensure that every detail of your podcast’s feed is supported by iTunes.
Use a feed validation service like www.feedvalidator.org to check for particular problems. This may be helpful in determining a specific problem with syntax.
If you used a software- or online-based feed creation service, check to ensure your settings there are correct and iTunes-compliant.
Subscribe to the feed in iTunes to see if it works. Open iTunes, go to the Advanced menu, choose “Subscribe to podcast…” and enter your feed’s URL.
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Removing or Blocking Your Feed.
If you are no longer creating a podcast and you want it removed from iTunes, you should:
Log into iTunes.
Find and select your podcast.
Click on Report a Concern.
Select “is mine and I want it removed from the Music Store” from the Choose a Reason menu.
Explain why you want the podcast removed.
In most cases, we will remove the podcast from iTunes, especially if we find that the podcast is no longer available at the feed URL.
If you want to remove your feed temporarily, you can use the tag described in the iTunes RSS Tags section below.
Changing Your Feed URL.
Podcasters occasionally need to move their feed from one location to another. To do so without losing subscribers, you must convey the change directly to all users who are subscribed to your feed. If possible, you should do two things:
You should use the tag described in the iTunes RSS Tags section below. The tag will cause the iTunes Store to be updated with the new feed URL, as well as all iTunes client versions that support podcasting.
You should set your web server to return an HTTP 301 response and redirect when receiving a request for the old feed. Doing so will cause both the iTunes Store and the most (but not all) iTunes clients that have subscribed to your podcast to pick up the new feed URL.
The tag will work for iTS and all versions of the iTunes client that support podcasting. The 301 redirect will work for most of your subscribers who do not use the iTunes client. We recommend that you use both methods to update the greatest possible number of subscribers with your new feed URL.
Be sure to maintain the < tag and the 301 redirect for at least two weeks to ensure that most subscribers have attempted to download your most recent episode and have thereby received the new URL.
If you are not able to use both methods, you may want to include an audio note in your podcast, informing your subscribers that your podcast has changed locations.
Being Featured on the iTunes Store Podcast Page.
At iTunes, we’re constantly on the lookout for podcasts that are breaking new ground with this medium, have new or unusual content, or just capture our interest. When we find them, we like to feature them on the Podcasts home page. While there are no sure-fire ways to get your podcast featured (and no, we do not accept payments for promotion), there are some minimum requirements. To be featured by iTunes, podcasts must have:
An attractive, original image that does not include the iPod or other Apple-branded content. For image specs, see the iTunes Image section below.
A robust and accurate description.
Proper language, category, and explicit tagging.
In addition, featured podcasts must be regularly updated with new episodes. We occasionally feature a podcast after its first episode, but we generally like to see podcasts with at least 3 episodes, and we like to see that the most recent episode has been added in the past month. Ideally, the episodes should be released on a regular and predictable basis. More than 100 podcasts are submitted every day, so it is impossible to feature all of the good ones.
Please note that iTunes does not provide usage statistics, because we do not host feeds or episodes. Some podcasters have created mechanisms for tracking the number of times that each episode has been downloaded. iTunes does not provide support in how to track downloads, but the following notes may be helpful:
302s will be followed to a depth of 5 redirects and will not update the feed URL in the directory.
The URL before the GET-style form values (before the first ?) must end in a media file extension (e.g. mp3). To work around this, the feed provider can alter their URL from this:
Notice how it says load.mp3 instead of load.php. It should be possible to accomplish this via various means, such as web server rewrites. iTunes looks at the extension of the path part of the url, i.e. the part before the”?”.
iTunes automatically unsubscribes from a podcast if the following conditions are both met:
The user has not played any episode downloaded in the past 5 updates (there may be more than one episode downloaded per update.
More than 5 days have elapsed since an episode was played.
In addition to minimizing unnecessary bandwidth costs for both the user and the podcaster, the unsubscribe logic built into the iTunes client makes it more likely that episode downloads, as reported by a podcaster to a sponsor, are roughly in line with actual plays of the episode.
Formatting Video for the iPod, the iPhone or Apple TV
Although iTunes can play a variety of .mp4, .m4v, and .mov video formats, Apple TV, the iPod, and the iPhone require more specific formats.
The iPod and the iPhone support up to 640×480 while Apple TV supports up to 1280×720. To optimize for all three platforms, we recommend that your source file is at least 640 pixels wide and that you use the built-in iPod converters in Compressor (“H.264 for iPod”), QuickTime Pro (“Movie to iPod”) or iTunes (“Convert Selection for iPod”). Each of these maintains the aspect ration of your source file and results in an M4V file containing H.264 video (Low Complexity version of the Baseline profile) and AAC-LC audio. If you want to maximize the screen area of a wide-screen TV, your source file should have an aspect ratio of 16:9 (e.g., 640×360). If you want to maximize the screen area on the iPod, your source file should have an aspect ratio of 4:3 (e.g., 640×480).
Because it uses H.264 Main Profile, QuickTime Pro’s “Movie to Apple TV” converter will result in a video that will not sync with the iPod.
Refer to the specifications below if you are not using the built-in converters in Compressor, QuickTime Pro, or iTunes.
iPod and iPhone can play the following video formats:
H.264 video, up to 1.5 Mbps, 640 x 480, 30 frames per sec., Low-Complexity version of the Baseline Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 kbps, 48 Khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
H.264 video, up to 768 kbps, 320 x 240, 30 frames per sec., Baseline Profile up to Level 1.3 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 kbps, 48 Khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 x 480, 30 frames per sec., Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 kbps, 48 Khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
Apple TV can display H.264 video, up to 5mbps, 1280×720, 24 fps, Progressive Main Profile. Apple TV supports AAC-LC audio up to 320 Kbps. The gating factors for video are bit rate and frame rate. The following are some sample conversions generated by the QuickTime Pro when choosing “Movie to Apple TV”:
640×480, 30fps 640×480, 30fps, 3mbps*
1280×720 24fps 1280×720, 24p 5mbps*
1280×720, 30fps 960×540, 30fps 4mbps*
1920×1080, 24fps 1280×720, 24fps 5mbps*
1920×1080, 30fps 960×540, 30fps 4mbps*
1080i up to 60fps 960×540, 30fps 4mbps*
*Represents an average bit rate.
An Example Feed
℗ & © 2005 John Doe & Family
A show about everything
All About Everything is a show about everything. Each week we dive into any subject known to man and talk about it as much as we can. Look for our Podcast in the iTunes Store
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iTunes RSS Tags
iTunes uses RSS 2.0 plus some additional tags. Note that the additional tags are not required (except to be eligible for featured placement on the iTunes Podcast page), but are recommended where needed in order to provide the best possible user experience.
Note that the namespace definition is case sensitive, and the previous location of the namespace had capital letters in it. The old namespace definition is still supported, but the new (all lowercase) definition is preferred.
All values should be plain text (no markup or HTML). Values are limited to 255 characters, except for which can be up to 4000 characters. Whitespace in values is significant, i.e. it will show in iTunes, so don’t add leading or trailing whitespace to your values. CDATA sections are strongly discouraged.
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Use and Display of Common Tags in Channel and Item Sections.
The following table shows which tags apply to the channel (podcast) as a whole and which tags apply to individual items (episodes). The table also shows where the tag contents appear in iTunes:
Y Release Date column
Y Y Artist column
Y Y prevent an episode or podcast from appearing
Y Category column and in iTunes Store Browse
Y same location as album art
Y Time column
Y Y parental advisory graphic in Name column
Y Y not visible but can be searched
Y not visible, used to inform iTunes of new feed URL location
Y not visible, used for contact only
Y Y Description column
Y Y when the “circled i” in Description column is clicked
Every should have a globally unique identifier that never changes. When you add episodes to your feed, guids are compared in case sensitive fashion to determine which episodes are new. If you omit the guid for an episode, the episode url will be used instead.
Use this inside a element to prevent the entire podcast from appearing in the iTunes Podcast directory. Use this inside an element to prevent that episode from appearing in the iTunes Podcast directory. For example, you may want a specific episode blocked from iTunes if its content might cause the feed to be removed from iTunes.
If this tag is present and set to “yes” (case insensitive), that means to block the feed or the episode. If the tag’s value is any other value, including empty string, it’s indicated as a signal to unblock the feed or episode. At the feed level, if there is no block tag, then the block status of the feed is left unchanged. At the episode level, if there is no block tag, it is the same as if a block=no were present.
There are two ways to browse podcast subject categories on iTunes: click Browse in the Quick Links box or click a selection in the Category box. The former method leads to a text-based table, while the latter leads to pages that include the podcast art.
For placement within the older, text-based browse system, podcast feeds may list up to 3 category/subcategory pairs. (For example, “Music” counts as 1, as does “Business > Careers.”) For placement within the newer browse system based on Category links, however, and for placement within the Top Podcasts lists that appear in the right column of most podcast pages, only the first category listed in the feed is used.
Categories and subcategories can be specified as follows. Use a top level to specify the browse category, and a nested to specify the browse subcategory. Choose from the existing categories and subcategories in iTunes. Be sure to properly escape ampersands. A complete list is included at the end of this document.
Note that a separate set of categories was active until July 2006, when it was replaced by the new set at the end of this document. During a transition period, most of the old categories and subcategories will be automatically mapped to corresponding ones within the new system. For example, if your podcast was listed under “Arts & Entertainment > Photography”, it will now appear under “Arts > Visual Arts.” However, 3 categories have been removed and do not have a similar replacement: “International”, “Talk Radio”, and “Public Radio”. Those categories overlapped with others in the old system, making some podcasts difficult to discover. If one of these categories is listed as the first subject in your podcast feed, that category information will be ignored and the second category will be used to determine eligibility and placement in that feature page.
The tag can be formatted HH:MM:SS, H:MM:SS, MM:SS, or M:SS (H = hours, M = minutes, S = seconds). If an integer is provided (no colon present), the value is assumed to be in seconds. If one colon is present, the number to the left is assumed to be minutes, and the number to the right is assumed to be seconds. If more than two colons are present, the numbers furthest to the right are ignored.
If you populate this tag with “yes”, an “explicit” parental advisory graphic will appear next to your podcast artwork on the iTunes Store, and in the Name column in iTunes. If the value is “clean”, the parental advisory type is considered Clean, meaning that no explicit language or adult content is included anywhere in the episodes, and a “clean” graphic will appear. If the explicit tag is present and has any other value (e.g. “no”) you see no indicator — blank is the default advisory type.
This tag specifies the artwork for your podcast. Put the URL to the image in the href attribute. iTunes prefers square .jpg images that are at least 600 x 600 pixels, which is different than what is specified for the standard RSS image tag.
Spend some time developing an attractive, original image that represents your podcast well. Potential subscribers will see it on your podcast’s page and a much smaller version of the image in search results and feature placements. Make sure your design is effective in both sizes.
The itunes:image tag is not supported at the item level. It is possible to include art within individual episodes, but the art is included within the media file’s metadata, not in the RSS feed. To add artwork to an episode using iTunes, highlight the episode and select “Get Info” from the “File” menu. Click the Artwork tab. Then click “Add,” navigate to and select an image file, and click “Choose.”
After adding the tag to your old feed, you should maintain the old feed for 48 hours before retiring it. At that point, iTunes will have updated the directory with the new feed URL. For more information, please see the “Changing Your Feed URL” section above.
The contents of this tag are shown in a separate window that appears when the “circled i” in the Description column is clicked. It also appears on the iTunes page for your podcast. This field can be up to 4000 characters. If is not included, the contents of the tag are used.
Because iTunes operates sites worldwide, it is critical to specify the language of a podcast. Accepted values are those in the ISO 639-1 Alpha-2 list (two-letter language codes, some with possible modifiers, such as “en-us”).
must conform to RFC 2822.
Wed, 6 Jul 2005 13:00:00 -0700
The five characters above are the only characters that require escaping in XML. All other characters can be entered directly in an editor that supports UTF-8. You can also use numeric character references that specify the Unicode for the character, for example:
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Wikipedia Article on Podcasting
Podcasts on Podcasting
Apple Producing Podcasts discussion forum
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iTunes Categories for Podcasting
Fashion & Beauty
Management & Marketing
Games & Hobbies
Government & Organizations
Fitness & Nutrition
Kids & Family
News & Politics
Religion & Spirituality
Science & Medicine
Society & Culture
Places & Travel
Sports & Recreation
College & High School
TV & Film
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