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The Podcast Rorschach Test Just May Be RSS Feeds.

Veteran podcasters have gone from having to explain what a podcast is, to seeing YouTube creators co-opt the term for their videos. But ask creators what a podcast is, and a clear majority have a clear-cut test. A new survey by The Podcast Host finds that two-thirds (67%) of podcasters believe a show needs to have an RSS feed to be considered a “podcast.” Yet 22% said having an RSS feed wasn’t essential, and 11% said they weren’t sure. The survey was done among more than 70 independent podcasters.

In a blog post detailing its findings, The Podcast Host says that the RSS test reflects a widely held viewpoint among those it surveyed that podcasting needs to be open and accessible, something that RSS distribution ensures. Among those who said that RSS doesn’t matter, it says some indie creators say a show is more about its format rather than how it is distributed. Others question whether the technology needs to evolve, pointing out RSS is the same way podcasts were distributed two decades ago in the industry’s early days.

Yet even YouTube seems to concede that if it wants to be a podcast app, it needs to embrace RSS. Last month it began allowing creators to upload their shows to YouTube through an RSS feed. But while it will pick up audio podcasts from RSS, YouTube will not distribute a podcast to other platforms. It will also not automatically update show detail changes made in an RSS feed or post updated audio files.

Two years ago, as apps like Spotify were making some of the most popular shows exclusives, Acast CEO Ross made a public pitch for an open ecosystem powered by RSS as the only way the industry will meet some of the lofty revenue projections.

“We need everyone pulling in the same direction,” Adams wrote in a blog post. “Podcasting needs to be available and accessible for everyone, across all user types, operating systems, devices and listening platforms.” 

Adams also made the case that not only does RSS keep the podcast ecosystem open, but it also means that producers of a show can retain their relationship with fans without having a publisher or distributor interfere. “Your bond with your listeners is the most important relationship in all of podcasting — and it needs care and respect,” he said. “Your RSS feed allows you to own that relationship.”

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