A fantastic entrepreneur client of ours experienced a disappearing of her podcast on iTunes on Monday July 28, 2014.
The show has been live for the better part of the year (6 months perhaps.) As we published episode 31 we realized that iTunes was not only propogating slowly, the whole show was down. We were left with an empty iTunes Vessel (see photo.)
My first order of business: Identifying the Problem
Now it should be expected that this is an RSS feed issue so I check the RSS feed, but it was fine.
The second order was to ensure we had submitted the proper RSS feed to iTunes so I looked back (this was unlikely to be the problem but an issue worth checking on before moving forward.) Again we submitted the proper feed.
So the question becomes, “is this problem universal or is it just with iTunes?”
Note: iTunes dominates the downloads of all podcasts that we create. iTunes carries about 82% of all downloads, the remaining 18% spread across a variety of other locations
So I checked TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
All three where reading the proper episodes so my conclusion is that the issue must be in the way we are connecting with iTunes.
But is this connectivity a mistake we can solve or is it an iTunes glitch.
Identifying the Solution and Reconnecting with iTunes
Now that I was confident that this was an issue with iTunes I dug into what iTunes was reading.
The website link on iTunes led to a 404 post that had never been build. This was very strange but it was a clue. I too that URL and redirected it to the proper RSS feed.
This was an error. The feed URL is not the one linked to from the website button.
How to find the RSS feed that iTunes is Reading
Generally I use a tool called FeedFlipper by Pickle Monkey (Thanks Pickle Monkey)
To use the Feed Flipper:
- Go to iTunes and find the show you seek the root RSS feed
- Right Click and Copy that link
- Enter it Into Feed Flipper and the root RSS will show up automatically
This tool doesn’t work with RSS feeds that are broken. Here are the readouts:
So I had to find the RSS feed which iTunes was reading at the time, despite the fact that my tools didn’t work because iTunes was reading a feed that didn’t exist.
Why iTunes switched and started reading a feed that doesn’t exist is beyond me… but that seems to be the case (July 30th, 2014)
I was getting desperate so I reached out to the community and found a better way to access root feeds.
I offered Jonah $100 USD if he could identify the problem in a way that would move the issue along.
Jonah identified a new way to source the root feed of an iTunes podcast despite the fact that it’s an unvalidated feed.
How to Identify the Root Podcast RSS Feed when it Doesn’t Work:
- Subscribe to the broken podcast
- Download a show and go to your podcast library
- Right click on the podcast
- Click “Copy Podcast URL”
- Paste it somewhere.
Now you’ve got an address from where iTunes is pulling the RSS feed. It seems obvious when you know how… but that’s the magic isn’t it.
Anyways, we’re in the process of setting up a 301 redirect from this broken URL to the proper RSS podcasting feed.
Rant Regarding the Situation:
Despite calling iTunes, being very polite and persistent I was never able to get ANYWHERE.
Despite sending polite e-mails quickly and directly to firstname.lastname@example.org, I still haven’t received a response.
Even when reaching out via the iTunes portal I received this reply:
It’s hard for me to believe that this is anything other than a glitch in the iTunes system. After all, the show is displaying on all other platforms seamlessly.
So iTunes seems to have no regard for the podcast producers. I suppose this isn’t their main focus because it’s the audience which holds the value… but it seems an audience derives from having great shows and the show I’m discussing is a great show.
Anyways, I’d hope that someone at iTunes podcasting reads this. I’m sure the overall customer service would benefit from serving those who produce show for the platform.
We are implementing the redirect from the new RSS feed that iTunes is reading.
Of course, iTunes propagation is the slowest of platforms so it’s unknown as to whether this will work or not, or if we’ve actually implemented changes that will effect the listing at all.
(July 31st 2014)
Case Study Status Complete
Well the final 301 redirect from the very odd RSS feed that iTunes magically started reading from was able to set the record straight and get the show back online.
So that’s how to solve problems when iTunes starts looking in unconventional places for your podcast. Just make that unconventional place point to the right place.