An ode to RSS, and a toast to the future

An ode to RSS, and a toast to the future

Written by By Matt MacDonaldVP Product2021.04.23

At Acast we believe RSS is the future of podcasting, and will continue to actively embrace everything it has to offer.

RSS was the bedrock on which the entire podcasting industry was built. Its open nature, allowing any app to pull in episodes from every podcast in existence, gave podcasting the platform it needed to truly take off — and helped creators build communities of devoted listeners.

Just like the way HTML opened up the internet, making every website accessible through any web browser, RSS excludes nobody — ensuring all listeners get the same experience. Creators are safe in the knowledge that any feature they promote can be enjoyed by every single one of their fans, without them needing to download or switch to another app.

RSS also helps ensure the creator owns the relationship with their listeners, which is crucial in serving the creator-listener bond — and not only the interests of podcast platforms. And it’s exactly what makes RSS so perfectly positioned to support podcasting’s next growth spurt, albeit under a slightly different guise.

The future of podcasting is Dynamic RSS

Acast is pioneering Dynamic RSS (dRSS), which enables unique audio combinations to be delivered straight to an individual listener. Much like the technology we invented to allow dynamic insertion of ads and sponsorship, dRSS means each listener’s audio can be highly personalized — and provides almost endless creative possibilities for podcasters.

Most importantly, dRSS helps turn podcasts from a broadcast medium to something far more interactive.

For example, a listener might visit a fitness podcaster’s website and fill out a short survey about their personal health and wellbeing goals. Then, when they subscribe to that podcaster’s show, they’re given a custom podcast feed, tailored to their needs — whether that’s the pacing of new episodes, or the content of the episodes themselves. They might even get select premium content for free, as a “thank you” for filling out the survey in the first place.

With dRSS we could create ‘choose your own adventure’ fiction podcasts, or have episodes lined up in the listener’s feed depending on how recently they subscribed to a show. With a personal finance podcast, for example, that could mean on day one they’re served an introductory episode, then day two starts them on their investment journey, or is an episode explaining cryptocurrency — all based on their own interests and goals.

What about global or national news podcasts with local segments dynamically inserted? These examples really only scratch the surface of how dRSS will take podcasting to new levels of personalization and relevancy — and simply wouldn’t be possible without the open podcasting ecosystem that RSS helped create.

Supporting the open podcasting ecosystem

To appreciate the importance of the open ecosystem, you only have to look at other industries where closed platforms have put creators in peril.

The music industry, for example, has suffered from ‘walled gardens’ that offer poor revenue share for artists and limited accessibility for listeners. In film and TV, many viewers are facing subscription fatigue as they try to decide which platforms to pay for — let alone how to afford them all.

What the average person would really love is a single video streaming app, or a sole point of entry for music, where they can enjoy all the great tracks and watch all the best shows produced all over the world — while at the same time supporting their favourite artists, actors and directors.

That might sound like a pipedream, but it’s exactly what open RSS offers podcast creators and their fans, and it’s the foundation we’re trying to build on with dRSS.

Supporting creators

RSS not only supports creators’ ability to find — and keep hold of — new listeners, it also gives them a raft of different ways to make money from their craft. Creators are the masters of their own feeds, and have ultimate freedom and flexibility to choose whichever monetization options work best for their individual podcast.

When it comes to advertising and sponsorship, for example, they can decide whether to add or remove ad breaks, define their own blocklist and safelist, and control their own ads policy. Brands and agencies, which have invested in and supported podcasting’s growth for many years — and continue to do so — highly value the reach and diversity of content that RSS allows.

But, while ads and host reads remain a fantastic way to bring revenue to your show, Acast believes that true diversity in podcaster monetization means embracing fandom and providing pathways for listeners to support the creators they love directly. By now, you won’t be surprised to read that this diversity is something that dRSS absolutely supports.

Our first major manifestation of dRSS is Acast+, which we launched last month, introducing a whole host of brilliant new ways for creators to get paid — from ad-free streams and exclusive content for paying subscribers, to much, much more. Thanks to dRSS, all the benefits of Acast+ are available to listeners on whichever podcast app or platform they choose.

For the listener, there’s no need to switch between apps to enjoy different shows, and all subscriber content appears right in their feed alongside all their other favourite podcasts.

For the podcaster, they’re also safe in the knowledge that each paying member’s private feed is unique to them, which — along with plenty of other security measures — protects against piracy.

Acast firmly believes that podcasting, both now and in the future, should remain open and accessible to all. We call ourselves the power source of podcasting, offering everything creators and advertisers need to find and reach millions of engaged listeners around the world — and RSS is the pipes connecting us all.