One of the great things, I think, about today’s current state of technology is that if there’s something that I need and it doesn’t exist, I can create it. Case in point, there was a group1 who added and published MP3’s to their website on a weekly basis, but had no Podcast to distribute it. Thus, if I wanted to listen to these audio files on my iPod, I would have to manually download it every week, add it to my iTunes, and then sync to my iPod.
Of course, I would not stand for this. So I wrote a simple script that would check for a new audio file on this groups server2, download the files to my server, and the generate the appropriate XML needed to bring the file into iTunes. Insta-podcast.
Anyway, being the nice and sharing guy that I am, I decided to unleash my little XML podcast feed to the world. And all was well. A few people found it, including the Apple iTunes store, and I was pretty content. Eventually the group get’s their act together and publishes their own XML podcast feed. I see this and do something called a “301 Moved Permanently” redirect. In short, if you were using my XML podcast feed, your program got a nice message that says, “Hey! What you were looking for isn’t over here anymore, it’s over there. Furthermore, it’s never coming back here, so you should just always go check over there from now on.” I figure cool, I did something good. They never notice (which is how it should be). All is right with the world.
Well, a couple years after all this goes down, I get an email:
I recently found out that you submitted the ABC podcast to iTunes. While I am sure you were doing this to be helpful, it does not allow us to edit the submitted podcast in iTunes. We need to be able to do this, please remove the podcast so that we can submit it ourselves.
I do some poking around and, to humor the guy, send a request to the iTunes Music Store requesting that the feed be removed. Remember, I’ve done a “301 Moved Permanently,” so I shouldn’t be having this issue. Just to be sure, I remove everything…including the redirect. Any future requests for this resource will now result in “404 File Not Found” error.
A couple months go by, and I get another email from the guy.
I just checked the podcast again, and it is still listed under your e-mail address in the iTunes store. Would you mind following up with Apple?
At this point, I know the problem can’t possible be on my end. It has to be this guys problem. So I do some more checking and research. And respond back:
I did some poking around and here’s what I’m thinking. The podcast has been completely removed from my site for several weeks now and accessing it produces a 404 error (whereas it used to just be a 301 – Moved Permantely redirect). However, when I check iTunes, I see the latest podcasts. This makes me believe that iTunes is in fact fetching the content from your server and not mine.
Looking at the XML formatting for your podcast (http://www.abc.com/podcast/meetings/meetings.xml), I noticed that you are not using the iTunes specific tags (http://www.apple.com/itunes/store/podcaststechspecs.html), specifically the “<itunes:author>” tag.
My thinking is that iTunes has decided to cache the information and that’s what you’re seeing. If you were to update your XML file with the iTunes specific tags, you should be all set.
Does that make sense?
I check the next day and the data on iTunes had been updated. I never did hear back from Bob.
About a year later, the group decides they’re going to outsource their entire podcast to another company. They post a podcast say, “Hey, we’ve moved feeds…here’s how to find us again.” Which is fine, I guess3. However, there was a much better way. I did a bit of research (seriously, about five minutes) and sent Bob another email:
I noticed that you guys changed the URL for the podcast and are asking people to resubscribe. As a thought, you could set the current podcast URL send a 301 – Moved Permanently instead of having people resubscribe as it will automatically tell the program that the URL has changed and it should update its records with the new URL (which is actually the entire point of issuing a 301).
iTunes and the iTunes store support this nomenclature in addition to a special “<itunes:new-feed-url>” tag.
For more information on the iTunes redirect: http://www.apple.com/itunes/whatson/podcasts/specs.html#changing
For more information on sending 301 headers with ASP:
They never did implement my idea. And Bob never did email me back. Sometimes I think it would have been better to have kept the podcast, rather then let them run it. It never ceases to amaze me the monkeys some groups will let control their network. As of the time of this posting, Bob still works for ABC Group.
historians of this blog may know who I’m talking about ↩
they happened to name their files in a sequentially predictable manner ↩
The danger here is that you risk losing subscribes when you ask them to perform a required action. Thus, if you make the action automatic, you don’t risk losing subscribers. It should be a “no-duh” point, but often people miss it. ↩