Hosting and sharing the #scenefromabove podcast

In December 2017 I started the Scene From Above podcast with my co-host Andrew Cutts. The following are a series of notes on how I host the podcast. These notes are written for my own needs, and were first posted on my personal blog, but if they help anyone else then that’s great.

I’m hosting the podcast episodes on Amazon’s S3 service because it is cheap. The S3 service is effectively a series of online folders, although I know a) that isn’t what AWS call them (they are buckets) or b) from a technology standpoint that isn’t what they are  (but I’m skipping that because we just need to think of them as folders for this use case).

I have access to an AWS account and am able to set up a new bucket with public permissions. First up, to make the S3 bucket web ready, I uploaded an HTML file called index.html that included the following code:

indexhtml

This redirects traffic from the S3 bucket back to the podcast page on the Geoger Ltd. website. To make this work, and for the RSS feed to work, I enabled static hosting on the S3 bucket by clicking Properties | Static Website Hosting | Enable website hosting and listing the index.html file as both the Index Document and Error Document.

However, navigating to the hosted website will likely result in a permission error, so under Properties | Permissions I chose Add bucket policy and added the following (where name.of.the.bucket was changed to be just that!):

policy

I must confess that I’m not entirely sure what this does, but the instructions I was following called for this, and it looks like it’s allowing all (*) actions on the bucket.

As per the instructions I was following I created a data folder, images folder, and rss folder and made everything public. The podcast.xml file sits in the rss folder and links to the appropriate data files in the other folders.

Now to the bit that caused the biggest headache – creating the podcast.xml file.

The Scene From Above podcast XML feed can be found here for reference, and the feed it was built on can be found here. I tried a number of different example feeds but this one worked best for me.

Each episode is encapsulated within tags and has the following mix of standard and iTunes specific tags:

episode

Although all these tags seem to be required, the most important tag here is the enclosure tag as that provides the information about the episode location, length and format. To get this information I perform a bit of a convoluted process. I take the link for the episode mp3 file and paste it into a blog post I call Test (making sure I don’t share on social media). In WordPress I then go to WP Admin for my website, and choose Settings | Media | Podcasts and open the podcast feed in another tab. All being right with the world, the enclosure tag should be in there – I copy it and past it into the episode details in the updated podcast.xml file. I then delete the Test post.

The reason we use the podcast.xml file is to enable finer control over the information in the feed. For this to work, it assumes that the instructions at this address have been followed: https://en.support.wordpress.com/audio/podcasting/

The elements that describe the podcast itself, rather than each episode, are laid out below:

channel

Yet again, there are iTunes specific and generic tags. I think that Rawvoice is a different aggregator, similar to the iTunes store.

Apparently Apple can be quite strict in their review process. so I needed to check that the feed worked. I used Cast Feed Validator, PodBase and W3C Validator to check my feed file. It took me a while to get the feed working, although in many cases the validators accepted the xml file whilst the iTunes desktop player didn’t (File | Subscribe To Podcast and enter the path to the xml file).

The two causes of this were:

  • The podcast image has to be between 1200 and 3000 pixels in size, but also has to be perfectly square. Oh, and it can’t be a large file – about 300k is preferred so I made it a jpg.
  • I saved my podcast in .ogg format. This is fine for every podcast app out there APART FROM iTUNES! Make sure you use mp3 format when exporting from Audacity.

Once it worked in Podcast Addict and the iTunes desktop player, and I could embed the audio link into my blog I was ready to submit the feed to the iTunes store. In the iTunes desktop player, click on the store and then look for the Submit a Podcast link on the right hand side of the window. This took me to a Podcasts Connect page where I logged in with my Apple ID and then followed the simple instructions. Within 4 or 5 hours the feed had beed accepted into the store. Now, a search for Scene From Above in the store will return the podcast details, or they are available online here.


Source material:

https://www.thepolyglotdeveloper.com/2016/04/host-a-podcast-for-cheap-on-amazons-s3-service/

https://www.thepolyglotdeveloper.com/2016/02/create-podcast-xml-feed-publishing-itunes/

https://techraptor.net/content/how-to-set-up-podcast-hosting-on-amazon-s3