On the length of RSS feeds


My friend in Prague, Václav Navrátil, wrote to me:

Hi Michael,

that is very difficult to say. RSS was designated as a way for syndication of content (I don’t know if you remember the big disputes few years back if RSS Feed should contain Full article or just the Lead paragraph), but Podcast RSS in fact Atom is the main way of publishing of the podcast and I think it should include all the episodes.

Some podcasts need to be ordered from the oldest to the newest (books), some from the newest to the oldest (Freedom Feeens) and some just need to publish last three episodes (weather forecast).

To support my argument, imagine a user which finds your podcast on some Podcast catalog, iTunes for example… The user has no chance easily (few clicks on their device) get the rest of the podcast to their device and to the podcast playing software. It is an inconvenience so big that it will discourage most of the users from listening to the older episodes.

RSS was designate to bring people on your site to consume the content there. Podcasts are consumed elsewhere. The feeds should reflect that. And it doesn’t bring any significant extra cost.

You are an experienced podcaster and I’m only a theorist which might be missing some important part of the riddle but this is how I see it.


P. S.: I don’t want to start any pod beef over pod feed. 😉


I replied toVáclav:
My choice is based on the opinion of my friend Evo Terra, who wrote the book “Podcasting for Dummies.” He knows more about Podcasting than anyone I know.

One issue is that some podcatchers will not download and process an RSS feed that is over 250 k. The Feens one is currently 237 k, if I included all episodes, it would be about a meg.

I’ll ask Evo if that limit has changed with time, and what his current opinion of it is. My feeling is that if someone wants all the episodes, they can grab them fairly easily from FreedomFeens.cz.



I wrote Evo and asked him:

Hey Evo,
I know you used to recommend that a pod feed only contain like ten episodes. Has that change with time and advances in throughput and memory capacity?
Also, I know it used to be that some podcatchers would not download and process an RSS feed that was over 250 k, is that still the case, and if so, which podcatchers?
Thank you!
Evo wrote back:
Technically, there is no length restrictions described in the RSS 2.0 spec document.
512K is the max file that Feedburner can handle, so there’s a practical limit. And some catchers may have an issue with very large files, but iTunes seems to be OK with it.
I haven’t had an active personal podcast for the last couple of years, Michael. But when I did, I kept the feed to 20 episodes and always included full show notes.