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Thursday
Sep272012

Getting your Podcast feed back to SquareSpace from FeedBurner without losing iTunes subscribers

As many others have mentioned over the last week, FeedBurner appears to be in the process of going "belly up". At The GAME.minder Report, we had literally just switched over to using FeedBurner last month so obviously, we were less than thrilled to hear this news.

As we are hosted on SquareSpace, moving the feed TO FeedBurner was pretty simple: 

  • set up a feed on FeedBurner pointing at our GAMEminderreport.com feed
  • distribute the new feed instead of the old
  • set up a 301 redirect so anyone hitting the old feed would be pushed off to the new one

As a 301 redirect is "permanently moved", this method told RSS readers, including iTunes, to update their subscriptions despite not using the preferred <itunes:new-feed-url> tag.

But now that FeedBurner is moving towards defunct, we wanted to point those subscriptions back to original URL. Had we used a 302 redirect (temporaily moved) this would have been easier, but we didn't (shame on us). Since FeedBurner doesn't allow us to set up 301 redirects on their servers, the only option we had open to us (as far as I know) is the <itunes:new-feed-url> tag. There's only one problem, SquareSpace doesn't offer a way to inject this tag at the channel level. So what to do?

IMPORTANT: there may be other ways to do this that I'm not aware of. Our primary concern was getting iTunes subscribers onto the correct RSS feed and so this guide is pretty specific to the case of "iTunes heavy Podcast Feeds".

Here's the steps we've taken:

Step 0:

We're not entirely sure how many subscribers are on readers other than iTunes so to catch anyone for whom the iTunes tag won't help them, we recorded and published an audio note to manually update to the new feed address.

Step 1:

Load the current xml that FeedBurner is publishing.

Step 2:

Copy this into a new text file.

Step 3:

Add your <itunes:new-feed-url> tag at the channel level in this new XML file and upload it to your SquareSpace account. (we added it just before the <itunes:owner> tag)

Step 4:

Edit your feedburner "original feed" to point to this new XML file (e.g. gameminderreport.com/storage/rssfix.xml)

Once you've completed these steps, iTunes clients hitting the old FeedBurner feed should get automatically updated to the new one. There is a chance that some duplicates will show up in their feed unfortunately.

So how to avoid this issue in the future?

Marco Arment pointed out on Build And Anlyze this week that the safest way to handle this sort of thing moving forward is to decouple your public address from your actual feed. For us this means we've set up GAMEminderReport.com/rss as the public facing address. We've then used SquareSpace's URL Shortcuts to do a 302 redirect to the actual feed being published on our site. This means that, from now on, we can always use the same public facing adress and simply change the 302 destination if we ever need to move again in the future.

If you are running your own system, Marco Arment has written a nice little script to count subscribers for you in the abscense of FeedBurner. However, when running on SquareSpace, we don't have the option to run something like this.