FeedPress Adds Automatic JSON Feed Support

JSONFeed

Beloved Mac developers and long time bloggers, Brent Simmons and Manton Reece have launched JSON Feed. The take away for developers is as follows:

For most developers, JSON is far easier to read and write than XML. Developers may groan at picking up an XML parser, but decoding JSON is often just a single line of code.

Why care?

So why should anyone care about this with respect to podcasts when Apple controls the ecosystem? Although its early days for the spec, our opinion is that innovation in a space with an established, albeit old spec is a healthy thing.

RSS is and continues to be a workable transportation method for podcast data, but even RSS–which has been around since 1999–needs enhancement. That’s why open source initiatives like syndicated.media exist to take podcast functionality and RSS to the next level (we’re closely watching this).

What impact does it have?

Does this mean that JSON Feed will make any significant impact? That remains to be seen, but we’re pleased to see people move the needle forward.

Co-creator, Manton Reece wrote about how JSON Feed relates to podcast functionality:

JSON Feed includes an attachments array, which is similar to the enclosure element in RSS that enabled podcasting. We love podcasting and included an example podcast feed in the JSON Feed specification.

How FeedPress supports JSON Feed

Experimental JSON support is live on FeedPress. JSON Feed is generated every time the XML feed is refreshed and is not a replication from the source, it’s a creation. The JSON feed validates and it handles podcasts on RSS and Atom.

Conclusion

There is nothing FeedPress customers need to do in order to get JSON compatible feeds. Simply append the ?format=json parameter to the end of your RSS feed.

Here’s an example URL: https://podcast.hologramradio.org/master?format=json

FeedPress customers are encouraged to test this with compatible RSS readers and Podcast apps. We’d love to hear your feedback.

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Update: As of May 31, 2017, the feed_url paramter has been added. As per JSON Feed spec documentation, it’s highly recommended:

Your Podcast Might Be Too Quiet Or Too Loud

Alex Knight at the mixing console, working on sound designing a podcast in Avid Pro Tools.

According to the 2017 edition of Edison Research’s “Infinite Dial” report, 65% of people listen to podcasts on mobile devices. Based on location listened to most often, they further break down that 52% of the sampled audience most listen to podcasts at home, 18% in a vehicle, 12% at work, 3% on public transit, 3% at the gym, and 3% walking around.

The Problem

FeedPress advocates podcast producers pay close attention to loudness compliance with their audio. Irrespective of listening environment, it’s just good practice.

Interest in podcast production techniques and the analysis of podcast audio is a growing trend. Engineers are analyzing many of the top ranking podcasts–including ones repackaged from radio–and are finding they exhibit a multitude of problems. Some of the problems podcasts have include an extended dynamic range, wide ranging degrees of loudness, and even clipped audio.

Why Care?

Overly loud podcasts may contain audible distortion, which can be extremely uncomfortable for listeners. Furthermore, your audience should not be frustrated and have to constantly reach for the volume controls when listening to podcasts. This is why audio engineers advocate that podcast producers aim for a target loudness of -16 Loudness Units relative to Full Scale (LUFS) for stereo files and -19 LUFS for mono files. LUFS is a standard designed to enable normalization of audio levels of broadcast TV, other video, and now podcasts.

There are two reasons why engineers are pushing for audio compliance: maintaining a level of consistency between program audio, and comfort in loud listening environments. Some examples of noisy listening environments include: the morning or afternoon commute by train, car, or walking outside. Working with spoken word requires attention to detail to maximize intelligibility and loudness for mobile device consumption.

Solutions

You are a story teller, editor, and producer and must ensure the quality of your audio matches the high bar set for your content. There are solutions to this complex problem that do not require an audio engineering degree. For example, podcast producers can use tools built into Adobe Audition such as “Match Loudness” to optimize and export their podcasts to recommended compliance targets.

Another solution is to use an online service such as Auphonic, which contains reasonable presets for novices. Note that even though there are tools that can make this job more efficient, you should still understand the fundamentals of why loudness compliance is needed and how it’s achieved.

Audio engineer Paul Figgiani of produceNewMedia blog, and a longtime advocate for loudness compliance, writes:

I’ve discussed the reasons why there is a need for revised Loudness Standards for Internet and Mobile audio distribution. Problematic (noisy) consumption environments and possible device gain deficiencies justify an elevated Integrated Loudness target resulting in audio that is perceptually louder on average compared to Loudness Normalized audio targeted for Broadcast. Low level, highly dynamic audio complicates matters further. The recommended Integrated Loudness targets for Internet and Mobile audio are -16.0 LUFS for stereo files and -19.0 LUFS for mono. They are perceptually equal.

Conclusion

You now realize the importance of optimizing your podcasts for loudness compliance. To learn more about properly optimizing and mastering podcast audio, please read our in-depth article on loudness compliance.

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Apple Silently Adds Support for Let’s Encrypt Certificates on Podcast Feeds

FeedPress has had SSL support for RSS feeds and hosted podcast media since June 2016. Let’s Encrypt is an open source certificate authority that has been adopted by millions and provides easy access for companies like us to issue free SSL certificates to every customer.

An obstacle podcasters have had since Let’s Encrypt’s introduction is that iTunes Podcast Connect would reject feeds using their SSL certificates. The reason for this is because the iTunes Java Root Store was old and didn’t recognize Let’s Encrypt as a valid certificate authority.

This week we were alerted that the folks at iTunes had silently updated their infrastructure to support Let’s Encrypt. FeedPress has tested compatibility and is pleased to confirm that you can now submit podcast feeds to iTunes using Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates. As of the publication date of this blog post, Apple has yet to update their FAQ on official support for Let’s Encrypt.

Please refer to our tutorial below to learn how to enable HTTPS on podcast feeds:

http://support.feed.press/article/113-enabling-ssl-on-hosted-feedpress-feeds

Conclusion

Note that although SSL is a feature that is available in FeedPress, it’s not a compatibility requirement for iTunes at the moment. If you don’t feel comfortable turning it on, we recommend leaving it off until Apple provides a cut off date when it must be enabled.

Podcast Publisher: Specify Publish Date And Time in Your Posts

Available today on our Podcast Publishing system, you can specify a publish date and time on posts. This was a requested feature and is something we wanted to get into v1 of the podcast publisher system but didn’t get to.

Customers requested this as it’s an expected feature in a CMS, but also because it’s handy when you migrate from other hosting services and need to re-create your posts and preserve the original publishing date and time.

Selecting a publish date and time

date and time fields

The new date picker

date picker

Updates to File Storage

Several months ago we increased the provisioned file storage from 250MB to 400MB for all customers. Today we made a tweak to File Storage to include a status that reflects whether or not that file is attached to a post. For example, if you have a draft post with an uploaded file, the file will say “Draft.” If you have a post that’s been published, the status of the file will reflect “Published.”

podcast file storage status

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Publish your own podcast

You remember that feeling of delight you experienced when you first tried ice cream as a kid. That’s what podcasting on FeedPress feels like. Publish your own podcast today on a 14-day trial and experience delight once again.

High-Pass Filtering: Getting Rid of Undesirable Low Frequencies

I care deeply about the level of production that goes into each podcast that I make. My production chain begins with using the best microphones I can afford and ends with carefully edited and mastered audio that is suitable for consumption by the listener. I enumerate my production chain below and how it flows to the final product:

  • Microphones
  • Outboard processing (compressors)
  • Mixer
  • Computer
  • Recording software
  • Editing
  • Mastering
  • Upload to the web

Disturbing frequencies you don’t want

A common problem in podcasts produced by the inexperienced is an abundance of undesirable low-end frequency. For example: excessive bottom end that’s audibly disturbing when people hit their microphones, slam their arms on a desk, or a car drives by with its subwoofer blaring. If you record in a noisy environment, this amplifies certain problematic frequencies. Short of recording in an acoustically treated room away from the noise of the outside world, you can’t completely get rid of all undesired frequencies. You can of course minimize the impact or “energy” of the problem.

If you have a dynamic or condenser microphone with an XLR connector, there’s a good chance you will find a switch on it that is a bass roll-off (sometimes referred to as HP or High-Pass). The characteristics of the bass roll-off implementation can vary from microphone to microphone. Consult the manual from the manufacturer to get the details on how they implemented a bass roll-off.

XLR cable

What frequencies should I filter?

A High-Pass filter, as the name suggests, allows high frequencies to pass through whilst unwanted low frequencies (below the threshold you specify) are removed.

For spoken word, I typically filter below 100Hz as you really don’t need frequencies below that. Most of the frequencies that live below 100Hz too easily creep into a recording, some are avoidable if you have poor microphone technique and bad habits, others may be out of your control (as described earlier). In the illustrated example below, the microphone I use is a Shure SM7B. At the rear, there are two switches: one provides a presence boost, the other a bass roll-off. Audio engineers will tell you filtering closest to the source is best. I would agree, but in some scenarios, you’ll find the bass roll-off too aggressive.

Shure SM7B

The SM7B is a fantastic microphone, but I don’t roll-off on the microphone because the filtering slope begins at around 200Hz. There are some lower frequencies in a male voice that I like to retain around 150Hz). Other dynamic microphones more commonly roll-off at around 100Hz or even 80z. There are other microphones that offer granular controls such as the Sennheiser MD-421 that have multiple bass roll-off options. If you don’t filter at the source, there are 3 other options: filter at the mixer level if you have the luxury of owning one, filter at the preamp/channel strip, or in software.

dbx 286s

Rolling off bass in software

My primary recording software is Adobe Audition. The example below applies to other popular software packages such as: Avid Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, GarageBand, or Audacity. Plugins are little software programs that can be inserted into an individual audio track to apply a particular desired effect such as: dynamic processing (compression), reverb, delays, equalization, and more. To filter out low frequencies, insert an EQ plugin into the problematic audio track.

Enable the HP button and specify a value for the filter. Note that I set mine to 100Hz.

Note: If you prefer, you can filter all tracks at once, and how you do that is by inserting the same EQ plugin on your “Master Bus” track. The Master Bus is a stereo bus that sums all of the individual audio tracks together.

Parametric EQ

You’ll notice in the screenshot below that below the “Frequency” option, there is “Gain” setting, which defaults to 24dB/Oct. This setting tells the filter by how much gain should it attenuate from the signal in db (decibel as the unit of measurement for the intensity of sound). In other words, how aggressively should it cut out the frequencies. The “Oct” stands for octave. In musical terms, an octave is described as follows:

A series of eight notes occupying the interval between (and including) two notes–one having twice or half the frequency of vibration of the other.

To put this all together, my High-Pass filter will filter out frequencies at 100Hz or lower and will cut them on a relatively aggressive slope of 24db per octave.

HP filter

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Coda

You now have an understanding of problematic frequencies that you want to remove from your podcast audio, how to remove them, and what exactly is going on from a technical perspective behind the scenes.