Unlisted podcasts: not quite public, not quite private

Is an unlisted podcast right for your brand?

. 4 min read


public podcast is just that: public. You can find public podcasts in places like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts, distributed using publicly available RSS feeds. There are millions of public podcasts.

private podcast is not meant for broad public consumption. Some private podcasts use password-protected feeds. Others grant each authorized listener their own private feed URL. Sometimes, private podcasts require listeners to use a dedicated listening app like Storyboard or uStudio.

It’s an age-old tradeoff: convenience vs. security.

Is there a middle ground? I’m glad you asked.

Unlisted podcasts

An unlisted podcast is sort of like an unlisted telephone number. In the same way an unlisted phone number is intentionally not listed in the phone book, an unlisted podcast is intentionally not listed on the web or in podcast directories.

Unlisted podcasts make sense when:

  • Your intended audience is narrow or highly targeted
  • The content of your podcast isn’t secret or highly sensitive
  • You already have one or more public podcasts meant for broad public consumption and you don’t want to create listener confusion, dilute search results for your public show(s), or otherwise clutter podcast directories

For example, you could create an unlisted podcast as a recruitment tool to help attract new talent. Or you could use an unlisted podcast to share onboarding materials for new employees. Inside your company, an unlisted podcast could be a great way to share news and announcements.

The best part: an unlisted podcast can appear in your listeners’ preferred podcast app alongside their other favourite shows, rather than requiring listeners to download and use an entirely separate app. It’s better to be in the places your listeners already are, rather than asking them to change existing habits or develop new ones.

Example Unlisted Podcast

To demonstrate what this type of podcast can look like, I made a new show called Example Unlisted Podcast. It has everything a publicly available podcast should have:

But if you search for “Example Unlisted Podcast” in Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts, you won’t find it. And if you do a Google search for “Example Unlisted Podcast,” you won’t find it there, either.

Remember, it’s unlisted.

Here’s the great part: I can send you a link to Example Unlisted Podcast and you can easily follow or subscribe to the show in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or any podcast app that supports subscribing to arbitrary RSS feeds (e.g. Overcast, Castro, Pocket Casts, Podcast Addict).

In most podcast apps, it’s simple and straightforward to follow or subscribe to an unlisted podcast. And in most cases, there’s no need to copy and paste cumbersome RSS feed URLs. In Apple Podcasts, for example, you can follow Example Unlisted Podcast in just a few taps.

Don’t believe me? Try it yourself.

To be clear: you can still follow or subscribe to Example Unlisted Podcast in most podcast apps, even though the show isn’t listed in any podcast directories.

What makes Example Unlisted Podcast “unlisted?” A few things:

First, the feed discourages podcast directories from indexing it. This is accomplished by including both <itunes:block> and <googleplay:block> tags in the RSS feed.

Second, the website for Example Unlisted Podcast discourages search engines from indexing it by including the robots meta tag.

Finally, if I want to keep Example Unlisted Podcast from appearing in the Podcast Index, I can add an entry to their private feed blocklist.

Support from Simplecast

Following an unlisted podcast should be as simple as possible. Luckily, many podcast apps offer custom URL schemes that make it easy to subscribe to a show without the need to copy and paste RSS feeds. For example:

  • Apple Podcasts: podcast://feeds.pacific-content.com/unlisted
  • Overcast: overcast://x-callback-url/add?url=https://feeds.pacific-content.com/unlisted
  • Castro: castros://subscribe/feeds.pacific-content.com/unlisted
  • Pocket Casts: pktc://subscribe/feeds.pacific-content.com/unlisted
  • Podcast Addict: podcastaddict://feeds.pacific-content.com/unlisted

A few weeks ago, I was talking to the team at Simplecast about this. I mentioned how nice it would be if their built-in podcast websites supported custom URL schemes for podcast apps.

Now, in addition to offering support for unlisted RSS feeds, Simplecast-hosted websites (like this one) support custom URL schemes for Apple Podcasts, Overcast, and Pocket Casts:


    • Listeners can follow or subscribe to your show in their favourite podcast app, even if your show isn’t listed in the app’s public-facing directory
    • Unlisted shows can be a useful middle-ground between private and public podcasts
    • Unlisted shows are a good alternative to private podcasts when you want to share non-sensitive audio with a targeted group of listeners that you already have a relationship with (employees, investors, prospects, etc.)

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