YouTube is home to lots of great videos and amazing channels, but if you want to enjoy them without spending all day on YouTube, it can be a bit of a hassle. Thankfully, it’s not difficult to turn those videos into podcasts that you can get in iTunes or any other podcast manager you choose. Here’s how.
I subscribe to a lot of YouTube channels. Some are news, some are just entertaining, but they’re all fun to watch. I also subscribe to video podcasts in iTunes that I like to keep up with during the day. Those podcasts get watched, but the YouTube channels can go weeks before I catch up on them. It’s just easier to click start a playlist in my media player than it is for me to dedicate a browser window to a YouTube channel, full-screen, set to HD, and play the videos I want to see in order, one after the other. Some of those annoyances are easy to fix, but not all of them.
There are a number of reasons why you might consider subscribing to a YouTube channel as a podcast. Perhaps YouTube is blocked where you work, but you can use iTunes or another podcast manager just fine. Maybe your boss doesn’t care if you’re watching downloaded videos, but keeping a browser window up at YouTube all day looks like you’re slacking. Maybe you just want to download them in a format you choose so you can enjoy them offline. Whatever the reason, here are some ways to do it.
Subscribe to the Channel’s Hidden RSS Feed
Most YouTube channels have RSS feeds. I’ve seen a number of channel owners say that you “can’t subscribe via RSS, but you can subscribe to the channel via YouTube”, mostly because YouTube doesn’t exactly publicise the fact that every channel has a feed. The URL is usually something like this:
Just replace the “xxxx” with the name of the YouTube user, and you have an RSS feed with the latest uploads, ready to add to whatever podcast manager or feed reader you use. As long as your feed reader can understand video, or your podcast catcher accepts RSS, this works like a charm.
If yours doesn’t and you need an app that works well with this method, try Reeder (which is free on the Mac and iPad for now) or Feedly, or even the self-hosted Tiny Tiny RSS. Even mobile feed readers and podcast managers like our favourites, DoggCatcher (Android), BeyondPod (Android) and DownCast (iOS) support video-based feeds.
Use YTPodcaster to Subscribe Directly in iTunes (or Any Other Podcast App)
YTPodcaster is a combination AIR utility and web app that work together to turn any YouTube channel into a feed that automatically launches, subscribes itself and updates with the latest episode in iTunes. Here’s how to set it up:
- Visit YTPodcaster and download the AIR helper app.
- Install the app and launch it. Make sure it’s running whenever you attempt to subscribe to or update one of your YouTube subscriptions.
- Go back to YTPodcaster and type in the name of the channel you want to subscribe to in iTunes (or any other podcast manager, but you’ll need iTunes for this step).
- Select whether you want the subscription in SD, HD or Full HD, and click “Get It”.
- The web app will launch (or prompt you to launch) iTunes, immediately subscribe to the YouTube channel as “[Channel Name] from YTPodcaster.com” and start downloading the most recent episode.
If you use iTunes to manage your podcasts, you’re all done. If you don’t, grab the podcast URL by right-clicking the channel name in iTunes and selecting “Copy Podcast URL”. Then paste that URL into any other podcast catcher you choose. You’ll still need the helper app running, but it only needs to be active when you subscribe to or download new episodes. This means mobile podcast managers are out (unless you sync them with your desktop first), but it’s still the easiest way to turn any YouTube channel into a video podcast you can watch in your favourite desktop media player.
The biggest benefit of this method is that you can use it on your HTPC if you prefer to download videos on your own time instead of stream them from YouTube and wait for them to load in full HD, if you want to use your own media player instead of a YouTube plugin or app, or if you just want to be able to subscribe, download and watch offline.
Use RSS Handler to Convert YouTube Channels and Playlists into Feeds that Work Anywhere
RSS Handler is probably the most powerful of the three methods, but it’s not without its compromises. Like YTPodcaster, the RSS Handler app (open source and maintained at Google Code) can convert a YouTube podcast into a subscribable feed that works in any podcast catcher. Unlike YTPodcaster, RSS Handler can grab playlists too, so you can subscribe to a specific user’s daily updates without all of the other things they upload, or make your own playlists and subscribe to those.
The RSS Handler app requires Java to run, so make sure you have it installed first. You can go to Java’s install checker to make sure. Then, just download the launcher file to open the application.
From there, you can select whether you want to subscribe to a user, a playlist or your own favourites list. Select the video format you prefer, how many items you want in the feed, how much information you want included and so on. Then paste in the “ID” for the YouTube user or playlist you’re interested in (a username will be simple, like “lifehacker”, but a playlist will be a string of letters and numbers, like “288B4A1BBFEF7424”). If you want to subscribe to your favourites (or another users favourites, if they’re public) just type in your username. Click “Generate podcast URL” and you’re all done. You can even have the app copy the URL to your clipboard for you.
Now you can take that URL and paste into any podcast manager you want to use, on any operating system. You’ll still need the Java application running when you want to update or subscribe, because the app — like YTPodcaster — acts as a server to facilitate new downloads. It’s easier to just make sure you open the RSS Handler helper app whenever you open your media player.
Like we mentioned, RSS Handler is more powerful than YTPodcaster and has more options, but it comes at the significant drawback that it’s Java, and it requires Java running on your system while the app is running, and you know how we feel about Java.
With luck, one of these methods will work well for you and the way you prefer to enjoy your podcasts. All of them give you control over when and where you enjoy your favourite YouTube channels, and set you free of having to actually go to YouTube to enjoy them.
That said, remember the single most important metric for the success of a YouTube channel (and its appeal to advertisers) is its number of subscribers on the site. Its next more important metric is the number of likes the channel’s videos get. Do your favourite YouTube content producer a favour, and even if you use one of these above methods, go like their videos and subscribe to their channel. They will appreciate it.
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