In this tutorial we’ll use reader to download all the episodes of a podcast, and then each new episode as they come up.

Podcasts are episodic series that share information as digital audio files that a user can download to a personal device for easy listening. Usually, the user is notified of new episodes by periodically downloading an RSS feed which contains links to the actual audio files; in the context of a feed, these files are called enclosures.

The final script is available as an example in the reader repository, if you want to compare your script with the final product as you follow the tutorial.


Before starting, install reader by following the instructions here.

Adding and updating feeds

Create a podcast.py file:

from reader import make_reader

feed_url = "http://www.hellointernet.fm/podcast?format=rss"

reader = make_reader("db.sqlite")

def add_and_update_feed():
    reader.add_feed(feed_url, exist_ok=True)


feed = reader.get_feed(feed_url)
print(f"updated {feed.title} (last changed at {feed.updated})\n")

make_reader() creates a Reader object; this gives access to most reader functionality and persists the state related to feeds to a file.

add_feed() adds a new feed to the list of feeds. Since we will run the script repeatedly to download new episodes, if the feed already exists, we can just move along.

update_feeds() retrieves and stores all the added feeds.

get_feed() returns a Feed object that contains information about the feed. We could have called get_feed() before update_feeds(), but the returned feed would have most of its attributes set to None, which is not very useful.

Run the script with the following command:

python3 podcast.py

The output should be similar to this:

updated Hello Internet (last changed at 2020-02-28 09:34:02+00:00)

Comment out the add_and_update_feed() call for now. If you re-run the script, the output should be the same, since get_feed() returns data already persisted in the database.

Looking at entries

Let’s look at the individual elements in the feed (called entries); add this to the script:

def download_everything():
    entries = reader.get_entries()
    entries = list(entries)[:3]

    for entry in entries:
        print(entry.feed.title, '-', entry.title)


By default, get_entries() returns an iterable of all the entries of all the feeds, most recent first.

In order to keep the output short, we only look at the first 3 entries for now. Running the script should output something like this (skipping that first “updated …” line):

Hello Internet - H.I. #136: Dog Bingo
Hello Internet - H.I. #135: Place Your Bets
Hello Internet - # H.I. 134: Boxing Day

At the moment we only have a single feed; we can make sure we only get the entries for this feed by using the feed argument; while we’re at it, let’s also only get the entries that have enclosures:

entries = reader.get_entries(feed=feed_url, has_enclosures=True)

Note that we could have also used feed=feed; wherever Reader needs a feed, you can pass either the feed URL or a Feed object. This is similar for entries; they are identified by a (feed URL, entry id) tuple, but you can also use an Entry object instead.

Reading entries

As mentioned in the beginning, the script will keep track of what episodes it already downloaded and only download the new ones.

We can achieve this by getting the unread entries, and marking them as read after we process them:

entries = reader.get_entries(feed=feed_url, has_enclosures=True, read=False)

for entry in entries:

If you run the script once, it should have the same output as before. If you run it again, it will show the next 3 unread entries:

Hello Internet - Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Hello Internet Christmas Special
Hello Internet - H.I. #132: Artisan Water
Hello Internet - H.I. #131: Panda Park

Downloading enclosures

Once we have the machinery to go through entries in place, we can move on to downloading enclosures.

First we add some imports we’ll use later, and a variable for the path of the download directory:

import os
import os.path
podcasts_dir = "podcasts"

In order to make testing easier, we initially write a dummy download_file() function that only writes the enclosure URL to the file instead of downloading it:

def download_file(src_url, dst_path):
    with open(dst_path, 'w') as file:
        file.write(src_url + '\n')

And then we use it in download_everything():

for entry in entries:
    print(entry.feed.title, '-', entry.title)

    for enclosure in entry.enclosures:
        filename = enclosure.href.rpartition('/')[2]
        print("  *", filename)
        download_file(enclosure.href, os.path.join(podcasts_dir, filename))


For each Enclosure, we extract the filename from the enclosure URL so we can use it as the name of the local file.

mark_entry_as_read() gets called after we download the file, so if the download fails, the script won’t skip it at the next re-run.

We also need to make sure the directory exists before calling download_everything(), otherwise trying to open a file in it will fail:

os.makedirs(podcasts_dir, exist_ok=True)

Running the script now should create three .mp3 files in podcasts/:

Hello Internet - H.I. #130: Remember Harder
  * 130.mp3
Hello Internet - H.I. #129: Sunday Spreadsheets
  * 129.mp3
Hello Internet - H.I. #128: Complaint Tablet Podcast
  * 128.mp3
$ for file in podcasts/*; do echo '#' $file; cat $file; done
# podcasts/128.mp3
# podcasts/129.mp3
# podcasts/130.mp3

With everything wired up correctly, we finally implement the download function using requests:

import shutil
import requests


def download_file(src_url, dst_path):
    part_path = dst_path + '.part'
    with requests.get(src_url, stream=True) as response:
            with open(part_path, 'wb') as file:
                shutil.copyfileobj(response.raw, file)
            os.rename(part_path, dst_path)
        except BaseException:
            except Exception:

stream=True tells requests not to load the whole response body in memory (some podcasts can be a few hundred MB in size); instead, we copy the content from the underlying file-like object to disk using shutil.copyfileobj().

In order to avoid leaving around incomplete files in case of failure, we first write the content to a temporary file which we try to delete if anything goes wrong. After we finish writing the content successfully, we move the temporary file to its final destination.

Wrapping up

We’re mostly done.

Uncomment the add_and_update_feed() call, remove the entries = list(entries)[:3] line in download_everything(), and clean up the files we created so we can start over for real:

rm -r db.sqlite podcasts/

The script output should now look like:

updated Hello Internet (last changed at 2020-02-28 09:34:02+00:00)

Hello Internet - H.I. #136: Dog Bingo
  * 136FinalFinal.mp3
Hello Internet - H.I. #135: Place Your Bets
  * 135.mp3
Hello Internet - # H.I. 134: Boxing Day
  * HI134.mp3

with actual MP3 files being downloaded to podcasts/ (which takes a while).

If you interrupt the script at any point (CTRL+C), it should start from the first episode it did not download. If you let it finish and run it again, it will only update the feed (unless a new episode just came up; then it will download it).

More examples

You can find more examples of how to use reader in the repository: