Costs are a killer to any enterprise yet some costs provide more benefits than the resources they consume. Quite often when we start a new hobby/business we are trying to keep costs to an absolute minimum. This can lead to less than optimal choices. I’ve done it and I know others who have too. Hosting is the area where most people try to save a few bob.
What are the options? A paid host like Libsyn or a free option. Free options include things like Soundcloud, Gdrive, Archive.org and your website host. What are the benefits and drawbacks of each option?
Let’s start with your website host. They all, or nearly all, state we have unlimited bandwidth. They also, if we actually read the Terms and Conditions, have a fair use clause. The lower your hosting plan, the more this comes into effect. Every time someone listens to an episode, they draw the audio file from our host. If our files are held on our website host, that’s a call on that server. If we only have a few listeners, nothing much happens. When the show explodes in popularity, the host will notice. Especially on shared servers, your extra calls on that server will affect the other users you share that server with.
You will either receive an email or your site will be shut down to preserve the data integrity of the server. This means no one will be able access your show. You may get away with it for a some time but you will hit a wall, eventually. Do not take this route!
Archive.org is a more forgiving but it too has issues. Mostly speed will be affected with huge listener numbers. Archive.org is a place where they are attempting to record everything that has ever been on the web. It is great for finding old articles from sites that you no longer own the URL for or have been taken down by sites you published on. It is not a dedicated podcast host. If you decide to use archive.org as your host be sure to flick them some funds as a donation to maintain the stellar work they are doing.
Gdrive or more correctly Google Drive is a cloud based system that comes with every google account. We mostly start with gmail and discover it from there. 15 gig of free storage seems like a great place to leave your audio files for others to access. The same fair use issues as a website host arise. Google will block your account and that’s a real pain.
Soundcloud has a free option. You can store up to 180 minutes of audio. If you use this option you need to remove the oldest episode when you add a new one once you’ve hit the 180 minute mark. Soundcloud is designed for music and as such doesn’t support all the Apple tags that are becoming more important over time. The organisation has also had some cash flow issues over time which may create more serious consequences in the future. They were teetering on the edge of bankruptcy a little while back. That would mean some serious problems for the podcasts hosted there.
I have and have had clients who used Soundcloud for the first few episodes to get a feel for the medium at no cost. As a stopgap measure it works but I would seriously consider other options for long term podcasting. The other issue with Soundcloud is the stats. It is possible to purchase any number of “listens” from listener farms around the world. For this reason Soundcloud stats are a joke when you go looking for advertisers. Use it as a testing platform not as a long term solution.
I will cover the benefits of a paid host in an upcoming post.
- Free is not without cost
- Read the fair use rules for your website host
- Don’t abuse archive.org
- Soundcloud may be a short term option