A podcast host can support or destroy a podcast!
The best ones just do the job and we rarely have to worry about them. They’re across all the Apple updates, the send our content to many destinations, not just the podcatcher world and they do this seamlessly.
The worst hosts claim ownership of our blood, sweat and tears by claiming control of audio files. They make moving hosts difficult, if not impossible and their feeds continually break.
So, what do we need to look for in a host?
First and foremost, a reliable RSS feed. As we discussed in the post on the Mechanics of Podcasting, the RSS feed is critical to your show reaching your listener’s ears. Unless they download directly through your website or host, they need the RSS feed to tell Apple you have a new show.
A host that also allows you to check the validity of your feed before publishing is a bonus.
Let’s look at some hosts and their pros and cons.
I’ll start with a free service: Soundcloud. The pros are straightforward enough: for 180 minutes of content, the hosting is free. For more than that and mean for any amount more than that, technically an infinite amount, it costs something like US$16 a month. This seems too good to be true. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
The big pro is the free option. You can get your show onto Apple Podcasts, you promote the living daylights out of it and you get a player to drop into your website and the RSS feed works. In my limited experience, anyway, the RSS feed works. I started on this platform because I wasn’t sure exactly what I was doing. The full 18 months of working out what did work are the basis of the Podcast Essentials course I offer.
The categories under which you can publish are not specifically designed for podcasters, they are designed for the junior rapper, the up and coming Country and Western singer and so on. It is a music sharing site. It does not have specific Apple tags baked in as it is not a podcasting specific platform.
Now to the pricing of Soundcloud. Free means the user is the product. US$16 per month for unlimited storage means a price crunch will hit the platform at some time. Hosting costs money. An individual producing music is not likely to create many terabytes of audio but a podcast can. Especially if they upload in .wav form. Why you shouldn’t upload in .wav form is the subject of another yet to be written post. Even if you upload in the recommended .mp3, it is possible to load lots and I mean lots of material onto a platform.
Now at the end of 2017, Soundcloud came very close to collapsing financially. It wasn’t just the cost of unlimited hosting at small flat fee. All the usual tech company nonsense of too many physical offices in high rent locations, parties and so on. These seem to be rectified and there was a cash injection by investors but the platform remains, to my mind, suspect.
Soundcloud then may be a place to test the waters but not a long term home for your show.
Now to a newer entrant into the podcasting market: Anchor FM.
Here’s their pitch as a podcast specific host:
Record a high-quality podcast, host unlimited episodes, and distribute everywhere with just one click, all 100% free.
I haven’t actually used this platform because of the questions raised by the “all 100% free” statement.
As we should all know by now, free means we are the product for sale somewhere.
A quick look at their terms and conditions, yes some people read them, under the title:
We find the following:
You retain all of your ownership rights in your User Content.
[A good start, mrjonmoore]
By submitting User Content through the Services, you hereby do and shall grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free, fully paid-up, sublicensable and transferable license to use, edit, modify (including the right to create derivative works of), aggregate, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the User Content in connection with the operation of the Services, the promotion, advertising or marketing of the Services, or any other purposes.
There’s no such thing as free lunch.
Except maybe there is. Archive.org is an archive of everything, ever on he web. As they are doing a great job, I’ve been able to search back for articles I’ve lost the original of after a system crash, the also accept donations. If you use them as a host and it’s not ideal but it is a “free” option please send them some funds from time to time. They really are doing a stellar job.
Hosts I’ve heard good things about and which charge a monthly fee for upload space:
Spreaker, Blubrry, Podbean (free but seems to be ok), Stitcher
What do I use? Libsyn and here’s why.
I published my first fifteen episodes on Soundcloud and then moved to Libsyn. The process was seamless. They did it for me.
Now to why I stay. There are options re: fees and upload space per month. I don’t swamp my listeners with episodes and my shows tend to be under twenty minutes(this series is seriously testing that idea). Once I’ve uploaded an episode I fill out the description and Libsyn automatically runs a check to see if what’s been added will break the RSS feed. If it does, I’m directed to actual point in the description where the error occurred and I’ve always been able to fix it.
Libsyn is across all the Apple Podcast requirements and has the appropriate fields across their publishing tools which they update as Apple makes changes.
An added feature they offer that Soundcloud didn’t is destinations. So when I hit publish, site specific versions of the show head directly to Facebook, Spotify, Blogger, iHeartRadio, Tumblr, Twitter and Youtube.
Think carefully about your host. As I said, a bad one will wreck your show, a good just works.