Which Host & Why?

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 your 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 I 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 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.

A quick podcast footnote:

Apple is critical to getting any show out into the ether. Apple Podcasts in particular. In the iOS world the majority of listeners use the native podcast app supplied by Apple with their devices. Yes, most of the world uses Android, outside the anglosphere. But here’s the thing, all but one podcatcher uses Apple Podcasts’ directory to update their apps. The importance of being registered in Apple Podcasts cannot be overstated. The one app that doesn’t draw from Apple is the Google Podcasts app. To be included in their directory requires a separate podcast page on a website with the RSS feed included. A good host provides this as part of the package.

End Podcast footnote.

Back to SoundCloud.

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.

At the end of 2017, Soundcloud came very close to collapsing financially. It wasn’t just the cost of unlimited hosting at a 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.

If you’re going for a free option, with limiting conditions but one that’s dedicated to podcasting, then I’d recommend Podbean. It’s the host I’m using for this show. You get five hours of free space to publish. This is generous. A ten week season of 20-30 minute episodes would fit within the five hours. Unfortunately show notes are restricted to 500 characters and Podbean will only share each episode to Linkedin, automatically. All the other socials need to be done by hand. What’s your time worth? But the hosting is free. There’s a link to their price list in the transcript over at the website JM Podcasting Services. Link HERE

Here are some other hosts I’ve heard good things about but haven’t used myself:

Spreaker, Blubrry, and Stitcher

What do I use for most of my shows? 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. 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 the 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 Amazon Music/Audible, Audacy, Blogger, Deezer,  Facebook, Gaana, iHeartRadio, JioSaavn, Player.fm, RadioPublic, Samsung, Spotify, Tumblr, Twitter and Youtube. Remember this is automatic when I hit the publish button. A large number of those audio carriers don’t return many downloads but even then, a new download is a new download and they’re not costing me time or effort.

On top of this, each show receives a free webpage on Libsyn that acts like a blog. It also fits the requirements for Google Podcasts. As with the other destinations, each new episode is loaded onto the podcast page as they call it and Google Podcasts picks it up too.

I think you should be in a position to make a more informed choice for your host. I have no financial arrangements with any of those discussed in this episode. Think carefully about your host. As I said, a bad one will wreck your show, a good one just works.

Until next time.