Here in our latest installment of "Starting a Podcast" we're going to talk hosts.
No not your On Air talent!
The folks who provide the websites to hold all your podcast episode data and then distribute it to the major podcast platforms!
Selecting a host can be a bit of a challenge, especially since there are so many, but this article is here to make it easy.
We'll go over our top 5, no cost podcast hosting solutions for you to select from when starting your show. This list is by no means exhaustive, but can definitely help you make an informed decision on where to initially host your show.
Designed to be easy to set up for even the newest of users. Podbean is intuitive and has a relatively low learning curve.
With the ability to customize a show page and load roughly 10 episodes at no charge, podbean is a great starting point for most shows. Bright colors and the ability to customize how your show looks in a player can bring a touch of professionalism to even the newest casts.
With most free podcast platforms on this list though, there are features that tend to be locked behind pay walls. One of the ones we felt was missing the most was the ability to schedule episodes in advance and the small amount of storage space granted.
Podbean remains a solid choice for the absolute beginner looking for a free service, but quickly needs to be upgraded to hang with the big kids.
Pros: Easy to use, good amount of starting storage, dedicated show pages can look really nice if you use their paid service (Ex. see our friends at https://www.downthepub.ca/ for a great Pro level Podbean site.)
Cons: Free Tier quickly outgrown for serious shows, no future scheduling available.
One of the most widespread distribution methods in the podcast communities we frequent here at Westport Studios, Anchor is a definite step up. Complete with editing tools, analytics, and unlimited storage off the bat, Anchor ticks a lot of the boxes that folks are looking for in a platform to grow their show.
The most unique feature about Anchor is its ability to monetize any sized podcast by having the show creator record ads for the platform as well as other advertisers in their own voice.
This is a great way to start the monetization cycle for your show, but be advised that podcast advertising, much like its cousin radio advertising, is based off of impressions. Impressions are how many sets of ears heard this piece of content. Impressions are represented by what is called a CPM, Cost Per Mil (Mil in this case being Latin for 1000).
So often you'll see an ad be offered for $18 CPM, which means that in order to satisfy your end of the bargain and claim your $18, you have to be able to provide your advertiser proof that they got their message in front of 1000 sets of (hopefully unique) ears. That's a LOT to ask for small shows that may have only a few dozen listeners.
The last interesting ability Anchor has is the ability to use any track from Spotify in your podcast. Interesting if you want to have a certain band playing in the background or opening your show, but the issue is, you may not have permission to share that show outside of the Anchor environment. Podcasting walks a very thin line much like online streaming on Twitch or Youtube does with Copyright these days. It's the advice of Westport studios that unless you have express written permission of an artist or have paid their licensing fees to use their music that it does not touch your show (If you need amazing tracks for your show, check out our friends over at purple-planet.com , they make GREAT stuff.)
Pros: Highly popular site, monetization opportunities off the bat, quality analytics, unlimited storage
Cons: Monetization can be deceptive due to amount of listenership it takes to actually turn anything serious money wise. Agreement with Spotify may limit distribution to other platforms currently or in the future given recent legislation at the end of 2020 with the COVID bill.
Not to be confused with SproutSocial, Buzzsprout is one of the more venerable platforms in the podcast space. Like Podbean, it's highly accessible to those just starting out, with a free tier to get your episodes in the water as fast as possible, and the ability to upload 2 hours of audio a month at no charge.
While that may seem a bit small, it does come with the same analytics package that their higher plans do, so you'll have insight into more of your early listenership. Additionally, they use a process called "Magic Mastering" that is stated to increase the quality of your audio.
What this means is uncertain, but we at Westport Studios gather that this is simply adding audio edits like compression (reducing the difference between louds and softs) and gates (making sure certain frequencies don't make it to the final recording), as well as some potential play speed editing. (For example, a podcast may reduce its playspeed by a small fraction to get just a bit more richness out of a host's voice)
With transcriptions to help with SEO for your show and episode optimization for time and bitrates, Buzzsprout has a lot to offer.
At it's free tier, there is a limited hosting time, so unless you migrate your show or start shelling out the bucks, episode 1 vanishes in 90 days time. Not a huge deal if you're doing this as a hobby, but one of the most important functions of a show is to have a back catalogue to access.
Pros: Removes a lot of the editing work, creates transcriptions, easy free tier to enter into.
Cons: Limited space in the free tier with limited storage duration.
Transistor makes it no secret that they have a big catalogue of clients who are "Somebody". From the US Dept. of Veteran Affairs to Ru Paul, Transistor has some star power behind it.
That being said, it's not quite as approachable as the prior mentions on this list. With its slick, black and gold website design, it seems a bit less beginner friendly.
Don't let that fool you.
They have an excellent little starter guide on their site . It's so good, I'll have to try to make a better one some day, but for now, that resource is great.
Transistor is one of the places the big kids go to play. With only a 14 day trial before billing begins on your card, you'll see far less in the way of freebies initially, but make up for it in the back end. Highly detailed analytics suites as well as the ability to create as many private podcasts as you want (secondary, subscription only shows), gives you an incredible opportunity to really dial into your guests and their love for your content at another level.
The platform also does have a bit of that star power aire, so you can determine if that's of benefit to your brand/show as well.
Pros: Big name clients, deep analytics, good starter resrouces, Secondary shows
Cons: Can seem a bit less than approachable to new casters. Price is significantly higher than other entries to other platforms.
#1 Spreaker *
*Please note that Spreaker is Westport Studios current best pick (as of 12/20 ) for both a podcast hosting service regardless of free or paid. We will endeavor to give as fair a review as possible despite our love for the platform.
Spreaker is one of the oldest casting platforms around, founded back in 2010. With a robust, low cost option in their "On Air Talent" tier, Spreaker provides ample room for uploads when your show is new and financials are tight. The episode customizing and tagging system is a snap to pick up as well.
Distribution is one of Spreaker's strengths as well, with all major platforms being represented including the recent addition of Amazon Music. Most integrations are literally just a few clicks or less, and your show is attached to those platforms nearly instantly.
With the ability to host multiple shows on one account, Spreaker allows you to get the most out of your single payment, especially if you have two or more shows in production.
Analytics are helpful at low tiers, but unfortunately don't really give a ton of information, even at the mid level, however the ability to track downloads over time per episode and per day helps to show what's working and what isn't working for your show.
The ability to post with a click to any of 5 social media platforms (Facebook, Youtube, Tumblr, Twitter and LinkedIn) also helps somewhat, but unfortunately doesn't allow for a ton of customization in what is presented to those channels.
Additionally, Spreaker is building out its advertising systems as we speak, which are currently in Beta. Westport Studios will be participating and reporting on this as a growth opportunity as well.
Pros: Bang for your buck at low levels, integrations are super easy, episode uploads and scheduling are included from the get go and tagging is a cinch, Can run multiple shows from 1 account with plenty of room to spare.
Cons: Mid level analytics really lacking, paid promotional program is in a formative stage, auto social media sharing leaves a LOT to be desired.
So there you have it, 5 podcast hosting platforms to evaluate for your show. There are more out there that we'll be looking at in the future as well, but these should give you and your team a solid jumping off point to getting your show formed.
Have more questions about hosting or starting your own show for yourself or your business?
Schedule some time here - It's FREE and we'll be happy to help you out.