The podcast is the new blog.
In fact, podcast and audio consumption is exploding!
Every individual, startup, or company interested in establishing a personal connection to grow a loyal and engaged following needs to get on the podcast bandwagon. In fact, Gary Vaynerchuck, entrepreneur, digital marketing master and author of Crush It identified podcasts as the number ONE way to grow your business in 2020. Are you convinced yet?
Here is all you need to get started: a mobile device or computer with internet connection and a topic to discuss. And when it comes time to publish your podcast, it is important for you to select the best podcast hosting service.
There are tons of options out there when it comes to podcast hosting services. Here I’m going to walk you through my top picks and WHY, from pricing to special features to support so that you can pick the best podcast hosting service based on your needs.
Please note, some of these may include affiliate links. Rest assured, I would not promote anything that I do not 100% support. I have no problem saying NO to brands that ask me to promote a product that I would not use myself. So you can trust that any service I promote here are ones that I stand behind to help you build and grow your podcast.
Cut to the chase, and spill your top picks
In case you are brand new to all of this podcast stuff, I’ll start with the basics.
What is a podcast hosting service?
Think about when listen to your podcasts, you probably access them from your Podcast app, iTunes, or Spotify. These are directories, or a searchable catalog of available podcasts, not podcast hosting services. Think of hosting services as shelves in the directory where you can store and organize your audio files. Many hosting service providers offer features that make it easier to organize your content or improve the shopping experience for people consuming your audio content. Hosting services also make it easier to distribute your content by making the content more accessible in these directories.
Podcast hosting services make it easy for you to upload the files, provide information about the episode, and generate the RSS feed. Upload the file (any type) and the service will automatically convert to the appropriate file type and bitrate.
Okay, so what do I look for in a podcast host?
It depends. The beauty of podcasts is that anyone can create them with as little as a mobile phone. Some of you might have recordings from your iPhone while others have a professionally recorded and edited product, either works!
Where the hosting solution comes in:
-duh, hosting the file
-creating an RSS link for subscribers
-offer good bandwidth for users to stream
There are all kinds of special offerings these days from embed players (on your website), customizable players, push to podcast directories (ex. iTunes), transparent billing, podcast metadata, analytics, etc.
What are the best podcast hosts out there?
Buzzsprout simply tops my list every time. They have been around a long time, or at least longer than most (since 2009) and their offering just gives you a lot of bang for your buck. For those just getting started, they even offer free podcast hosting. The free plan won’t give you a ton of runway on recorded content— just two hours and 90 days of free hosting, but it’s a great way to get your feet wet. There are several upgraded plans including 12, 18, and 24 dollars a month. Before I cover some notable features in more detail, here is a very quick rundown on what get with the paid plans:
- Podcast statistics
- Custom Embed players
- Customizable website
- Ability to publish to podcast directories
- Automatic file conversion and ID3 tagging
- Reliable podcast hosting with 250 GB /mo in bandwidth *
* FYI: 250 GB/mo will get you between 20,000 and 40,000 episode plays per month depending on length of the episode. In most cases, this will be more than enough. If not (cheers!), there are Buzzsprout Pro plans with higher bandwidth to accommodate more outbound data transfer.
Read on to learn more about some notable Buzzsprout features and offering including how they are helping you monetize your podcast right out the gate! Or get started here now and claim your free $20 Amazon gift card.
One of the best features of Buzzsprout mentioned above is that once you upload your episode, it will automatically optimize your audio file for you.
What exactly does this mean?
Buzzsprout determines the best file type and bitrate for the podcast for the optimal listening experience. Selecting the correct format is critical to ensure compatibility with podcast apps (which they do for you). And the bitrate is dependent on the type of audio used in the podcast, as in all voice versus podcasts that also feature music (which they also do for you).
Okay, but what about ID3 tags?
ID3 tags make sure your media player has accurate information about the episode. This information is typically pulled from the RSS feed, but if the audio file is shared, this information is often lost in transmission. Buzzsprout will automatically tag your files with the appropriate ID3 tags once you add episode details like title and description.
To modify podcast details you will go to:
- Click “Podcast Settings”
- Update your podcast info
- Click “Save Podcast Info”
Once your episode is uploaded and (automatically) optimized, you can publish the episode immediately or schedule when you would like it to go live.
When you upload the episode, simply select “schedule for future” and pick a date and time.
Buzzsprout chapter markers are another great feature to improve listener experience, allowing your audience to easily navigate to their favorite segments.
Extend the reach of your podcasts with Buzzsprout episode transcriptions.
Episodes may be transcribed in the app so that they are more accessible to search engines. Needless to say, any feature that makes your content more accessible to search engines is key to increasing exposure and growing your following. Buzzsprout is one of the few platforms to have the option of episode transcription integrated directly on their dashboard.
All of your episodes may be hosted on your own site, or the customizable site provided with your Buzzsprout subscription. Of course, one of the best way to grow your podcast is from it’s own home on the web! Buzzsprout makes it painfully easy for you launch your podcast, and house the episodes online so that they can be indexed by Google.
Listener support via donation is one of the best ways to sustain and grow your podcast. Buzzsprout provides a link to a donation page for your fans to support your podcast. To get your donation link, just click on Podcast Settings, then “Support the show link”. Add that link to your Buzzsprout podcast website or any other podcast app that allows HTML in the show notes.
Once you go live, the intuitive dashboard gives you insight into your audience and how they are consuming your audio content.
The analytics here offer critical information about your listeners: what apps people are using to listen to your podcast, and where people are listening to your podcast. This is so important to know as you are forming your brand, especially if you have plans to monetize with affiliate marketing.
…Speaking of affiliate marketing, Buzzsprout just announced their new affiliate marketplace that will help you monetize your podcast!
First, you’ll need to head to the resources tab to access the marketplace:
If you’re looking at your dashboard, your marketplace is located under resources.
Buzzsprout has done the legwork to hand select affiliate companies that meet 4 criteria:
- These products and companies are heavily vetted. No need to worry about whether you are promoting good products, backed by a reputable company.
- Each company has an exclusive deal for Buzzsprout podcasters that beats ANY other deal they offer anywhere else! This means that each of these affiliate commissions is more than what they offer to anyone else.
- All of these companies pay out in cash, not store credits or gifts cards, for your affiliate deals.
- No threshold of influence to get started. These companies have removed the level of influence (often required in affiliate programs) to do business with you. This is SO GREAT for newbies looking to get started monetizing their podcast.
To start, you will need to select which company you would like to promote. Example below is a company called Allswell:
You will need to fill out the information in the grey box to connect directly with the Allswell affiliate program. Buzzsprout does NOT take a piece of the commission as a middle-man. They allow you to work with the brand, directly, and get paid commission from the brand, directly.
Once you receive a confirmation email from the company, you will have a affiliate dashboard for that company and an affiliate code to use on your blog, email campaigns, video campaigns, and anywhere else you choose to promote the product.
Of course, you will also have a way of promoting the brand in your podcast episodes. Here is how to collect affiliate commissions on brand mentions:
From the uploaded podcast, on the right hand side you will see the “Promote A Brand” window with an option to select an affiliate partner from the drop-down mention. You will also see a place to indicate the approximate time in the episode where the product was mentioned. Buzzsprout will then automatically update your show notes with information on the product (affiliate links and appropriate disclaimers) to ensure you are paid your affiliate commission.
These affiliate links will appear in show notes in Apple Podcasts and… everywhere your podcast is listed.
Overall one of Buzzsprouts greatest selling points is just that it’s intuitive, easy to use, and modern. Podcasts haven’t been around that long, but compared to other sites, it feels very current or even one step ahead on anticipating needs of users. Buzzsprout is best suited for new and rising podcasters, not so much for podcast networks and large corporate brands. Get started here and get a free $20 giftcard just for joining!
By now you’re probably catching on the fact that while price and storage space are very important, there is much more to look for in a podcast hosting service. There are just a ton of players out there that can deliver the “simple” task of accepting an audio upload and producing an RSS feed for distribution. However, the explosion in popularity of podcasts has driven these providers differentiate with unique offerings like listener statistics, user engagement analytics or monetization options that can really give you a leg up in building and growing your podcast.
Before I dive into the nitty gritty here is the quick rundown on another favorite podcast hosting service: Podbean.
Podbean boasts of an impressive list of podcast shows, but it is also widely used by rising podcasters with a free trial month and a free “Podcast Starter” option. The monthly storage is up to 5 hours of audio (versus 2 with Buzzsprout) and 100 gigabytes of bandwidth. Once you’re hooked, many leading podcasters upgrade to the $9 unlimited audio plan which is one of the best values in the market. If you are serious about building and growing your business with podcasts, I recommend the unlimited plus plan for $29/mo which gives you the most options for podcast monetization. The premium plans, best suited for podcast networks, max out at $99/mo for all the bells and whistles.
My initial observation was that Podbean interface has a more social feel to it. Upon login, you can browse other Podbean podcasts which is by the way quite an impressive list of shows from a range of genres. You are able to “follow” and “like” shows and podcasters from your dashboard.
As of October of 2019, Podbean has over 300,000 podcasters, hosted over 9.1M episodes, and 6.4M downloads on their platform. It has also been around since 2006, really “the beginning” in the world of podcasts. Don’t let all the big names intimidate you. The platform is very friendly to entry level podcasters that can for instance leverage the Podbean app to record and edit your first podcast episode today without any programming knowledge.
Podbean markets itself as an all-in-one solution with unlimited storage, custom podcast domains and website builders, reliable hosting, and monetization opportunities. Let’s take a dive into some of their noteworthy features.
They offer a generous selection of customizable themes and widgets to design your website. This offering (customizable site) is not necessarily a unique selling feature, as it’s also offered to Buzzsprout and other podcast hosting sites, but it’s certainly an important one especially if you’re just getting started. From your site you can list all your episodes with descriptions, link social media account, and add the embed player.
Podbean will give you insight into how your podcast is performing with top ranked episodes, audience and episode trends, and geolocation information.
The Podbean basic, free plan comes with basic stats, but in order to get enhanced podcast statistics, you will need to upgrade to an unlimited plan. You can delve into downloads by time of day, listener location, and listener engagement. For instance, it is immensely useful to know if advertisements too close to the beginning of your episode are causing users to drop off early. You will also need this insight if you have plans to monetize your podcast with advertising at any point. Some advertisers choose to target certain geographic territories, for instance, and will find these analytics quite useful in determining whether you are a good fit.
Podbean integrated monetization:
You have two ways to manage advertising with Podbean.
As a podcaster, you will have to first join the ads marketplace. Upon signing into your account at https://sponsorship.podbean.com/podcasters you will go to “Manage Podcasts” and then “Join Ads Marketplace”.
You will then select a time slot for the advertisement. It’s worth noting that the mid-roll time slight is the most high-value ads position.
From there you wait for your podcast to get selected by an advertiser to run their campaign. Be sure to check your ad settings to decide whether you want to manually opt in or opt out of campaigns before they are inserted into your podcast.
From this page, you will also be able to track impressions and revenue from each campaign.
The second way to advertise with Podbean is through PodAds.
PodAds is branded as SaaS for podcast advertising that provides dynamic ad insertion to simplify advertising management. Instead of taking a piece of the ad revenue, Podbean charges a flat $1 CPM rate for “PodAds” to automate ad campaigns.
First, you’ll need to create your ad campaign. From your Podads account, navigate to “advertising”, then “PodAds”. From there, you will “create campaign”.
Then you may use geotargeting to select geo-target your ads.
Next, same as before you will select ad positions (where your ad gets inserted) and upload your audio files.
You are also able to select specific time slots in a given episode.
Similar to Buzzsprout, Podbean has a way to leverage crowd-funding for your podcast with the support of your fans. You can raise funds directly from your podcast app with the “be a patron” link, where fans can opt for a recurring or custom, one time donations. Podbean Patron is free to setup.
Overall, Podbean has a solid offering and has been around “forever” in the world of podcasting. Some critiques argue that too many of the advanced offerings are behind a paywall. However, Podbean makes it easy to quickly build out a podcast with their free, customizable site feature and easy to embed player. The support is great and the site is easy to use, so that alone sets it apart from many of its competitors.
My #3 choice is Simplecast which offers 3 different plans powering podcasters at all different levels of experience and growth, from newbies to podcasting to some of the largest brands in podcasting including Nike and Facebook. The subscriptions range from $15/mo to $85/mo, but all three tiers offer free trials.
All of the plans come with:
- unlimited storage
- unlimited uploads
- distribution to all platforms
- listener analytics and reports
- themed show website
- and secure RSS feed.
They have a very extensive list of feature offerings, many of which are even included in the lowest cost tier plan, as well as quite a few features on the roadmap, coming soon. Reading through the list of features, you get the immediate impression that Simplecast is invested in your success. You get the impression that it’s there to support the growing needs of its customers in highly innovative ways.
Oh, and the support team is also largely comprised of professional podcasters—pretty cool!
One differentiating feature I would like to point out is called Recast. Recast is a podcast sharing and discovery tools that allows you to schedule audio clips of your podcast on social media, which may be then shared by your listeners on social media. It is the first “listener-powered audiogram tool” than can offer you insights into your listeners and their sharing habits.
To make a Recast Video, first you’ll need to add the episode to your Simplcast account. From there, you can launch the Recast editor and create a video for it. Then you can add a visual component to share on social media or blogs.
Below is where you would customize the artwork.
Once you’ve saved the episode you can launch the recast editor any time from the episode page. From the Recast editor, you may then select the audio clip you’d like to include, and then click “Recast & Share”.
Now the REALLY cool part? Even your listeners can create recasts from your Simplecast audio players to share their own clips from your episodes on social media. They just need to click on the scissor icon to select a custom clip and recast.
Another feature worth noting is the option to have multiple users and access levels on a single account. Like my top 2 choices, Simplecast has the unlimited storage, uploads and episode distribution. Overall, Simplecast is a great choice, especially for larger brands with teams managing the podcast.
And that’s it! My top three podcast hosts!
In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with any of these three, just make sure you take a look at the platforms features beyond just the unlimited hosting. It’s important to have user analytics and the option to generate a podcast website, so make sure those boxes are checked. Finally, even if you’re just starting out, there will come a time when marketing, advertising, monetization and customer support will be critical to your growth. Make sure your hosting service is invested in you!
Best of luck on your podcasting adventure!