How to Pick a Podcast Hosting Service
Nov 12, 2019
You’ve got an idea for a podcast. Maybe even a cohost (or two) and a mic. You might even have your podcast music all picked out.
It’s easy to assume the next step is picking a day to sit down and start recording, but you still have a few key steps to complete before you’re ready to start building an audience.
Let’s talk about the next challenge ahead of you: choosing a podcast hosting service.
What Does A Hosting Service Actually Do?
It’s important to remind yourself that a podcast hosting service is a necessary part of creating a show. These companies function just like a web host — you create the content, and then pay someone else to store that content and upload it to a marketplace like iTunes.
Different providers offer different perks and features, but we’ll dive into that later. For now, it’s important to know the three main roles of a podcast hosting service are:
- Storing the audio files
- Publishing the audio files to apps like iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher
- Managing backend processes, like listener analytics
The cost of each hosting service will vary, and these subscription fees tend to match up with the features the host provides. You might choose to pay a higher rate for a specific perk like unlimited storage or a hosted web domain. Maybe you’ll try out a newer company for a discounted rate.
Either way, there’s a huge pool of options out there. It’s important to know which provider will be the best match for your needs and grow as you build your audience.
So, to help you make sense of the podcast hosting marketplace, let’s dive in and explore three different categories you might fall into. (And I’ll stick with the “pool of options” analogy to make it as clear as possible.)
Getting Your Feet Wet
If this is your first podcast, you’ve probably got quite a few questions. In fact, partnering with a great hosting service from the getgo could provide beginner-friendly features (like embedded web players or subscription costs based on monthly download) to help you start strong.
Arguably the most popular option for first-time podcasters, Buzzsprout works to make things as easy as possible for customers. The service has a simple dashboard that makes hosting a breeze, and the platform is frequently updated. The basic plan costs $12 a month, although Buzzsprout also offers a free option that hosts episodes for 90 days each.
This is the most cost affordable option of the bunch. You’ll get a great starter package for your show for just $5 a month. As one of the earliest podcast hosting providers, Libsyn has a proven track record. However, this plan only allows for 50MB of monthly storage and doesn’t include any listener analytics. (To unlock that data, you’ll need to sign up for Libsyn’s $15 monthly subscription.)
Here’s another “oldie but goodie.” Blubrry is built on a successful history in podcasting because it has everything you need to get the job done. For $12 a month you’ll get 100MB of storage, a Wordpress plugin, and access to statistics for download and play totals.
Captivate is a nice middle ground between the “entry-level podcast” and “established brand” tiers. This service will host unlimited shows for $19 per month, but you can’t exceed 10,000 monthly downloads. (More expensive subscription plans increase that limit.)
And all of Captivate’s features — like an analytics dashboard, Wordpress plugin, and a website — are open to any price tier. It’s a great way to try out the higher-level perks for an entry-level price.
Learning To Swim
By offering multiple subscription tiers, these podcast hosting sites allow your service to grow with your listening audience (and your budget). We’ve collected a few options that match the lower subscription rates but still include features — like unlimited storage — to help you start building a brand identity for your show.
Simplecast’s subscriptions start at just $15 a month and include unlimited episode storage as well as a website domain. If you upgrade to a more expensive plan, you can choose a custom URL for your site, add team members to manage the account, and access better levels of listener data. It’s a hosting option that lets you scale your account with your show.
The rise of crowd-funded content creation has changed the game for some podcasters. For $19 a month, Transistor will host unlimited shows under one account and provide excellent listener analytics. (That price jumps up once you hit 10,000 downloads.). You’ll also have the option to host public and private shows, so if you create extra content for Patreon subscribers, Transistor’s got you covered.
Once you settle into podcasting, your goal changes from “figuring stuff out” to “growing an audience.” Hosting providers like PodServe.fm combine standard services like unlimited podcast hosting and high download limits (the lowest tier is 60,000 per month) with extra perks like free promotion podcast directory sites like PodParadise — and all for just $19 per month.
Spreaker’s podcast hosting targets people who want to dive into the live show experience. While the site offers a free subscription with basic services, the $20 monthly “Broadcaster” plan supports live podcasts, chatbox integration (so you can interact with listeners on air), and desktop and mobile apps.
Diving Into The Deep End
Most podcast hosting providers offer expensive tiers with all sorts of extra features, but there are some options that just make sense once you’ve got an established identity or community — even with the larger price tag.
Podbean offers a free plan, which includes 5 hours of uploaded content and basic listener stats. But the cheapest option — only $9 a month if you sign up for an annual subscription — includes a web domain, unlimited storage, and a mobile app for iOS and Android. Podbean’s premium tier ($29 per month) will also host video podcasts.
Here’s your most corporate-tier option. The cheapest monthly subscription is $10, and it includes five episodes a month (and up to 10,000 downloads). But Audioboom found its niche because of the perks in its more expensive tiers. The site will host an entire network of podcasts, and once you hit that big 10,000 download mark, Audioboom will start to provide targeted ads, brand partnerships, and paid sponsors for your show.
Backtracks is another example of a service best suited for established podcasters. You can sign up for a $40 monthly subscription or an annual plan, and Backtracks will host one show with unlimited storage. But the big attraction is the company’s claim to have the world’s best analytics data — and that’s in addition to an embedded audio player and episode transcripts.
The most comprehensive hosting service on this list is Podcast Websites. The site was created by veteran podcasters who know what it takes to succeed, and they provide all-inclusive packages for subscribers. Pay $77 a month and you’ll get podcast hosting, a website, a WordPress dashboard, and an email address. The offer is hard to beat, even at that price tag.
But What Do You Really Need?
Every podcast is different, and so is every podcast host. Use this as a resource to explore your hosting options, compare each host’s tiers (and price points), and settle for whichever option works for you. The good news is that there really isn’t a wrong choice, and each podcast hosting service supports a handful of successful shows.
Who knows, you might even be next. You know, since now you’re ready to make a splash in the podcast marketplace!
(And with that pun, I’ll see myself out.)