This is one area where even the most web-savvy will hold their heads in their hands in confusion and wonder what they should do. While some podcast host providers have attempted to make the options as simple as possible there is still a tendency to talk techie in relation to podcasts.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve been reluctant to write this post (have you noticed a break in the series?) but I’ll give it a go and try not to overdo the tech talk.
Just like blogs, a podcast needs an RSS feed in order to be syndicated. Don’t panic! There are a number of ways to do this and get your podcast up and running.
1. Free Podcast Hosts
There are many options for creating free podcasts. Two of the most popular traditional options are Blog Talk Radio and Talk Shoe. It’s very simple – you sign up and set up a live “show” (or, in some cases, upload a pre-recorded show). Many of them also offer live chat during shows so your listeners can ask questions and participate, as well as offer show players that you can display on your website.
I call these traditional options because more recently a large number of less traditional options have sprung up with the emergence of social media and smartphones. There are services such as AudioBoo and Twaudio that allow you to record and upload audio, and broadcast it online (Tweet it, add it to Facebook etc.). They have an RSS feed so essentially people can subscribe to everything you publish. That makes it a podcast!
Why You Might Choose the Free Option
- It’s Free! No set-up fees and no bandwidth costs
- It’s simple to set up and requires very little technical knowledge
- Great for live podcasts with guest interviews and audience participation
- No need to master recording and editing programs
What’s the Downside?
- Someone else is controlling your podcast and, worst case scenario, you could lose it at the whim of the site owners. True, it’s unlikely, but we’ve all seen websites come and go. The simple answer is always to save copies of any shows you create.
- The free hosts often add their own audio branding and, occasionally, commercials to your podcast (although this is usually only at your request and with a profit share set-up).
- Most of your listeners will probably find you through these websites and so they benefit from the traffic.
- They have control over what is displayed on the website. Nothing sinister, but it still gives you less control over what your audience does next.
2. Paid Podcast Hosting
For those of you who want more control over your podcast then you might want to look at paying for a podcast host. The SWBN podcast is hosted through Libsyn who are one of the most highly recommended paid hosts. I found things a little confusing initially (all that techie talk again), but they do have a detailed step-by-step process to follow and there’s a community forum and support service.They charge a monthly fee depending on how big your podcast files are each month, so no matter how popular your podcast is they carry those bandwidth costs.
Other podcast hosts will price things differently; for example, Jellycast charges a one-off start-up fee and then you have to upgrade to different monthly plans depending on your bandwidth (i.e. the more popular your podcast, the more you pay).
Benefits of Paid Hosting
- Most of the technical stuff is taken care of so you don’t need to worry about it
- They handle support and technical issues when things go pear-shaped
- Depending on the service, even if your podcast suddenly takes off and becomes crazy popular, you shouldn’t face any unexpected bandwidth costs
- The best services will also offer the option of creating the podcast on your own domain, stats tracking (so you can keep track of how many listeners you have) and some personalization options.
What’s the Downside?
- Paying a fee even if your podcast takes months to become popular (so you may end up paying more than the bandwidth you are using)
- You are still reliant on a third party. That means occasional unexpected downtime (which has happened a few times with Libsyn) and other issues may crop up.
3. Self Hosting Your Podcast
I will go into self hosting more in another post, but this essentially means you are responsible for generating the RSS feed and “paying” for hosting the media files and bandwidth (or paying if you exceed your bandwidth allowance).
You can generate the RSS feed through Feedburner or, if you have a WordPress blog – as so many people do – you can let WordPress generate it (when you upload the audio and link to it within the blog WordPress will include it in your RSS feed). Or, my personal option would be to install a plugin like PodPress which automatically creates feeds (and offers numerous other features).
Website bandwidth allowances tend to be much higher than when I started podcasting (and I self-hosted my first podcast without ever facing excessive costs). There are also other options for reducing the bandwidth costs, such as using a storage service like Amazon S3.
Benefits of Self Hosting
- You have total control
- No monthly costs unless your podcast becomes really popular
- Plenty of options for personalization, stats tracking and other features
Downside of Self Hosting
- You have total control! That means you are responsible for dealing with things if they go wrong
- Carrying bandwidth costs if the podcast become popular (but that should be a good problem to have, right?)
In my next post, I will cover more on the subject of self hosting your podcast.