Podcast Hosting Considerations
When you have a podcast, your media files need to be hosted somewhere reliable, so they’re served up smoothly to your audience. New podcasters are sometimes surprised to learn Apple doesn’t host podcasts…you’ll need to submit your podcast’s RSS feed for iTunes and other directories.
Most podcasters use podcast media hosting services, due to the convenience of having an experienced third-party maintain the server environment (plus the added features that often come along). We’ll share more information on the options and what to consider in podcast hosting.
Website Hosting v. Media Hosting
There are many affordable web hosting services available, but they are not designed for hosting podcast media files. You may run into bandwidth issues if your podcast becomes popular…simply having the content there may not be a problem, but being able to serve it up quickly to 1,000+ listeners may be (see more below regarding bandwidth).
Many podcasting experts have researched this with web hosting companies with the conclusion that you will run into problems if your podcast becomes popular. Either the host will ask you to switch to a dedicated service, which is typically more expensive than paying for separate media hosting, or downloads will become super slow or stop working. Media hosts are specifically designed to handle the specifications and growing needs of podcasters, as well as to offer features like download/audience statistics.
Hosting on Your Own Server
If you are experienced in IT you might think about hosting your media on your own server. However, very few podcasters do this due to the cost effectiveness and efficiency of third-party hosting. If you choose to host on your own server, you will need to manage growing bandwidth needs, deal with hardware maintenance and failures/redundancy, backing up your data, anti-hacking and DDoS attacks, etc. Even many large businesses with extensive IT departments and big server capacity are using third-party services when they podcast for internal communications or marketing.
Third-party hosts will handle security, anti-hacking, backup, server redundancy, etc. Different hosts offer different pricing plans and features (many permit a great deal of customization and the ability to use your own domain, so you can full brand and control your podcast). The other advantage of third-party hosting is additional features that you get (see more below).
Hosting Considerations: Bandwidth and Storage
Bandwidth and storage space should be top considerations when evaluating hosting options. As a quick example for storage: if you do a one hour audio podcast three times/week, you will need around 200MB storage space in a week (800MB-1000MB in a month). If you publish a video podcast once per week at 500MB for each episode, you will need 2GB space in every month. You may quickly find that you need to pay more for your ever-growing podcast storage needs unless you have unlimited storage.
Bandwidth is a way of measuring internet traffic. Every time someone downloads an episode of your podcast, it uses bandwidth. The bigger your podcast files, the more bandwidth they use. The more people who listen to your podcast, the more bandwidth it uses. If you have a one hour audio podcast in MP3 at 60MB file size and 1000 people listen to your podcast, it will use 60GB bandwidth… 10,000 people listen to your podcast will use 10 times the bandwidth.
If you choose a host that limits storage or you pay directly for storage, for example hosting directly on Amazon S3 cloud servers, be aware that costs will go up as you grow. There are very affordable options with third-party hosting services for unlimited bandwidth and storage (for example, Podbean’s unlimited audio plan is $9/month).
What should a podcaster consider when selecting podcast media hosting?
Reliability: network reliability and redundancy (at Podbean, we use a Podbean and Amazon Dual CDN environment to achieve high reliability for worldwide clients/listeners)
Bandwidth and storage space limits
Ability to auto-generate a RSS feed that is compatible with popular podcast players and apps, such as iTunes, Google Play etc.
Ease of use of tools/interface
Support for the type of setup you want (Can you use your own domain? Do you want a host that offers an integrated site? Do you want embeddable podcast players?)
Extra features and options, such as statistics and monetization (and costs, if applicable, associated with these extra features)
Know the commitment your hosting company has to podcasters and the industry: how long have they been around, are they investing in new features and innovating solutions? Over the years, there have been many hosts that have come and gone and others have moved their focus and stopped supporting the latest technology. Make sure to find out how you can redirect your feed if you use your host’s feed and later want or need to move.
Additional Podcast Hosting Features: The Extras Can Make a Difference
Though you should not count on a host as your main source of marketing and promotion, some hosting providers also have podcast directories and may help with listener discovery. For example, at Podbean we have a large directory and feature rotating podcasts each week on our home page. We also send emails to listeners with accounts about suggested content and have suggested topics and featured shows in our apps.
Most hosts will offer statistics about your downloads and audience (geography, clients/platforms they’re using for listening, etc.). Website statistics do not provide the information you need and most podcasters minimally want to know their download numbers.
Monetization is something you may want to consider, especially after you’ve developed great content and a dedicated audience. Podbean provides premium content options where you can charge a fee for select content or memberships (no upfront fees, a simple 15% revenue share).
Crowdfunding is another popular way of raising funds. Until recently, podcasters could use general crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Patreon or have a simple “donate” button, but Podbean now also offers a podcast-specific platform for monthly donations (open to any podcaster). Podbean is also working on an innovative way to help podcasters with advertising—stay tuned!
Mobile apps can provide another means of listener discovery and offer you additional features. For example, the Podbean app can be used to record and publish episodes as well as manage basic features of your podcast while on-the-go.
Video podcasting is supported by some hosts. While the majority of podcasts are audio, some podcasts have a visual focus or wish to publish occasional videos. Podbean offers HLS for video podcasting for a better viewer experience.
Deciding where to host your podcast media files is an important step in setting up your podcast. We invite you to join our Facebook group, Podcasting Smarter, for discussions about this and other topics for podcasters at all stages. For more information about Podbean hosting, you can review our podcast hosting features.