Everyone and their mother has a podcast in 2019. If they don’t, they’re probably getting ready to start one. They all get as far as splashing out on fancy microphones, but not everyone considers podcast hosting.
Of course, people start podcasts for a reason. Part of it is that more people are listening to them than ever before. There’s also the fact that early adoption is still possible, which simply isn’t the case with written content.
Let’s assume you’ve got something to say, and you’ve got a hold of some recording software and a decent USB mic. The only thing standing between you and audio stardom is the right podcast hosting site.
What is a Podcast Hosting Site?
I’ll be you’re thinking hold up, can’t I just upload my podcast to iTunes? And the answer is yes, sort of. The trouble is that this wouldn’t be a very good idea.
That is, a direct upload will only get you so far. Not everybody listens to their podcasts on iTunes. Are you going to spend your days uploading to every single platform?
Podcast hosting sites do this legwork for you. Think of them like distributers in the music industry. At a basic level they’ll also create an RSS feed for your podcast, so all your listeners know when the new episode goes live.
Beyond that, these sites can vary greatly in extra features. The best ones offer in-depth analytics, as well as marketing tools to help you grow and monetise your podcast.
We’ll look at a bunch of options today. Before we see what makes each tick, here’s a bit of an overview.
|Name||Starting from||Best thing about it||Biggest problem|
|Audioboom||$9.99 per month.||Easy to monetise.||You need more expensive plan to make the most of it.|
|Podcast Websites||$77 per month.||Includes website builder and hosting.||Very expensive.|
|Buzzsprout||Free.||Extremely listener friendly interface||Free version is more like a 90 day trial.|
|PodBean||Free.||Incredible value for money.||Higher price tier required to insert your own ads.|
|Castos||$19 per month.||Simple WordPress plug-in.||Not much use for non-WordPress users.|
|Smart Podcast Player||$8.09 per month.||Feature rich embedded player.||Lacks analytics and monetisation options.|
|Transistor||$19 per month.||Everything you need to gain a massive audience.||Mostly aimed at bigger brands.|
|Simplecast||$15 per month.||Ability to schedule social posts.||Limited embedding options in lower price tiers.|
|Spreaker||Free.||Usable free plan for short episodes.||Costly to lift upload limits.|
|Captivate||$19 per month.||Very growth orientated.||A little intimdating at first.|
|Libsyn||$5 per month.|
You’ll notice that prices can pretty much vary from nothing to a big fat wad of cash. Our next task is to see what each podcast hosting site is made of. More importantly though, lets see which ones are worth your money.
First up, we’ve got Audioboom. This podcast hosting site has tried to set itself up as the best option if you want to monetise your podcast. As such, it’s a good option if you’re expecting listeners in the tens of thousands.
There’s still a lot on offer for newbies though. The cheaper of the two plans is $9.99 per month, and offers no frills hosting. In a few minutes you can have each episode on the big names like Spotify and Google Podcasts.
Without upgrading, you also get access to some fairly impressive analytics. In particular, it’s helpful that you can break down your audience by location, device and app.
Audioboom also comes out of the box with a nifty embedded player. The main use of this is letting listeners access your podcast directly from your own site.
You can also embed directly to social media, but to me this seems more useful for sharing snippets of episodes. I’d imagine if you embed a full episode to Facebook, very few people would listen to the end.
Unfortunately, to get the most of Audioboom you really need to go for the pricier plan. The cost of this varies by audience size. In return however, you’ll get a bunch of features to make your money back.
In particular, Audioboom offers a range of features including ad insertion, sponsorship and it’s own ad-network. These are all crucial if your ultimate goal is to podcast full time.
On the whole, this makes Audioboom best suited to the professional podcaster, or brands with money to spare. For beginners or hobbyists, it may be worth looking elsewhere.
In any service comparison, we come across someone who’s taken a one-stop-shop approach. Podcast hosting is no different, with Podcast Websites taking up the mantle.
Of course, the baseline features of the hosting are pretty much the same as their competitors. This includes easy uploading and distribution to the main platforms. There’s also access to a simple embedded player.
The clue to what sets Podcast Websites apart is in the name. That is, they also provide a website builder and hosting. These are built around podcast-specific WordPress themes.
They’ve put their own WYSIWYG editor on top of WordPress’ back end though. This basically works by dragging and dropping elements to change their proprietary themes.
For peace of mind, Podcast Websites also take care of your security, as well as offering daily backups and automatic SSL certificates. You also get a custom domain as standard.
To me, this seems like a sensible option if you’re about to launch a podcast as a standalone business. If your plan is to use audio content to support your existing marketing, it might not be the best.
They do offer free migration from existing hosts though. And for sure, if this works out cheaper than your current arrangement then that’s a no-brainer.
Podcast Websites also get an honourable mention for their extensive learning materials. These include blogposts and videos on everything from creating to marketing your podcast.
Of course, when choosing podcast hosting, you also have to think of your listeners. For this, Buzzsprout might just be your man. This begins with distributing to sites many others don’t, including Spotify and Alexa.
Buzzsprout’s embedded player is one of the best too. I particularly like that you can add chapter markings along the audio waver profile. This is really important for longer, more information dense shows.
The ability to ad transcriptions to each episode is another listen friendly feature, which requires little explanation. All the same, it’s these little things which can turn one time listeners into subscribers.
In terms of pricing, Buzzsprout is available for free. Sort of. In reality, the free plan only gives you two hours of content, and each episode is deleted after 90 days.
Indefinite hosting begins at a not unreasonable $12, which will get you 3 hours of content. From there, the more content you have, the more you’ll pay.
You can also pay extra for a couple of ad-ons. First there’s 128k optimisation. For non-tech types, this means higher audio quality, which is nice to have if your podcasts are heavy on music
Buzzsprout also offer transcription for ¢10 per minute. This has two benefits. One, you don’t have to upload your own scripts. Two, it boosts your SEO without much effort.
On paper, PodBean has an awful lot going for it. First up, it’s got a perfectly usable free version. At least, you can store 5 hours of audio indefinitely, which should be more than enough to get your feet wet.
For unlimited content, you’re looking at $9 a month. Not exactly breaking the bank. For your $9, you actually get an incredible amount. This seems to be the cheapest option if you also need a website with a custom URL.
The design options aren’t quite as comprehensive as Podcast Websites, but it is a tiny fraction of the cost after all. One caveat is that you still have to buy your own domain and map it.
PodBean also comes with some pretty impressive monetisation options. In the cheapest paid version, you get access to their advertising marketplace, while upgrading to a business account will let you insert custom ads.
If advertising isn’t your thing, you can also monetise your podcast with a patron scheme or premium content straight out of the box. To be honest, these are often your best options for sustainable podcast income.
Really impressively, PodBean allows you to build an app for your podcast. Obviously, this is kind of rudimentary compared to a custom build, but again it only costs a fraction of the cost of going down that route.
Castos takes an entirely different approach to podcast hosting. It lets you manage everything from a WordPress plug-in for $19 a month. This isn’t great if you don’t use WordPress, but let’s assume you do.
Even the cheapest option affords you unlimited storage and listeners, which is excellent at this price. You don’t even need an existing site, as you can build it with Castos as part of your subscription.
The basic plan also gets you some decent listener analytics and the ability to import your existing content in a matter of seconds. Just upload the file and your podcast will appear directly on your website.
Castos are also pretty generous with features across their pricing structure. Since your hosting is unlimited from the get-go, the only real reason you’d want to upgrade is to access some video features.
These include automatic podcast re-publishing to YouTube, as well as the option to host video podcasts. While these are great bonuses, you can certainly still survive with the cheapest plan.
The real selling point of Castos, however, is sheer ease of use. Think about it. If you’re already using WordPress there’s absolutely no need to learn the ins and outs of a new platform, or create complex workflows.
Plus, you have the ability to take advantage of all the other WordPress plug-ins out there in tandem with Castos. This fact in itself makes running a podcast as a standalone business a walk in the park.
Smart Podcast Player
Smart Podcast Player is the creation of audio content legend Pay Flynn. The idea was to create a feature rich podcast player for your website, to improve the experience of creators and listeners alike.
Much like Castos, Smart Podcast Player takes the form of a WordPress plug-in. However, the difference is that there’s no option to build a site in the subscription.
The upshot of this is that it’s less than half the price, at $8.09 per month. Really though, Smart Podcast Player’s main selling point is its incredibly advanced embedded player.
This comes with a number of features that you won’t see in the competition. For instance, Smart Podcast Player boasts that it’s the only podcast hosting solution which captures emails right from the player.
You’ll also find listener friendly options, including different playback speeds. Sometimes people are in a rush and need to take in a lot of information quickly. Other times they want to savour the experience.
Other features in the player itself are more geared towards the creator. You can customise the visuals of the player with your own imagery and colour scheme. You’ll also find social share icons to grow your audience.
That’s not to say there aren’t drawbacks to Smart Podcast Player all the same. It’s notable that analytics and monetisation options are missing for example.
If you have other means to take care of these, then it’s a really good option to host your podcast for pennies. If not, you may want a more comprehensive solution.
Transistor is the podcast hosting site of choice for a number of massive brands like VH1 and Cards Against Humanity. While it’s not insanely expensive at $19.99 a month, it is still more of a premium offering.
For instance, there are no upload limits at this price point, with only a cap on downloads at 10,000 per month. All the plans come with multiple users, which is a sure sign that Transistor has agencies in mind.
In keeping with this, what stands out most to me is Transistor’s analytics suite. This offers really in-depth breakdowns at both an audience and individual episode level.
It’s also fairly straightforward to use if you’re fairly au fait with standard marketing analytics. By this I mean, it basically looks and feels exactly like Google Analytics.
Transistor also has you covered for growing your audience. It integrates with the big names in email automation, so your subscribers will get your latest episode directly to their inbox.
You can also set Transistor to automatically tweet each time a new episode is released. This couples nicely with their Twitter friendly embedded player. I’ll say again though, I don’t know if people listen to full podcasts on twitter.
While Transistor is certainly aimed at bigger companies seeking to leverage podcasting, it should be said that they offer a free switching service from their competitors. A good name to be aware of in any case.
Simplecast are clearly going after the same podcast hosting market as Transistor. But besides $4 a month, what sets them apart? Well the cheapest plan here offers twice as many downloads at 20,000 a month.
However, you need to upgrade to a pricier plan if you want to have multiple users on your subscription. Simplecast’s web player is also somewhat limited in the entry level tier.
To me, one of the real selling points of Simplecast is what they call Recast. This is essentially a social media scheduling tool, which lets you automatically post clips of up to 3 minutes.
Followers can even download the full episode directly from this clip. This stands out as an excellent strategy to capture new listeners, which is sorely lacking in the competition.
Once you upgrade to the next highest plan, at $31.50 a month, Simplecast’s other great selling point comes to the fore. That is, it has one of the most advanced analytics suites out there.
The basic plan comes with some simple audience overview features, but upgrading will get you access to some really cool features, including individual listener profiles.
You can also get insights into how your listeners interact with each individual episode, including switch-off times and the point at which listeners share your podcast.
Simplecast also comes with a rudimentary website builder. This isn’t exactly best in class, but it’s definitely usable. Better to have it than not, but if you already have a site you’re probably not missing much.
Of all of these podcast hosting sites, Spreaker arguably has the most usable free version. It gets you up to 5 hours of indefinite audio storage. The one snag however is that each episode is limited to 15 minutes.
At the cheapest paid plan, you’ll get 100 hours of storage. There’s still an episode length cap here, but it moves up to a more usable 45 minutes. The price continues to grow as your episodes do.
For beginners, Spreaker strikes me as a really usable option. The centre of their creators’ interface is a sort of paired down CMS system, which includes scheduling, automatic social media posts and analytics.
They also take some of the leg work out of promoting your podcasts. This works two ways. Firstly, they’ll feature your podcast in curated lists for listeners to discover.
Secondly, they run their own Spreaker Radio App, which performs a similar function, by helping to match listeners with podcasts they’ll find interesting.
One thing that’s really amazing to see at Spreaker’s price point is the monetisation features on offer. This is the cheapest option which offers dynamic ads.
On top of that, you even get mid-roll ads, and you can control where they’re placed. Most of the competition don’t offer this without making you hand over a wad of cash.
Captivate is a relative newcomer to the podcast hosting game, but they’re already beginning to shake things up. And I don’t just mean they have some pretty crazy web design.
Without putting to fine a point on things, Captivate basically has everything. And there’s no extra to pay for the full featured version. The pricing tiers only vary by download caps.
Let’s go through the checklist. Crowdfunding? Check. Free website? Check. Branded podcast player? Check. On top of this though, there are a few areas where Captivate really excels.
On the subject of the podcast player itself – one thing I particularly like is the option to add customisable calls to action. These can be used for the likes of email sign-ups or you could get creative and up-sell products.
The analytics suite has a pretty unique selling point too. That is, the whole Captivate dashboard is totally mobile friendly, so you can check up on your latest episode’s performance from the train or the beach if you want.
You also get multiple accounts and unlimited uploads right across the pricing structure. As such, this is a terrific option if you know you’re serious about podcasting from the get go.
While Captivate is certainly a little pricier than some of the alternatives, there’s plenty on offer to justify this. Of the more advanced podcast hosting platforms it certainly stands out all the same.
Of course, more features naturally comes along with a slightly longer time investment to get up and running. However, this shouldn’t be a particular issue.
Best Podcast Hosting Sites
So we’ve definitely seen that there are different podcast hosting sites for different uses. For cheap and cheerful, PodBean is pretty hard to look past to me. For something a little more sophisticated, I’d opt for Captivate.
Which is not to say that any of these platforms fall short. As we’ve seen each has its selling points. What I’ve tried to do today is point these out so you can identify which is best for you.