If you want to start a podcast, you are going to need somewhere to store and host your podcast files. With the vast amount of options to choose from, choosing a hosting provider can be difficult. What works for one podcast might not work for another.
Your podcast hosting service is often decided by two things; your budget and the size of your show -- how big each file is, how often you release new episodes, etc. and while some services may have advantages over others, what's important is to choose a service that works for you and your podcast.
When you're trying to figure out a solution for your show, you should be thinking about;
This is a big one. Maybe you don't want to spend a money to run your podcast. It's more than possible to create a podcast without spending any money but it's a lot more difficult. Most services have "pay as you grow" pricing tiers so it won't be hard to change your plan as your audience grows.
If you are planning on releasing new episodes every week or if your files sizes tend to be very big, you may run into an issue with your hosting service. Most plans have upload limits so pick something that fits within your episode file sizes.
Analytics and Download Stats
You need the ability to track how many people download and subscribe to your show. Analytics and metrics are crucial to understanding the impact of your podcast. Look for a service that provides you with download stats or (at the very least), integration with an analytics service like Podtrac.
RSS Feed and Website/Homepage
Is the feed optimized for iTunes? Does the service provide a "home" of sorts for all of your episodes. You want to be able to easily submit your RSS feed to different podcatchers and be able to promote it via social media. All of the podcast hosting options mentioned in this guide give you access to RSS feed and some sort of built-in web presence.
Other "nice-to-haves" include embeddable audio players, one-click publishing integration and monetization methods but those mentioned above are the big ones.
Your Own Site vs A Hosting Service
There's definitely an argument for hosting your files on your own site. If your episodes tend to be shorter and you don't have a large audience. Hosting your show on your own website could be a perfectly suitable solution for you.
Still, people downloading your show from your website will eat up your bandwidth and your web site could crash. This is where hosting services like Libsyn and Blubrry fit in. With dedicated podcast hosting, you can always rely on them to deliver your show to your listeners without crashing your site. The downside comes with monthly pricing, data caps and limited control over your feed.
Again, it's important to pick a service that works for you and your podcast. Just remember to keep backups of all your episodes and plan for one day moving to a different provider.
I'm a huge fan of Squarespace and their content-management-system (CMS) . While not a dedicated podcast hosting service, Squarespace has seamlessly added podcasting into their website builder. Follow their official podcasting support guide and you'll have an iTunes-ready RSS feed prepared for submitting. Squarespace is also super reliable when it comes to website hosting so you can always be sure that your listeners will be able download your episodes. If you're starting a new podcast, Squarespace is a great platform to host your podcast.
I want to point out that Squarespace is a fully-featured website builder. It's always a good idea to have a "home" for your podcast -- a place that listeners can go to learn more about you and your show. Merging Squarespace and pretty much any other hosting service is a perfectly viable solution for managing your online presence. Personally, the reason I love Squarespace is because I can manage my website, episodes and RSS feed in one place.
WordPress is without a doubt the most popular CMS on the internet. I have my own personal thoughts about WordPress but even still, it's a breeze to get up and running with a new podcast using WordPress plugins.
Note: If you are hosting your media files on your site, it's possibly that a sudden influx of new downloads and listeners could crash your site. If you're just starting out, you may not need to worry about this at first, but it is something to consider.
PowerPress is the most popular WordPress podcasting plugin and for good reason. With a dead simple user interface, SEO settings and subscription tool, PowerPress is one of the best podcastings plugin available for WordPRess. A big upside is that BluBrry also provides managed podcast hosting services. If you find your podcasting gaining traction and you need to take the load off your site, it's easy upgrade your plan.
PodLove is a little know podcasting plugin that more people need to know about. One of my favourite features is their Chapter Support which makes producing dynamic show-notes incredibly easy. They also have a really cool subscribe button for new listeners and better-than-average analytics. Definitely worth checking out.
Seriously Simple Podcasting isn't kidding with their name. They make podcasting stupidly simple. If you already have a site with WordPress or if you're managing multiple shows, Seriously Simple is the plugin for you.
The Smart Podcast Player was created by Smart Passive Income creator Pat Flynn and it's one of the few WP plugins out there that you have to pay for. The player comes with a host of features that really make shelling out the $8-$12/yr absolutely worth it. While I haven't used it personally, more and more podcasters are adopting it as their podcast manager.
Podcast Hosting Services
These services are all managed podcasting services. Managed Podcasting services handle everything related to your podcast so you can focus on making awesome content and sharing it online.
Note: These are listed in alphabetical order.
As mentioned previously, BluBrry is the force behind the free PowerPress plugin. As cool as their plugin is, their managed services are where they really shine. In addition to an exclusive podcast directory, they offer powerful analytics, easy management of multiple shows, podcasting templates, and a bunch more.
HipCast is relatively new on my radar but I fell in love with it's low pricing and rich features. HipCast features dedicated Podcast pages (which are great for SEO), social media distribution, mobile optimized pages, an exclusive directory and even a "podcast importer" if you're switching from an old hosting service. Their site focuses on server uptime and media backup which is also super important.
Liberated Syndication (or Libsyn) has been a major player in the podcasting scene for many years. As far as using a trusted and reliable hosting service goes, Libsyn is about as well-managed you can get. This why they've attracted some of the biggest names in podcasting -- NPR, Marc Maron and Joe Rogan to name a few. All Libsyn plans include unlimited downloads, a dedicated podcast page, one-click publishing and a network listing. If you are serious about podcasting, you need to look at Libsyn.
Buzzsprout is rising in popularity among podcasters. With all the usual things you'd expect from a hosting service (analytics, one-click social publishing, podcast importing), a feature I really like about their player is the ability for listeners to immediately share the episodes on social media.They offer a WordPress plugin and a free plan if you want to give it a spin but otherwise, they're pricing is competitive in the industry.
Pinecast is a new player in podcast hosting scene and it's the one I'm most intrigued by. With a minimalist interviews and a focus on simplicity. I'm hoping more podcasters adopt this service. Their best feature is the "Tip Jar", Pinecast's way of allowing you to monetize your content. I'll be keeping an eye on Pinecast for sure.
Podbean has been around for a long time and as a result, they're used by many top tier podcasts -- CNN, BBC and ESPN all use Podbean in some capacity to manage their audio and video content distribution. With monetization options -- including iPhone/Android app publishing, sponsorships and crowdfunding -- Podbean is an easy sell if you're new to podcasting.
Podcast Garden doesn't have the prettiest website but you can still expect all the normal features with this host. Podcast Garden gives you a lot of control over your show and how you proceed to embed it on your site and promote it to the world. Their RSS feeds are fully iTunes-optimized so you can be sure your listeners can download new episodes.
Free for one episode per month OR $3.99/month for unlimited uploads.
Podcast Garden Homepage
Podcast Machine is awesome because of its non-restrictive free plan. PM has an easy to user interface and scalable plans. In addition to audio, Podcast Machine also hosts video podcasts and with 1GB/monthly data on their free plan, that's entirely within the realm of possibility.
Free - $39/month
Podigee is a newer podcast host with awesome features and a non-restrictive free plan. Podigee focuses on ease of use (they promote the fact you can publish a new episode in 5 minutes or less). Included in every plan is an iTunes/Google Play optimized RSS feed, a podcast page, automatic transcoding, a personalized subdomain and best of all - automatic audio quality improvement via Auphonic. If you're not looking to break the bank but you still want all the features you'd expect from a top tier podcasting host.
Free - $38/month
Podomatic is more geared towards musicians and DJ's but they're a perfectly suitable podcasting host. You can literally start creating a podcast right now. Definitely worth looking into if you're more focused on social media.
Free - $20.82/month
ShoutEngine is a dead simple podcasting service with an awesome free plan that scales as you grow. With deep analytics, and publishing features like ID3 tagging, audio compression and SEO, ShoutEngine is definitely worth your time.
Free - $20/month
SoundCloud is the ultra popular audio platform used by musicians and podcasters alike. While not directly a podcast hosting service, they've added podcasting into the features and from personal experience, I must say it works very well. SoundCloud will automatically generate an RSS feed for you as well as display your SoundCloud metadata in iTunes. You can also integrate the podcast analytics service Podtrac with Soundcloud giving you even deeper insight into your analytics.
Free - $16/month
There is no "best" option when it comes to podcast hosting. It all depends on you and how you want to manage your podcast workflow. Try out a couple of different options (free trials are great for that) before deciding on one solution. Remember, most podcast providers make it easy to move your feed away from them and to a new service. It won't be too difficult to migrate to a new service and chances are high that your listeners won't notice anything. Always do your research and listen to the experiences of other podcasters.