How To Start A Podcast: Part 3
Everything you need to get your podcast from your desktop to the Internet
Okay, you have a podcast idea, you’ve recorded your first episode, you’ve edited everything and it sounds great. It’s time to give your podcast an online home! First, you’re going to need to make some decisions. These decisions will determine most of the cost of your podcasting hobby and will determine how much creative control you have over your podcast’s new online home. There are a million options, and it’s not worth reviewing them all, but I’ll go over a few common scenarios and add up the real-world costs of each one.
P.S. There are no affiliate links on this page. These opinions come for free!
Hosting 101: A Quick Breakdown
There are three types of hosting when it comes to podcasting:
- Podcast hosting = this company stores the files for your podcast episodes and makes them available to different podcasting websites (Apple iTunes store, Stitcher, Google Play, etc)
- Domain hosting = this company rents you a domain name (like thelandofdesire.com ) for a small annual fee
- Website hosting = this company stores the website that is located at your domain
Depending on the companies you work with to share your podcast, 2 or even all 3 of these different hosting services may be packaged together.
Podcast hosting service
Once you’ve recorded your episode, how do you actually get it onto the Internet?
Do not host your podcast files on your own website. Do not upload a 20–50 MB mp3 file straight onto your website the way you would upload a 400 KB photograph. You will pay an absurd amount for the bandwidth, your website host will hate you, just don’t do it. It’s very cheap to host with a company which specializes in hosting podcast files.
A podcast which publishes 30 minute episodes every week will use approximately 84 MB of storage per month, assuming you record at a good bitrate (I’ll explain more later — I’m just making sure you buy as much space as you need upfront).
There are two big players in the podcast hosting game: Libsyn and Blubrry. They’re nearly identical, but The Podcast Host has a good summary of their features here. Both companies are reliable, well-respected in the industry, and offer affordable podcast hosting plans.
Squarespace is one to watch, and would be a good option for someone who cares about having a beautiful website for their show but isn’t comfortable building one themselves. You can use Blubrry’s great statistics services with Squarespace. It’s not an all-in-one solution that way, but you’ll get the best of Blubrry’s statistics tracking with the best of Squarespace’s eeeeeasy website building.
Do not host your show on Soundcloud. Soundcloud is going to go bankrupt very shortly, and I do not understand how its users fail to read the tea leaves. I still see people recommend Soundcloud to host a podcast and it baffles me.
There are a bunch of smaller competitors out there right now (Podbean, Buzzsprout, Podomatic, etc) but none of them have any particularly outstanding features. It’s not worth falling into that k-hole, especially if you’re prone to analysis paralysis like me. If you haven’t made a podcast before, you don’t yet know what you need and don’t need. Give one of the smaller competitors a try on your 2nd podcast, but when you’re just getting started, don’t overthink this part.
Depending on the website hosting option you choose (see below) you may or may not need to pay separately for website hosting. If you think you’re going to host the show through a free Libsyn landing page and build a proper website later, I’d recommend snagging the domain name of your show anyway, just to make sure nobody else buys it. It costs about $12 bucks to reserve a domain name for the whole year, so you might as well.
If paying for domain hosting is like renting a P.O. box, paying for website hosting is like renting an apartment. Website hosting is the money you pay a company for actually hosting your website — your blog posts, your pictures, your About Me page, etc — on a server. This is probably the single biggest cost for the average podcaster, so luckily, a lot of savvy companies are offering cheaper options. I don’t want to overwhelm you guys, so let’s look at a few podcast hosting + website hosting options and run the numbers.
Super Easy+ Kinda Ugly + Cheap + Great Stats: Host your podcast’s website on Libsyn or Blubrry. This option is included with your podcast file hosting package, so it’s definitely the cheapest option. Unfortunately, it’s not the most attractive, to be honest. Here’s an example of this option. (“Wow, Marc Maron uses this option?” No, he happens to also use this option. His main website is totally custom built, really beautiful, and way more expensive than this.)
- Podcast hosting = $5 / month
- Website hosting = $0 (included)
- Domain hosting = N/A (website located at yourname.libsyn.com)
- Total cost = $60 per year
Easy + Beautiful + Somewhat Customizable + Cheap: Host your podcast’s website on Squarespace. Note that you won’t really get podcast stats from Squarespace, but it’s possible to use Blubrry’s free podcasting statistics service with Squarespace (see guide here). You can also choose to host your podcast files through Libsyn or Blubrry and share them with the world on a Squarespace website, but that’s just spending $144 a year for no particular reason. Squarespace doesn’t have a reputation for outages or downtime.
- Podcast hosting = $0 (included)
- Website hosting = $12 / month
- Domain hosting = $16 / year
- Total cost = $160 per year
Medium + Completely Customizable + Spendy: Build and host your own website. Having built Squarespace sites before, I knew I wanted greater creative control this time, with the ability to build a complex website with all the bells and whistles I wanted. I decided to build my website through Wordpress, which made podcast hosting a no-brainer. Blubrry has a fantastic plugin which makes the whole process super easy. This is the setup I use for The Land of Desire (did I mention I have a Patreon page, gah):
- Domain hosting = $16 / year
- Website hosting = $12.99 / month
- Podcast hosting = $12 / month
- Total cost = $332 per year
Obviously, this is the most expensive option I’ve listed, and the most complex. Never built a website before? Don’t start now — go with one of the other 2 options. This third option is best for folks like me who enjoy fiddling with websites, who feel comfortable updating Wordpress-based websites or who need to have a completely customizable website for various reasons.
Why should I care so much about a website?
Your podcast must have some kind of website, if only so you have something you can link to when people want to check out your show. Not everybody uses the iTunes Store to discover or listen to podcasts. You need one centralized place to direct potential listeners.
Most people don’t realize that a good website is your most powerful tool to attract new listeners. This is a discussion for another place and time, but podcast discoverability is terrible. Many people discover my podcast because they discover my website, whether that’s because they’re searching for more information about a topic that I’ve covered in an episode, or because I’ve posted a link to my website on Facebook and someone else has seen it, or because my show comes up when you search for “French history podcast” on Google. You don’t have to build your own website, but you do need to build a website, and make it easy to find. It’s a heck of a lot easier to tell someone to visit “thelandofdesire.com” than to visit “https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-land-of-desire-french-history-and-culture/id1133884139?mt=2” — yeesh.
Pick an option and move on. Lots of great podcasts have used each of these different podcast options. Spend some time thinking honestly about your budget, then commit to an option and move forward. Do not choose an option with the assumption that “listener donations will help offset the costs.” Assume you will always be paying for 100% of this forever and ever and choose an option that you can already fit within your budget.
Now that you’ve decided on the show you want to make, you’ve purchased the physical equipment you need to record an episode, and you’ve paid for the services you need to broadcast and support your show, it’s time to prepare your first episodes! Look for this in the next installment of this series, coming soon.
Want to learn how to produce your own podcast? Check out the rest of my series How To Start A Podcast here.