The Definitive Guide to the Best Podcast Hosting Platforms
There are many, many podcast hosting providers out there – offering a dizzying array of features that can be hard to decipher and compare.
It can be pretty confusing to know which podcasting host to go with. Even digging out useful information via articles online can be frustrating. A lot of the information out there is pretty shallow and vague.
In a quest to make sense of it all, I’ve researched and written an in-depth, down-to-earth roundup of the best podcast hosts – including their strengths and weaknesses. I’ve outlined some key criteria to help you think through who should be on your shortlist of hosts and to finally choose one. And I’ve provided my own shortlist and final choice (for my needs.)
The bottom line (it’s good and bad news)
Here’s the not so good news: for a decent hosting service you’re probably going to have to pay. Included in this analysis is the cost per month for each at the time of writing. (It may alter slightly in time but will give you a relative idea.)
The good news is if you do take on a decent hosting service it’ll provide you with a range of benefits. The obvious one is assured delivery of your audio especially as your podcast grows. But also useful features – like statistics on how your podcast is going (that you can show potential sponsors), a media player for your website, dedicated support, and a bunch of other things we’ve listed further below.
But first, let’s dive deeper into why you even need podcast hosting?
Why you need podcast hosting
Your podcast content needs to sit somewhere (on a server.)
The first place you’d think of course is your website. There are ways to do this, but most podcasting pros will tell you it can take up bandwidth, slow your site down, and recommend hosting content on an external site.
This is because your website host is set up to serve web pages. For podcasts, you need a server that can deliver media files that are much larger. And it may have to deliver them to lots of people asking for that file at the same time – which your website host may not always cope with.
You might be tempted to think your podcast could sit on a server with Apple iTunes or Google Podcasts or Spotify. It can’t, and doesn’t. (We’ll get to that.) So you have to find and choose a podcast host.
The goal is ‘listing’ (i.e. distribution)
Once you’ve got your podcast content ‘hosted’ (sitting on a server) somewhere, you can then ‘list’ it on the platforms where your audience is consuming podcasts. This is the crucial next step. In this section, we’ve given you a summary of the places where you can ‘list’ (distribute) your podcast. (The places where people will most likely find your podcast.)
Where to list your podcast
It’s a common misconception these platforms host your files. They don’t. They’re simply a directory of podcasts. What they do is point to where your content is being hosted.
There are a whole bunch of other directories besides the big three. The potential audience with these others is much smaller, but they’re worth being aware of and trying out to see what traction you get. They include iHeart Radio, Pandora, Radio.com, Stitcher, and TuneIn Radio. (Of all these, Stitcher is probably the most important. )
How to list your podcast
To get your content going into the distribution platforms the main thing you need to do for most is to submit an ‘RSS feed’ of your content to them.
You pick up that RSS feed link from your podcast host. Once you’ve done that, every time you upload podcast content to your host it will automatically go out to all the distributors you’ve signed up for. (That’s what RSS is – ‘Really Simple Syndication’.)
Here’s a simple graphic of what happens …
If you want step-by-step help with how to submit an RSS feed to each of the different distributors, just search ‘how to submit a podcast to (name of distributor)‘. You could even add to the search query ‘… from (the name of your host)‘. You could do that search in Google and/or YouTube. There’s lots of material on how to do this.
Here’s one example –
Listing is the easy part though. What’s hard is working out where to host your podcast in the first place.
Following is my go at identifying and analysing the best podcast hosting options – who they are, the differences between them, and their cost. (All prices are US dollars.) Plus some final recommendations to help you narrow it down.
But before I get into that, here’s an overview of the whole thing – including what they have in common – so you know the lay of the land.
Similarities and differences between podcast hosts
A lot of podcast hosting services make a big deal of their features. In reality, podcast hosting services often offer similar things. Listed below are features you can expect.
Features most podcast hosting services offer include:
– the ability to feed to the major distributors (Apple, Google and Spotify)
– a media player that you can embed on your website
– a dashboard where you do your work (e.g. upload audio, input info, see stats)
– statistics – including the number of plays for each episode, which countries listeners are in, and which directories or platforms people are using to listen to your podcast
– free support service to help with queries
– if you have an existing podcast, the ability to move it to this new host
– a free trial (usually for a few weeks.)
Some extra features which are becoming more common are:
– easy set up of distribution to the major distributors (Apple, Google and Spotify) from within the hosting dashboard
– a transcription service (converting audio to words) – though this is usually an additional cost
– a free hosted podcast website
– existing website integration so you can upload podcasts directly to your site e.g. via a WordPress plugin
– the ability to create video from your podcast audio that can then be uploaded into social media and YouTube
– the ability to schedule podcasts ahead of time
Storage and bandwidth
Of all the things a host offers, probably the most important is ‘storage’ and ‘bandwidth’. Storage is how much content you have on your host’s server. Bandwidth is to do with how many people are consuming your content – particularly at once.
If you’re going to be podcasting for a while the amount of content you’re storing can build up and your plan needs to include room for it. If you become popular &/or have a popular episode and a lot of people download it, you want your host to be able to deliver it.
For these reasons, a plan with unrestricted storage and bandwidth can be a good idea. All the services offer unrestricted plans, but usually at a cost. If you’re just dabbling you could go with restricted plan. These are often cheap or free.
Some services modify the metadata, bitrate, or file format of your podcast files. You often have to dig to find that out from host. But be wary of ‘free’ services on this front.
“New features coming soon …”
It’s worth noting that, typical of any technology, podcast hosting services seem to pick up ideas from each other. So you’ll see services add useful features over time. (A good host will be keep improving its offering.)
That said, some services offer an extra thing here and there. Or are occasionally one step ahead. Plus the way they provide some standard features can be better or smarter. On that note, the most immediate factor you’re going to face is: how easy is it to use?
Ease of use
Some services are simpler, easier and nicer to use.
The “newer” services are often cleaner design-wise and easier to use. The older hosts (like Libsyn and Blubrry) tend to be slightly more complicated and have more bells and whistles – which, if you’re beginner, you may not need and may make using them not quite as simple. (This is a bit of a generalisation but worth bearing in mind.)
Quick tip: you can get a sense of each host’s design sensibility by looking at the design of their website.
We’ve given you a snapshot of how well they work in the pros and cons for each below. We’ve also provided links to their websites so you can see more from each host. And we’ve tried to add videos where we could so you can see what things look like actually working with the podcast host.
You could also find more videos by diving into YouTube yourself to check out how to use the host you’re thinking of signing up for. (So you can get a taste of it before you decide to sign up.)
Many podcast hosting services offer a WordPress plugin which makes the integration between your website and podcast hosting easier. Blubrry was one of the originals to realise this. Its Powerpress plugin has been an industry standard for a while.
The plugin for Castos (‘Seriously Simple Podcasting’) is newer and has become increasingly popular. It’s quite simple, practical and useful. Certainly a strong point for them.
There’s a new WordPress plugin for Buzzsprout. The verdict is still out on it. It’s not as advanced as the Blubrry or Castos ones at this stage.
Do you need a podcasting plugin for your website? That’s debatable. Most hosts will provide an embed code to embed a player on your website anyway. The plugin makes the process easier. And makes it easier to align the release of content on your website and podcast distributors.
All the hosts give you the ability to embed a podcast media player on your website. It’s a matter of copying and pasting code into the backend of your site.
How the players look does vary. Some look better than others – though this is subjective. For each of the key podcast hosts we’ve provided an example of their media player.
Apart from their look, they also vary a bit in terms of how they show social media sharing and subscribe buttons. With most you have to hover over a general icon with your mouse to bring up options for sharing and subscribing.
A new feature you can expect to see soon is the ability to sign up to your email list from the player. Pat Flynn has come out with his own Smart Podcast Player that does it – via his stand-alone WordPress plugin. I expect the big hosts will copy it. (Flynn’s player is good but you have to pay a recurring monthly fee for it.)
The price is usually affected by the ‘size’ of the show you’re making i.e. how long it is and how often you’re uploading it.
You can see a lot of the services we’ve shortlisted are around the same starting point (US$12 to $19 per month) for a standard kind of set up. They all go up in price after that – providing for podcasts with longer shows and more downloads. Can get up to $99/month.
A few hosts offer a free option, but there’s usually a catch – like your episodes get deleted after 90 days (as in Buzzsprout.) Or there’s limited bandwidth or storage. Or they make it difficult to leave them and take your content with you later (e.g. Anchor.) Basically, you’re trading off control.
In addition, some pod pros say to be wary of companies whose offerings are all mostly free – as it’s possible they may go out of business. (If that happens it could be complicated to shift your show to another host.)
Review / analysis of best podcast hosting services
The main podcast hosting services worth considering are:
I’ve done an analysis of the pros and cons of these. Then a shortlist and final choice at the end.
See more about Castos pricing and features.
- An unusual feature is that you can run multiple podcasts for the one price – each with their own, unique RSS feed.
- You can also tie in easily to WordPress websites through their plugin ‘Seriously Simple Podcasting’ plugin. (You can host your podcast media files on Castos without having to leave the WordPress dashboard.)
- You can set up your own website for your podcasts or even attach a podcast website to an existing domain name.
- Supports both audio and video podcasting. (Not a small thing if you’re thinking of starting with audio and doing video later.) But it’s a higher price plan for video.
- Castos Stats look good. (There’s a free additional WordPress plugin for stats.)
- Stats include how much of each podcast people are listening to.
- Facebook support group ‘Podcasters Hackers’.
- Ability to auto-publish each episode to your YouTube channel (but you need to be on the higher plan.)
- Offers a transcription service (through Rev), but you need to pay for each as you go.
- Doesn’t modify the metadata, bitrate, or file format of your podcast files.
- Bringing in premium membership soon – a special version of the podcast where some subscribers pay.
- Can create a Patreon-only RSS feed for Patreon supporters.
- Stats don’t identify traffic from Spotify Podcasts (yet.)
- The media player is just ok. Other hosts have better-looking players with share and subscribe buttons built-in. (Though Castos tell me they’re upgrading soon.)
- If you use the WordPress plugin you’ll automatically get the even simpler WordPress player.
- You have to be using the WordPress plugin to be able to schedule posts ahead of time.
- Doesn’t look like it has as a big a team behind it – compared to the major players like Libsyn, Blubrry and Buzzsprout. (Though we do like and respect the founder Craig Hewitt.)
- Castos puts a lot of focus on its plugin.
Castos podcast player:
Videos on Castos podcast hosting and the ‘Seriously Simple Podcast’ WordPress plugin:
- This video is an introduction to the free Seriously Simple Podcasting WordPress plugin –
- This video shows more of it how it works.
- This is a review of the plugin.
- Here’s a video on how to get the hosting connected and working with your WordPress site.
- The dashboard is easy to use.
- The player looks good.
- Transcripts for episodes can be ordered and edited from the dashboard.
- Able to create ‘video soundbites‘ for sharing on YouTube and social media.
- Chapter markers can be added from inside the episode.
- Allows you to set up your own website for your podcasts or even attach a podcast website to an existing domain name.
- Stats give a good breakdown of what apps people are using to listen to your podcast.
- Has a simple Buzzsprout WordPress plugin.
- Buzzsprout’s training videos on YouTube about podcasting are useful.
- On the free version, content is deleted after 90 days.
- On the $12/month version, you’re restricted to 3 hours of content a month.
- Limited bandwidth of 250gb/mth whereas some services are unlimited. (Though this covers between 20,000 and 40,000 episode plays per month which should be enough.)
- For the one monthly fee, you get one podcast feed.
- The Buzzsprout WordPress plugin is new and not as tested and well used as the Blubrry and Castos (Seriously Simple) ones.
- Overt Buzzsprout branding on the media player.
- Doesn’t do video podcasting.
Buzzsprout podcast player:
Videos on Buzzsprout podcast hosting:
- You can see how Buzzsprout works in this video –
- This video shows Buzzsprout’s visual soundbite that you can use on social media.
- If you have a WordPress website, you can read in this post how the Buzzsprout plugin works.
See more about Simplecast features and pricing.
- Used by big brands – such as Shopify, TechCrunch, Facebook, and Harvard.
- Comes with IAB compliant analytics (tool called Audience.)
- Comes with a sharing tool ‘Recast’ that lets your listeners share custom clips of your episodes on social media. (Allows you to do it and your audience.)
- Simplecast offers multiple user access levels.
- Offers one of the best looking free websites for your podcasts.
- Nicely designed player.
- Innovative, trying new things.
- Need to be on higher-tier plan to get their customisable media player.
- Need to be on higher-tier plan to get more detailed analytics.
Simplecast podcast player:
Video on Simplecast podcast hosting:
- This video is a walkthrough of using Simplecast (so you can see what it looks like and how it works.)
- New kids on the block – many aspects more modern e.g. design and features.
- One of the few hosts that will let you do multiple shows for the one price.
- Nice looking media player.
- Responsive to queries. (I was liaising with the founder – Justin Jackson.)
- Can have a team working on your podcast (an Editor uploading episodes, Writer adding transcripts and copy, Hosts reviewing episodes and Marketer reviewing stats.)
- Can generate a website for your podcast. (Updates when you add a new episode.)
- Embedded media player works on Twitter.
- You can automatically email new episodes to your mailing list. (Integrates with MailChimp, Convertkit and Drip.)
- Can automatically publish episodes to YouTube.
- The ability to get people to subscribe to your email newsletter in the player is coming soon.
- Doesn’t have a big team behind them. (Though we do like and respect the founder Justin Jackson.)
- Doesn’t do video podcasting.
- Doesn’t have unlimited downloads – comes in allowance tiers. 10,000 downloads/mth is probably ok for the majority of podcasters. If you get popular (that’s a big if), the price jumps up to $49/mth.
Transistor podcast player:
Videos on Transistor podcast hosting:
- Here’s a video on how to start a podcast on Transistor –
- This post shows how to embed the Transistor media player into a WordPress website. (It includes videos on how to do it.)
See more about Blubrry pricing and features.
- Has been around for a while and known to work well.
- Can tie in easily to WordPress websites through their well-used ‘Powerpress’ plugin.
- Offers Subscribe by email option.
- Certified to be in Compliance with IAB “Podcast Measurement Guidelines” – so you know your listener stats will be accurate.
- Includes a free WordPress site on all plans.
- Claims that podcasting SEO improves discovery of podcast on search engines such as Google, and with the Apple Podcasts directory.
- Offers a simple mode for those just getting started.
- Offers phone support in the US.
- Can offer video podcasting.
- Basic stats are free.
- Not quite as simple to use as ‘beginner’ platforms (like Buzzsprout.)
- Basic stats is basic. Premium stats costs extra.
- The plugin is not as intuitive as the Castos one.
Blubrry podcast player:
Videos on Blubrry podcast hosting:
- Here are videos on getting started with Blubrry which will give you an idea of how it works.
See more about Libsyn pricing and features.
- One of the original and trusted hosting platforms. (Launched in 2004.)
- Cheaper than others.
- Provides good stats – that are IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) certified.
- Can host video.
- Good ability to publish to many places – hence the name “liberated syndication”.
- Limited space per month on it’s cheap ($5) plan. You also have to pay an extra $2/month for basic stats.
- For many people, the $15 or $20/month options are more realistic. (So it’s not as cheap as it looks initially.)
- Libsyn has a lot more bells and whistles compared to the newer podcast hosting services. Other services keep things simple – to make them easier to use.
- The Dash is not as intuitive as others.
- The media player is not as good looking as others.
Libsyn podcast player:
Video on Libsyn podcast hosting:
- This Libsyn ‘Getting Started Guide’ video will show you what it looks like inside –
See more about Podbean pricing and features.
- Large, established provider.
- Allows you to include video podcasts.
- Can make a YouTube video of your podcast.
- Does allow you to set up a private podcasting feed.
- Has a plan where you can get started for free.
- Has a Podbean app that can distribute content.
- Limitations on bandwidth and storage for free service.
- Design not as appealing as the newer hosts.
Podbean podcast player:
Video on Podbean podcast hosting:
- This ‘How To Create a podcast on Podbean’ video will show you what it looks like inside –
- This video shows how to embed a Podbean media player.
Here’s more about Anchor’s features.
- Free hosting.
- Simple to use. Easy to start a podcast.
- Offers the ability to create and edit on your phone (via their app.)
- Listeners can send you audio messages.
- You can add a button on your Anchor profile that lets listeners sign up for monthly donations.
- Spotify have recently bought Anchor.
- They control key aspects of your podcast.
- Your content will be branded by Anchor. (They promote themselves on your content.)
- They put their logo on your podcast’s cover art.
- Anchor submit your show to Apple Podcasts through their own account which means you don’t “own” your show’s listing there.
- Stats not as detailed as they could be. No access to Apple stats (because your podcast runs through Anchor’s Apple account.)
- Anchor changes your file from mp3 to m4a.
- Post-roll ads (for Anchor) are turned on as a default.
- Anchor’s current podcast player lacks a lot of controls.
- You can only submit one category to describe your podcast (when there can be three.)
- If you start your podcast on Anchor and want to move it to a different platform, you can’t automatically forward your RSS feed. (Other podcast hosts make it easy to forward your RSS feed to another provider.)
- If you move to a different platform, you’ll lose control over previous submissions to Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Spotify.
- Wobbly business model. (Many free services have gone out of business.) Though Spotify have just bought Anchor.
- If you’re aiming to build a serious, long-term podcast Anchor may not be the right choice.
Anchor podcast player:
Video on Anchor podcast hosting:
See more about Wooshkaa pricing and features.
Podcasts with less than 10,000 listens per month are free. Once you go over 10,000 per month ads will run in your show, however, you do get a cut of the advertising money. You can upgrade to Pro to remain ad-free. It’s pretty steep though at $99/mth. See Wooshkaa pricing.
- 1 hour of transcripts per month.
- Can have 3 users.
- Native Facebook player.
- Shows shows (acts as a distributor)
- Not as widely used and well known. (Australian based.)
- Some pod pros reckon that building your podcast on a host that doesn’t charge is risky – as it’s more likely to go out of business.
- They put code into your mp3 file to alert when to play an advertisement.
Wooshkaa Podcast Player:
Other podcast hosting services
There’s a heap of other hosting services on top of ones we’ve reviewed above.
There’s Audioboom which hosts some top podcasts in the UK. (It’s $10/month with some limitations.) And there’s Spreaker which has become known for doing live streaming podcasts. (Their standard price is $18/month, but they have cheaper options that come with limitations.)
Stepping up a bit, an interesting service that hosts podcasts with large audiences is Megaphone. They’re used by media outlets like CBS and Vox as well as established podcast producer Gimlet. Another platform which is often used by big businesses and radio stations is Omny. (Price on application for both.)
Hosts that also distribute (list)
One more thing to know is that some hosting platforms also act as a distribution (listing) service. Examples are Castbox, Libsyn, Soundcloud, Spreaker, and Wooshkaa. In other words, people can potentially look for and find your podcast listed on those platforms, as well as hosting your podcast.
In practice, though they mostly have pretty small audiences – especially compared to the big directories – Apple, Google and Spotify.
Soundcloud does deserve a special mention though as it’s reasonably well known. It’s more about music, but there are podcasters using it. The other one that’s technically in this category and worth noting is YouTube. More about these well-known platforms below.
See more about Soundcloud pricing.
- Soundcloud can act as both host and distributor.
- It’s also a social network – people can comment on, like, and share audio.
- You can see the people who have followed, commented on and shared your podcast.
- Soundcloud has a mobile app. Some people may listen there.
- Well known and established.
- Good looking media player.
- Can distribute content to iTunes.
- In the paid version, you can schedule releases ahead of time and get stats.
- Even though it’s initially free, 3 hours total isn’t going to get you far. You’re going to need to pay sooner or later.
- You can’t distribute from Soundcloud to Google Podcasts (at the time for writing.)
- It’s more known as a music platform than a place for podcasts.
- With few podcasts on the platform, Soundcloud has little incentive to implement or improve features that benefit podcasters.
- In the free version, you can’t schedule releases ahead of time.
- Stats are basic in the free version.
- It’s only audio, can’t add video podcasts.
- The embedded player on your website takes people back to the Soundcloud website.
- Soundcloud has been losing money as a company which is a worry.
Soundcloud media players:
Video on Soundcloud:
Here’s a video on how to get your podcast on Soundcloud (with added advice on how to then list it on Apple Podcasts) –
One other option you might want to consider is YouTube. It can serve as an extra ‘distribution’ place, though technically your content will be ‘hosted’ there too.
Essentially you’re producing a video in addition to your audio.
How to make a YouTube video of your podcast
I’ve seen a number of podcasters produce videos for YouTube. One example of a podcast that’s done videos very simply for YouTube is The Elephant. (It’s an environmental podcast I follow.) What they’ve done is taken the audio they recorded and then added visuals (which were basically relevant photos – often of the person they’re interviewing.)
There are also simpler apps that are specifically designed for creating a video from audio – like Headliner and Wavve. Though these are more geared to creating video snippets for social media. (They’re usually just a soundwave animation to go with your audio.)
Some of the podcast hosting platforms are now starting to introduce a feature where they can automatically generate a video for you. One that’s built on your audio – usually with either a still photo or a sound wave. Castos use a still photo. Castos can send that video directly to your YouTube account (if you’re on its higher-priced plan.) Buzzsprout and Simplecast use an animated soundwave visual to create a video snippet for social media.
These kinds of videos are ok and better than nothing, but not all that inspiring in reality. At the moment they’re still a bit of a gimmick, but I expect they’ll be improved in time.
Shooting a video of your interview
There are some podcasters that set up a camera and shoot a video recording of the interview they’re doing. They podcast the audio the usual way, but in addition, upload the video to YouTube. One example of that is the Joe Rogan Experience. So YouTube is acting as a visual way for people to consume the podcast, but it’s also promoting the (audio) podcast.
Matt D’Avella has gone a step further. In his podcast ‘The Ground Up Show‘ he interviews experts about what it means to live a good life. D’Avella shoots video of the interview for The Ground Up YouTube Channel (like Rogan), but in addition he often makes complementary short videos which expand on the theme of the interview with his own thoughts and experience (for his Matt D’Avella YouTube Channel.) These are well done and almost like mini-documentaries (about 5 minutes long.)
Why make a YouTube video of your podcast?
YouTube has massive traffic – lots of potential people – eyeballs and ears. In fact, YouTube is the second most used search engine on the internet after Google. So it can be a good additional way for people to find your podcast.
The catch you is you need to upload your content each time into YouTube. (Except if you use Castos which can send a simple video there automatically.) And of course, you will need a video file to upload to YouTube. So if your podcast is audio you have the extra work of creating that video. (You can’t just upload an audio file to YouTube.)
How to choose a podcast host
To be frank, pretty much all of the dedicated podcast hosting services we’ve identified are good and do the job well. (Even the ones in our ‘other’ section.) You can’t go too far wrong.
It’s not the end of the world if you need to switch later too – as the host you’re thinking of switching to will probably be able to help migrate your podcast across to them for free. (Of course they do – they want your business! )
Ultimately you do need to choose one host now though. So how on earth do you make that final decision?!
You’re going to have to weigh up a range of factors. Below we’ve listed some key criteria for including or knocking out hosts for a shortlist. Have a look and see which criteria are most important and relevant to your needs.
Then have a look at the shortlist of hosts you’re considering, dive into the info we’ve provided and check out their website to see how they stack up.
If you can’t find an answer to something that’s important to you, google it to dig in further! Failing that, I recommend you contact the host. Find their contact email on their website (usually in the footer at the bottom of their site) and ask them! You’ll soon find out how good their support while you’re at it.
Key factors to consider in your choice of podcast hosting
There are quite a few things to think about when choosing your podcast hosting. I’ve summarised here the factors. Some of them are going to be more important for you. Spot them and use them to help you cull the big list to a shortlist.
- Do you want to pay for hosting at all!? If you’re serious about podcasting, yes, it’s probably worth it. If you’re just dabbling maybe not. (A few like Anchor, Soundcloud, Buzzsprout and Podbean are free, but with limitations. See ‘Downsides’ for each.)
- Are the host’s podcast stats good and useful? Do you have to pay extra to get decent stats from them? What are reviewers saying about the level and accuracy of the host’s stats? (If you’re planning on getting serious about gaining sponsors then good analytics will be important – as advertisers will want to know about your audience.)
- Are you going to do videos later? Can the host handle video? A few hosts do (e.g. Castos and Podbean.) Most don’t.
- Do you have a WordPress website and want to run everything through there? (Does the host have an established, well-rated plugin?)
- Would a dedicated podcast website be helpful? A number of hosts offer a free hosted website. This is useful if you want a simple website largely for podcasts and don’t want the hassle of organising your own site. Some hosts offerings are a bit better designed than others. (The Simplecast one is a bit better.)
- Is the host easy to use? Does the host have a clean dashboard? Or is it a complicated, techie looking interface that gives you the heebie-jeebies? (In the videos we’ve linked to you can see what the dashboards for each look like.)
- What does their media player look like? Most services either have a sample player on their website or show off some of their best customers. Have a look. Some players look a bit better. (I liked the Transistor one.)
- Does the host change the file you upload (e.g. reduce the file size or add code for ads?)
- Do you expect your podcast to grow over time? What will your show look like in a year? Sometimes it can be easier to purchase the service that you will grow into, rather than change later.
- Does the host give you unlimited storage? So you can keep building a catalogue of episodes and not have to delete files to stay within a storage limit. Some hosts provide a free or cheap starting point then the rate jumps up when you need to grow. (How often you publish and the length of your episodes will affect how much storage you need.)
- Does the host give you unlimited bandwidth? (Does the host limit the number of downloads and ultimately audience size?) This can be important if you think you’re going to grow.
- How are you thinking about ads? Some hosts offer to place advertisements in your podcast. Do you want that? Or will you want to run your own ads or sponsorship later? (Maybe you don’t want or need the ads they’re offering to place in your show.)
- Are you thinking of adding more shows later? A few hosts let you run multiple shows on one account. (Only Castos and Transistor did this that I could see.)
- Does the host make difficult for you to leave their service?
- Is it a reputable host? Are they going to stay in business? (You need to be clear-eyed about services that are largely free.)
- How responsive is the hosting service to queries? What’s their support like? (You can test it by contacting hosts with questions to see how they go responding.)
Podcast host pricing
Once you get down to a shortlist, you will end up comparing prices. Make sure you check out how much it costs to pay yearly rather than monthly for each – as there’s usually a decent saving by paying annually. Most hosts do this. (Buzzsprout doesn’t.)
Most hosts also offer a free trial – usually for a few weeks. So you could start by trying out the host that made the top of your list. This’ll help you see how easy it is to use.
It is hard to compare apples with apples – as they all have variations on the same thing (at slightly varying price points.)
Bottom line on pricing is that if you’re in the range of beginner to intermediate you’re probably going to have pay $12 to $19 a month for a decent service. A $7 price difference is not huge I reckon. In the end, it’s not so much about price as it may be about a few key features which could be key in your plans for your podcast.
A final tip on choosing your podcasting host
Once you get past all gimmicks, which features are going to be really most important for you?
For example, maybe you’re seriously thinking of running multiple shows in the coming years. Or you’re going to do video later. Or you need a team working on this. Or it’s important the media player look good on your site. Or, you’re an absolute beginner and you really want it to be simple and easy to use. Then some differences between hosts emerge I think.
My shortlist of best podcast hosting
After much deliberation, I found Buzzsprout, Simplecast, Transistor and Castos were the podcast hosts I liked most. The ‘upsides’ I’ve listed for each played into my decision but probably their simple design and ease of use was key. (Via the links on each you can find out more about them and compare pricing and features.)
Up until fairly recently, the most popular services have been Libsyn and Blubrry, but they appear to be losing a little bit of favour – probably I think because the “newer” services have worked out that simpler user interface from the get-go.
If you’re an absolute newbie and just testing the waters, you could start with Soundcloud. It’s simple to use, free (initially), has a good media player to embed on your site, and is well known. You’re also hosting and distributing on one platform. Plus it will allow you to send to the Apple iTunes directory. So an easy place to start. But once you get going you’re going to have to pay later anyway. So if you’re in this for the long term it’s probably worth the time and effort to understand and use one of the other dedicated podcast hosts we’ve identified.
Speaking of being new to podcasting, one subtle thing I like for beginners is the series of videos from Buzzsprout about using the platform and how to podcast. Interesting how this kind of content marketing does give you more confidence in going with them. It almost had me.
My final choice of podcast hosting service
In the end, for my needs, I’ve gone with Castos. As with many decisions in life, there were a number of factors that tipped me toward one service over the other.
Firstly the functional advantages. A key one was that I’m thinking of doing video later – which Castos offers (albeit at a higher price.)
They also allow you to do multiple shows on one account – on the one fixed price per month. A lot of hosts charge per show. (I’m thinking to expand and do variations on my podcast e.g. separate international and Australian versions in the near future.) Transistor did offer multiple shows too by the way, but they don’t do video.
So the video and the multiple shows really separated Castos for me. It’s a few dollars a month more than Simplecast and Buzzsprout but I reckon it’s probably worth it.
Another functional aspect is that my website is built on WordPress and I like the integration of the Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin from Castos. Impressive too that the plugin has had so many downloads and positive reviews.
Then there are a few subjective things that swayed me. I had come across the founder Craig Hewitt before through his Facebook group Podcast Hackers and his service Podcast Motor. Darren Rowse, who I know of and like, has worked with and provided a recommendation of Craig Hewitt’s work on his Problogger podcast. (Interesting how ‘influencers’ influence you.)
One last thing that’s quite specific to my work is that Castos has a strong environmental commitment. My podcast is The Environment Show. (And yes, corporate social responsibility can affect buying decisions too.)
All these things together swayed me to Castos. I still have some doubts about the look of the Castos media player. (Though Castos tell me they are working on improving its player.) And I’m trusting the reviews and support about their WordPress plugin – that it works ok.
But all this is my thing. You’ll need to weigh up the factors that are important for you.
What do you think is the best podcast host? Let us know in the Comments below.