What is Podcast Hosting?
“Audio and voice are by far the most natural interface for humans to interact.” – Gary Vaynerchuk
So you’re thinking of starting a podcast but aren’t sure how to handle the hosting.
You aren’t alone.
Podcast vs. Regular Hosting
Hosting podcasts is not the same as hosting a website. Most websites are composed of small files, a typical web page is only about 1 MB, and much of the content will be cached by your browser to make future visits even easier on the server.
In contrast, media files such as podcasts are very large (around 25 MB for a 30-minute audio file recorded at 96 Kbps), and downloading media files takes up a lot of bandwidth.
The bandwidth demanded by multiple simultaneous downloads of large media files can cripple the performance of a server that isn’t up to the task.
Hosting: Podcast Needs vs. Website Needs
Here’s a quick glance at some valued podcast hosting features that differ from what you’d look for in a website host. Not all podcast hosts will offer the same features.
|Feature||Recommended for Podcasting?||Recommended for website?|
|Unlimited storage and bandwidth||Yes||Depends on site size and traffic levels|
|Optimized, distribution-ready RSS feeds||Yes||Not applicable|
|Assistance with getting your podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and other platforms||Yes||Not applicable|
|Built-in Monetization opportunities?||Yes, if you’re planning for growth||Look instead to Google AdSense and affiliate advertising opportunities|
Podcast Heavy Lifting
Let’s say that at some point your podcast attracts a large audience and that each new episode is downloaded thousands of times in the first few days after it is released.
If your podcast is being downloaded a thousand times in a day, there will be many times that a dozen or more listeners are downloading the file simultaneously.
Impact of Podcast Files vs. Regular Files
Now think about what happens when you try to move a dozen large media files simultaneously on your computer.
Think about how slowly the files are moved, and how that movement affects the overall performance of your computer during the transfer.
The exact same thing happens to the server when there are several simultaneous downloads of your podcast.
This is the main reason why there are servers specifically configured and dedicated to hosting large media files.
Why Podcast-Specific Hosting?
Many popular web hosting companies boast unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth. However, they aren’t set up to handle the demands of a popular podcast.
A popular podcast will demand bandwidth resources that a web server just isn’t configured to accommodate.
If you are starting up a small podcast with only a few dozen listeners your shared hosting account on a web server will probably work just fine as long as hosting large media files doesn’t run afoul of your hosting agreement (you should check with your hosting provider before trying to host a podcast on a shared server).
Upgrading for Performance
However, if you were to see a sudden jump in audience size, you could find yourself having major download speed issues and a disagreement with your hosting provider at the worst possible time.
The solution to this problem is to buy space on a server designed to handle multiple simultaneous downloads of large media files.
Servers configured in this way are called media servers, and there are several hosting providers that offer media servers specifically configured for and packaged with useful tools for hosting podcasts.
What Is Podcast Hosting Used For?
A great podcast with a large audience or one that hopes to develop one needs two types of hosting solutions: a web server, and a media server.
The web server will power the podcast website (so listeners can visit a web address) and link to media files. The media server is where the podcasts will be hosted and is a server specifically configured for this purpose.
Using a web server for your website, and a media server for your podcast hosting may seem like overkill when you first get started – and may not be necessary if you don’t ever plan on building a large audience (if that is the case be sure to check with your hosting provider before uploading your podcast).
However, if your podcast grows in popularity having your hosting configured properly will save you from a lot of headaches.
What Does Podcast Hosting Cost?
There are many podcast hosting providers out there, and they offer a variety of plans based on exactly what you want and need.
Podcast hosting can be as inexpensive as $5 per month for a simple plan with enough storage to host two or three average-length podcasts at a time for a small audience, or as much as $80 or more a month for lots of storage and lots of bandwidth to support a large audience.
Of course, you can always start small and upgrade your plan when you hit it big, and your storage and bandwidth needs an increase.
There are a few free podcast hosting options out there with limited storage, bandwidth, and support that will let you get your feet wet while you begin to develop an audience.
Why Choose Podcast Hosting?
Using a podcast hosting provider for your podcast is the best choice if you’re serious about building a sizeable audience.
Hosting a podcast requires generous allocations of storage space and bandwidth. Media servers hosting podcasts need to be configured with this end-goal in mind.
What Not To Do
While your shared web hosting account may boast unlimited storage and bandwidth and may handle the demands of a podcast with a small audience, it won’t handle the demands of a large audience. As a result, using a web hosting account to host a podcast is not best practice, and is not recommended.
Extra Podcast Hosting Features
Many podcast hosting providers throw in great tools that will make getting your podcast noticed that much easier. Typical features unique to a podcast hosting account include:
- Support for RSS feeds
- Optimization of your podcast to meet compliance standards for iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, TuneIn, and more.
- Audience stats
- A podcast website to advertise your podcast
- Support for downloads and live streaming
- Simple publishing tools to post your podcasts on social media and websites of your choice.
Note: The podcast wing of iTunes is now called “Apple Podcasts.”
Additional Features to Look for in a Podcasting Host
When a host specializes in podcasting, it is able to offer very specific features that can make your life easier. These include:
- User-friendly interface – Having a control panel specifically designed for podcasters is much simpler to use than a generic cPanel one
- Plug-ins designed for podcasting – Some podcast hosts still let you create a website using a CMS like WordPress. Some come with free podcasting plugins like the PowerPress plugin
- E-mail mailing list – Some hosts let you collect email addresses of website visitors so you can email them with new episodes
- Podcast player – A built-in podcast player on your site saves you time and money
- Inclusion in a podcast directory – Some hosts make it easier than others to submit your show to podcast directories
It’s hard to find a host that does all of the above, but if any of those are particularly important to you, keep an eye out for one that offers it.
My Picks: The Top Hosts for Podcast Hosting
If you’re in the market for podcast hosting, check out my top picks.
Many podcasts only need a basic website to showcase their episodes. PodBean is a great host provider if you fall into this scenario, it’s one of the few hosts specifically tailored towards podcasting.
There are different plans for both audio and video podcasts, but all plans come with your own website and copious bandwidth. All plans come with RSS feed and iTunes support to make it easy to distribute your content.
If your podcast is simply part of your business, you probably need a more typical website, but with the ability to store and transfer a lot of data.
Liquid Web is one of the best choices for this, but it is one of the most expensive ones. Liquid Web features very fast servers (SSDs), as well as a 100% power uptime guarantee. These features make their plans suitable for media hosting and serving.
Other features in Technologies
Podcast Frequently Asked Questions
- Am I able to use a standard shared hosting plan to set up a podcasting website?
Though using a standard shared hosting plan to set up a podcast is possible, it is not recommended especially if you have a large audience. Instead, try to use plans specializing in podcasting because audio files are typically bigger than standard web pages.
Consequently, this will increase bandwidth requirements most shared hosts are unable to handle especially as your audience grows. Even with unlimited bandwidth, web hosts often restrict computing resources your website can use making podcasting difficult to implement.
- What can I expect to pay for podcast hosting?
Podcast hosting ranges anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds per month. The pricing depends entirely on how much space and bandwidth you need. Many companies list how many listeners can be accommodated and some offer limited free plans.
- What are some extra features a podcast hosting plan may have?
Extra features with podcast plans may include support for RSS feeds, audience statistics, podcast advertisement, and tools to publish your podcast on various web sites.
- Can use file transfer apps like Google Drive and Dropbox to host my podcast?
The short answer is yes, but with severe limitations. You can host your podcast as a publicly shared file on Google Drive or Dropbox.
However, it’s probably not a good solution unless your audience is extremely small and dedicated. Using a file sharing application like Google Drive or Dropbox will throw up several roadblocks to attracting a large audience:
- You’ll want to make your podcast subscribable using RSS. This requires a direct link to the media file. While this can be done with some workarounds, most file sharing applications are not designed for this purpose
- Rather than downloading the entire file, many users choose to stream podcasts. File sharing applications generally do not support file streaming, and many podcast channels such as iTunes won’t allow a podcast that can’t be streamed
- Many file-sharing applications have bandwidth limitations that will make hosting a podcast for any but the smallest audiences untenable
- File sharing on a large scale can become a very costly proposition when compared to a specialized hosting solution
Using a free file sharing account to host your podcast is tempting, but in the end, you’ll grow to regret using a less-than-optimal solution that will create extra work for you, create barriers for your audience to overcome in getting to your content, and ultimately hurt your ability to attract an audience.
- What’s the difference between a web server and a media server?
Web servers are configured to support websites and web applications with a relatively low bandwidth demand.
Most web servers simply don’t have the backend power to handle simultaneous downloads of large media files. Media servers, on the other hand, are specifically configured to handle multiple simultaneous downloads of large media files.
So while your web server can and will host media files, if your audience is large enough to result in simultaneous downloads you really need to host your media files on a server designed for that purpose.
- Can’t I just use SoundCloud to host my podcast?
It’s tempting to create a podcast by recording and editing your episodes using Audacity and uploading the result to your SoundCloud profile.
It’s easy and free, and you can then submit your SoundCloud’s podcast RSS feed to the major podcasting platforms like iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.
But even though SoundCloud is more equipped to serve an audio podcast than simple file sharing platforms like Google Drive, you still run into a lot of the same problems.
- Sponsors expect podcasts to be hosted on professional sites, not public profiles like SoundCloud
- You can’t control resources – While SoundCloud is designed to stream audio, you have little control over, or even ways to analyze, the uptime of your podcasts
- You can’t control content – Unlike a website, where you can create whichever pages you’d like, or add show notes to your episodes, you have no control on SoundCloud. You get the same options that everyone else gets
If it’s just a hobby podcast, using SoundCloud is fine. But if you’re trying to make a professional show, it’s just not good enough.
- What factors do I need to take into account when selecting a podcast hosting provider?
The primary factors to take into consideration are storage and bandwidth.
Most media servers include a set amount of storage space for your files, and a certain amount of bandwidth to allow users to access and download or stream your podcasts.
It will take a little math, but you need to figure out how large your podcasts files will be, how many you plan to have available at once, and how large your audience will be.
With those figures in hand, you will be better equipped to select a plan that will provide the storage and bandwidth your podcast will need.