You’ve decided to launch a company podcast: you’ve decided on a topic and format, you know what audience you want to reach, and you’ve established your goals and even picked out the music. You’ve also figured out the technical specifics of recording and editing. But how do you get your audio files into your listeners’ podcast players? You have two main options: host the feed yourself or pay someone to host it for you.
But first: What makes a podcast a podcast?
Not every audio recording, however regularly produced, can properly be called a podcast. If your show is available only on a company intranet or if it’s not multiple episodes, you can call it a podcast if you’d like, but you may confuse your listeners. Most people will expect to be able to subscribe and listen to your podcast in their favorite podcast client, such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher. That means you have to make it available on the public internet as a podcast feed.
Self-hosting your podcast
On your company website
At its most basic, a podcast feed is simply an RSS feed that includes audio enclosures with episode audio files. Your company website’s CMS, such as WordPress, probably has the capability to produce a podcast-compatible RSS feed. For WordPress, there also are several plugins available that make setting up a podcast even easier. If your main company website is the best home for your podcast, strategically, you can be up and running with a feed in a matter of minutes. But keep in mind that, in most cases, your feed also will need to be listed in a few key podcast directories for listeners to easily find and subscribe, so be sure you look into how to submit your feed.
While this can seem like the simple answer, there are some drawbacks to this approach. A podcast, particularly a popular one, may bring a lot of traffic and use a lot of server bandwidth, potentially raising the cost of hosting your website. It also complicates any changes you might make to your website design or hosting, because you have to consider how those changes may affect your podcast feed. Additionally, if you decide to discontinue the podcast for any reason, you may not want to have a dormant podcast hanging around on your company website.
And keep in mind, because the feed and file downloads are happening through your own website, any analytics are up to you to collect, which can be a challenge. (Some podcast directories also provide analytics features, including the biggest, Apple.)
On a dedicated podcast website
If your podcast is not suited to being included on your main company website — perhaps you’re looking to build the podcast brand above and beyond your company brand — you can easily set up a website specifically for your podcast. From there, your options are much the same as with your company website, with most of the same drawbacks.
Podcast hosting services
If you want to make the process of setting up a feed and submitting it to podcast directories easier, or if you’ve outgrown your self-hosting and are looking to move to a service, there are, fortunately, tons of options at your disposal. And most offer a greater level of analytics than you can get when self-hosting. Some also provide monetization features, if yours is the type of podcast that might need to bring in some revenue once you build up an audience. I’ll cover just a few here, but there are many, many more choices if you don’t see the features you’re looking for within these options. Most also have the ability to create a simple podcast website or let you embed the podcast on your existing site. Another advantage of a hosted podcast is that these hosting platforms use a distributed network of servers (called a CDN) to distribute the audio files quickly to listeners in various regions.
Libsyn is one of the largest and longest-running podcast publishing providers. Pricing starts at $5/month, but they have plans as high as $150/month for more storage and features. They also have enterprise services, dubbed LibsynPRO, which are used by podcasters with very large audiences and major corporations like Trader Joe’s and eBay. Libsyn provides extensive statistics and has a feature to publish your podcast feed to more than 20 podcast platforms, however their cheapest plan requires a paid upgrade to access the statistics. One drawback is that their embeddable player is not as good-looking as some of their competitors, and the interface for uploading and managing your episodes, while serviceable, is not pleasing to look at or use.
Another well-established provider is Buzzsprout. It has a modern and easy-to-use interface that nonetheless has all the tools you’d need to publish, promote and track statistics for your podcast. Like Libsyn, you also can use Buzzsprout to create a mini site and embeddable players for your podcast, but Buzzsprout’s are much better looking. The service also has tools for adding chapters and transcripts to your podcasts. While they provide instructions for submitting to podcast directories, you will need to handle that process yourself. Pricing starts at free for 90 days of hosting and is based on how many hours of audio you post per month, from $12/month for 3 hours to $24/month for 12 hours. Bandwidth is limited to 250GB per month as well, so this may be a service you outgrow if your podcast really takes off.
Created by the folks behind a popular technology podcast network, Fireside has a unique focus on the quality and usability of its service. Initially conceived as a way to provide better analytics for independent podcasters, the service includes great-looking, customizable, responsive websites and embedded players for every podcast. Pricing is $19/month for one podcast with storage unlimited and downloads for podcasts with fewer than 500,000 downloads per episode.
What about Squarespace?
If your company or podcast website is hosted on Squarespace, you have basic podcast hosting already built in, but you should be aware that Squarespace limits your feed to the most recent 300 episodes and that each audio file has a size limit of 160MB. (If your company podcast has more than 300 episodes and files larger than 160MB, please reach out because I’d like to hear more about what you’re doing!) Squarespace also provides basic podcast analytics. In some ways, the answer to the easiest way to start a podcast is just “sign up for Squarespace,” but with plans that start at around $220/year, there are cheaper options available that include more podcast-specific features.
Start where you are
Of the many details to figure out to start a podcast, hosting can seem like one thing too many to consider. But while I think it’s important to understand what your options are, I would also advise you to just start with whatever is quickest and easiest to get going. For your company, if that’s a simple email to IT asking for the feed to be set up on the main website, that’s what you should do. You can always move to dedicated hosting, or from cheaper hosting to a more robust plan, at a later date.