Putting it Someplace
Today is the final post in my series highlighting some of the decisions that you need to think about when starting a podcast. In the first post I talked a bit about various formats, casting options and some of the design aspects. In the second post I dove straight into recording your podcast and editing it. In this mornings post I plan on handling the least exciting part of the equation… hosting it somewhere that other people can listen. If you wanna be a rock superstar and live large… well you are going to have to dump those shows somewhere reliable and fast. There are so many options here that it will make your head spin but I am going to try and do what I have done to this point and just talk about a few of the potential paths.
Dedicated Podcast Hosts
When I ventured down this road I noticed that pretty much all of the podcasts I listened to had one thing in common… they all seemed to be hosted by a service company called “Libsyn” so for ease of use that is who I chose to use for AggroChat. These companies are dedicated to a upload and forget it business model automating a lot of the process to make it easier to integrate with services like iTunes and Stitcher radio. One of the things you are going to realize quickly is that you have no real idea just how much space you need. For example the basic Libsyn account is $5 a month for 50 megs of monthly storage. What that means is that you can upload roughly 30 minutes of new audio each month before incurring additional overage fees. For a weekly show I knew without a doubt that this was not going to be enough.
When I set up the AggroChat account initially I went with the $15 a month 250 meg of monthly growth account, thinking that surely this was going to enough. The problem there is that there were a few weeks where I quite literally had to wait until after the monthly reset before uploading that next episode. Finally I have settled on the $20 a month account for 400 mb of storage. This gives me some breathing room, and allows our podcasts to fluctuate in length naturally without being extremely concerned about running out of space. Ultimately what you are going to have to figure out is what works for you. If you figure 50 meg per 30 minutes of podcast that means you can record at a decent bitrate and hopefully have a bit of wiggle room when it comes to your monthly allowance of space.
LIbSyn honestly seems to be the gold standard for podcast hosting. The problem is it is rather pricy as compared to say a normal blog web hosting account. In part this is because they work slightly different. For starters LibSyn has no concept of maximum monthly transfer. They are only concerned about how much file growth you are generating each month. Additionally they host your back log and archive indefinitely, which is extremely nice. We’ve recorded 56 episodes and all of them are available to listen to on demand, which means they are hosting roughly five gig of audio for us. The other big thing they provide is really good statistics and analytics about who is listening. I would highly suggest if you consider them at the very least going with the $15 a month 250 mb plan.
In every market there is a “Bargain Provider” and just like that statement usually means… you ultimately get what you pay for. When you compare I am paying $20 a month for 400 mb worth of monthly growth through Libsyn, it seems like an absolute steal that you can get an $8 a month unlimited bandwidth and unlimited storage account through PodBean. The problem is that they have a fairly abysmal reputation for reliability. The Better Business Bureau has them listed as an “F”rating, so you are more than likely taking at least some risk. However if you really cannot afford a better option this is there. I would love to hear thoughts if any folks out there are actively using this service and liking it. Most of the complaints I have heard centered around customer service. Considering the price I looked at it seriously for “Bel Folks Stuff”.
The service I am the least familiar with to be honest is SoundCloud but from what I can tell a lot of folks are having good luck with it. In part the way its pricing is structured allows you to ease into using it, and as such get your feet wet before committing to a monthly fee. The free account allows you to upload 3 hours of audio. Now this is not per month, but this is 3 hours of audio period. For $6 a month you can get a total of 6 hours, and then upgrade to unlimited to $15 a month. When you compare the raw hosting power to my Libsyn account this seems like the clear winner, but for me personally LIbsyn still comes out ahead in the number of things it just takes care of for me. SoundCloud offers basic RSS support but from what I am tell it is not quite as optimized. Still this is a really solid option especially if you are considering hosting multiple podcasts off the same account.
Self Hosting Audio
You can at least in theory host your podcast off a traditional blogging account. The problem being is that when your web host sees the usage of folks constantly downloading MP3s from your site, chances are that they are going to hit you with some sort of bandwidth overage fee. Because of this what might be a perfectly reasonable and awesome place to host your blog, might be exactly the wrong sort of place to host a podcast. Libsyn is not terribly flexible when it comes to adding new podcasts without adding additional subscription fees. So when I started kicking around the notion of “Bel Folks Stuff” I opted to try and host this myself. For some time I had a cheap unlimited storage and bandwidth hosting account that I used for some development on the side. As a result I opted to simply host my MP3 files there, and link to them directly from WordPress.
The problem with this is once again you get what you pay for. While my unlimited host is cheap… and unmetered it is also sluggish at times. As a result I am telling you about a method that I am contemplating abandoning or at the very least tweaking how I do it. The host I am using is Arvixe which offers a $4 a month unlimited transfer and unlimited storage account. Overall it works well enough for my purposes but I have noticed that roughly once a week I have at least one minor outage in service. These outages are usually less than five minutes according to my wordpress uptime monitors, but they still happen. Now this could be for any reason including legitimate maintenance… or simply because they have over sold their resources. In whatever case it is something you should be wary of when looking at any “unlimited” account. There is almost always a small measure of “snake oil” in those sales pitches.
The heart of this process relies upon a WordPress Plugin called BluBrry Powerpress. In its free form this plug-in takes care of the functionality that Libsyn does with its iTunes optimized RSS feed. In its paid subscription version it also adds in the robust analytics and statistics. For “Bel Folks Stuff” I chose to simply use the freebie version. I manually upload the MP3s to my web host, and then once activated I can link to the media in a traditional wordpress post. The end result feeds out as a podcastable rss feed, and visually embeds a player on the page. This works pretty flawlessly, and were I using a different host I would even maybe think this is the preferable way of dealing with a podcast because it gives me the maximum control. The nice thing about this plugin is that when I chose to create my own custom AggroChat.com wordpress site, I can still use it to cleanly embed media from libsyn into posts.
Advertising The Show
Now that you have your hosting set aside and hopefully your website created to embed your work, now it is time to talk a little bit about getting your show out there. This is something I honestly do a pretty poor job of myself. I just happened to stumble into an affiliate network through the close ties I made thanks to the Newbie Blogger Initiative. The Gaming and Entertainment Network was essentially formed out of NBI in a way, and were it not for that happening my shows would likely still be unaffiliated. I do a pretty horrible job at the business side of blogging and podcasting, so hopefully someone will come along after writing this guide and tell you all how to actually recuperate your costs. That is something I have yet to master, because this hobby is absolutely a money sink. Regardless though you are going to want some listeners and I am going to talk about a few of the avenues I use.
Twitter is an absolute no brainer. Make an account for your show, and syndicate every new show over twitter. You can get as complicated here as you want or be as generic as you like as well. Ultimately in a perfect world you want to hashtag in some of the topics you spoke about during the show. I have yet to really master the art of this without making the advertisement sound anything other than smarmy. We publish on Sundays, so I tweet out the link early that morning. Then on Monday I tend to re-tweet it again for anyone who missed the first posting and is looking for something to listen to at work.
I do not use iTunes at all, but man it seems like every other person on the planet does. There is apparently a meta game to getting your podcast placed in iTunes perfectly and there are all manner of guides to timing the launch just right. Truth be told mine is only up there because my friend Jaedia asked me to put it there. The act of getting it up there is relatively simple and Apple provides a list of specifications that the podcast needs to follow in order to qualify. From there you simply have to wait the requisite three or four days before it shows up in the index. I think for me it happened in about two but depending on backlog of podcasts it has been known to take as long as a week. Like with anything you can get higher placement if you convince your friends to go into iTunes and vote it up. I was shocked to find out that apparently our podcast has a five star rating.
The other big player in podcasting directories seems to be Stitcher Radio. Just like iTunes they have a series of requirements for getting a podcast listed, but have a handy dandy FAQ outlining them. Essentially it reads your RSS feed and re-syndicates it on their network. The only problem with this is that it seems to absolutely butcher my podcast. It sounds like a garbled mess running off their servers, whereas iTunes seems to leave everything as is. Just like with iTunes someone asked me to list my podcast there because they liked using the stitcher mobile client to listen to podcasts so I did just that. Really uncertain if I am actually getting any traffic from this but it can’t really hurt.
Go Make a Podcast!
So over the course of these three guides I have done my best to share the small amount of knowledge I have about how podcasting functions. The thing is I am still very much learning as I go because I don’t feel like this is the sort of the thing you can actually “master”. You might be sitting back and thinking…. god that is a lot of information to take in. The positive is that I knew absolutely NONE Of these things before I dove head first into recording our first episode of AggroChat. So my hope is that I can give someone who is on the edge and considering jumping into this world a bit of a head start. These are the things I wish I knew beforehand, and I have talked about some of the choices I might have made. Ultimately podcasts are extremely unique beasts, so yours can be whatever you want it to be. Again if you have any direct questions I am more than happy to answer them, but my hope is that maybe just maybe someone is going to read this mess and get the courage to start.