Whether you’re a new or veteran podcaster, you’ve likely become aware there’s more to producing a podcast than simply recording into your phone and putting it on the internet. This means investing in a good microphone for podcasting, specific headphones for podcasts, and finding the feature-rich podcast hosting services to match your budget. Podcast hosting services allow you to store, contextualize, and ultimately distribute your podcast to Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes), Stitcher, and others.
If you’ve been around the podcasting space for a bit, you’ve likely heard people discuss the merits of podcast hosting services like Libsyn, Blubrry, Podiant, Spreaker, PodBean, Buzzsprout, Castos, SoundCloud, and several others. This post aims to objectively lay out the pros and cons of the top solutions to help with your decision.
Why can’t I use my website to host my podcast?
First and foremost, your podcast episodes are stored in audio files. These audio files are often very, very large. Typically, your website host upcharges for storage and storing your podcasts — or even your backups — on your website won’t make financial sense as a long-term solution.
The other issue isn’t simply around file storage, that’s easier to predict and manage, it’s around serving your podcast to your audience. If you’re spending all this time creating and editing a podcast, surely you want people to listen, right? Well, most podcatchers (a real term), work using RSS feeds. So adding your podcast to iTunes is simply adding your podcast RSS feed onto their public directory. When people download or stream your podcast, it’s coming from your RSS feed, and in this case, your website. Frankly, most websites won’t allow this because they’re not suited for that type of bandwidth.
Though there are specific plug-ins for your podcast files to serve your podcast through your website, in most cases these files are hosted elsewhere. We’ll get to this a little later.
Why do you need a Podcast Hosting Service?
The good news, there are specific platforms geared to hosting and distributing your podcast. The bad news, nearly all of them have a plan you’ll need to pay for to get the features you want or once you hit a certain threshold.
That said, because these platforms are engineered for this very use case, they take care of a lot of the nuts and bolts on the technology side, freeing your time up to making an engaging podcast.
In this post, we’ll detail the most popular podcast hosting services, weigh their strengths and weaknesses, and (hopefully) allow you to make an informed decision on which service to go with.
This is probably where I should talk about free podcast hosting services. They do exist, it’s true. However, because they’re free they’re either under-serving you on a crucial feature, throttling your service (and speed), or in other way degrading your sound. Storage and bandwidth are tricky and usually expensive technical aspects to overcome, I’d caution using a service that offers those for free without fully understanding where they’re making their money and where they’re taking short-cuts with your podcast. Sometimes, free hosting platforms will insert ads into your podcast without your knowledge and without sending you the money. As we’ve discussed several times in the past, because there are so many podcasts out there, your listeners aren’t likely to give you a second chance if they don’t like what they’re hearing. This means sound quality. This means speed.
Our Favorite Podcast Hosting Services
Starter Plan Comparisons
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The above table compares the starter plans for the most popular podcast hosting services. As you can see they’re extremely comparable, the biggest difference is between your storage and bandwidth needs. If you’re unsure of your needs, think about the plans in a weird podcaster Goldilocks scenario depending on your situation. Podiant and Castos are the only true unlimited bandwidth and storage podcast hosts at the lower level. The others you can pay to increase your tier which typically increases your storage and bandwidth.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown and analysis of our favorite podcast hosting services….
We previously wrote about Podiant in the wake of SoundCloud’s questionable future. We recommended it then, and we’ll continue to recommend it now. Truly unlimited storage and bandwidth is literally perfect for any podcast, regardless of your size. Podiant is also unique not only in their offering but their business model as well. If you continue to grow you don’t get priced into another tier and subsequently pay more, the $12.99 monthly cost will stay fixed even if you’re competing with This American Life.
Podiant further differentiates itself from other hosting providers with their digital presence features. You can create a fully customizable white labeled website to help drive traffic. Also, and I haven’t seen this before, they support chapter markers and show notes and help distribute those to iTunes and the other podcatchers.
When it comes to some of these podcast hosting services, it’s really going to depend on your preference or which specific features you value over others. There’s no real wrong choice. Unfortunately, this makes it harder to deem a winner or recommend a specific hosting platform with 100% certainty for you.
Buzzsprout, like many of our other favorite hosting platforms, has everything you’re looking for. At an affordable price, Buzzsprout gives podcasters an extremely intuitive dashboard to get a high-level view of how your podcast is performing including listener statistics, device/platform, and user demographics.
Like other hosting platforms, Buzzsprout will assist and push your podcast out to iTunes, Stitcher, and your social media sites with easy integrations.
Buzzsprout does have a free plan, but like we mentioned earlier, free doesn’t necessarily mean free. In Buzzsprout’s case, you’re limited to posting 2 hours each month, episodes are deleted after 90 days, and Buzzsprout will inject ads into your podcast. Their starter plan starts at $12/month and has all the features listed above and removes all advertising. Their starter plan, cleverly tree-themed named the Sapling, does limit hosting to 3 hours of content each month and $4 for every hour you go over. Their next plans, Spruce ($18/month) and Redwood ($24/month) allow for 6 hours and 12 hours, respectively.
Spreaker, though a lower starter plan price, has several paid add-on features that come standard with other paid hosting services. So if you’re going just on price, just know when it’s all said and done most good services will be comparable.
One of these add-on features is around analytics. As Apple — and nearly every podcast advertising article — will tell you, analytics are increasing in importance and will be crucial for advertisers going forward. Therefore, Spreaker withholding some statistics is a cheeky way to get you to fork over additional money. With their free plan, you get basic plays and downloads like the image below. However, with the paid plans you unlock the geolocation, device metrics, and sources that’ll help you grow your podcast.
Spreaker does differentiate itself from the pack with its distribution network. For the time being, they push podcasts to all the main podcatchers, Sonos, Alexa, iHeartRadio, and more. The iHeartRadio integration here is pretty unique. However, I prefaced the statement with “for the time being” because some of these integrations are relatively straightforward and it’s likely only a brief time before the others are right there.
Blubrry is one of the leaders in the podcast hosting space. Their platform appears more professional compared with some of the others. Instead of simply being a pure hosting service, they seemingly have features for everything a budding podcaster would ever need including consulting and website management included with a popular WordPress plug-in.
What’s unique about Blubrry is how they break down their offerings to better fit what a podcast is looking for. If you’re interested in podcast hosting, they have their service which compares favorably with the other options. However, if you’re only interested in your podcast statistics, they offer these in an a la carte service.
Blubrry’s hosting service starts at $12/month and goes up to $80/month in incremental plans. They choose to price based on storage but offer unlimited bandwidth, advanced analytics, and a web upload with all paid plans. If you ultimately decide to go with Blubrry, it’s probably important you plan what your podcast roadmap looks like for the next year or so. Since they price on storage, the more podcast episodes you produce (or longer episodes) will put you into the higher tiers and cost you more money.
Blubrry’s statistics service is extremely valuable if you already have a hosting platform you like but wish you had better metrics. Blubrry’s free statistics probably don’t offer much above what you’re already getting, but for only $5/month you get their full advanced analytics platform and the ability to export reports.
Castos has one of the best WordPress plug-ins available. Many podcasters choose to create and host their own website with the openness of WordPress. If this is you, and something like 27% of the rest of the internet, Castos acquired the Seriously Simple WordPress Plug-in so you can customize and play your podcasts from your site in the best WordPress plug-in I’ve seen. What’s unique is the plug-in and the hosting can be separate if you like. So if you prefer to host with another provider, that’s fine, and you can still have the front-end of the Seriously Simple WordPress Plug-in. However, where I see the greatest value, both in terms of money and technological, is using Castos as your hosting provider WITH the WordPress plug-in. Together you can host and post your podcasts with a few clicks.
This alleviates the storage and bandwidth issues we detailed earlier. For $15/month you get unlimited storage and bandwidth, a hosted website, and comparable analytics as the other podcast hosting providers.
PodBean is excellent for new podcasters for a variety of reasons. First, they have several pricing tiers for nearly every podcasters and budget. This is the one hosting platform where I didn’t compare their starter plan in the table because it wasn’t quite comparable. However, they have a plan starting at $3 a month for new podcasts that limit the storage (100MB) and bandwidth (100GB).
The package I chose to compare at has unlimited storage and bandwidth for only $9 per month.
Like the other hosting services we detailed above, PodBean has detailed analytics, RSS feed and Apple support, and allows you to create a custom website with your own domain.
If you’re willing to pay extra, however, you add support for video, create multiple admins, and white label the podcast player.
Other Podcast Hosting Services
- SoundCloud (related: 5 SoundCloud Alternatives)