Trying to pick a podcast hosting site for your new podcast? You came to the right place. Navigating the audio hosting marketplace as a new podcaster can be tough, especially if you’re deciding between a free podcast hosting platform or a paid one. We’ll start with some tough love about podcast hosting: free unlimited podcast hosting doesn’t exist. The hosting is either free, but includes a limit on upload bandwidth or there’s a catch (it sucks, we know). There’s an old saying that sums this up nicely, “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product” and this tends to be the case for podcast hosting sites that claim to be free and unlimited. But we’ll dive into this more later in this post. First, let’s quickly talk about the purpose of a podcast host and why you need one.
Why Do You Need a Podcast Hosting Platform?
At its most basic, a podcast hosting platform acts as a home for your show. The host is where you upload all your show’s content and store it to share with your audience. A reputable podcast host should provide you with:
- An RSS feed to establish a location for your podcast’s episodes
- Storage for your podcast content including podcast artwork, show titles, show descriptions, and more
- Distribution of your RSS feed to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, etc.
- Analytics on who is listening to your podcast and which episodes are performing well
- And some hosts even provide you with custom websites or blogs where you can promote your episodes
So, your podcast host is a vital tool for storing your podcasting content and sharing it with the world, as well as giving you the data you need to get to know your audience and grow your listener base.
Free Podcast Hosting Vs Paid Podcast Hosting
Most podcast hosting platforms offer their services on a monthly subscription basis and some others offer hosting for free, but with some limitations. Below we’ll outline free and paid options and the pros and cons involved in both.
Free Unlimited Podcast Hosting
We mentioned at the start of this post that free podcast hosting has its limitations. For the most part, free podcast hosting can be great for beginner podcasters or hobbyist who just want to experiment with audio content. But once you want to expand, you may run into issues. Take Soundcloud podcasts for example. Soundcloud offers a free account to podcast creators, but only allows them to upload 3 hours of content per month. This may work for some podcasters, but it’s a tough restraint if you plan on uploading more than an hour of content every week. This isn't to say that everything is bad about free hosting! Let’s breakdown both sides.
Free Podcast Hosting Pros:
- It’s free: If you’re running your podcast on a low budget, this is a great way to get into the podcast community.
- It offers flexibility: With free hosting, you can test the platform and see if it’s something you want to stick with in the long run. If it turns out you don’t like it, you can always move to a new host. It's good to note here, too, though, that reputable paid hosts should make it easy for you to leave, as well.
Free Podcast Hosting Cons:
- Your options are limited: There are only a handful of free podcast hosting options available. Within these options, you may find that you’re limited by upload bandwidth, the details of the show's analytics, and where you can distribute your show. This isn’t a dealbreaker for everyone, but again, it could present issues later on if you want to take your podcast in a more professional direction.
- You might run into issues with who owns the rights to your podcast content: Some free podcasting hosts have been scrutinized recently for statements in their Terms and Services agreements. These statements claim that the hosting company has irrevocable rights worldwide over all the content uploaded by users on the platform. This includes the ability to change and share this content with third parties. Due to pushback from podcasters, a number of these Terms and Services agreements have been changed, but you should still read these agreements before joining for free.
Paid Podcast Hosting
Paid podcast hosting comes with pros and cons as well, but for the most part it’s where the majority of podcasters go . Paying for your hosting usually costs around $10 - $20 a month depending on your membership tier. This allows for some flexibility in which features you can add for your show and it usually comes with unlimited upload bandwidth. Take a look at some of the pros and cons to decide for yourself.
Paid Podcast Hosting Pros:
- Financial incentive to keep you on the platform - Usually, when you pay a company to do a service for you, they have a financial incentive to keep you as a customer–the same is true for podcast hosting. Guess what? We want you to stay! If you pay for the platform, chances are the company will want to maintain a competitive edge to keep you around and will continue to provide features, support, and more to help you with your show. This is a bonus compared to free plans because on a free plan, you don’t have much leverage towards the company’s product improvements and customer experience. (And, as a note, Simplecast has a track record of listening and implementing customer feedback with regards to our product!)
- Features and improvements: By paying for podcast hosting, you’ll immediately get access to tools and benefits that aren’t available on free platforms. Some of these features could include IAB compliant analytics, a customized website for your podcast, detailed analytics on your listeners and more.
Paid Podcast Hosting Cons:
- Varying prices: If the price of hosting is a concern for you, picking between different hosting platforms and membership tiers can be a bit tough because prices vary from platform to platform.
- Lots of options: Admittedly, it can be a challenge to narrow down your options when picking a paid podcast host–because there are a lot of them!
Overall, you’ll need a host to manage and distribute your content–whether you work with a free podcast hosting platform or a paid one, should depend on the needs of your podcast. If you don’t plan on monetizing your show and see podcasting purely as a fun hobby, a free podcast host could be good for you. If you want to grow your podcast as part of a business, then we’d recommend a paid podcast host because it’ll provide you with the robust podcasting features to grow your show. Armed with this knowledge, we hope you’ll find it easier to make your selection and find a new home for your podcast!