What is podcast media hosting?
There are two different types of hosting that you need to know about as a podcaster.
Web Hosting is the hosting account where your website and all files associated with your site are stored.
Media Hosting is the hosting account that stores and delivers your audio and video files to your subscribers.
There is some confusion about web hosting vs media hosting and whether or not you can or should combine the two?
“I’m already paying for Web Hosting… and I get unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth? Right?… Right?”
Well not really.
You get unlimited storage for content related to the needs of your website. That doesn’t mean you can upload your archive of data from all your hard drives and use your Web Hosting Account as your online mass storage service. The terms of service of your web host clearly state you CAN NOT do this.
Similarly, You can’t upload a bunch of media files that are going to be syndicated to other sources unrelated to your website like iTunes and other podcast players. The terms of service in your web hosting account probably state that you CAN NOT do this either.
Also, a shared hosting account which is the type of hosting account most of us podcasters and bloggers start out with has finite resources devoted to it. What that means is that although you don’t get charged for using more storage and bandwidth, your site will be suspended if it uses too many resources and starts affecting other peoples sites.
A podcast that becomes really popular will cause a shared hosting account to be suspended pretty quick if you are hosting your media files there.
So if you are starting a new podcast it is a good idea to sign up for a media hosting service in order to serve your podcast to your listeners without any issues.
When you are first starting out you will most likely have low download numbers and therefore the bandwidth used will be minimal. So you could get away with using your web hosting account to deliver your audio or video to your podcast feed. However, as your show gets more popular the bandwidth demands increase. This is especially true when listeners start downloading your podcast back catalog. Once you have 50 episodes and someone discovers your show for the first time and loves the show, they may download not only the 50th show but ALL of your past shows. If enough people do this your web hosting company will suspend your account because the demands on your shared hosting plan are too high.
So where can you put your podcast media files?
- Web Hosting Account
- Hosted service like Podomatic / Blog Talk Radio
- Amazaon S3
- Professional Media Hosing company
We’ve already looked at this option. It can be done if your show has minimal downloads but it may be a tedious and unwelcome task to move all your files to a new host and change all the links to your media files in your podcast RSS Feed so that your audience can still get your content.
So I recommend that you not host your syndicated media files on your web hosting account.
Archive.org is a free media file hosting option that many podcasters use. And many people say that it works well for them. The downside is the download speeds are slower and there may be downtime where the files are not available. For the podcaster with no budget at all, archive.org is a good option.
Hosted Services like Podomatic or Blog Talk Radio
“Everything done for you” services like these may seem like a good solution for a podcaster that doesn’t want to spend a lot of money. However, I don’t recommend using a service where you don’t own your RSS Feed. Because if you don’t own your feed then when you leave the service you are leaving your audience behind too. When looking at these services make sure at a bare minimum that you can permanently redirect your RSS Feed if you leave them.
Daniel J. Lewis, from The Audacity To Podcast, explains why he feels that you should own your feed and suggests that if you are going to use a service to host your feed it is a good idea to run it through feedburner to ensure that you keep control of your show.
Amazon S3 is an affordable media hosting service that is very popular among internet marketers for membership sites and sales page videos or audio files. Although it is affordable per megabyte, it can add up quickly if your show becomes popular. Because it is a variable cost it is not the option that I recommend for media hosting if you are podcasting.
Professional Media Hosting Service
This is the preferred method if you have a small monthly budget for your show. There are a few options to choose from and all of them are decent media hosting companies.
Libsyn (Liberated Syndication) is the podcast media hosting company that I have experience with. I’ve used them for years now and I am very happy with their service. You pay for storage, not bandwidth. And you won’t get any surprises at the end of the month because the bandwidth is truly unlimited.
Bluebrry is another top media hosting company and like Libsyn it is owned and operated by podcasters for podcasters. It has some advantages but is on par with Libsyn when it comes to podcasting. Blubrry is also the company behind the very cool WordPress Plugin – Powerpress.
Podbean is another professional podcast media hosting company. It appears that they are also a good option when it comes to media hosting, however, I have no experience with them and therefore can’t make a personal recommendation. Steve Dotto from Dotto Tech is a person that I respect in the podcasting and technology space and on the Maven Interviews podcast he mentioned that he uses Podbean and is very happy with them. So there you go.
Soundcloud is a big up and comer in the podcasting space. Whether or not they are are a good media hosting option for podcasters is currently being debated by podcasters and the consensus seems to be that they aren’t quite there yet. Soundcloud is primarily a music sharing and discovery service. They have added podcasting to the mix but their podcasting platform has been in beta for years now. The service isn’t user-friendly yet and requires extra work to find your media file download links compared to the other hosting companies. Soundcloud has an incredibly cool player with social commenting within the waveform which is really neat… and if you share a Soundcloud link in social media it will play within the network which is awesome!
So I don’t recommend Soundcloud as your primary media hosting service but I highly recommend that you use them in addition to your main media hosting service because there definitely are some advantages to doing so.
So do you really need to pay for a separate media hosting?
No, you don’t have to. As you can see there are many options to choose from. But it is a definite best practice option.
What to avoid:
The major mistake that can be made here is subscribing to a service that will hold your audience hostage if you move to a better service. Don’t let them own your feed. This generally eliminates the hosted services like Podomatic and Blog Talk Radio.
Also, don’t let them downgrade your audio quality. Some services will compress the media file which lowers the audio quality. And some services may change your file names to a long impossible to remember name full of numbers and characters. You probably don’t want that either.
Choose a service that is going to be around for a long time (forever is good). You don’t want to have to manually change all your episode links after 400 episodes are in the can… major pain in the butt.
And of course, you want to respect your audiences time so a service that has a slow download speed or has periodic downtime is not convenient for your listeners.
So what is the best option for media hosting?
Clearly, the best option is a professional media hosting company if you can at all afford it.
And Libsyn or Blubrry are the two services that get my recommendation.