When it comes to choosing a podcast host, there are a plethora of options available to you. While you have a variety of factors to consider when making a decision, one question is of particular interest to you (and your bank account). Should you pay for podcast hosting?
Many articles throughout the internet are littered with affiliate links pointing you toward paid hosts. This article contains NONE. We are doing on honest assessment between paid and free hosts.
A podcast host is where you upload your podcast audio files, and then an RSS feed is generated. This feed is used to distribute your podcast to the various directories like Apple Podcasts to your subscribers. You will need a podcast host if you decide to become a podcaster!
Free Podcast Hosting
As the old adage says, you get what you pay for. But with free hosts becoming increasingly popular, one can compare it to YouTube to make a great argument for why a free platform is acceptable to use.
Many podcast hosts offer a free tier. Podbean, Buzzsprout, Spreaker, and Podomatic, for example, offer starter plans with limitations. These restrictions make them effectively useless beyond getting a feel for how the services work.
In this article, by “free,” we mean a service that is perpetually no-cost and offers their full slate of features. The list of those is short, and essentially dominated by Spotify for Podcasters (formerly Anchor.fm).
Spotify’s renaming of Anchor has created a bit of confusion, since it now blurs the line between a podcast host and Spotify’s actual streaming service. Not to worry, however. Spotify for Podcast is a podcast host that, just like when it was Anchor.fm, allows you to become listed on all the major podcast directories like Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. You’re not limited to only Spotify.
Spotify for Podcasters vs. Paid Hosts
At the end of the day it’s Spotify for Podcasters (free) vs. the paid guys. Once upon a time it was a lot easier to make the case for why you should use a paid host rather than Spotify’s free option. Today, should you pay for podcast hosting?
Anti-Spotify for Podcasters arguments have included:
- It’s a platform for hobbyists rather than anybody serious about podcasting.
- It’s difficult to migrate away if you ever want to switch hosts.
- There’s no ability to use a custom domain for your RSS feed.
- Poor customization and integration options with your existing website.
A study previously found that Anchor users posted fewer and shorter episodes on average. Conversely, its committed users post just as much as podcasters on paid hosting platforms.
Spotify for Podcasters (while it was still Anchor) began allowing users to manually submit their podcast to various directories, and implement a 301 redirect to leave the service if desired. This effectively squashes two former sticking points.
Not only is Spotify for Podcasters free, but they’ve integrated monetization fairly well – if you’re a U.S. resident. Even small-time podcasters are usually able to earn a few bucks by including ads in their episodes or charging a subscription fee to listeners.
Their service also includes tools for recording and simple editing, meaning one could create an entire podcast from within their platform. Would this produce the best results? No, but for someone seeking to try it out or as a hobby, it is certainly appealing.
Is Spotify for Podcasters lacking some more functionality and features typically found with nicer paid hosts like Libsyn? Absolutely. But if Spotify for Podcasters has the features you need, then you may be satisfied with using it.
You can even get a video version of your podcast to appear on Spotify by using their hosting platform.
The Case for Paid Podcast Hosting
There’s a saying that goes something like “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”
Look no further than Facebook or Google’s business practices to see how they generate profits using user data.
Spotify for Podcasters is an interesting case since Spotify generates most of their revenue by way of subscriptions for their streaming service. It seems they can easily subsidize the podcast hosting side of things.
What can you expect from a service you pay nothing for? Can you demand responsive support or resolution of problems? Other free hosting services from the past were not able to make a go of it.
We won’t get into the minutia of feature comparisons between Spotify for Podcasters or other providers. Honestly though, we really like some benefits only found on paid hosts at this time:
- Streamlined and simple WordPress integration (especially with Libsyn’s PublisherHub plugin)
- Unique partnerships for easy submitting to other platforms
- The assurance that you’re in control of the content you create
- Detailed statistics
Should You Pay for Podcast Hosting? – The Bottom Line
Spotify for Podcasters (formerly Anchor) has come a long way in ironing out problems and adding missing features that originally made it less appealing as a podcast host.
In a professional setting, we’re not ready to suggest Spotify for Podcasters as a viable alternative. The fairly reasonable cost of $10-$20 per month for a paid podcast host in most cases is worth the price. On the flip side, those who aren’t confident that they’ll continue podcasting long-term tend to like the idea that their content can remain on Spotify for Podcasters indefinitely at no cost to them.
Also, if you plan to start out on a free host but later migrate to a paid host, you’ll be in for a bit of a headache. Migrating between any two podcast hosts is not something you want to undertake. Do your research upfront and select a host you’ll stick with.
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