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, and Podomatic, for example, offer starter plans with strict 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 full-featured. The list of those is short, and essentially dominated by Anchor.fm. Originally, their business model seemed a little more questionable. However, being acquired by media-monster Spotify gave a sense of long-term stability that made Anchor much more viable than previously thought.
In 2018, Anchor’s CTO revealed that it costs them less than 10 cents per month to host each podcast on their platform, implying that paid podcast hosts are grossly overcharging.
Anchor vs. Paid Hosts
At the end of the day it’s Anchor (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 Anchor’s free option. Today, should you pay for podcast hosting?
Anti-Anchor arguments have included:
- It’s a platform for hobbyists rather than anybody serious about podcasting.
- They could go out of business and disappear at any moment.
- It’s difficult to migrate away from Anchor 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 found that Anchor users post fewer and shorter episodes on average. Conversely, its committed users post just as much as podcasters on paid hosting platforms.
With Spotify’s deep pockets, it appears unlikely they will have any future money problems.
Anchor now allows users to manually submit their podcast to various directories, and implement a 301 redirect. This effectively squashes two former sticking points.
Not only is Anchor 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 for Spotify and/or Anchor in their episodes. There may be additional advertisers, but most podcasters have only seen these two appear.
Anchor now also includes tools for recording and simple editing, meaning one could create an entire podcast from within the Anchor 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 Anchor lacking some more functionality and features typically found with nicer paid hosts like Libsyn? Absolutely. But if Anchor has the features you need, then you may be satisfied with using it.
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.
Anchor is an interesting case since their parent company, Spotify, generates most of their revenue by way of subscriptions for their music service. Even if Anchor itself isn’t presently profitable, it seems Spotify can easily absorb the costs. As they grow the monetization features of Anchor long-term, it’s likely that Spotify would want to take a cut of those revenues.
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 Anchor 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 (such as Libsyn’s partnering with Gaana for easy submission).
- The assurance that you’re in control of the content you create.
- Detailed statistics.
Should You Pay for Podcast Hosting? – The Bottom Line
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 Anchor 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 Anchor indefinitely at no cost to them.
Also, if you plan to start out on Anchor but later migrate to a paid host, you’ll be in for a major 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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