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How to Host a Podcast

In this Talk Marketing Made Easy podcast, John McDougall and John Maher talk about how to host a podcast. They look at third-party hosting, RSS feeds, and other critical topics. Then, they briefly touch on how to promote your podcast.

John McDougall: Welcome to Talk Marketing Made Easy. I’m John McDougall and I’m here today with John Maher, the VP of Digital Marketing for Talk Marketing Academy and McDougall Interactive. Welcome, John.

John Maher: Hey John.

What Is Podcast Hosting?

John McDougall: So today we’re going to talk about what is podcast hosting? So what is podcast hosting, John?

John Maher: Right. Well, one of the first things that you do when you want to create a podcast of course is record it. And we’ve talked a little bit about recording the podcast and we’ve talked about equipment that you need and some software that you can use, or online services that you can use, like SquadCast to record your podcast. So then the next thing that you need, the next step after that would be hosting your podcast. And if you think of it, it’s like a website. You could build a website on your personal computer and show it on your computer only.

But in order to get it out there into the world where everybody can see your website, you need hosting for your website. So your podcast is the same way. You need to have that audio file, which is what you end up with after you do your recording, you end up with a WAV File or MP3, and then you need to take that file and put it somewhere so that it’s online and accessible where other people can find it and listen to it and download it. So that’s podcast hosting.

Do You Use WAV Files or MP3s for Podcasts?

John McDougall: And you say WAV File or MP3 is, do you usually do one or the other when you upload to podcast hosts?

John Maher: Yeah, I typically just use MP3s. The audio quality is pretty good. I think some people might do it in WAV format (WAV) because that’s a little less compressed. And MP3 files are a little compressed, but for the most part you have music maybe at the beginning and the end, and then the rest is just talking. So I personally don’t feel like you have to have these large WAV files to get the absolute best audio quality. It’s mostly just people talking anyway. So MP3s generally are a little easier to work with because the file sizes are smaller. So we usually do MP3s and you can host a podcast on your own. You can self host it, but that’s kind of building and hosting your own website. You could get your own server-

John McDougall: Yeah, nightmare.

Self-Hosting Vs. Third-Party Podcast Hosting

John Maher: If you’re a programmer, you can figure that all out. So unless you’re a programmer or developer or a server administrator or something like that, and you want to deal with having your own server and then you’re going to need a place to host your images, your audio files, you’re going to need to set up your own RSS file, which is the behind the scenes where every single episode is located and where the images are located, like that. You’d have to set that all up manually on your own. So again, unless you’re a programmer, you’re generally not going to self-host your podcast.

So the next option would be to get podcast hosting from a third party. The reasons why you’d want to do that, again, just to make it much easier, these podcast platforms have all of that already in place. A place where you can just easily upload your MP3 file. You can give your episode a name and a description. They have the RSS feed already set up for you, everything that you need to submit your podcast to Apple Podcast or different places like that. So all of that is already done for you. Why reinvent the wheel and try to do it yourself? You can do this for just a small monthly fee in most cases.

Cost of the Best Podcast Hosting Platforms

John McDougall: Yeah. What are some of the best podcast hosting companies, and what’s the rough cost?

John Maher: So the things you want to look for would just be how much storage you get, how much bandwidth you get, meaning how many people at once can be downloading an episode or listening to an episode. Does the podcast hosting platform have good analytics to show how many people listened to each episode? Things like that.

How easy is it to use? Some of them are harder or easier to use than others. And then what distribution options do they have? Do they easily allow you to submit your podcast to a bunch of different platforms or do you have to do all that manually? So those are some of the things that you’d look for. And then in terms of some of the best options, Buzzsprout is one really popular option, really easy to use. It has a feature called Magic Mastering, which is a podcast editing feature.

Some of the other ones offer some podcast editing options as well to make your audio sound as good as it possibly can. So Magic Mastering is part of Buzzsprout, and that’s one thing that they offer that’s a little different from some of the other ones. Podbean is another really popular one. They have really good podcast promotion tools and they make it really easy to submit your podcast to directories and to social media. So that’s Podbean.

Blubrry is another popular one. That’s spelled like blueberry but without the two E’s. So it’s Blubrry. They have really good advanced analytics. So if that’s what you’re hot on, what you’re looking for is the analytics part of it, Blubrry is a good way to go. They also have the PowerPress podcast plugin for WordPress. So that can make it really easy to integrate your podcast with WordPress and make it really easy to do that, where when you submit your podcast episode to Blubrry, it just automatically goes onto your website. So there’s some options there with the PowerPress plugin.

Libsyn is another popular one. They’ve been around for a really long time. They were in fact one of the first podcast hosting companies. They’re popular with podcast networks and enterprises. They have good enterprise level tools, really good customer support, and again, they allow podcast publishing across directories and platforms and give you some easy options for submitting your podcast to different directories.

FuseBox has a really good looking embedded podcast player. I think all of these options give you an embed code so that you can embed a podcast audio player onto your website, which is something that we recommend. You want to publish your episode onto your blog with the transcript and the audio player so that Google can come and read that transcript. It’s a really good thing for SEO. So if that’s important to you then having this nice looking embedded audio player is a good option. So FuseBox has that. They also have a plugin called Transcript that actually adds a transcript to your website. I haven’t played with that at all, so I’m not exactly sure how it works-

Pros and Cons of Automatic Transcripts

John McDougall: Interesting. Like an automatic one?

John Maher: Yeah. An automatic transcript can get added into your website.

John McDougall: Might be a little risky because the AI ones, you got to clean those up. But if you wanted to just get it started and just immediately put it up, that might be an interesting way to do it.

SoundCloud and Other Podcast Hosting Platforms

John Maher: Great. So we might want to look into that a little bit more. I don’t know a whole lot about that. Then SoundCloud is another option. Again, they’ve been around for a really long time. I consider SoundCloud to be the YouTube of audio where if you have a video and you want people to see it, you put it up on YouTube and then in the past if you were a musician, you had music that you wanted out there on the web, you’d go to SoundCloud.

A lot of bands used that to publish their self recorded music. They went into podcasting when podcasting started to become popular and it’s really easy to use. At first, they didn’t have some of the tools that other sites like Libsyn did, for example, they actually didn’t have an RSS feed initially. They had a player that you could embed on your website, but they didn’t have an RSS feed to submit to a podcast platform like Apple Podcasts.

And they also didn’t have the ability to schedule your individual episodes ahead of time. So if you recorded six episodes and then you wanted each one released, one per week for the next six weeks, they didn’t have a way to schedule that. But they have both of those features now. They’ve really embraced podcasting as being a big part of what they do at SoundCloud. So they have an RSS feed, they have a scheduling feature now, and they’re very much similar to some of the other platforms. Those are the big ones, but there’s a number of other ones including rss.com, Transistor, Simplecast, RedCircle, Captivate and Spreaker. So there’s just tons of options out there. So again, the thing to do I think would just be to figure out what it is that you’re looking for in a podcast hosting platform.

Are you looking for really great analytics? Are you looking for ease of use? Are you looking for some mastering and editing tools? Are you looking for an easy way to submit your podcast to Apple Podcasts and other directories? Depending on what you’re focused on and what your needs are, go find out what some of the features of these are and compare the pricing. Again, they can range anywhere from free for just the first few hours of audio that you upload to $10 or $20 or $30 a month, depending on how much storage and bandwidth you need. So that’s sort of the range in general, but it depends on what your needs are and what audience you’re going to have.

The Talk Marketing Team: 15+ Years of Podcast Experience

John McDougall: And just to let the audience know, John and I, John’s been setting that up for us for over a decade. I think 2008 might have been one of the first. So yeah, Jeff Weaver from my father’s art gallery, we interviewed an artist, so geez.

John Maher: Which we did with just a little handheld audio, digital audio recorder. It was a little Roland device, I think. We did that initially and we loved the idea of just interviewing people and then transcribing that, getting them up on the website. So that’s where we got started.

John McDougall: What an awesome thing for an art gallery. Go interview the artists if they’re not dead, if it’s a modern art gallery. But my father’s art gallery mostly has early American artists and they are from the late turn of the century, so they’re not around. But we went to Jeff Weaver as a modern version of that. So we started interviewing the people that are around, and other art galleries. That’s a great way to get cool stuff on your show. So we use SoundCloud and Libsyn. John set that up for… You’ve set that up for us for years, which is great.

John Maher: Because they were a couple of the only options back when we started and we still use them to this day, they’re good services. But yeah, we might start to experiment. Again Buzz-

John McDougall: Like Buzzsprout or something.

Buzzsprout and Podbean: Top Podcast Hosting Platforms

John Maher: Buzzsprout and Podbean are probably two of the really top ones now. If you go and you look online for top podcast hosting 2022 or 2023, you’ll see all kinds of lists and they’re all different and they all rank them differently. Podbean and Buzzsprout, I see at the top three or four of those every single time.

John McDougall: And when I was doing… I’m still writing it, but an article about podcast statistics, Buzzsprout, I think, was one where they just have a huge database of stats so they can produce stats because they’re pretty big. But I’d say maybe two more questions on this one, mostly about graphics and then a little bit about directory. So what kind of graphics do you need for your podcast show, and how do you upload those? How do you get that going?

What Graphics Do You Need for a Podcast?

John Maher: So when you go to a podcast app on your phone or online, you always see that little square image that’s the cover art, if you will. It’s a podcast graphic, podcast artwork, cover art. You hear a few different names for it, but it’s basically this little square graphic that might have the name of the podcast on it, although that’s not entirely necessary because usually with these-

John McDougall: The title is near it.

John Maher: The title is there next to it. So you don’t have to have the name or the title of your podcast in the graphic itself. But interestingly you just mentioned Buzzsprout and their stats and things like that. So Buzzsprout actually says that 62% of new listeners are more likely to listen to a podcast if they like its cover art. So the cover art can go a long way toward, as people are scrolling through and looking at it, they do a search and then they look through. If something catches their eye, they go, “Oh, that looks like an interesting one. Let’s check that out”.

So 62% of new listeners are more likely to click on it and at least try it out and listen to your podcast because they like the cover art. So it’s a fairly important part of it. It is a square graphic. It needs to be at least 1,400 by 1,400 pixels. Although Apple Podcasts now is trying to get everybody to come up to 3,000 by 3,000 pixels. So I’d recommend if you’re starting a new podcast, go ahead and create your art with 3,000 by 3,000 pixels digital for a small graphic, yeah.

John McDougall: Pretty big picture.

John Maher: Yeah, it is. But I think they just want it to be super future friendly so that as things change, maybe you get more pixels on your monitors or whatever. They just want that graphic to be able to stand up to whatever size it could possibly be.

John McDougall: And some people have crazy big monitors too.

John Maher: So shoot for 3,000 by 3,000 pixels. It’s technical things, but it’s supposed to be 72 dpi, that’s dots per inch. It has to be a JPEG or a PNG file. And it has to be in the RGB color space. So any designer would understand what all of those things mean. And you can design it in Photoshop or whatever, but if you didn’t have Photoshop or you’re not a designer yourself, you could even do it yourself with a tool like Canva, or-

John McDougall: I think they have podcast graphic templates in Canva.

How to Hire a Designer for Your Podcast Cover Art

John Maher: Yeah, I think so. And you could just put your name in it, grab a couple little graphics or whatever. You could also hire out to have somebody do it, get a designer real cheap to do it on Fiverr or 99designs. Those are some good options for somebody. You can get a bunch of different options for your podcast graphic and then pick which one you know like the most.

John McDougall: To your point, if you’re not a designer and you go make some hacky hokey thing in just Paint or something, it just doesn’t look great.

John Maher: So you’re better off getting a real designer to do it. It’s kind of important.

John McDougall: Yeah. And it’s like one time. You just make the podcast-show graphic. It is a one time thing. It’s like, might as well pay a great designer.

Should You Have a Unique Graphic for Each Episode?

John Maher: Some podcasts will have a different graphic for every episode. And in addition to the podcast overall graphic, you might have a little graphic for every episode, which can show up in some of the podcast players. It’s not absolutely necessary. It’s great if you want to do that or you can do that. But again, you can just design it once and then just have that be the podcast graphic.

John McDougall: Or have a designer make you a template for each episode so you’re just changing the text and maybe learn how to do that on your computer or even as a non-designer if you do them for each episode.

What to Include in Your Podcast Graphic

John Maher: Some things that you want to do with the podcast graphic would be, you just want to communicate what the subject is, maybe what industry you’re in at the very least, or what your topic is through pictures or words, not too many words. One of the biggest things is that it has to really be visible even all the way down to 55 by 55 pixels, which is around the size. That’s tiny. So think of it on your phone as you’re scrolling through and you’re looking at a list of podcasts, you have the graphic and the graphics like an half an inch or something like that, maybe not even that.

So yeah, 55 by 55 pixels. So if you have too many words on there and they’re like a small little font at that size, you’re not even going to be able to read that. So keep that in mind and don’t have too many words on it. And then consistent branding. If you have a podcast and it’s maybe for your company, maybe you want to use some of the same colors as in your logo or the colors that you have on your website or some imagery that you have on your website. Just to try to keep the podcast branded along with what your company is.

How to Get Listed in Podcast Directories

John McDougall: And what about directories? How do you get listed in different podcast directories?

John Maher: So that’s ultimately what you want to do. You want people to be able to find and listen to and subscribe to your podcast. So the first step is to record it, then you need to host it somewhere. And then after that you need to submit that podcast to Apple Podcasts. And there’s other ones like Google Podcast, Spotify, those are probably the three top ones right now.

But then there’s also Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. TuneIn actually comes preloaded, I believe, on Alexa devices, Amazon Alexa devices. So if you get on TuneIn, you could show up when somebody searches podcasts on Alexa, and there’s more than that as well. But those are six of the top ones. Also, one thing to keep in mind too is that when you submit your podcast to Apple Podcasts, there are a number of podcast apps that use the Apple directory for search.

So you’ll be on the Apple Podcasts app of course, but then you’ll also be on the Overcast app, Pocket Cast, Castro, Castbox, and Podchaser. So all of those apps use the Apple Podcast’s directory. So just by submitting your podcast to Apple Podcast, you are already on any one of those different apps that somebody might be listening to podcasts on. So I’d say Apple Podcast is the first one to submit it to, and then probably Google Podcast and Spotify after that. And then you can keep going from there.

John McDougall: And Libsyn, for example, has a way to submit, I think to Spotify through right from Libsyn.

Setting Up an RSS Feed for Your Podcast

John Maher: Yeah. So some of the hosting companies do offer tools to allow you to easily submit your podcast to a bunch of those different directories. So if that’s important to you or you think you might not be able to do it manually, then yeah, maybe get a podcast hosting platform that allows you to do that with just a few clicks of the button or whatever. The main thing is that you need your RSS feed URL from your hosting company. That’s what all of these platforms use.

So when you’re creating an account with one of these places like Apple Podcasts or Google Podcast or Spotify, you’re creating an account with them and then giving them the name of your podcast, some other information like who you are and some contact information. And then they ask for your RSS feed. And that’s just basically a URL that tells the podcast platform, go look at my RSS file and that RSS file has all of the information in it that you need to have my podcast on your platform.

It has every episode’s title and the location of where the MP3 file is, the description text there. All of that information for every episode is in that RSS file. And so by submitting that RSS file to let’s say Apple Podcasts, then Apple is able to just read that RSS file and create all of the individual episodes. And then that way, once you have your podcast submitted to Apple Podcast and Google Podcast and Spotify and Stitcher, once you have it submitted once, you don’t have to do that again.

So you don’t have to, every time you release a new episode, go to 10 different places and submit that episode. All you’re doing is you’re going into your hosting company, your hosting platform like Buzzsprout or Libsyn, and you’re uploading that episode, giving it a name and a description, and then you’re done.

John McDougall: That setup is already just automatically feeding-

John Maher: That setup is automatic. It automatically gets added into your RSS feed. And then Apple Podcasts goes once every hour or something like that to your RSS feed to see whether or not there’s a new episode that you’ve uploaded. And when they see that a new episode is uploaded, well, they add it in there. So it’s the same thing with Google Podcast and Spotify. Once you upload that new episode to your hosting, that’s all you need to do. The rest is taken care of once you’ve submitted your podcast on all these different platforms.

How to Promote Your Podcast

John McDougall: And so people might be wondering what’s the next step after that? We’re going to do an episode in a couple minutes here on Apple Podcast setup and submission. So we won’t go into the weeds on how to promote your podcast, but I thought I would just give a rapid share of some ways in closing here of how you can promote your podcast beyond just being in the directory.

So hopefully you review and subscribe to our channel. So I’m going to ask you to do that. So you should do that. You can share your podcast on your social media. But these days that doesn’t do much because they want you to buy ads. So go and buy ads if you want to boost on Facebook, your podcast. But a lot of people, they might just like you from that, so that might not be that powerful. So if you want bigger social media visibility, get guests that are influencers and then those guests on your show are going to share to their audience and that will get you out there.

You can also do audio ads, but audio ads are a little bit interruptive. So you might not get people to actually subscribe to your podcast from a podcast audio ad in someone else’s podcast. It’s not a bad thing to do, but I’ve heard that Overcast is a better way to advertise at the bottom when you’re in the Overcast app and say the business category, I might actually buy that today. It’s like $1,025 for the month. And so people that are in that category, our podcast ad will show up at the bottom and then it’s like 25 to $35 cost per acquisition.

So anyway, we’re going to give that a try. It’s something people have said works better than social media ads or just audio ads, and then, be a guest on other people’s podcasts because it’s like guest blog posting. If you’re like, when I get featured on HubSpot or Forbes or whatever, I’m in front of huge audiences. So even better than just posting on my blog is when I’m featured there. So those are just some quick ways. I didn’t want to go way into the weeds on it because this is really about how to set up podcast hosting and get into directories and the like, but-

John Maher: That would be the logical next step would be like, okay, I want people to actually listen to my podcast. So how do I do that?

Check Out Our Talk Marketing Book or Talk Marketing Made Easy Podcasts

John McDougall: Yeah, and we already did some episodes on that. So if you check out our Talk Marketing book that we did, the first six or seven podcasts on Talk Marketing Made Easy, you can get some more info on that. But make sure to review us, subscribe and we will see you next time on Talk Marketing Made Easy.

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