Once you’ve recorded a few podcast episodes, it’s easy to assume the hard work is over.
You’ve worked out the kinks in your audio, honed your editing skills. Then you realize that you have absolutely no idea which podcast platforms should be your home.
How do people publish their podcasts, anyway? Why does it seem like some podcasts are a cinch to publish? How do some podcasters record something on Monday afternoon and have it on every application possible by Monday evening?
The simple solution is to upload to Apple Podcasts and call it good. But simple doesn’t always mean best. You need your podcast to support multiple applications. And it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a few features, like analytics and unlimited storage space.
Learning how to publish a podcast might sound scary or complicated, but it’s not. At least it doesn’t have to be. You only have to know the basic steps—and the platforms you should consider—if you’re getting your podcast out into the world for the first time.
Why you shouldn’t do your own podcast hosting
If you’re new to the world of podcasting, your show is alone in the wild right now. It needs shelter. But where’s the best place for you to plant your flag?
Let’s start with the most obvious choice, but one that’s usually a bad idea: hosting on your own website. Sure, if you have the technical know-how—publishing an RSS feed, hosting your own audio files—then hosting your podcast on your own website should be a cinch. But chances are if you read this far, you’ll want a solution that takes the work off your hands.
True: a WordPress plugin like PowerPress can do a lot to make your podcasting life easier. But there are some other problems with self-hosting you should consider first:
Or lack thereof. If you’ve ever experienced a website crash, you know how frustrating it can be to manage your own digital home.
But that’s not the only thing that contributes to instability. Consider:
- Provider fees. Audio files are large. Sometimes very large. Hosting them on your own website can mean exposing yourself to more bandwidth demand, potentially driving up your hosting fees. It’s not the “low-budget” solution you may think it is.
- Service interruptions and slow download speeds. What happens if things go well? A blog post of yours goes viral and suddenly your website and its limited bandwidth can’t handle the traffic.
Any time you try something new—like a new plugin, CMS, or hosting provider—you also take on new risks. If you’ve ever built your own website before, you know the frustrations that can come with installing WordPress, migrating hosting platforms, or getting two different pieces of software to play nicely with each other.
The same is true when you add podcasting to your existing website and try to build your own RSS. It might go well, sure. If it doesn’t, prepare for an evening (or a weekend) full of troubleshooting.
The advantage: It’s cheap. But it also tends to be more sluggish than the other alternatives. On busy traffic days, you could be the one on your shared platform experiencing slow download times.
Shared hosting can have other problems, too. It could leave you more vulnerable to security threats, or set limits on what software you can install on your website. You need more control over your podcast’s destiny.
The benefits of podcast hosting platforms
The elegant way around these problems is to choose from the best podcast platforms.
Don’t be intimidated if you don’t know how to set up a podcast. The best professionally managed hosting platforms have done all the hard work for you, delegating your role to signing up and producing the podcast.
Here’s why so many people prefer hosting their podcast with a dedicated platform.
Podcast hosting platforms know you’ll need bandwidth, so that’s what they sell. In some cases, they offer it for free.
What is bandwidth? Think of it as the plumbing of the Internet: the more people using your water, the more pipes you’ll need. But if it gets clogged up with more water (or in this case, traffic) than it can handle, it can shut everything down. This typically isn’t an issue when you outsource your podcast distribution with a platform.
Another disadvantage of self-hosting: it means you’re on your own. You may have issues that need troubleshooting. If you become the customer of one of the most popular podcast hosting sites, you’ll have a dedicated customer support team to lean on in times of trouble.
Automatic RSS Feed
Your RSS feed is the essential syndication component that lets platforms know there’s a new podcast to distribute. If you don’t have technical skills, you’ll want the RSS process to be as automatic as possible.
Here’s what a typical RSS feed may need to include:
- Podcast category
- Your podcast’s artwork (typically in square format)
- Description, such as the kind of podcast format you usually publish
With a popular podcasting platform, you simply fill in these meta-data fields like you’re filling out an online survey, and your podcast host will update RSS feeds to all of the appropriate platforms. Done and done.
When you self-host, the features are up to you. That means new work—or hiring someone—when you want to do something new. On platforms, features like monetization, acquiring sponsorships, analytics, and submitting to podcast directories are automatically included.
Find the right podcast hosting platform to publish your podcast
Have you decided that a podcast hosting platform is right for you? Great; you’ve made the right decision. But you do have a new—albeit minor—problem on your hands. Now you need to decide where to upload podcasts.
Ever Google “how to do a podcast”? There will be countless suggestions for podcast platforms you can use. That’s why we decided not to list them, but to evaluate them and rate them by specific categories. Below, you’ll find out which podcasting platforms are best for non-tech-savvy users, “power users,” and more.
Best podcast hosting platform for users who aren’t tech-savvy
Pricing: $19/month for “Starter” package
- Embed players
- Mobile app
- 15,000/month downloads with “Starter” package
- Monthly storage starting at 100MB to unlimited
Why it’s the best for the non-tech savvy:
Of all the set-it-and-forget-it podcast platforms, Transistor may be the most popular. You can pay one price to sign up and immediately manage multiple podcasts. Or you can focus on one podcast and use its analytics to optimize your content. Andeasy integrations with a wide range of applications mean you’ll likely experience minimal frustration getting set up. Here are some of our favorite benefits:
- Clean interface, easy to begin. The drag-and-drop features are intuitive for anyone who doesn’t know much about setting up a podcast. Transistor is also easy from the outside looking in, letting you publish in-page players with minimal buttons. If your audience isn’t tech-savvy, either, they’ll be glad you published on Transistor.fm.
- Automatic connections to Spotify, Convertkit, Hubspot, Twitter—the list goes on and on, even including automatic posts to YouTube. Think of Transistor.fm as a hands-off way to create a full multimedia experience. It will look like you’re working much harder than you actually are.
- Unlimited storage will feel like they’ve handed you the key to a giant warehouse. You will be limited by downloads—especially with cheaper plans. But there is enough storage available with Transistor.fm that you can stop one podcast, publish another, and never miss a beat. You can also bring on multiple users on the same account to collaborate with other podcast hosts.
Best podcast hosting platform for “power” users
Pricing: Free or multiple tiers, such as $12/month for three hours of uploading
- Mobile app (advanced accounts)
- Advanced analytics (advanced accounts)
- Monthly storage ranges between 50MB and 1500MB
- Free trial period for 90 days
Why it’s the best for power users:
What is a “power” user, exactly? Maybe you’ve already published a few podcasts in your time and you’ve started to build a larger audience. While other options on this list can grow with you when you upgrade your plan, Buzzsprout is a fine choice for anyone who already has a podcast connecting with an audience. Here are some of our favorite reasons why:
- Capabilities like transcriptions are ideal for people with established audiences, such as blogs, who want to make their podcasts available across multiple media. As your podcast grows, you’ll discover some users like to read their content to digest it more quickly. Creating podcast show notes also creates wider access for podcast subscribers with hearing impairments.
- The pricing tiers here include the free option to try it out for 90 days, giving you a sense of whether Buzzsprout is right for you. While the tiers are simple and affordable, you will have to upgrade if you want to upload more than two hours per month.
- Analytics help people with established audiences explore what their listeners are most responding to. Buzzsprout includes “advanced stats” even on its free plan, which means it’s worth trying for the 90-day plan, if only to learn more about your audience.
Best free podcasting platform
- Mobile app (advanced accounts)
- “Unlimited Audio” plan for just $9/month
- Advanced analytics (advanced accounts)
- Monthly storage ranges between 100MB and 1500MB
- Your own podcast site included with Basic Plan and up
Why it’s the best for low-budget users:
It’s exciting to see a robust $0 Basic Plan here, which lets you dip your toes in the water. Then you’ll see there’s no monetization included with that plan. If you’re earning money from your podcast, you can easily move up the pricing tiers. In the meantime, Podbean’s Basic plan gives you five hours of monthly storage space and 100MB of bandwidth without paying for a thing. Here’s what makes it work so well:
- The user-friendly interface is good, because beginners tend to have low-budgets. This makes for a nice beginner’s experience as you get used to the idea of publishing your podcast through a platform. If you’re just “dabbling” with a podcast, you’ll find plenty of features here without having to pay a dime.
- Monthly storage on the free plan is good enough for people to get started without pushing up against the wall right away. And if you’re on a limited budget, the $9/month “Unlimited Audio” plan is a fast way to gain low-cost access to high-volume podcasting.
- Flat-rate plans are ideal for budgeting. You’ll gain access to some of the monetization features with the “Unlimited Audio Plan,” though you’ll stand to gain more from your podcast as you unlock the higher tiers.
“Honorable mention” podcast platforms
This list gives some handy recommendations, depending on what you’re looking for. But if you’re looking up how to upload a podcast, you’ll find all sorts of worthy names. Many of these might have just missed out on our top spots. That’s why we’d like to introduce you to a few other options:
Why we like it: Libsyn is one of the original podcast hosting sites. It hasn’t lost much of the heat on its fastball. It still offers robust analytics, a simple way to start up, and plenty of monetization features to help your budget grow along with your podcast.
Why we like it: You only have to unlock the first pricing tier ($15/month) to get unlimited storage. That alone is worth checking out. But it’s also another beginner-friendly option with a clean interface, plenty of analytics, and more. You’ll especially like the web player analytics, which lets you embed location analytics as you work your way up the pricing tiers.
Why we like it: This is a new entry on our list, largely thanks to the features that make it a cinch to promote your podcast. Their “one-click sponsor kit” is also a nice introduction for people who haven’t ever sold advertising. You may consider Captivate if you want a platform that will grow with you as you build your audience from the bottom up.
How to upload your podcast to the most popular podcast players
Many of the platforms we list above can do a lot to take the work out of your hands. But if you’re less concerned with starting a podcast than with getting started on a specific podcast player, it helps to know what it takes to get on each platform.
If you’re wondering how to start a podcast on Spotify or Apple, keep in mind that some platforms will only help you meet the requirements. You may have to go directly to Spotify and Apple yourself. Here’s what you’ll need before you sign up:
- Podcast name. You did think of a name, didn’t you?
- Cover art. Typically you’re going to create square cover art to adhere to the most popular platforms. When submitting to Apple, use PNG or JPG file formats with a minimum of 1400 by 1400 pixels. Submit the same cover art to Spotify and you’ll meet their specifications with ease.
- RSS feed. You’ll need an RSS feed set up with your title, cover art, relevant podcast details, and at least one podcast episode to start with.
- Description and category. Now the important question: what kind of podcast are you? Where do you “live”? In some cases, you may have to stretch to find an appropriate fit. And don’t forget the description: you don’t want to mislead readers into listening to something that they never wanted to hear.
Want to get started? Here’s what you’ll need if you want to learn how:
- For Apple, you’ll need an Apple ID, as well as all of the information and cover art as listed above. Make sure that you establish yourself with one completed podcast so that you can submit it first.
- With your RSS feed in hand, you can now submit to Apple Podcasts Connect.
- Fill out all of the information you’ve prepared and get ready to submit your first podcast to iTunes!
- You should always look out for MP3 quality, but it’s especially important to Spotify. Here’s what you’ll need to know: your audio files need to be saved in “*.mp3” format, with bitrates between 96 and 320 kbps.
- Create a Spotify account. Submit your RSS when signing up to its podcast platform, just as you did with Apple Podcasts Connect. Click over to “Submit Podcasts to Spotify” to see how the process looks.
- With your podcast details in hand, complete the verification process—including your first audio file—and fill out the information Spotify needs.
Sound like a lot of work? That’s why we recommend using a podcasting platform. It will round out the corners in your systems and ensure that as long as you have the basic information and audio files on hand, you can hand it off and let the software do the rest. If you are concerned about getting on the right platform, double-check your chosen platform first to see how much help they offer with Apple and Spotify.
Promoting your podcast once it’s up and running
Now you’re live and running. But is this a “Field of Dreams” scenario: if you build it, they will come? Not necessarily. You may have to do a bit of podcast promoting to get the word out.
- Start with the content. Nothing else works if the podcast isn’t worth listening to! Invest in the gear and platforms that make your podcast easy to find, and a pleasure to listen to.
- Build a community across multiple media. A podcast is audio-only, but the way people find it should be all over the Internet. Have a look at our tips on growing a podcast. There you’ll learn how to use tools like email marketing to boost interest in every new release.
- Build a unique landing page for your podcast and promote it on social media. Your sales goal: getting another listen. Build an effective landing page to promote your podcast, or even work from a landing page template to get started.
Of course, building an audience for a podcast is worth another post by itself. But don’t worry; just as there are solutions for getting your podcast published, there are solutions for drawing audience interest. Once you’re off to the races, consider using ConvertKit’s free landing pages to promote your podcast and attract new listeners.