As I’m preparing to launch a new podcast I have been counting the cost of this one. I am paying $15 a month to Lybsyn.com for the privilege to use their server and bandwidth. Over the almost 8 years I’ve been using this service I’ve spent $2,700 for this service alone. Fifteen dollars a month seems pretty tame for a hobby but in the aggregate it really is astounding how it adds up. I guess it’s like that with most things though right – eating out at your favorite restaurants, family trips, various magazine and paper subscriptions. Over time it adds up big.
And I can’t complain about the product. I’ve been using Libsyn right from the beginning of this show and I’ve never had problems with the bandwidth or server address or file uploads. It deserves its reputation as a premiere podcast hosting site.
All the same, when I started podcasting several years ago I had no idea how long it would last and no thought about its end of life. What do you do with a podcast when you choose to stop? Even when I decide to stop creating new podcasts for this show I would still have to pay the same monthly fee to keep the old shows available online. If I cancel my Libsyn account all the links to the audio in my blog are dead. I’d have to download all my podcast episodes, just so I could have a record for myself. The blog itself still remains because I’m hosting it on another site, BlueHost so I could transfer my files there, but there’s no point in paying someone else to host my audio, I might as well keep using Libsyn.
Of course there are lots of other reliable podcast host sites and others that offer free hosting, but you have to be careful about the “free” terms. Some offer a fixed amount of recording time per month, others a maximum file upload amount. All of them are going to insert ads into the posts or the audio itself. The reason I went with Libsyn in the first place is because I wanted to control my content and retain 100% ownership. That’s why I passed on providers such as Youtube and SoundCloud.
Also you have to be careful that your host is professional, that they don’t accidentally delete your files or your account, break your feed, or do a crappy job serving your content. Good technical support and help is also important. And you have to have confidence in their solvency. There are a lot of podcast hosting sites out there and a lot that aren’t, anymore. If you’re going to go the cheap route may get cheap service.
You can decide to set up your own server, although there’s a cost associated with it as well. Nowadays with products like Drobo it’s pretty easy to do that, though you have to manage the server software and still pay for the bandwidth through your own internet provider.
And what about DropBox? I’ve read some complaints about bandwidth problems: reviews I’ve read say it can be slow to upload. And once again, if you need to use more than a few gigs of server space you have to pay for it.
A truly free solution
I did find a reliable, truly free hosting source that is definitely going to be around a long time: Archive.org. It’s independently funded and accepts all content. No bandwidth restrictions, no file size limits.
The interface is a little clunky but there’s a way around that: Ourmedia.com. It is also free and it uses Archive.org’s servers to host media. Again, free means no frills, so it doesn’t have all the niceties that Libsyn or Blubrry have, but from what I’ve seen, it’s sufficient. After all, even free has it’s costs.
There is a problem though when hosting with or through Archive.org: once you upload media, it’s there forever, you can’t take it down. I don’t have a problem with that from an end of life archival standpoint, but if I’m continually adding shows it’s a concern. Even after 8 years I still make occasional errors and find it necessary to remove an audio file and then repost. Not being able to do that would be a frustrating limitation.
Frustrated, but wait!
Just recently I discovered that people are using Google Drive for hosting podcast files. I haven’t tried this yet, but there are lots of tutorials for setting up it up as a server, creating an RSS feed and linking it to iTunes and other Podcast aggregators, so it seems promising.
Google Drive is a simple, familiar interface, easy to administer, uploads are fast and 15gigs is a lot of space when you’re filling it with small audio files. The only thing I’m uncertain about is the bandwidth, so there’s still a little more research to do, but after a lengthy and dispiriting search I feel pretty confident that Google Drive is a way for me to go.
I’ll keep you updated.
P.S. I’ve just run across this very detailed review of podcast hosting sites by Kevin Muldoon. He compares features of 18 different services.