The majority of podcasts have a simple blog to post their show notes and links to the podcast. Blogger, WordPress, and Libsyn all offer this basic service. However, some of the bigger shows are going beyond the simple blog to house their podcast and are instead building a full-fledged website around it. A website adds supplemental material to the podcast. Just as a podcast can give an established site more content and therefore more worth, a website can give an established podcast the same.
Thousands of podcasters can't be wrong, right? The content we create is aural, not visual, so for most of us, a blog does all the work we need. It gives us a place to post our show notes, links, and contact info. Also, many blog services automatically generate our RSS feeds for us.
Some use their blog as a place to dump show notes; others use it as an actual blog, writing about things related to the podcast as the days pass. It can be a place that ties your users to your podcast and keeps them interested in the podcast and you.
Jim Van Verth of The Vintage Gamer podcast (http://www.thevintagegamer.net) uses a WordPress blog as his podcast's home. He prefers a blog because he doesn't feel his podcast needs a full website.
The pitfalls to a blog are simple: that's all there is. You can add links to friends or podcasts, some buttons for PayPal or Google Adsense, but as for actual website content, the site is pretty flat.
Some shows, especially the bigger ones, find that having a full-fledged website to support their podcast is the way to go. Sure, you still have a blog area to post show notes, and you have to have an RSS feed, but there's also much more you can do.
The award-winning podcast Eat Feed has an extensive website at http://www.eatfeed.com. The site offers a weekly "featured listener," book reviews, bios of guests, and extensive "about the podcast and contact" information. Host Anne Bramley spends about an hour a week updating the site.
The downsides of a website are few, but significant, which is why most podcasts, like The Vintage Gamer, simply don't need them. They take up considerable time (and possibly money) to create and maintaintime you could be spending on podcasting. So before you start building a grand site for your podcast, question whether you need it and if you have the time to keep it updated to be of use.
You have many choices when it comes to your blog, and many free choices can be found online. But your podcast needs to have a place to live, and the bandwidth with which to serve it to your listeners generally remains static. Once upon a time this did not come cheap, but like with most things, the podcasting landscape is always changing, and today you have plenty of options.
You can't get cheaper than free. Although a lot of free things seem too good to be true, some modest free podcasting services are available that can serve your needs quite well. Although they're not buff enough to take care of the kind of bandwidth the TWiT podcast needs, they are enough for beginning podcasters or people who just want to get their feet wet without worrying about a blog or website. This section details some of the free services available.
The Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org) is a nonprofit organization that was founded to build a library of sorts. Its purpose was to give permanent access for scholars to digital historical collections. It has expanded with the times, currently holding collections of texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages. This also means, of course, podcasts.
The oldest podcast service out there, Openpodcast.org was up and running in October of 2004. It's the brain child of Ben Tucker, and it serves as a distributor for anyone with a short (5 minutes or less) podcast. All you need to do is record your podcast and email it to the submission address, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don't have a recording setup, or you happen to be out and about and dying to podcast, call Openpodcast's number 206-350-OPEN and podcast through the phone.
All the podcasts go out on the same feed. It's a popular feed for people wanting to hear lots of short, interesting, and sometimes strange things, but it's also a good place to send promos.
Openpodcast has three rules:
The first of these rules is probably the most important, but if you don't follow the other two, then it's pointless.
New as of December 2005, Gcast is the creation of the Garageband.com group (see Figure 13.1). Gcast offers phone-in (with a toll-free number) or upload technology, with the added bonus of allowing you to manipulate your files before saving to MP3 and publishing. Besides the free hosting, Gcast offers perks such as an imbedded player to put on a website and emailing the users a direct link to the podcast.
Figure 13.1. Gcast: so easy my grandma can use it. I think I'll ask her if she wants to.
In December 2005, Odeo took its podcast recording software out of beta and made it available to everyone. It became a one-stop shop for subscribing to and recording podcats. You can read more about Odeo in Chapter 1, "A Brief History of Podcasting."
If you are just starting out and you already have a website with a traditional Internet service provider, there's nothing wrong with hosting your files there. You already have a relationship with the company and know its rules, its perks, and you're already paying a price for the service. Most people don't use their entire allocation of storage and bandwidth that they purchase from their provider, so you will be assured of getting your money's worth.
Most Internet users with generic websites pay no attention to their bandwidth allocations. After all, most of these sites just have some pictures and some email and only marginal traffic. It's not until you start distributing files of several megabytes to hundreds or thousands of people that you start to realize that it's pretty easy to eat up that monthly allotment of 20GB or so that many ISPs allow.
The only issue with the traditional ISP, of course, is keeping track of your bandwidth to make sure you don't exceed its limitations. Before that comes up, you can contact your ISP and make sure you find out two things: what the penalty is for going over your bandwidth, and how much it costs to get the next level of service. Also, see if you can find out whether your ISP will warn you when you are nearing your bandwidth limit.
When your podcast gets popular enough, you may want to look into the podcast-only services to avoid large bandwidth bills.
Podcast-specific services came into being in late 2004 and early 2005 as bandwidth problems started to plague some of the more successful podcasters. The classic problem with the Internet is that when you become popular, your bandwidth usage goes up, and therefore your cost to your ISP goes up. It's more expensive to be popular than to be unknown.
The podcast-specific services focus more on storage space than bandwidth prices, charging their users for a certain amount of space and giving them bandwidth for free. This type of hosting service has proved to be incredibly popular.
The big player in the podcast-specific service is Liberated Syndication (Libsyn), which offers four packages, starting with the Podcasting Basic package at $5 a month and 100MB of storage and peaking at Podcasting Professional at $30 a month and 800MB of storage. Libsyn requires no contract and has no hidden bandwidth fees.
As the lesser-known "dark horse," Podlot has grown quietly, doing little advertising and allowing word-of-mouth to do its work. It has experienced few of the growing pains that Libsyn has gone through, and remains cautious with its services. Although the pricing is similar to Libsyn, Podlot also offers more storage for each type of account.