You need a podcast hosting provider to deliver your content and keep track of who’s listening. These are the only podcast hosts currently worth considering.
I don’t personally endorse every host and I haven’t used them all, but I’ve only added services I have some level of knowledge about.
Captivate.fm was formed in 2018 by Mark Asquith and the team behind Podcast Websites. It quickly grew, backed by a strong brand and a focus on podcast marketing.
The content management system is easy to use – with its UI getting a big facelift in the spring of 2021 – and it boasts IAB certified metrics. Each podcast includes a reasonably-customisable website, and for those using WordPress, a plugin that makes integrating podcast content into an existing website easier.
Where Captivate differentiates itself in its messaging and, to some extend its toolset, is around podcast growth. Trackable subscription links make it easier to share your podcast and push listeners to follow your show in their favourite apps, and the CMS can generate press kits you can use to pitch your podcast to newsletters and other media outlets.
If monetisation is on the horizon, you can generate a “one-click sponsor kit”, and rely on those IAB certified metrics to give your advertisers confidence your numbers are legit.
|Price||$19.00 per month|
I’ve been using and recommending Captivate to clients since 2021, and while I would prefer they remove some features and keep their energies focused, my recommendation stands.
For people just starting out, who want to hit the ground running and don’t want to have to overthink their website strategy or how to be listed in every directory, Captivate is a great place to start your journey.
I’d like the websites to be more attractive and/or customisable – maybe with a bit of CSS – so that those who manage podcasts on others’ behalf can make them look prettier. But they present podcasters with the bare bones of what they need to get going, at an unbeatable price.
Founded in 2018, Transistor is a relative newcomer to the hosting space, and has since leant its services to some big names including VH-1, Basecamp, and Kickstarter.
For professionals looking for affordable hosting, Transistor is easy-to-use and lightning-fast to launch with. Their built-in websites have improved a good deal since launch, and you can get pretty sophisticated with dynamic content.
The service was born out of one of the founders’ work projects, so it carries the DNA of a service meant for companies that are using a podcast as part of a wider media strategy. In that respect, it’s not a good fit for hobbyists and beginners, but its no-nonsense interface makes it a good pick for busy show runners.
All of my podcasts are hosted with Transistor.
|Price||$19.00 per month|
Given my previous history as someone who ran a hosting company, I’m somewhat choosy about the services I use.
As I have a number of podcasts, I wanted to use a service that wouldn’t charge me to create multiple shows. I knew I wouldn’t be expecting to hit a high download limit, so Transistor felt like an easy decision since I knew the chaps already, and liked them.
As I said in the description, setting up a new feed really is lightning fast, and you can submit your new show to directories quickly and effortlessly. Uploading audio and artwork is easy, and the interface puts all the fields in the right place.
If you’re running your own website, it’s easy to paste in the permalink to an episode, so listeners tapping it in the show notes will be taken to your canonical home for each episode. But their website templates have come on leaps and bounds.
I’d love their dynamic ad insertion features to be available on all plans. That’s the one thing keeping it from the top spot, even though it’s the service I use and enjoy spending time with the most.
Built by long-time podcaster and developer Dan Benjamin, using the years of experience he gained running 5by5.tv (both content and infrastructure), Fireside is a solid service for those who take their podcast seriously.
Along with audio hosting, analytics and a website for your podcast, Fireside also provides rich show notes, allowing for the addition of host and guest bios, and a blog. If your podcast has multiple hosts who aren’t on every episode, you can specify the hosts that appear on a per-episode basis, and visitors to your website can see who hosted which ones.
For Benjamin, podcasting means going live-to-tape, and having show notes with lots of links, so Fireside has tools that make it easy to gather links to the topics you discuss, while you record.
If you’re relatively new to podcasting, or you just like badges, there’s a lightly gamified element to the Fireside content management system, that lets you earn achievements for reaching important milestones.
|Price||$9.00 per month|
I migrated a few of my personal podcasts over to Fireside, and either I clogged up the system or I was unlucky, as I ran into speed issues and timeouts early on. Since that initial burst of activity, I’ve had no issues with the service.
However, there are elements of the CMS’s design that, as a recovering web developer I understand, but as a user are cumbersome and involve lots of repetition. For example, you can’t add a guest to an episode as you’re uploading. You have to upload your episode, then go elsewhere to create the guest bio, save them, then either select the episode they appear in or go back to the episode you were editing. Stuff like that is user-interface 101, but if you don’t use features like that, it won’t get in your way.
I’d like to see lots more customisation of the website the service generates. I’m delighted with the content, the blog, the fact I can create arbitrary pages and redirect one address to another, but there are only two or three themes, and they all pretty much look the same.
Overall, Fireside is solid, and for many of us, that’s what we need. If you’re intending to run your own website for your podcast, there are probably more cost-effective solutions, but if you want to keep everything in one place, Fireside is a great fit… just don’t expect your podcast website to look sexy.
Up until a couple of years ago, Buzzsprout was something of an also-ran, but has seen major growth since 2018 and is now arguably the world’s biggest podcast host.
They share a lot of user-interface DNA with Libsyn, Podbean and similar companies that arose in the early 2000s, but since 2020 have been leading the charge in adoption of standards like the Podcast Index’s
The company’s vast educational resources, predictable pricing (including a free tier) and their somewhat silly name position Buzzsprout as a solid service for the hobbyist looking to flex their muscles. Podcasters looking to host their own website will likely want something more flexible than the out-of-the-box solution, but for all their positioning as a casual service for beginners, it has features and support for those ready to take their podcast more seriously, including IAB-certified analytics, dynamic content insertion, transcription, and an attractive embeddable player.
|Price||$12.00 per month|
RSS.com bills itself as an easy way to upload and manage podcasts. The service offers one-click submission to several podcast directories, and partners with Podcorn to provide customers with access to sponsorship opportunities.
Chief among the benefits for new podcasters with only one show is there is essentially one price to pay, forever. Their “all-in-one” plan offers unlimited downloads, but customers pay per podcast, and there isn’t a way to manage multiple podcasts under the same account.
|Price||$4.99 per month|
The interface is pretty, and the onboarding process is fairly easy with minimal fuss. In many respects, RSS.com is a paid equivalent to Anchor, but with a few added extras, and a focus – obviously, given the name – on podcasting as an open ecosystem.
I was intrigued by a feature in the content management system that prevents malformed RSS feeds from being submitted to directories. It’s the job of a media host to maintain a clean feed, however I thought the idea of checking that a feed works before allowing it to be submitted was a nice touch. However, due to some Internet outages at the time of writing, that part of the service didn’t work, and so I was unable to validate or submit my feed.
As someone who ran a service with a similar pricing structure, I can get behind the pricing. However I know for some, having to pay per podcast isn’t ideal.
I’m always happy to see good-looking, functional, and easy-to-use embed players. RSS.com has a sleek player, but it lacks important things like subscription or sharing buttons from within the player.
For their $12.99 monthly fee, the service is let down by its poor lack of website support. Podcasts don’t have individual websites, just pages at unfriendly addresses beginning with
rss.com/podcasts/. These addresses can’t be changed, and you can’t choose your own custom domain name. Without this in place, they simply can’t justify $12.99 per month.
Podcast.co is a hosting service based in Manchester, UK. Founded in 2017, the company has grown to offer hosting, production, studio rental, advertising, education and more. It also runs the MatchMaker.fm service.
The service is aimed at “businesses and content creators” rather than hobbyists or dyed-in-the-wool podcasters, so it handles podcast distribution itself, abstracting the user from the RSS feed. However this doesn’t affect your ability to migrate away from the platform if you want to go elsewhere.
Although you don’t hear a lot from them in the usual podcasting circles, Podcast.co is spoken highly of and reviewed well amongst those who use it.
|Price||$29.00 per month|
LibSyn is almost literally the first name in podcast hosting. They provide a rock-solid infrastructure and every possible feature you would expect from a mature platform. They have a huge user-base and run regular community events, many of whom are experienced podcasters who rely on LibSyn to run reliably.
LibSyn differs from most hosts in that it provides different RSS feeds for different apps and directories (as it calls them “destinations”) which is perhaps unnecessarily confusing, however when new directories and markets are opened up, LibSyn is almost always first in-line to adopt them.
The company is conservative in its development, often taking multiple years to roll out interface updates. This has meant they’ve fallen behind modern hosts whose designers and developers value user experience, however they offer support via email and they’ve been around for so long and have so many customers, that answers to most questions can probably be found in Facebook groups and Reddit threads.
|Price||$15.00 per month|
I use LibSyn, but under duress. I don’t bear them any active ill-will, but we as an industry have moved on, and there’s so much choice that it means companies can compete on ease-of-use, adoption of modern features, education and outreach. They’re putting in as much effort as they can on their new interface, and while it rockets their user experience a decade forwards, it’s still a decade out-of-date.
Of course, design isn’t everything, and people aren’t wrong for choosing LibSyn as a default, because its infrastructure is rock-solid. They’ve long supported dynamic content injection, they offer IAB-compliant metrics (at a price), you can upload content from a variety of sources (including FTP!) and you can push full episodes out to YouTube. They even support private podcast feeds and the ability to attach other things to your RSS feed than just an MP3 file. Their feature set is built up over 16+ years of experience with a variety of user needs, and put simply, when it comes to the tubes and pipes that make podcasts go, they know the landscape hands down.
But if you ever need to look at your stats and understand them, if you manage multiple podcasts and fear uploading to the wrong account (which happens more than you might think) or you want to manage a client’s podcast securely without sharing passwords (you should never share passwords if you can help it), if you want a modern, good-looking website for your podcast or an attractive player to embed into your blog, if you want tools to make it easier to share your content or you just want to be able to publish quickly, there are far better choices you can make.
Castos was formed in 2017 around the Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin, a popular way of self-hosting podcasts. Castos added analytics, hosting, and an embeddable media player, and now provides automated transcription, a simple website, and allows content to be republished to YouTube.
On top of this, the company also provides podcast editing services.
|Price||$15.83 per month|
Full disclosure: I used to run a podcast hosting business, which sold to Castos in the spring of 2021. I use Castos and like it, but I’m in no way affiliated with the company, and have no incentive to write them a glowing review. Of course you don’t have to believe that. 🙂
If I were a hardcore WordPress user like back in the day, I suspect Castos would have been my default choice. I loved and used to heartily recommend the Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin, before Craig and the Castos team acquired it. Had I not been building my own solution, I probably would have migrated my shows to Castos, but I was a little ahead of them at the time.
I’m going to hold off on reviewing individual features as it’s still too close to the Podiant acquisition for this kind of breakdown to be of value. Different people have differing needs, but the bottom line is that Castos is a great choice – like some of the others I’ve reviewed – if you’re already taking care of the website elsewhere, and especially if you run WordPress. If you don’t run WordPress, Castos gets a star knocked off because you can’t give each episode a custom permalink, meaning in-app listeners will always be taken to your Castos-hosted website (which isn’t great).
Pinecast began life in 2015, and its original code was made available to read and fork on Github. It was created by Matt Basta, a software engineer who would go on to work at Stripe Connect, which gave Pinecast an advantage in making it easy for podcasters to collect donations from listeners.
The service offers a flexible and highly-customisable podcast website, options to solicit feedback from listeners, exportable metrics including Spotify data, and easy submission to popular directories.
|Price||$10.00 per month|
I was a Pinecast user in the early days, liked the service, and liked Matt, the founder. A good deal has changed since I used it in 2016, but there are still some signs that this is perhaps a software engineer’s product, rather than a designer’s.
If you know how podcasts and RSS feeds work, some of the onboarding decisions make sense, however if you’re new to the space, you might find it strange that you need to enter a website address for your podcast, but you can’t create one for your show until you start a paid plan, something you can’t do in the initial onboarding process.
Setting up a tip jar for donations is a simple as entering your bank account, sort code, and chosen currency. Once an episode is uploaded, submitting it to directories that support automatic submission is as simple as flipping a switch.
However, the rest of the user experience is what I can only describe as “fussy”. The UI is consistent but there’s something about the order of operations that doesn’t feel natural, and there are some weird quirks I’m unable to explain. For example, when I published my first episode, my newly-built Pinecast-powered website – which has excellent customisation options and a number of themes – didn’t update.
Pinecast’s pricing model makes it excellent value-for-money, and I like the approach of paying to bolt-on specific features. The interface is clean and not unpleasant; there’s just a feeling that it was designed by someone who has the order of operations clear in their head, but it doesn’t match mine. Maybe it matches others’.