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.
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.
Although not as full-featured as others, lacking an adequate podcast website or IAB-compliant metrics, for professionals looking for affordable hosting for a podcast whose website is handled elsewhere – or where the podcast forms part of a larger offering – Transistor is easy-to-use and lightning-fast to launch with.
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.
The Podcode podcast, the audio version of the Podcode.tv channel, is hosted with Transistor.
Anchor began its life in a way not dissimilar to Clubhouse: an audio sharing tool frequented by Silicon Valley investors and growth hackers. In 2018 it pivoted to providing free podcast hosting, and has remained a popular choice for beginners and those wanting to save money.
Anchor has a well-considered mobile app that makes content production easy, however it’s geared more towards a style of podcasting that doesn’t really offer value or sustainability: a sort of call-in talk show with added music, thanks to Spotify. This offering adds confusion into the market, as it leads people to think that commercial music can be used in podcasts, and that the “podcasts” produced through the Anchor app can be heard on any app (which they can’t).
Anchor is simply a low-friction way to upload content that can be serialised via RSS. Onboarding is simple, and every podcast gets a cute single webpage. In that way, it’s a solid choice for those who use a podcast as a highlights package of a live Zoom call, Crowdcast show, or who are repurposing audio from a YouTube channel, since its lack of features or useful analytics essentially make it a hard-drive with an RSS attachment.
Spotify bought the product in early 2019, and it’s now IAB compliant, so although the metrics are fairly high-level, the numbers themselves should be accurate. It’s important to them since Anchor relies on DAI to make money.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.