25 free podcasting tools as good as their paid alternatives – TAP185

Free-podcasting-tools

Popular, free podcasting tools you can use to create, host, and grow your podcast without buying the premium alternatives. Audio, video, website, and more tools to help you be a successful podcaster without having to be rich.

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Requested by Leo from Chopsticks Podcasts.

Free podcasting tools still cost

Although the following options are completely free, you must keep some things in mind.

  1. “Free” costs someone else’s time and money. Remember that someone else worked hard to make the resource that you can use for free. They may also have actual bills related to offering something for free. Please consider supporting the people who make free stuff.
  2. “Free” may cost more of your time for an inferior workflow. Audacity, for example, works great as an audio-editor. But one of my biggest reasons for switching to Adobe Audition was the amount of time the improved workflow would save me.
  3. “Free” may require more knowledge for making things work your way. Free may not be as pretty and easy as premium tools. You may have to understand more technical things, or figure out how stuff works before you can effectively use a free tool. (Listen to Ray Ortega’s recent interview with the Auphonic creator about audio loudness standards.)
  4. “Free” often has little to no support. Part of how companies can offer free products and services is by not spending more time continuing to develop it or support people who have problems.
  5. “Free” sometimes has limitations. Anything that uses “free” and “unlimited” together will not last. Anything free will have restrictions, such as for personal use only, reduced features, or limited in other measurable ways.
  6. “Free” often includes ads. The developers have to make their money somewhere, and advertising or affiliate links are one way to do that. They can also inspire users to upgrade in order to remove the ads.

While free stuff is great, please don’t always take advantage of the free, or else it won’t be free anymore.

Free, basic website: WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the hosted version of WordPress. You can get free or premium accounts where they handle the software updates. You can’t install your own plugins and you start out with a subdomain instead of your own domain. But if you just need to start out with a basic blog, WordPress.com is simple and free.

Free WordPress website hosting: Amazon EC2

Self-hosted WordPress is the best way to go, but hosting companies like BlueHost can be around $100 per year. Amazon EC2 offers a very small hosting plan that is free for the first year. This requires more knowledge of setting up databases, web software, and other configurations without the help of a visual control panel. It’s about $9.75 per month after your first year.

Free podcast media hosting: archive.org

LibSyn and Blubrry are premium media hosts and they’re worth every penny. But if you don’t have any pennies, then upload your media files to archive.org. It meets the basic technical requirements from Apple, and you have some limited administration tools. But it won’t give you accurate stats or very fast downloads on larger files.

Yes, you could also use Dropbox or Google Drive, but both of these have very difficult workflows for getting your download URL, and both have small limitations on how the files can be downloaded.

Free podcast media stats: Blubrry

You need an accurate picture of your audience. Plain “hits” or stats from your web host aren’t accurate. So add Blubrry‘s free stats to your media URLs and you’ll see exactly how many people are downloading your episodes.

Free audio editing: Audacity or GarageBand

Audio-editing software is one of the last places you should spend money to improve your quality, but it could also be the first place to improve your workflow. Regardless, free software will give you just as good of a production as premium software. You just need to learn a bit more.

Audacity (Windows, OS X, Linux) is the standard for free audio-editing. It’s available across platforms and it’s extremely powerful. Many successful podcast have used or continue to use Audacity and you would never know.

If you have a Mac, then you probably already have GarageBand (OS X). Some people mistakenly think you can not edit audio podcasts in recent versions of GarageBand, but that’s not true. You just can’t make “enhanced AAC” podcasts (which you shouldn’t, anyway), and there’s no more “podcast”-labeled track. GarageBand still edits audio just fine and can even export your MP3 with Fraunhofer.

Free video editing: Jahshaka, iMovie, or Movie Maker

Editing video starts to get a little harder to do for free, but still possible.

Jahshaka (Windows, Linux, OS X) is kind of like the “Audacity” of the video-editing world. It has an odd workflow, but it’s still extremely capable.

If you have a Mac, then you probably already have iMovie (OS X). If you have a Windows computer, then you probably already have or can easily get Movie Maker (Windows). Either “built-in” video-editor is more than enough for the average video podcaster.

Free music: Music Alley

Do not use copyrighted music! Ignore whatever you’ve heard about “fair use” and the fact that you’re not making money. These rarely apply to podcasters. So you’re still most likely breaking the law if you use someone else’s creative work without their permission.

The best place for free music is Music Alley. You’ll find a huge catalog of great songs in all genres by independent artists. (The Audacity to Podcast’s theme song—”Vegas Shuffle” by Charlie Crowe—came from Music Alley!) The basic rule is that you must include attribution whenever you use something from Music Alley. But you can also contact the artist directly and get permission to use their song without attribution (but paying them to do so would be lovely).

Free sound effects: Freesound.org

Similar to Music Alley, Freesound is a free library of all kinds of sound effects. They require attribution for each use, but you may be able to negotiate with the creators.

Free voicemail and VoIP calling: Google Voice

Instead of paying money for a voicemail number or Skype Out in order to call a phone from your computer, just sign up for Google Voice to get both! You can set the number to always go to voicemail with your own greeting. You can also call from the number within Gmail.

Free stock photography: Compfight

There are a lot of lists of free stock photography websites out there. My favorite is Compfight. They search the entire Flickr library and find all images licensed with Creative Commons and even for commercial use. Compfight even gives you the exact HTML text add the required credits on the photos.

I use Compfight first and for most of my images for blog posts and podcast show notes. For example, episodes 177, 175, and 158 use photos from Compfight.

Don’t forget that you probably already have a decent camera, even if it’s just your smartphone. So you may want to stage your own photo. For example, episodes 174, 165, 164, and 150 use photos that I staged and shot myself.

Free image editing: Pixlr, PicMonkey, or the GIMP

Pixlr and PicMonkey are both browser-based image-editors. You can also download and install the GIMP. Any of these will give you more power to crop, rotate, enhance, or add text to your images so your posts look better.

Free video lighting: sunlight and a window

You may not have as little as $170 to invest in a decent lighting kit like mine, but that’s no excuse to have poorly lit videos!

Stand by a window on a sunny day. If direct sunlight is getting in the way, hang a white bed sheet, shower curtain, or table cloth in front of the window to diffuse the light.

Sunlight is the most pure form of light and you’ll always look great. Try to angle a little so the sunlight spills across your face to light both sides, while still giving you some soft shared.

Free sound dampening: blankets and furniture

We don’t usually have sound-proof studios. We have our basements, spare bedrooms, the closet, or even the kitchen. Many of these rooms can create a lot of echo or reverb and make the audio sound bad.

Put furniture in your recording room. The softer and less-flat it is, the better.

Even consider hanging blankets on the walls. Anything that makes your room less flat and softer will reduce reverberation.

Free email lists: Mailchimp or MailPoet

Yes, you probably should start a mailing list for your podcast, even if it’s simply an automated email with the show notes and link to your latest episode.

MailPoet is a WordPress plugin that lets you manage your email list design and content without leaving WordPress. You can upgrade to a premium version for more stats and tools, but the free edition works fine.

MailChimp will give you a lot more power and control with your list. They say the limits are 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails. But it’s possible to have more than that. You just can’t email them all at one time. You also can’t send any more than 12,000 total emails in a single month.

I have almost twenty mailing lists in MailChimp. One of them has more than 2,700 subscribers, but I never email the full list, so I never run into the subscriber limit.

Free live-streaming: YouTube Live

Live-streaming isn’t necessary for podcasting. But I do recommend YouTube Live as a free podcasting tool for anyone doing live events. The video is recorded directly onto YouTube, and you can earn money from the ads yourself, or don’t display ads.

If you want to regularly use YouTube Live for streaming events, get the free IX Show Latest YouTube plugin for WordPress (I’m a contributing coder), which will automatically display your upcoming, live, or most recent video on your site.

Free video-streaming effects: CamTwist Studio or ManyCam

If you want to get fancy with your live-streaming video, you don’t have to buy fancy software like Wirecast. Get CamTwist Studio (OS X) or ManyCam (Windows, OS X) to switch cameras, use special effects, or adjust your on-screen display. Live-streaming to YouTube Live via Google+ Hangouts also presents some of these controls.

Free sound cart manager: JinglePalette or Soundboard

To reduce your post-production time and enhance your recording experience, you may want to play music, voicemails, and other sound clips live into your recording (even if you’re not live-streaming). Get JinglePalette (Windows) or BZ Soundboard Soundboard (OS X) to load up your sound clips onto buttons and play them whenever you need that audio.

Podcasting tools without free alternatives

Free podcasting tools can’t do everything for you. For some stuff, you’ll have to invest some money.

– Audio and video equipment
– Domain
– Any fancy/professional creative work (design, audio, video, etc.)

What are some of your favorite, free podcasting tools? What podcasting tools cost that you think were well worth it?

Find more premium and free podcasting tools at lternativeTo

Search alternativeTo for the premium tool you know and find other alternatives. You can filter by platform (like a Windows alternative to OS X applications), license (like a free alternative to expensive software), and more.

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  • leo Linden

    Thanks for doing the episode Daniel! This helped a lot! Also I have another one! http://www.freesfx.co.uk Even though you have to credit them in some way (show notes or in the podcast) there is some quality music and sound effects!

    –Leo Linden

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      You’re welcome, Leo! It was a great question.

  • Marti

    Thanks for the fabulous resources. Do you know of any decent green screen software?
    I have the chromakey backdrop, I just need to find a decent program for Mac. Thanks.

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Good question. That’s getting into professional needs. But look at this list of alternatives.

  • Wade Sarver

    Thank you for the information, I really appreciate it. This has been so helpful. I am so glad I listened to the RED podcast to find your podcast! I just started listening and will not stop!

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Welcome, Wade! I’m glad this helped you and happy to have you listening now!

  • Steve

    great article!
    it’s possible to host audio files in free cloud services! some allow to share folders and allow full quality stream! and direct downloads as well.

    for video editing, green screen compositing and 3d design there’s Blender! it has a learning curve, but it’s a great free software!

    for live video streaming, I like Twitch.tv. it has a chat as well. the final stream videos can be uploaded to youtube!
    it requires some sort of streaming software, like OBS!
    it’s a free open broadcaster software. it allows to broadcast a camera, multi cameras, a camera with a custom overlay, to switch between video sources, games etc. and it’s very flexible with audio sources.
    and it allows green screens, real time background replacement and transparencies!

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Thanks, Steve! Cloud hosting for audio files can work, but as I said in the podcast, it’s a bad idea. Such services have limitations and very difficult workflows for getting a direct download link.

      Twitch.tv is for video-gaming, so it wouldn’t work for most podcasters.

      • Steve

        I think that twitch can be a good choice for game, tech, geek related podcasts.

        • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

          Twitch is design for video-gaming content. Use it to talk about other stuff and they’ll probably kick you out for violating some rules.

  • Richard Farrar

    Excellent episode Daniel.

    One video editor that people might be interested in is Lightworks (http://www.lwks.com/) a multi-platform professional, Hollywood grade video editor that you can use for free, used on Hollywood films such as Mission Impossible and Pulp Fiction! It’s certainly my video editor of choice.

    You might also be interested in paint.NET for photo editing.

  • Jeff Roney

    Another great in-depth, helpful list. I have two more suggestions for soundboards to add;
    1. Soundboard by Xnapid http://www.xnapid.com/node/1 I used the free trial (Only has 10 slots available, no save, etc), but I ended up buying the full program for 9.99.
    2. PodProducer http://podproducer.en.softonic.com/ There’s alot to this program, but I use it merely to play more sounds/voicemails, etc during the podcast.

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Thanks, Jeff! I would have suggested PodProducer as that’s what I used to use. But its official website has been gone for at least a couple years, so I wasn’t comfortable recommending it anymore.

  • Lampros Liontos

    On the topic of graphics, Yes, the GIMP is a great tool for photo manipulation, but when it comes to actually creating artwork from scratch, having a vector-based graphics program can be far more useful. In the Windows/Mac world, Adobe Illustrator is the primary program. The best free vector graphics “illustrator” program I know of is inkscape, which I use in combination with the GIMP to make my own graphics.

    For those who want a more “natural media” feel, MyPaint can simulate various canvases and drawing tools, from pencils to pens, brushes to airbrushes, smudging pens and different types of eraser.

    If you’re looking for a good “medium” between the three, Krita can do a good portion of what the GIMP, Inkscape, and MyPaint can do, although it’s not quite as comprehensive in each category as the other programs.

    You can find the GIMP at http://www.gimp.org
    You can find Inkscape at http://www.inkscape.org
    You can find MyPaint at http://mypaint.intilinux.com
    You can find Krita at https://krita.org

    As for video, I’ve found both Synfig Studio (for 2D) and Blender (for 3D) to be useful where animated overlays, compositing, and camera tracking are concerned. Blender can be especially useful as a way to produce visual effects on the free. As for Jahshaka, I was rather surprised, as the last time I looked into the program, it had gone “on hiatus.” I did not know it started back up. Win.

    You can find Synfig Studio at http://www.synfig.org
    You can find Blender at http://www.blender.org

    In all these cases, there is definitely a learning curve. I’m hardly an expert in any of these programs myself, although I am enjoying the process of learning new tricks as time goes on. I hope you find them useful (or at least interesting) too.

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Wow! Thanks for the great resources!

    • Bill Rich

      Jahshaka is dead. No code, no developer page, no updates on any site or forum since February 2014. The only download is the old 2.0 version which is awful.
      Try OpenShot for Linux and Shotcut for WIn/Linux/Mac.

  • Stephanie b

    Excellent content, Daniel. Though I am curious why you recommend YouTube Live but not Google Hangouts for free live streaming? Is it because of the ads option? Or because it’s kind of a pain that you have to have a Google+ profile to use Hangouts?

    If any penny pinchers scroll down this far into the comments, another money saving tip is if you are hosting with WordPress.com and getting your own domain name (which is a good idea), register your domain through WordPress.com (unless you want a more unusual extension that WordPress does not register). It currently costs $18 per year. If you register through another service (like GoDaddy, Namecheap, Host Gator, etc.) you will have to pay WordPress for domain mapping, which is $13 per year. It’s misleading because you think you’re saving money by paying $10 dollars (or less) to register a domain through another service, but to map the domain to your WordPress.com blog you’d have to pay $13 on top of that. It’s still not a lot of money, I know, but since this post was for people who are needing to be frugal I thought I would mention it.

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Google+ Hangouts on Air and YouTube Live are kind of the same thing.

      You can use Hangouts to power a YouTube Live stream, or you can use professional streaming software. So you get all the same benefits of Hangouts: like effects, controls, screen-sharing, and guests with automatic or manual camera-switching.

      You can’t get a Hangouts on Air embed URL until you start the Hangout. YouTube Live gives you the embed as soon as you have an event scheduled.

      I think you’re also right that you don’t have to have a Google+ account to use YouTube Live—you just wouldn’t have Hangouts as an option.

      I’m planning a future episode to talk about YouTube Live and Hangouts on Air in more detail.

      • Stephanie b

        I’m confused by what you mean that “you can’t get a Hangouts on Air embed URL until you start the Hangout.”

        I have gotten an embed code for a Hangouts on Air as soon as I scheduled it — days before it started. On the Hangout’s event page, there is a “Links” link that you can click as soon as it’s scheduled that gives you a link to the event on G+, a link to its YouTube page, and a video embed code. So I’m not sure which “embed URL” you’re referring to that you can’t get.

        Also, I heard that you no longer need a G+ account to use Hangouts? Just a Gmail address? If so, that’s pretty exciting.

        • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

          Hmm. Then I may have been mistaken on that point.

  • St. Clinton

    For audio editing, I use Audacity for making voice-overs, but for other editing like stitching audio together or cutting stuff out, I LOVE Wavepad. I find Audacity a pain when putting the show together, as when the show is full of audio files, Wavepad makes it real easy with just doing a cut & paste…

  • Shane Blackshear

    I could really use BZ Soundboard but my mac doesn’t support powerpc programs anymore. Are there any other alternatives or ways around this?

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Oops! I didn’t notice that. I did more research and found http://soundboard.sourceforge.net/index.html

      • Shane Blackshear

        Thanks for the quick reply and the resource! Do you happen to know if soundboard will play on a skype interview? That may be a whole other can of worms.

        • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

          It is a can of worms. You would have to use a mixer to loop your sounds back into Skype, or use software to create a virtual loop. If you have an iOS device, get Bossjock and play your sounds through it.

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