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.
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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.)
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
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.
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: Canva, Pixlr, PicMonkey, or the GIMP
Canva, 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
– 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.
- Social Media Success Summit—online conference for marketers and business owners
- Podcast Movement and UK Podcasters—the conferences by podcasters, for podcasts, and all about podcasting
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