If you’re looking for free podcast media hosting, you should not consider hosting your podcast with Dropbox due to many limitations and even the risk of bad consequences.
I see a lot of beginning podcasters wanting to start podcasting as either a hobby or business, but for as close to free as possible. (Remember that “free” always comes with a price, just like magic.) A common idea is to use Dropbox’s free account and host your podcast with Dropbox.
This can work, and it’s not technically against any terms of service from Dropbox (I recently confirmed with them). However, Dropbox’s bandwidth limitation, complicated workflow, technical shortcoming, and even bad consequences are the greater concerns.
If you host your podcast with Dropbox, you may easily run out of bandwidth
Dropbox will not allow a free account to consume more than 20 GB of bandwidth per day. That may sound like a lot, but I’ll break it down with some basic arithmetic.
If you publish a one-hour podcast episode encoded at 64 kbps mono, then the MP3 file will be about 25 MB. At this file size, the episode could be downloaded only 800 times in a day before hitting your 20 GB daily limit. This leaves no space for any other Dropbox usage.
Imagine that you have been podcasting every week for just over two months and you now have ten episodes available. If each episode is 25 MB, you could hit your 20 GB limit with only 80 downloads of each episode in a single day.
The more episodes you have available, the more daily bandwidth you’ll need to serve all of them.
The situation is even worse when you consider that most podcasters release episodes in stereo instead of mono, which would give them a 50 MB file in this case. That doubled file would cut the daily practical limits in half.
If you host your podcast with Dropbox, you’ll make extra work for yourself
Dropbox is beautiful for revision history, online backup, folder synchronization, and file-sharing. But podcasting requires a direct link to a media file in order to make the episode downloadable via the RSS
When you host your podcast with Dropbox, you can easily get a link to share. But that first link Dropbox gives you points to a web page, not directly to the file. The share URL usually starts with
https://www.dropbox.com/s/ and ends with
?dl=0. You can you can change the end to
?dl=1 and activate a 302 redirect to the actual file, which is closer to what you need for podcasting.
Yes, you can use that as your direct download URL. But the URL is entirely unpredictable. Within each share/download URL will be a random string of characters that will change for every share, even from the same folder. So if you host your podcast with Dropbox, you would have to generate a new share link and change the end of the URL every time; you would not be able to just change the file name in a recurring URL.
If you host your podcast with Dropbox, your show may be rejected from iTunes and may not work on mobile devices
Many podcast apps now offer the ability to stream an episode during playback. That allows a viewer/listener to press play and immediately start consuming the episode without having to download the whole thing first. You can each jump from your current playback position to anywhere else in the episode and the stream will pick up for there—without your having to wait for the stream to catch up to that point.
For example, you see an hour-long podcast episode that you haven’t downloaded yet. On your mobile device, you tap play and it starts streaming the first pieces of the data and you start listening at 00:00. After just a few seconds, you decide to jump to 45:00, and your podcast app requests a new range of bytes and starts your playback there, without having to download the preceding forty-five minutes of data.
This is called a “byte-range request”—the podcast app is requesting a range of bytes from the whole file. When a media host (like Blubrry or LibSyn) support this, the file can be downloaded or streamed from the beginning or at any other point in the file.
The iTunes podcast directory and Podcasts app require that the podcast media host support byte-range requests.
Dropbox URLs do not currently and consistently support byte-range requests. (I’ve seen some download URLs that do, some that don’t.) So submitting a podcast to iTunes that is hosted with Dropbox may result in playback issues or outright rejection from the directory.
If you host your podcast with Dropbox, your media link could be banned
Dropbox has terms and conditions in place that limit how much of their resources you can use. If you exceed your daily bandwidth limit, Dropbox has full authority to ban any shared links that cause excessive load.
If they ban the URL, your podcast on Dropbox won’t just slow down, it will become completely unavailable—indefinitely. You would have to move and rename the file, and then update your media URL everywhere you shared it. But you could only do this the day after you exceeded your bandwidth limit.
Dropbox is wonderful, just not for podcast hosting
I love Dropbox for what it was designed to do. But it wasn’t designed to be a podcast host and content distribution network (CDN).
If you’re just starting out, you are allowed to use Dropbox for media hosting, but you would quickly hit your limit and may face more trouble than it is worth.
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