Stats help you measure your audience and performance. Media hosting moves your podcast files away from your website server. But are either of these services really necessary for podcasting?
In short, the answer to both is “no,” you don't need either of these things. But what is best for your podcast?
Challenging the Podcasting Assumptions
This is a special miniseries to challenge the ideas podcasters have accepted as truth for years. Some will stand up against the challenge while others crumble, and some will reveal new options you may have never considered.
- Are you really a “podcaster” and should you really be podcasting? – TAP182
- Does your podcast NEED interaction or an email list? – TAP181
- Is iTunes really THE place for podcasts? Do you NEED a mobile app? – TAP180
- Does SEO really matter in podcasting? – TAP179
- Do you REALLY need to edit your podcasts? What about authenticity? – TAP178
- Do you REALLY need audio/visual branding or promos for your podcast? – TAP177
- Should you launch your podcast with Episode 0? Does iTunes New and Noteworthy REALLY matter? – TAP176
- Are episode numbers REALLY necessary? – TAP175
- Does audio/video quality ACTUALLY matter? Is a dynamic mic REALLY the best? – TAP174
- Do you REALLY need passion? Is consistency THAT important? – TAP173
Do you really need stats?
You don't have to use stats in order to podcast. If you use stats, you may have already experienced the stress of checking your stats far too frequently. But let's examine this further to see if you should use stats.
What are the kinds of stats?
There are three ways to measure stats.
- Website stats—these track how many people visit your website, how they got there, how they interact with the site, and what kind of technology they're using. These are commonly tracked with Google Analytics and similar.
- Media stats—these track your media file usage and are usually attached to everywhere your media is linked (RSS, iTunes, website, etc.). These are commonly tracked with Blubrry, LibSyn, or PodTrac. Many media hosts (Soundcloud, Spreaker, etc.) have their own stats, too.
- Feed stats—these are typically misleading and far from accurate because they account only for RSS usage on a particular day. The 100 subscribers you had yesterday could be completely different from the 100 subscribers you get today. These are commonly tracked with FeedBurner or FeedBlitz.
There are other stats that matter to some: social network followers, YouTube subscribers, email list size, etc. But these have almost no correlation with actual podcast downloads, so they don't count as “podcast stats.”
Why use stats?
The main reason to use stats is to know more about your audience and measure performance of your podcast. Do you know how many people visit your website on a mobile device? How many people are listening to your podcast through Stitcher? You could try to survey your audience and get a small response, or you can track this through stats.
Stats can gather and report this information to you. Your media stats can also show you how well one episode was downloaded compared to another and how episodes are being consumed.
Don't get addicted to checking your stats! If you check them regularly, look for patterns and spikes more than actual numbers.
Who should use stats?
If you want a sponsor for your podcast or ads on your site, you must have good stats! Almost no sponsor will consider you if you can't tell them how many impressions their sponsorship would get.
If you want some “social proof” for inviting special guests onto your podcast, you should have great stats. This would enable you to say, “I have _____ people listening to each episode.”
But if you're neither concerned about monetizing your podcast or getting special guests, then stats may not be important to you.
Then again, stats reveal the health of your podcast; they're like the gas gauge in your vehicle. So if you want to know how your podcast is doing, stats are how to measure that.
How to get stats
For your website, I recommend Google Analytics. Use the “Google Analyticator” plugin for WordPress to add tracking to your website.
Conclusion: Do you need stats?
No, you don't need stats for your podcast. But I highly recommend using stats on your website and media (not your RSS feed) so you won't be blind to your podcast performance.
Do you really need media hosting?
What is media hosting?
Your website lives in one place, such as an account with BlueHost or a server with WiredTree or HostDime. These hosting companies focus on hosting websites and web applications. Media hosting is a specialized service for hosting just your podcast media files.
Why use podcast media hosting?
Every time you publish a podcast episode, it is in its highest demand within the two or three days, and continuing for the first seven to fourteen days.
Let's say your average audio podcast episodes are 25 megabytess (MB). If you get just 100 downloads in the first day, that's about 2.5 gigabytes (GB) your hosting has to put out in a short time.
If you host a video podcast, your files would be much larger. Even a short video could be 100 MB in size. This would mean pushing out 10 GB for just 100 downloads in the first day.
A shared web-hosting provider like BlueHost or HostGator will often offer “unlimited bandwidth,” but they don't have the backend to support the kind of bandwidth requirements and flood of simultaneous download requests podcasts often require. Just think about how much your own computer slows down when you start trying to copy 10 large files to different locations. So “unlimited” is still limited just like “all-you-can-eat” buffets don't let you take food home with you.
Podcast media hosting—such as Blubrry or LibSyn—is setup to handle this kind of demand and often involves a cloud distribution network (CDN). A CDN makes people in the west coast download from a server in close to them while people in the east coast download from a different server close to them.
Using a podcast media host moves these high demands away from your website server and means that demand for your podcast episodes won't affect how quickly your website loads.
Some web hosting companies also have specific limitations on multimedia files. So you could be violating terms or hitting limits by hosting your media with them.
An additional benefit is that the top podcast media hosting companies (Blubrry, LibSyn, and others) usually provide podcast media stats, too!
Who should and shouldn't use media hosting?
All of the podcasting professionals highly recommend getting media hosting for your podcast. But it's not actually required. If you have a tiny audience, you may be able to get away with hosting your media with your web server—I did for several years!
Or if you have a virtual private server (VPS) or dedicated server from a place like WiredTree or HostDime, you have definite limits on your bandwidth and CPU usage. You can have more freedom to host your media on these sites, but you should monitor your bandwidth as it can be easy to start pushing out terabytes (TB) every month. (When I stopped hosting my media with my web host, I was pushing out 3.5 TB per month—and that was years ago!)
So if your podcast is popular or you think it has a legitimate chance to get popular (be realistic!), you definitely should get media hosting and it will prevent a lot of headaches and outages.
How to use media hosting
Depending on which media host you use, your workflow could be drastically different. If you want to manage and upload everything through WordPress, then I recommend Blubrry media hosting. If you want a bit more flexibility and a backup RSS feed, then use LibSyn.
If you're really tight on money, you could consider PodBean, Podomatic, or even Archive.org. But these services don't provide as thorough of stats as Blubrry and LibSyn do, and they're download speeds and integration may not be that great. Do not use these hosts' RSS feeds!
Do not try to “hack” something to use for podcast hosting. Dropbox, Google Drive, and other services may seem tempting for podcast hosting, but they either have extreme bandwidth limits, a complicated workflow, or they don't support the technical requirements for iTunes (byte-range requests, which allow users to stream from anywhere in the episode with a mobile device).
Hear more opinions about podcast media hosting
We hosted a Podcasters Roundtable about media hosting. Check it out or watch below for more thoughts!
Conclusion: do you need separate media hosting?
For almost every podcaster, this answer is yes. You can go unnoticed with a hacked together system for only so long before it starts causing problems.
I understand the stress of the potential expenses of web hosting and media hosting. If you're serious about podcasting, see these as investments. If you can't afford the valuable investment, then you could either use LibSyn to also host your basic site and RSS feed, or use one of the low-performance free options.
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