Audello is a new podcasting service designed to help you build your email list, grow your audience, and build your business. It's launch was accompanied with a lot of hype.
Audello has been called revolutionary as well as “snake-oil sellers.” I'm going to cut through all the hype and reveal some of the truths about Audello—good and bad.
Are we “old podcasting geezers”?
Before I give you my honest Audello review, I realize that there's a deeper issue to evaluate. Many of the professional podcasters have deep biases, and you also see opposing thinking in your own industry. For example, I see the following.
- Todd Cochrane (Rawvoice / Blubrry) is extremely biased toward WordPress and owning your feed URL.
- Rob Walch (LibSyn) is extremely biased against WordPress and Twitter.
- Cliff Ravenscraft (Podcast Answer Man) is holding onto and continuing to recommend FeedBurner and the Heil PR40.
- John Lee Dumas (Entrepreneur on Fire) recommends equipment instead of a mixer.
- Dave Jackson (School of Podcasting) is deeply opinionated about everything.
- Mike Dell (Podcast Help Desk) distrusts anything priced ending with a “7.”
I could go on, but you get the idea. We each have beliefs (or presuppositions) that fuel how we look at things (our worldview). The belief could be that podcasting should be cheap, easy, professional, extensible, accessible, or elite. These could all be opposing ideas. Thus, when something new comes along and challenges some “standard” in our minds, it's easy to be overly critical of it.
Audello is one of many such disrupters.
The trends of podcasting tools
I think we need to be more willing to embrace new technologies and methods for doing things. Podcasting will become increasing easier as new disrupters enter the space.
For a while, most of us “old podcasting geezers” were saying to avoid USB microphones and get a mixer and professional microphone. We were thinking about quality and extensibility. Now, the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB and similar microphones are available that provide quality, accessibility (in price and compatibility), and forward-extensibility.
Computers are more capable today than before. Sometimes, recording into a computer provides far better flexibility than into a digital recorder. Or look at the Behringer UFX1204 mixer, which can record multiple independent channels directly onto a USB drive.
Podcasting shouldn't require deep knowledge and be limited to the elite. I fully believe this method of reaching a global audience should be available to anyone with the audacity to podcast™ (see why that's the name of my show?).
Audello, Soundcloud, Spreaker, Simplecast, BuzzSprout, SquareSpace, and many other companies are creating products to pursue the vision I hear Paul Colligan repeating in The Podcast Report: “When we make podcasting about the tech, we lose the very audience that needs it the most.”
Audello is not a scam
Audello is one service borne from the idea that podcasting should be easy and work great for building your business or branding.
Yes, Audello is out to make money—just like nearly all other companies on this planet—but to do so by providing a solution to a common pain. This is the same thing I am doing with My Podcast Reviews, and I've read a couple people calling it far worse than a “scam.”
You'll see in my review that I won't recommend Audello to most people, because I have a certain worldview of ownership, extensibility, and flexibility. But I applaud the Audello team for finding a way to make the process easier for some, and potentially now accessible for others.
Why the hype over Audello?
Audello is designed by an Internet marketer, Josh Bartlett, who has created several other web technologies targeted at Internet marketers. Audello seems to also be targeted at the online marketers who want to grow their business fast and make lots of money.
Audello made outlandish claims in their initial video marketing. They essentially communicated that merely launching a podcast would enable you to achieve the same massive success that people like John Lee Dumas, Pat Flynn, and others have had. Cliff Ravenscraft addressed this kind of hype in “Beware of the Grow Big Quick & Get Rich Quick Podcast Messaging” (Podcast Answer Man #378, embedded below), starting just after 18 minutes into the audio or video.
Cliff didn't directly name Audello, but it's easy to connect the dots, especially since Audello changed their marketing around that time to remove most of the exaggerated claims.
Audello is aggressively trying to build a massive team of marketers by offering a generous affiliate program. Promote Audello and you could earn more than $100 per conversion. This, like other generous affiliate programs, leads to a flood of promotional videos, websites, bonuses, and social messages. Each of these promotions are intended to convince you that Audello is the most amazing thing for podcasting in order for that affiliate to earn a large commission. (There's nothing wrong with that approach, but you just need to recognize the motivation behind the promotion explosion.)
Sure, if you want to buy Audello, you can buy through my affiliate link here. I won't mind the $100+ commission!
The Audello interface is well-designed and provides plenty of video help along the way. They offer desktop and mobile apps (but with some reported compatibility and stability problems).
The players are attractive and allow a few color themes. Some of these players remind me a lot of Pat Flynn's own “Smart Podcast Player.”
Audello does not provide media hosting or bandwidth, thus they seek to build on top of existing platforms, such as LibSyn and Soundcloud. At that point, it leaves me wondering what realistic, basic benefit Audello provides other than a more attractive interface. You can already do most of what Audello provides with just LibSyn or creating your own podcast site with WordPress (scheduling, industry-respected stats, playlists, feed creation, and more).
Setting up media storage revealed some odd things. Audello can connect with LibSyn, Soundcloud, and Amazon S3. Their tutorial says that audio files need to be hosted “around the world.” This is commonly accomplished with a cloud distribution network (CDN). LibSyn does host your media on their CDN, but I don't think Soundcloud does. Amazon S3, however, is not a CDN—that's a common misconception. CloudFront is Amazon's CDN storage provider, but S3 serves media from only a single location (yes, with redundancies, but that's still not cloud-distribution).
Audello's feed and importing
In “Audello is a Scam, Bust, Sham, and any other negative word I can think of – DO NOT BUY THIS,” Dave Jackson ran the resulting Audello feed through FEED Validator and saw the message that the feed is invalid. But this doesn't mean Audello is producing broken feeds.
The issue is actually that FEED Validator doesn't understand all of the current podcast RSS specs from Apple. Audello adds the <itunes:order> tag, which FEED Validator completely doesn't understand, thus is claims that the feed is invalid. This podcast tag has been available for more than a year, even though Apple only just recently emailed podcasters about it (the middle of November, 2014).
I looked at sample feeds from Audello and can verify that they are usually valid podcast RSS feeds. However, in my own example, where my test import feed includes special characters (just an en dash), Audello didn't properly translate it to the UTF8 character set, and thus produced a genuinely invalid RSS feed. This also negatively affected the titles of all of my imported episodes. This is merely a bug, and not horrible decision on their part.
I would have expected my feed import to migrate all of my podcast information, but it didn't. Audello misused my iTunes show subtitle for the description instead of using my iTunes description, it doesn't even support episode subtitles, it missed the publisher name, and Audello incorrectly labeled my podcast as Explicit when my feed has it labeled as clean. The lack of poor migration would also be due to inadequate programming, which will probably be fixed someday (maybe I'm the first one to discover these errors).
Something in my own podcast feed somehow makes Audello not even see my episode titles to display in the playlist. The result is a bunch of episodes simply labeled by their track numbers, “195,” “196,” “197,” and so on.
Audello also has a keyword field for each episode, but I have to question its purpose as keyword-relevance to search-engine optimization (SEO) has been deprecated in Google and iTunes.
If the purchase price (going back and forth between $297 and $197 at the time of this review) isn't high enough, Audello tries to up-sell you to a commercial license during checkout. This supposedly “limited-time” license removes all Audello branding from pages, player, and the interface. This wasn't already provided? The commercial license also allows you to use Audello for clients, which is really what I think makes the most sense.
The up-sell page has a strange and potentially misleading bug that has two checkmarks to add the commercial license. Unchecking the first and more prominent of these doesn't actually remove the commercial license from your cart. This is probably an unintentional bug.
Audello's unique features
Most of what Audello does can be done for lower prices or free, and often more powerfully with other tools. However, Audello does provide a few unique features for a podcasting platform.
Audello's audio bars will be familiar to Soundcloud and Spreaker users. This makes a bar that sticks at the top or bottom of your browser viewport (the area where the webpage displays) and displays your selected audio file to play.
I couldn't get the audio bar to work with my imported feed. Thus, I also couldn't test whether the episodes continue to play across page loads (as they do on Soundcloud and Spreaker).
Internet marketers will love anything with split-testing (also called “A/B testing”). The concept is to randomly serve different versions of something (graphic, page, color, text, multimedia, or anything else) and see which one performs better, based on a single criterion or many criteria. For example, a split-test on your site could reveal that a yellow button inspires more purchases than a red button, or that a certain version of your text brings more sign-ups than another version.
Audello includes audio split-testing, which is unique in the podcasting industry. This allows you to serve multiple versions of your audio and then keep whichever performs better. The available criteria are web plays, completed web plays, episode downloads, opt-ins, and clicks on buy button.
The criterion that makes the least sense to me is “episode downloads.” If Audello is randomly changing the RSS feed, the only way for downloads to possibly be affected would be if you change the episode title—people won't decide to download a file based on the MP3's actual contents. Changing the title also wouldn't immediately show in the iTunes store. I think this same issue could apply to web plays.
But completed web plays, opt-ins, and clicks on buy button are good criteria for a split-test. For example, you could see whether including small talk at the beginning of your podcast, or the end, has any affect on how many people play the full episode.
Audello's not-so-unique features
When you're in full control of your own platform, such as with a self-hosted WordPress website, you can do almost whatever you want on your site. This may require extra time and knowledge. Audello's advantage is packaging several of these features into a single platform.
Audello can give your visitors the option to record their own audio feedback at no additional charge. The setup may seem overwhelming, as it requires some advanced Amazon S3 setup.
This is very similar to what you can get for free or paid from SpeakPipe and then implement wherever and however you want.
Yes, Audello makes attractive playlists (that look very similar to Pat Flynn's “Smart Podcast Player”). But other podcasters have this same power with far great customizability in PowerPress 6.0 on WordPress 3.9 or higher.
Initial scare on Audello's terms of service
Although Audello wasn't directly named, I believe Rawvoice attorney Barry Kantz may have been referring to Audello in “Podcasters Beware of Signing Your Rights Away.”
It appears that Audello's original terms of service seemed to lay claim to all content you publish through their system. However, Mr. Kantz's post, or perhaps other concerns, might have inspired Audello to appropriately clarify their terms of service to state, “This does NOT extend to your own podcast content or episodes. You retain ownership of your podcast and its episodes. We also do not host them. (Audello integrates with your existing hosting provider. You may wish to check their terms and conditions.)” (November 17, 2014.)
With any podcasting app or service you use, you should check their terms. Under that, in general, companies aren't out to steal your content and abuse your innocence. The legalese of most terms of service is to protect everyone involved.
For example, Stitcher is often the victim of attacks because their terms of service gives them permission to use your content almost however they want. But their intent is to help promote you and their service. Without such terms, they would not be permitted to feature your podcast on their website, in promos, in examples, or potentially even to distribute to existing and future platforms (like automobiles or TV set-top boxes).
Can you leave Audello?
The Audello interface doesn't currently offer a 301 redirect for easily leaving. But their support team has confirmed that they can place a 301 redirect on any Audello RSS feed, in case you want to leave their platform.
Audello's standalone apps
Audello provides Windows, OS X, and iOS apps to integrate with your Audello account. These apps are currently quite basic and function only for recording and uploading.
The Desktop apps can also record Skype calls, which would be really important to most podcasters. But this is currently a problem with Skype 7.x on OS X that prevent Audello from recording the call. This affects all other Skype recorders, and everyone is working toward a solution.
Who should and shouldn't be using Audello
I can't recommend Audello for everyone. In fact, I will continue recommend against it for most podcasters, as I still fully believe the best thing for your podcast is to completely control your platform with your own WordPress site, PowerPress, and LibSyn or Blubrry media hosting.
But I will consider recommending Audello for those who can't use WordPress, can't afford the time to setup similar functionality themselves, or can't afford the expense of having someone else (like me) set it up for them.
Ultimately, I believe it's more important to see people sharing their messages and sounding or looking great, than the exact tools they use to get their.
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