Moving podcast hosting companies and keeping your subscribers doesn't have to be complicated. Here's what you need to know, especially to avoid losing your entire audience.
Before you move podcast hosts
I've seen many podcasters hurt their own shows because they were too quick to make a move (often for the wrong reasons) and didn't know or outright ignored the consequences.
Although moving is a relatively simple process, skipping something important or making the wrong decision could make you lose your entire audience with literally a single click.
Don't wait too long
Although it's good to take your time, don't wait until the last day of your current provider's billing period to move your podcast. This process is usually quick, but as you'll see soon, some steps are best done with some time to let them sit.
Move for the right reasons
Podcast-hosting companies are designed to provide two core features and an optional third:
- A content-distribution network (CDN) to serve your media files quickly and take the load off your website
- Industry-standard, reliable, and accurate download statistics
- (Optional) Fully customizable podcast-ready RSS feed
Some podcast-hosting companies may provide additional features, such as automations, sponsorship opportunities, live-streaming, a basic website, crowdfunding, and such. These features can be useful for some. But they are features you must opt in to use.
It's not the podcast-hosting company's responsibility to promote your podcast, submit it to all the podcast apps and directories, make your podcast discoverable, or handle your content. Like the opt-in features, these are also your responsibility.
So never think that your podcast will grow better on one host over the other. These companies provide tools and services you must use to promote and grow your podcast yourself.
That said, here are some good reasons to move podcasts hosts.
- To have more control and ownership over your feed
- To get better stats (unless you're already using the industry leaders)
- To get better built-in features for your desired workflow (such as WordPress integration, standalone apps, live-streaming, or a managed website when you don't want your own platform)
- To save a large amount of money (moving merely to save a few dollars might not actually be worth it)
- To have more reliable stability
- To save your podcast from a failing hosting provider (cough, SoundCloud, cough)
Choose a new company that truly understands podcasting
Because moving your podcast hosting and especially the feed are delicate processes, it's vital that you choose a company you can trust to do the right thing.
I can't recommend any company that:
- Can't migrate your media for you
- Doesn't mirror the GUIDs (more on this below)
- Doesn't have an available support staff
This is why I recommend only these three companies:
- Blubrry—best for a WordPress-based workflow
- Libsyn—best for a standalone workflow and mobile app
- Spreaker—best for a live-streaming workflow and multiple shows
Try any of these three (or even Podbean) with promo code “noodle” and you'll get at least one month free.
If your old and new hosts understand podcasting
I hate to say that some podcast-hosting companies don't understand podcasting, but it's unfortunately true. They may be ignorant of vital smaller details that can have serious ramifications on your podcast and your audience.
But assuming both your old and new hosts fully understand podcasting (or at least enough to allow you to leave the old host), here are the steps you should follow.
1. Migrate your media
My top podcast-hosting recommendations, Blubrry and Libsyn, offer simple media migration. With Blubrry, it's free and can be easily done yourself within PowerPress. With Libsyn, it costs a flat rate ($25 for up to 10 GB as of April, 2017) and you only have to request it and they do it for you.
If you don't migrate your old episodes, you risk losing them forever (if you didn't backup your masters) and it means new subscribers won't be able to enjoy your old content.
If you're simply switching feed-creation/enhancement tools (such as from FeedBurner to PowerPress, Libsyn, or Spreaker) and your media isn't being moved, then you don't have to worry about migrating the files.
2. Copy and update all your feed data
Blubrry's and Libsyn's migrations will automatically copy all your podcast information from your old feed to your new one. But it's still a good idea to double-check that the information is all where it should be.
This is also a good time to consider updating some of the information, such as the web address, copyright, description, and maybe even the cover art.
3. Mirror the GUIDs
Some cheap podcast hosts may say they migrate all the feed data, but they forget about the globally unique identifier (GUID) for each episode.
The GUID is how podcast apps know whether an episode has been downloaded before. The GUIDs may be a URL or a random string of characters. The GUID's actual value is almost irrelevant, but it's crucial that it remain the same on your new host.
If the GUID is changed, even by a single character, podcast apps will think the episode is new and thus force a redownload.
I've seen this happen far too many times to big-name podcasters (who, unfortunately, chose a cheap new host) and it causes their entire back catalog of episodes to redownload. This effectively invalidates the stats and frustrates the audience.
Blubrry and Libsyn do mirror the GUIDs for you, but I don't know of any other companies that do, too.
4. Update the media URLs (if applicable)
If you're moving only your media and not your RSS feed, then you need to update all your old media URLs.
If you use PowerPress, this could be as simple as going to PowerPress ➜ Tools ➜ Find and Replace for Episode URLs. There, enter the old URL path (less the filenames) with the new one. For example, “Find in URL”
http://myawesomepodcast.com/media/ and “Replace with”
However, this is only easy if both the new and old media URLs follow their own consistent patterns. SoundCloud and some other cheap hosts have a completely different URL for every media file. In such a case, you would have to manually update the media URL for all your past episodes one at a time.
But if your new host handles the migration and creates your new feed for you, then they'll update the media URLs in the new feed and you won't have to worry about it.
<itunes:new-feed-url> into your new feed
<itunes:new-feed-url> tag is a good extra step to confirm its Podcasts app and iTunes are reading the correct RSS feed, and to more quickly update the catalog and subscriptions.
It's pointless to put this on the old feed if the old feed is being redirected. That's because a redirect happens before the feed contents are loaded.
6. Test and validate the new feed
Before you throw the final switch, subscribe to your own new feed and ensure it looks and works properly. You could also test it with Podbase Podcast Validator and Cast Feed Validator. It would be horrible if you point all your subscribers to a new feed and it's actually broken!
7. Update the “original feed” in FeedBurner (if applicable)
If you're using FeedBurner, login and update the feed URL it's using as the “original feed.” This is also necessary to do if you're completely leaving FeedBurner.
If you're simply leaving FeedBurner's horrible “SmartCast” feature, you may not need to update the original feed if it's already the feed with your podcast information in it (such as a PowerPress feed).
8. Place a 301 permanent redirect on the old feed forever
The final step, and the switch that makes all your subscribers start using your new feed, is to redirect the old feed to the new one.
This must be with a 301 permanent redirect. As the name makes obvious, this communicates a permanent switch. It's like telling the post office not to temporarily hold your mail, but to forward all your mail to your new address and notify every sender of the address change. Learn more about redirects in episode 280.
If the redirect isn't a 301 permanent redirect, then podcast apps won't update where they look for your feed.
Unfortunately, not all podcast apps make a permanent change when they load a 301 permanent redirect. Thus, you need to keep that old feed URL redirecting to the new one forever, if possible.
With FeedBurner, you do this by deleting a feed and enabling “With permanent redirection” before you complete the process. But then never permanently delete the feed from your FeedBurner account.
With Libsyn, a lifetime redirect is unfortunately a $25 fee, but they'll keep it online even if you close your Libsyn account.
Blubbry and some other providers will place a lifetime permanent redirect for free on request.
If you own the old feed URL, then you can redirect it yourself. But ensure you keep that domain renewed!
In an absolute worst-case scenario, keep the 301 permanent redirect in place for at least 90 days and let your audience know they may have to resubscribe if they stop receiving episodes.
Last resorts if your old host doesn't understand podcasting well
I'd like to assume you're at least moving to a good host, like Blubrry, Libsyn, or Spreaker. But I know we were all young and ignorant once, so we may have made some mistakes in our pasts. So, if you've made some mistakes, too, and are moving from a bad “podcast hosting” company, here are some different things you could try.
Unlike the previous section, these are not sequential steps, but different things you could try in order to save your podcast from the shriveled clutches of the undead. (Notice that “shriveled clutches” is abbreviated “SC”? That was actually unintentional, but oh so appropriate!)
Try to follow the previous steps
If you're moving to a good new host, then they'll be able to do all the good stuff they're supposed to do. They may even be able to tell you the precise steps you need to take to leave your old host.
Try to get a 301 permanent redirect on the old feed
Regardless of what bad podcast hosting companies may say, they do have the ability to place a 301 redirect on their servers. So it's really a matter of whether they're willing to do that for departing customers.
But if you can get a 301 permanent redirect, get it! Even if it means paying for a few extra months so the redirect can be there for at least 90 days.
Try to get
<itunes:new-feed-url> in the old feed
Some providers may not be willing to place a 301 permanent redirect but they will let you place custom RSS tags in your feed. (Podomatic is one such company.) This may mean upgrading your account for a few months, but it might be worth it to keep your hard-earned audience!
Update the URL in the following code to use in the old feed when you can't get a 301 redirect.
Like a 301 redirect, leave this in place for at least 90 days. In the meantime, publish a “please resubscribe” episode in this old feed. More on that below.
Update the feed URL in the major podcast apps (or contact their support team)
Most podcast apps and directories will appropriately handle a 301 permanent redirect and update their own databases. But watch out for those that don't. You may have to login to a portal and update the feed URL, or you may have to contact their support.
For example, with iTunes and Apple Podcasts, a 301 redirect and
<itunes:new-feed-url> tag will work properly, but if you're not able to do either of those, this is one of the few moments you would need to change the feed URL in your Podcasts Connect account, or ask Apple's support to do it for you if you don't have access to the podcast.
Submit a new feed to podcast apps and directories and have the old one removed
Absolute worst-case scenario is to submit your new podcast feed all over again to the apps and directories and ask them to remove the old one.
But if you didn't place a 301 redirect on your old feed, simply updating the directories (either through resubmission or through a URL update) will probably not carryover all your existing subscribers.
Publish a “please resubscribe” episode in your old feed
If you couldn't get a 301 redirect on your old feed, or you're not able to keep it forever, remove all the old episodes and publish a single “please resubscribe” episode. In this short episode, explain why they need to resubscribe, how to do it, and point them to a website with the new subscription links or instructions.
It's far from ideal to ask your audience to go through the resubscribe process, but it's better than completely losing them.
Accept that you may lose some subscribers
Whether through poor technology implementations, incompatibilities, or even mere differences in statistics algorithms, you may see a drop in your download numbers. Even if it actually means fewer people are subscribed than before, at least you can know that those who stayed are probably more loyal.
If you need help with this process, I can either help you in Podcasters' Society or refer you to another podcast consultant.
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