One Podcast Network Megasite or Separate Podcast Sites?

When I began planning for Noodle.mx Network in early 2010, I wrestled with a decision that I'm still questioning today: should a podcast network have a single megasite or separate sites for each podcast? There are  many advantages and disadvantages to both sides, and my following thoughts may not be complete. So I highly value your thoughts, so please be sure to comment after you've read this post.

Ease of use?

As a web designer, I know that the most effective way to accomplish things is usually the simplest. You probably appreciate simplicity as well—Google's homepage, easier decisions with fewer equal choices, and more.

I had felt that it would be easier for you as subscribers and website visitors to always visit only a single site to get all of the current and future podcasts. From Noodle.mx, you can subscribe to any or all of our podcasts when you're on any page.

Some other podcast networks to do this same thing are Quick and Dirty Tips, GSPN.tv, TWiT, and Revision3.

On the other side, there are successful podcast networks whose podcasts are on separate sites, like NLCast, which has a network bar across the top of every site. And there are, of course, some hybrids, such as Podcaster's Emporium, which is a hybrid subsection of Lifestyle PodNetwork; and Podcast Answers Man, which is mirrored from GSPN.tv to it's own website.

So what is easier for you? Coming to a single website where everything looks the same and you can easily get to the other network podcasts from anywhere on the site? Completely separate sites with independently themed pages and their own URL? Or a hybrid of themed sections as sub-sites on Noodle.mx?

Uniqueness and relevance

Having separate sites has the advantage of easily being unique to that podcast. Each of our podcasts has their own visual theme and may have need for unique, relevant content in the sidebar and footer. For example, The Audacity to Podcast™ may have products or services relevant to podcasters in the sidebar, but Are You Just Watching?™ might have a list of our favorite movies or upcoming information.

Yes, I can customize WordPress to do this within categories, but it makes the code extremely complex and results in a slower-loading site.

However, there are items that would be best to appear on every site—or would they?

Cross-promotion

By having all of the podcasts on a single site, it's easy for you to see the other podcasts we offer. But if the podcasts are split into separate sites, then the cross-promotion is less automatic and more manual. Instead of having your curiosity piqued when you see the Ramen Noodle™ along with The Audacity to Podcast™, you would see only the episodes for the podcast site you're visiting, and no crossover. Does this make it simpler for you?

Search-engine optimization (SEO)

Having a single site has the advantage that all search-engine traffic is driven to a single, growing website. If someone search for “clean comedy podcast,” then they'll be exposed to a podcast on how to podcast as well.

But then again, is blending all of these things together hindering Noodle.mx from being the top for any of the niche terms? It may be easier to get theRamenNoodle.com associated with clean comedy than it would be for Noodle.mx to be associated with clean comedy, Christian movie reviews, how to podcast, Audacity, and more. And would I have to totally split the domains in order to benefit from this? That is, theRamenNoodle.com versus cleancomedypodcast.com/.

Permissions and WordPress Multisite

Right now, Noodle.mx is running a single-site edition of WordPress—the same that most of you would run. However, there is another way to run WordPress called Multisite, which allows for a single admin interface, single installation, but each subsite is treated as its own site and its own administrators, but I would have a global administration.

WordPress Multisite makes it easy for separate subsites to use their own themes (as opposed to customizing every WordPress template file for each category, which is possible but cumbersome), have their own set of plugins, and no crossover between subsite admins.

WordPress Multisite can run the separate blogs through either a single domain or separate domains through virtualization. So even if each podcast stays on its own domain, there would be a single admin for Noodle.mx and all of its subsites.

What do you think?

In short, the three options are as follows:

  1. Maintain all podcasts as categories on a single site: noodle.mx, theaudacitytopodcast.com/, etc.
  2. Split sites into separate domains with separate visual themes: theRamenNoodle.com, TheAudacitytoPodcast.com, etc.
  3. Switch to a hybrid using WordPress Multisite. URLs would still be theaudacitytopodcast.com, and such, but each podcast's pages would look like totally separate sites while still being on Noodle.mx.

You're probably not experienced with WordPress Multisite, or that comfortable with all of the technical aspects of running WordPress. That's okay because I want your feedback as a user. What's easiest for you? What makes the most sense to you? What frustrates you about one method or the other?

About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.

24 comments on “One Podcast Network Megasite or Separate Podcast Sites?

  1. What about a single site makes it easier for you? Is it that an "accidental" click means you see more shows? Is it that the other shows are linked in the header and sidebar? What if those same cross-linking elements were on the separate sites?

  2. Lin Pearson says:

    You said: "Each of our podcasts has their own visual theme and may have need for unique, relevant content in the sidebar and footer. " Yes. For me as a user, I don't think it matters how you do this – separate domains and installations, or multi installation in WP.
    What if your network expands? Could the solution you choose now be influenced by that?
    How many sites can you have in the multisite WP?
    If other producers want to join your network, might they want to retain their own sites or branding?
    Could it be that one "umbrella" site for the Noodle.mx network could have links to all other sites, with news from each site fed into one master-blog?

    I don't know. But so long as I can access all the relevant material I want, without having to wade through content that is of no interest to me, I don't mind how it is done.

    1. Thanks for the thoughts, Lin! WordPress Multisite (WPMS) doesn't really have a limit. I helped setup WPMS for a company that is now running a dozen blogs through WPMS.

      Christian Meets World is the first podcast by someone else to join Noodle.mx Network. It didn't have its own branding at the time. I created the cover art for it, and would design the independent look if it is visually separated from Noodle.mx, as the other podcasts may be.

      But you raise a good point. What if I invite someone onto the network and they already have their own website designed with their own branding? I wouldn't want them to ditch that to inherit a plain, still-developing branding.

      Yes, Noodle.mx would always remain the hub for receiving everything from all sites. That's a cool advantage with WordPress Multisite over multiple, separate installations.

  3. Chris Moody says:

    I like the idea of doing both, have a mega site, but let individual creators do their own.

    1. Thanks, Chris. By "do their own," I assume you mean each site have its own branding and look? Do you think the domain in the address bar is part of this? Each show will always have their own domain associated with them, as they do now. But does it matter to you whether that domain forwards to a subfolder of noodle.mx, or if that domain doesn't forward and always appears as that domain?

  4. BobB says:

    In an eportfolio pilot at a university, we use WordPress Multisite (formerly WordPress MU) for all the student and faculty eportfolios. WP Multisite is set up with the subdirectory option. (http ://<university.edu>/<sudent_id>). It has worked well by allowing students to select different themes and plugins, but the super administrators still control the themes and plugins to avoid anything "out of scope" of the overall site. (Site admins cannot upload new themes or plugins.)

    As the super administrators control the "root" site of a WP Multisite, the root site can be set up as a "megasite" listing all the other sites on the system. It looks like the Lifestyle PodNetwork is set up this way.

    I haven't tried it, but there is also a domain mapping plugin <a href="http://(http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-mu-domain-mapping/)” target=”_blank”>(http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-mu-domain-mapping/) that will allow mapping from another domain to a site, such as going from "www.audacitytopodcast.com" to "theaudacitytopodcast.com/"

    There are also resources for managing WordPress Multisite such as the WPMU.org and WPMU Dev <a href="http://(http://premium.wpmudev.org/)” target=”_blank”>(http://premium.wpmudev.org/). And BuddyPress <a href="http://(http://buddypress.org/)” target=”_blank”>(http://buddypress.org/) also works with WordPress Multisite to allow for extended social networking features.

    Many colleges and universities are using WordPress Mutlisite with large numbers of sites for both blogs and eportfolios. (The current pilot has over 1000 students and faculy) WP MultiSite can grow if the underlying system can support the growth.

    Managing a WordPress Multisite system is not difficult. I actually find it less difficult than trying to juggle "subsites" with categories on a single WP installation. Additional maintenance is mostly updating plugins and themes for the entire network but WP 3.0 has and improved "update all" feature.

    WordPress 3.0 Multisite is well worth considering for creating a podcast network as one gets the advantages of a "megasite" for showcasing all the sites and individual sites for controlled customization.

    1. Thanks for all of that, Bob. I'm experienced with WordPress MultiSite (WPMS) and know how to work around many of the technical issues. Perhaps my main debate comes down to whether each podcast needs its own visual theme, and whether each podcast should be on its own domain or just subfolders of noodle.mx.

      1. BobB says:

        The advantage of WordPress Multisite is each site or podcast can have it's own visual theme and additional functionality or features through plugins. But as the network administrator, you can limit the themes to maintain a "family of themes" that would best represent the network. This was one of the reasons WordPress was chosen as the underlying system for the eportfolio pilot project.

        My preference for WP Multisite would be with "subfolders" such as "noodle.mx/audacitytopodcast" over "subdomains" such as "audacitytopodcast.noodle.mx". As long as one can remember the base URL of "noodle.mx", it makes it easy to locate the specific podcast. Again for the eportfolio pilot, we can tell the students "If you cannot remember the exact URL to your eportfolio, just go to "http://<eportfolio.university.edu>&quot; and log in. Or, like I often do, go to "http://lifestylepodnetwork.com.au/&quot; and then drill down to the podcast.

        If someone wants their own domain and still be part of the network, they can use something like the domain mapping plugin or a domain redirect. Similar to what Cliff does with PAM and GSPN

  5. Yes, that the direction I'll be going. I just need to set aside the time to do it!

  6. Andy Traub says:

    Daniel, a few months ago I'd say separate sites were fine but now that I"ve combined my shows onto one network/site they all seem to be stronger. Sorta like taking lots of small piles and combining them creates a BIG pile. And adding new shows is a LOT easier to do when you're just adding a category to a site vs. a whole new site. Keep up the good work, love the way your network fits together.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Andy! While running under a single WP installation was certainly "easiest," it was only easy for me, but the experience was not as good for my listeners. Branding each podcast was also proving a much larger task running under a single site and would have involved a lot of conditional PHP and CSS, in addition to multiple template files to maintain.

      Lastly, the search-engine rankings are easily hurt by everything's being on a single site. Relevance to searching humans was also breaking. They may look for "how to podcast with Audacity" but find "Noodle.mx Network – clean comedy podcast…" in their Google results and pass it by because it doesn't appear relevant to them.

      Yes, adding new shows was a lot easier when it was just a matter of creating a new category. I'll miss that. But being an artist, I rarely do things the easy way. 🙂

  7. Chris Cowan says:

    Is it safe to assume you went with WordPress multisite? How has that worked for you. I’m thinking of making the switch from individual sites to multisite, but I’d like to know (A) how difficult is it to switch from distinctly different sites to bringing them all under the multisite super admin, and (B) does the multisite feature allow you to easily aggregate the feeds from all the subsites?

    1. Chris Cowan says:

      …oops looks like #113 addresses most of my question. I would be interested in finding out the best way to aggregate all your different podcasts into one central network podcast feed, or whether you recommend doing that at all.

      1. Yes, I’m now on WordPress Multisite for just my podcast sites. I split my other sites (personal blog, wife’s blog, PodCamp, etc.) of into individual sites.

        Diamond Multisite Widgets is one way to get a network-wide RSS feed.

        1. Chris says:

          How difficult was the process for you? I tried valiantly this past weekend to switch to multisite, but it was a major fail!

          1. Check out this recent post from WPMU Dev.

            I also now use BackupBuddy to handle most of my single-to-multisite migrations. It makes the process a lot easier and far more thorough than WPMU Dev’s suggestions.

          2. Chris Cowan says:

            Thanks! Unfortunately, that WPMU article assumes I’ve already been able to successfully set up a multisite and just need to migrate. My problem is when I create the new subsites with subdomains.. they don’t actually get created! It will tell me they’ve been successfully created, but then I get a “server not found” error when attempting to access the subsite’s dashboard or visit the front end. :-/

            Still, nice to know there’s a site like this, dedicated to WPMU.. I’ll peruse it some more and see if there’s any additional help.

          3. Are you trying to access the subsites from the subdomain, or a domain? Have you created the wildcard subdomain with your hosting company? That would look like *.yourdomain.com.

          4. Chris Cowan says:

            Currently, just from a subdomain. Once I’ve done that, I’ll start setting up the separate domains.
            I did the wild card subdomain… but maybe I’ll give my host a call just to make sure I’m doing everything right on that end.

          5. Chris Cowan says:

            Dang, I think I just got my answer: “NOTE: You cannot use the WordPress Subdomains option with our shared hosting if you are planning on using wildcard subdomains.”
            Looks like I’ll have to leave GoDaddy in order to use multisite.

          6. Yuck. Yet another reason to hate GoDaddy.

            I recommend BlueHost.

  8. salc says:

    Why not both?
    Have an umbrella website like Earwolf.com, but have each podcast link into it’s own website.

    You’ll get the advantage of cross promotion, but also have each podcast’s website feel native and speedy.

    1. Yes, I’m working toward something like that in the next version of my network’s site.

    2. DUO MICROCENTRO says:

      hello, do you use a special plugin for that?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

50%
5/5

Enter your name and email address below to learn “7 Ways to Get More Podcast Reviews” FREE!

50%

Enter your first name and email address below to get my favorite TextExpander snippets!

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.
50%

Enter your information below to download the free guide “Free Tools for a Faster Website”

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.
50%

Enter your first name and email address below to download “Tools to Improve the 4 Cornerstones of Your Podcast” FREE.

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.
50%

See what Apple Podcasts and other popular podcast apps search with the Podcast SEO Cheat Sheet!

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.
50%

Enter your first name and email below to download the Podcast Cover Art Toolbox.

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.
50%

Get a FREE printable checklist “20 things you should do before recording every podcast episode”!

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.
50%

Before you go! Don’t miss this FREE checklist, “20 things you should do before recording every podcast episode”!

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.