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.
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?
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:
- Maintain all podcasts as categories on a single site: noodle.mx, theaudacitytopodcast.com/, etc.
- Split sites into separate domains with separate visual themes: theRamenNoodle.com, TheAudacitytoPodcast.com, etc.
- 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?