The Official Podcast Hosting Playbook

Last updated on: 
September 22, 2021
Written by:
Alison Osborne, Head of Marketing at CoHost

There are currently over 2 million existing podcasts, and the growth of this industry is not projected to slow down or even plateau. In the past few years, we’ve watched innovative companies bring  new ideas and technology into the audio industry, all for the purpose of improving the podcast experience. 


We wanted to dive into one specific technological segment of podcasting that has become so crucial when creating a show - and that’s podcast hosting


What is a Podcast Hosting Platform? 


A podcast hosting platform is a software that allows you to “host” your entire podcast on it. You can upload, store, and distribute the entirety of your podcast and each individual episode through these platforms. 


Hosting platforms provide you with an RSS feed that you submit to all major listening platforms (i.e. Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, etc.). Once your show is live on these listening platforms, your podcast host can automatically distribute future episodes for you. So rather than uploading each individual episode to listening platforms on your own, you only have to upload your episodes to your hosting platform. 


Podcast hosting platforms also have an endless list of additional features that help you to distribute, manage, and grow your show. These are things like analytics, schedulers, web players, transcription softwares, website builders, and so much more. 


Who Should Use a Podcast Hosting Platform? 


Who would benefit from using a podcast hosting platform? Anyone who has a podcast! Signing up with a podcast hosting platform is a necessity when you’re ready to share your show with the world. 


These platforms make the ease of launching and distributing your podcast much simpler and more efficient. However, while every podcaster out there should be using a podcast hosting platform, they’re not all made the same. Different platforms will be better for different podcasts. 


At the end of the day, it all depends on the goal of your podcast and what you need the most assistance with. Maybe it’s production, organization, podcast marketing, or maybe you’re looking for something more budget-friendly. 


Where Your Podcast Gets Distributed 


Not all hosting platforms distribute to the same listening sites, but you can be confident that whichever platform you decide to move forward with, you’ll be able to submit your podcast to: 

  • Apple Podcasts 
  • Spotify 
  • Google Podcasts
  • Overcast 
  • Podcast Addict 
  • Casted 
  • Stitcher
  • PlayerFM 


*Note that with some of the platforms above, you will need to make an account with them. We discuss this further in sections below. 


For some platforms like Soundcloud and YouTube, you will need to upload new episodes manually. Here’s why:


Soundcloud 


Soundcloud is its own entity, separate from any of the podcast hosting platforms. The platforms are not able to distribute your show on Soundcloud, but you’re more than welcome to do so yourself! Although, we will note that it can be quite time consuming to continuously update your podcast through this app. If you start sharing your podcast on Soundcloud and realize that you don’t have many listeners coming through this channel, we recommend you consider dropping it.

YouTube 


YouTube is another platform where, as the owner of the podcast, you must distribute through this channel on your own. Since YouTube is a video-based platform rather than audio based, you’ll need some sort of video element to go along with your episodes. This can be a video recording of the podcast or any sort of imagery to accompany your content.

graph showing percentage of YouTube users


Source: Statista

Overall, YouTube has a similar audience to podcasts with 77% of US citizens between the ages 15-35 years old using the platform. 


Example: CIBC Innovation Economy on YouTube


How Podcast Hosting Platforms Work 


When you sign up for a hosting platform, the first thing that you will be asked to do is either create a new show or import an existing one. If you are creating a show from scratch, you will simply add your information into the system. 


However, if you are moving your show from one hosting platform to another, you will need to do what is commonly referred to as ‘migrating’ your show. Don’t worry, we’ll explain. 


Regardless of how you add your show, your hosting platform will generate a custom RSS feed. An RSS feed is a link that stores all of the information about your show including its name, artwork, new episodes, descriptions, tags, and more. Think of it as a unique URL or address for your specific podcast, no RSS feed can be the same as another. 


To publish your show on popular listening platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts, you provide them with your RSS feed so they can read the information and push your show out to their listener base. We’ll cover how to submit your RSS feed to the listening platforms in the sections below. 



How to Launch a New Podcast with a Podcast Hosting Platform 


First things first, you will need the following assets: 

  1. A hosting platform account (example: Simplecast, Podbean, etc)
  2. A Google account specific to the show you’re launching
  3. An Apple, Spotify, and Amazon account linked to the Google account mentioned above
  4. A compelling show description (not more than 5 sentences) 
  5. A show title
  6. Your show cover art (3000 x 3000 px) 
  7. A trailer episode (no longer than 5 minutes)
  8. Your trailer title and description



Step One: Set Up Distribution Networks

  1. Create a new Google account specific to the podcast. i.e.: mypodcast@gmail.com. For the phone number, choose your own number or that of someone on your team as it will make it much easier to access the two factor authentication later on. 
  2. Create an Apple ID with your new GMail address. Choose the same phone number that you linked to the Google account so it’s easy to remember. 
  3. Create a Spotify account with your new GMail address. 
  4. Create a new Amazon account with your new GMail address.
  5. Sign up for the hosting account of your choice with your new GMail address. Upon sign up, click “Create New Show” and walk through the steps provided, inputting the assets mentioned above.



Step Two: Publish Your Trailer or Your First Episode


When launching your show, it’s important to start by publishing a trailer. 


A trailer is a short (up to 5 minutes) preview of what listeners can expect on your show. It builds hype, but also serves an important purpose for your RSS feed submission to the listening platforms. When submitting your podcast to the listening platforms, it can take up to 72 hours for it to go live, which means that the first piece of content you publish will be delayed from the time you upload it to your hosting platform to when you see it on listening platforms. 


However, once your show is approved by the listening platforms, your episodes will go out as scheduled.


By submitting a trailer first, you are able to create a soft launch before your first episode goes live. That means better planning for your promotions and oftentimes, a larger initial audience. 



Step Three: Submit Your Show


Here’s a guide for how to submit your show to the most popular podcast platforms.


Major Platforms

Google

1. Make sure you are logged into your Google account and go to Google Podcast Manager 

2. Click “Start Now”

3. Walk through the steps prompted

Apple Podcasts

1. Make sure you have your show’s Apple ID handy. 

2. Go to Podcasts Connect

3. Enter your Apple ID and Password (make sure that your Apple ID is activated on iTunes). Learn how to activate your Apple ID if you’re unsure of how to. 

4. Navigate to the far right and click “Podcasts”

5. Copy your RSS feed

6. Paste your RSS feed into the box and click “submit” to the right

7. You will receive a confirmation email from Apple that your podcast has been submitted 

Spotify 

1. Make sure you have your Spotify login handy. 

2. Go to Spotify For Podcasters and click “Get Started”

3. Enter your account username and password 

4. Follow the instructions.

Amazon

1. Head over to Amazon Podcasters 

2. Go to “Add or Claim Your Podcast”

3. Sign into your Amazon Account. 

4. Walk through the steps prompted 


Additional Platforms

Pandora

1. Head to Pandora AMP Playbook

2. Click “Get Started”

3. Sign into your Pandora account. If you do not have one, click “Register for Free”

4. Once you are signed in, walk through the steps prompted 

Stitcher

1. Head over to Stitcher For Podcasters

2. Click “Join Us Today”

3. Walk through the steps prompted

4. Stitcher will send you a confirmation email 

iHeartRadio

1. Head over to iHeartRadio Podcasters

2. Click “Submit Your Podcast”

3. Fill out the form provided 

Audacy (Previously Radio.com)

1. Head over to this link

2. Fill out the form provided 

Deezer

1. Head over to Deezer Podcasters

2. Click “Publish My Podcast”

3. Walk through the prompts provided

Overcast

1. If you submit your show on Apple, once approved, it will show up on Overcast automatically

Pocket Casts

1. Head over to this link

2. Copy and paste your RSS feed 

3. Click “Public” 

4. Press “Submit”

PlayerFM

1. Head over to PlayerFM

2. Sign up for PlayerFM with your show’s email 

3. Once signed up, go to this link

4. Follow the instructions provided 

TuneIn

1. Head over to this link

2. Fill out the form

Gaana

1. Head over to Gaana For Podcasters

2. Create an account

3. Follow the instructions provided 

JioSaavn

1. Head over to JioSaavn

2. Click “Get Started”

3. Follow the instructions provided 

Step Four: Approval


Once your podcast is submitted to the listening platforms above, wait a couple of days and then start checking the platforms for your show. After it goes live, you can start scheduling your next episodes!

How to Migrate an Existing Podcast to a New Hosting Platform 


If you have an existing show and you would like to switch hosting platforms, the process is a bit more complicated than you might think. Unfortunately, due to the nature of RSS feeds, you can’t just cancel one account and create another somewhere else. You will need to initiate what is commonly known in the industry as a ‘migration.’


So what is a podcast migration?


A podcast migration is when you set up a 301 redirect from your old RSS feed to your new RSS feed. 


Whenever you switch to another hosting platform, a new RSS feed will be generated for your show, so this process ensures that any platform with the old feed submitted will automatically redirect to the new one. That way, the listening platforms know when you publish new episodes. 


All platforms will have instructions on how to set up a redirect to or from their platform in their support directory. If not, simply contact their support and they will conduct it for you. 


Although seemingly simple, 301 redirects can be a bit tricky. For best results, there’s a few things you need to keep in mind: 

  1. Consider switching hosting platforms during a season break and creating a trailer for your next season. That way, when you do the migration, in the case that anything goes wrong, you can use your trailer as a testing ground. 
  2. After initiating your 301 redirect, wait 72 hours and then login to each of the listening platforms with your podcast account to check to see if your RSS feed is updated. Most listening platforms will update the RSS feed automatically once the redirect is initiated. However, occasionally, you will need to manually switch it. Below, we have laid out the details on how to do so for Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. 


Manually Switching Your RSS Feed:


Google Podcasts: 

1. Keep in mind that your migration can take up to 72 hours on Google Podcast Manager.

- If your RSS feed is not updated after the 72 hour period, fill out this form: https://services.google.com/fb/forms/podcastsmanagersupport/

2. Make sure to use the email associated with your podcast.

3. Podcast RSS feed URL

- Currently served feed URL*: The RSS feed from your previous hosting provider

- Your preferred feed URL:  The RSS feed generated by your new hosting provider

- Does your organization own both feeds? Click yes.

4. Ignore all other boxes.

5. Accept terms and submit.

Spotify: 

1. Go to Spotify For Podcasters: https://podcasters.spotify.com/ 

2. Click Details

3. Click Update

4. Add CoHost RSS feed and update the RSS Feed provider as CoHost.


Apple Podcasts

**Takes 24-48 hours to refresh. 

1. Go to Apple Podcasts Connect: https://podcastsconnect.apple.com/ 

2. Click My Podcasts

3. Add your new RSS feed

4. Click Refresh Feed

5. Click Submit

Measuring Your Podcast Data Through Your Hosting Platform 


As you're launching and growing a podcast, understanding your analytics and how to measure the success of your show is key. Although each individual listening platform (i.e. Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts) will give you unique audience information, your hosting platform combines all of your podcasts analytics and gives you key metrics to pay attention to. 


Some of the podcast metrics that you should be aware of that you’ll find on the majority of hosting platforms are: 


Downloads 


Downloads are your most basic and well-known metric. To many, downloads equate to success but that’s not always the case. With that being said, your downloads are still an important metric to be tracking. 


A podcast hosting platform will combine all of the downloads your show/specific episode has had across all listening platforms that it is available on. Your downloads signal how many times your podcast/episode has been listened to. 


You can use the downloads metric to compare and contrast episodes, having some insight into what episodes perform better than others. This can be incredibly useful if you’re testing out new formats, segments, styles, and guests. 


Your number of downloads are also a key metric that potential sponsors will be looking at, they want to know how many listeners their ad will be reaching. 


Unique Downloads


Understanding the difference between downloads and unique downloads has confused many. But it’s pretty simple when it’s broken down for you. 


A download is how many times your episode was played. It doesn’t matter who downloaded it, it just matters that they did. I could download your episode 5 times and that would count as 5 downloads. 


A unique download is how many downloads you have by only counting one download per listener. I could download your episode 5 times and it would only count as one listen. Your unique downloads are a more accurate measurement of how large your audience actually is. It’s normal to have a disparity between your downloads and unique downloads, but if the difference is astronomical, maybe that’s something you need to look into. 


Geography 


Geography gives you insights into where your listeners are located. This can be helpful to pinpoint marketing tactics. If you’ve had ads running in the UK and 70% of your listeners are located in the UK, you can assume that your ads are working. 


It also lets you plan for future marketing campaigns. If the majority of your listeners are in the UK and only 5% are in Canada, maybe you would exclude Canada from your marketing initiatives since you don’t have a large audience there. 


Listening Apps 


The last key metric that we’ll touch on is your listening apps. Your podcast hosting site will give you a breakdown of the listening apps that your audience exists on. For example, what percentage of listeners are tuning in from Apple Podcasts vs. Spotify? It’s important to know what your listeners' preferred platforms are. This can influence things like what podcast links you share across your networks, where you run ads, and what your CTA’s (call-to-action) are. 


For example, if you have 90% of your listeners coming from Spotify, when you share the podcast on your social media accounts, it’s smart to share a Spotify link rather than an Apple Podcasts link. 


Unless you’re using *cohost smartlink feature blurb*


Unique Podcast Hosting Metrics 


Average Consumption Rate


Your average consumption rate tells you the percentage of your podcast episodes that listeners are consuming. So if your podcast episode is 40 minutes long and your average consumption rate is 50%, that means that listeners, on average, are only tuning in to 20 minutes of your episode. 


Average Listening Time


Your average listening time is similar to your average consumption rate but it gives you the actual average time that your audience is tuning in for vs. a percentage. If your listeners are tuning in for an average of 20 minutes in a 40 minute long episode, your average listening time would be 20 minutes. 


Top Podcast Hosting Platforms 


1. CoHost 


Best for: Brands and pro podcasters 


CoHost was built by our team after experiencing difficulties in the podcasting space when it comes to not only distributing your podcast but also running podcast marketing campaigns and measuring its true impact. 


2. Simplecast 


Best for: Brands and independent podcasters 


Simplecast is helping brands and podcasters distribute and analyze their content. As they state, they “exist for the podcaster, giving shows of all shapes and sizes access to the same tools powering shows from some of the world's biggest brands.”


3. Podbean 


Best for: Beginner podcasters


Podbean is a great hosting platform for any podcaster out there that’s just getting started in the world of audio. With an option for a free monthly subscription, you have the ability to get your feet wet without an upfront investment. 


4. Buzzsprout 


Best for: Beginner podcasters


Similar to Podbean, Buzzsprout is an incredibly valuable tool and resource for podcasters that are just getting started. They provide resources for hosts and teams that are maybe less experienced in audio such as editing and graphic design assistance. 


5. Blubrry


Best for: Independent podcasters


Blubrry is a hosting service that has been around since the beginning. The platform offers podcasting hosting, statistics, as well as a podcast website with their accounts. As they state, the company was founded to “empower people to express their knowledge and creativity through sound.” 


6. Captivate 


Best for: Beginner and independent podcasters


Founded by Mark Asquith, Captivate has created great tools and resources for individuals who are beginners in audio or are independent podcasters. As they say on their website, their goal is to give “you the freedom and flexibility to make podcasting yours.” 


7. Transistor


Best for: Beginner podcasters


Transistor has targeted themselves towards the newbies in the podcasting world, recognizing that “podcasting is an incredible medium, but it can be confusing for newcomers.” They give podcasters the knowledge and tools needed to get their show started and shared to the world. 


8. Spreaker 


Best for: Independent podcasters


Owned by iHeart Media, Spreaker’s goal comes down to making sure that you and your podcast are heard. They state that “whether you’re producing your passion project or growing a podcast business it has never been easier.” They also have various support features to help with podcasters who are either new to the space or less experienced. 


9. Anchor 


Best for: Beginner podcasters


Acquired by Spotify in 2019, Anchor is a completely free podcast hosting service. “We believe everyone’s stories can and should be heard, so we’re giving creators around the world—from first-time podcasters to pros—a powerful platform to share their voices.” Anchor is a great tool for any podcaster who either has a lower budget or is new to the space and wants to get started without an upfront investment. 


10. Castos 


Best for: Small business and independent podcasters


Castos places an emphasis on both public and private hosting. As they state on their website, “our goal has always been to be an ally to podcast creators. We want to give podcasters a robust platform to publish their content without imposing pointless limitations.” 


Podcast Hosting Pricing


The prices of podcast hosting platforms range quite drastically depending on the package and features that you’re looking for. There are some platforms that are best for podcasters that are launching their show for the first time or looking for a budget-friendly option. In this case - Anchor, Buzzsprout, or Podbean would be perfect. 


But if you’re a company that’s launching a podcast or a serious podcaster looking to grow, then CoHost, Simplecast, and Libsyn are options for you to look into. 


Packages range from $0 to the hundreds. Pricing is also set differently for different platforms, some base pricing on storage, hours of recording, number of episodes, number of listeners, or just the features that you’re looking for (i.e. growth). 

 

How Do You Choose a Podcast Host? 

So how do you choose the right podcast hosting platform for you? Ultimately, it depends on you as a podcaster and what’s important to you, whether it’s price, number of downloads, storage, hours and also whether you’re a company or an independent podcaster. 

As your podcast develops and grows, you may find yourself switching platforms as you learn more about what’s important for you. That's okay and completely expected! Take time to do your own research into each platform's offering. 


The Overall Benefits to Podcast Hosting Platforms 


As we’ve stated throughout this playbook, podcast hosting is a must. At the end of the day, there are so many pros for hosting platforms vs. cons (if there are even any cons). It makes creating your podcast, managing your show, and analyzing your growth and listeners simpler and more efficient. This ultimately frees up your time to get creative with the actual content in your podcast! 


If you’re curious about podcast hosting and have any questions around what type of packages could work for you, your content, and your goals, connect with the CoHost team!

Read more from CoHost Blog