By Kati NevilleYou've been busy planning and practicing your podcast. Now, it's time to shop for a provider that will host your audio files.
Creating a table chart will help you keep track of differences among providers. Start with a plain piece of paper and draw 6-8 columns across the top. List the host's name and website in the first column. Other columns come next: cost per month, bandwidth, storage, statistics, years in business, online help resources, and directory listings.
Write your wish list in the first row of your table. Some categories may be obvious, like unmetered bandwidth and robust statistics. But the rest of the categories may take some homework. Here are a few ideas to guide your thinking.
Fees. Most hosting providers charge $3.00 to $60.00 monthly. Free hosting is another option. However, they reserve the right to attach paid advertisements to your podcasts. So if you want complete control over your finished audio products, set a monthly budget.
Storage. Estimate your space needs by multiplying the average size of your practice podcasts and your publishing frequency. Also, consider the number of podcasts you want available to listeners at any one time and your bitrate. If you find the space you need surpasses your budget, you can revise your publishing schedule, develop an archival system, shorten your show, or reduce your bitrate.
Business Experience. Since podcasting is relatively new, most host providers are too. And the younger they are, the more cautious you need to be. Take care to understand your contract, particularly the procedures and costs associated with retrieving your podcasts.
Online support. Note the type of online support services offered. Busy user forums and wikis indicate a healthy user community. E-mail support and FAQ pages also are good. Some podcast host providers even publish their own podcast to announce upgrades, answer common technical questions, or feature new shows.
Directories. Check to see if the host provider automatically distributes your feed to podcast directories, such as iTunes or Podcast Alley. If not, use your feed address to advertise your podcast in these directories yourself.
Your choice of podcast hosting provider is an important, long-term commitment because moving your show could easily disrupt your audience and posting rhythm. Use your one-page table to make the best decision.