Today we tackle the hype around soundcloud.com as a podcasting solution and compare it to some of the other top podcast media solutions that have been around. I apply my criteria, and see who makes it, and share my opinion on why some of them still make me nervous.
Note: For the record you can get a free month at blubrry.com or Libsyn.com using the coupon code sopfree you will see that even though using those codes benefits me financially, those companies don't always finish on top.
1. Don't mess with my file. What I upload is what I want people to download.
2. Give me the ability to have an unlimited back catalog (unlimited storage)
3. Don't limit my audience size (unlimited bandwidth)
4. Don't control my feed, and make it easy to leave if I choose to do so. I need to be able to put in an iTunes redirect script.
5. Give me support.
6. Charge me for your service so you can stay in business
7. Give me stats so I can see what's working. It would be nice if they were accurate.
This kills the following:
Amazon S3. No stats, and your start cheap, but get really expensive if I get popular. (my last bill was over $40).
Podmatic - Limited bandwidth, limited storage, and no way to leave (you hijack my feed)
Buzzsprout.com - You change my file, and I have to ask to leave.
Spreaker.com - You mess with my ID3 tags, and there is no way to leave.
I tried to get the hosts to line up in a fashion that we could compare apples to apples. It's not easy. For the most part I chose the price point closest to $20. Here is what I found.
Soundcloud is the cheapest coming in at .0021 per meg (that's almost free)
Podbean comes in at .03 per meg of storage (300 megs per month)
Libsyn.com comes in at .05 per meg (400 megs per month)
Blubrry.com comes in at .08 per meg (250 Megs per month)
Note: If you want stats that provide details of where your downloads are coming from (countries) you need to have the $79 a month plan for 1.5 gigabytes of storage (which is overkill in 99% of the cases). With this in mind, I am taking podbean out of most of this discussion.
For me, I typically recommend the Libsyn.com account for $20. You get more than enough space and the ability to get a smart phone app. You also get deluxe stats.
1. Soundcloud wins this one hands down. Reason? It's just cool. Does everything but play in a new window.
2. Blubrry Powerpress plugin provides the ability to stream, play in new window, or download.
3. Libsyn's player can do the same as the Powerpress player with some tweaking
My choice: I use the blubrry powerpress plugin to put a player on my site (you can use this even if you're not using Blubrry for hosting). Why not Soundcloud? Because soundcloud stats are not integrated with Libsyn or blubrry like Stitcher stats (hello Soundcloud if you're going to be in this space you better meet your neighbors). This means using soundcloud and another host will require you to check your stats in more than one place. At this point I'm getting negligible plays from the soundcloud website.
My favorite player for putting in a sidebar is the one from the Blubrry network (free).
Blubrry and Libsyn stats are very simliar with a slight edge to Blubrry for being more user friendly. Libsyn actually gives you more information (cities). Soundcloud can give you some of this information but not the platform (iphone, windows, etc) that Blubrry.com and Libsyn.com
1. Blubrry.com - great content, pretty, and easy to understand and exportable. Blubrry.com offers free stats that show downloads and a few other items.
2. Libsyn.com - very similar to blubrry.com (each shows some items the other does not) and exportable. If you're not using the $20 a month plan you get a download numbers only stats.
3. Soundcloud - Basic stats with some geographic location.
4. Podean.com - as mentioned earlier their stats are pitiful (download only, and can only be viewed one episode at a time) unless you 're using the $79/month.
Soundcloud's player is one of the coolest things on the planet. It makes your content easy to share, it works everywhere you can add a button to the player (for purchasing something, itunes, etc). The one thing it doesn't do is offer the ability to play in a new window.
Blubrry's key is ease of publishing. Once your audio file is done, you can enter your show notes (blog post) and when you upload the file it will take the title of your post and add it to the mp3 file in the ID3 tags. It will also "tag" the other fields in your file.
You do all of this from within the blubrry interface.
Blubrry.com has a distribution on the following:
Libsyn has a quick publish feature where you can enter your ID3 tags, and upload the file using an FTP software to a specific folder. The information from within your media file is then used to create an episode post on Libsyn.com This posting can then be replicated on your WordPress site, facebook page, tumblr.com, blogger.com, Linkedincom, youtube.com
If you have $20 a month plan or higher, you can get a smartphone app for your podcast for free. You can charge people for this, or you can spend a little money to get an Apple developer's license and give it away for free (you do need to pay an $10 a month to libsyn as they will provide the customer support for the app).
Libsyn also offers the ability to sell your back catalog. Top podcasters Marc Maron, Adam Corolla and others use this tool which you can find here.
For $79 a month, you can manage your mailing list through podbean (or you can use a tool like Awber designed to handle mailing lists).
Can I have more than one podcast on Soundcloud? Kind of. I have all my old outdated (out if print if you will) shows on there as a test. There is only one RSS feed. If you are using your own website and rss feed you could use them as "just a media host."
What's the limitation of their free account? You can only upload a certain amount of files. When I first played with them, I would have to delete a file to upload a new one.
While Libsyn and Blubrry have representatives in all of the podcasting communities. They are at our conventions. We know them by name. Todd, Mike, Angelo, Rob, Elsie, Krystal. Podbean and Soundcloud have no presence that I've seen. They have their websites and pretty much that's it.
Pobean does not list their address on their website. If you want it its:
501 Silverside Road, Suite 105 , Wilmington , DE , 19809 , United States
Phone: +1 514 969 1917
Why would you not list your address unless you don't want to be found?
Soundcloud has been around since 2008
5 million official SoundCloud apps have been downloaded. In 20012 they celebrated 10 million sound creators.
Why is this still in beta after three years (it launched in January of 2011)?
So is Soundcloud a legitimate podcast solution? They do pass all of my criteria, so with that I could say yes. For me, I am still a little nervous about a system that's been in development for THREE YEARS and has not come out of beta. I think their interfaceS (remember they are in the middle up upgrading heir interface) makes their system unfriendly, and their stats are not on par with the two companies I recommend which are Blubrry.com and Libsyn.com
I am using them as an additional distribution point to see if I get any traction over there. In reality, like any other platform, you get out of it what you put into it.
Thanks to Neil, "You were wrong Dave" Smith of undercountryradio.com for sharing his pain.
Check out the UK Podcasters event if you're in the UK
Joing the School of Podcasting today and avoid the pains of podcasting, or take a live coaching class
“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” - Dr. Seuss “I've found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.” ? Don Roff “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” - Arthur Plotnik I love editing. It's one of my favorite parts about filmmaking. Steven Spielberg.
When I was in California for a new Media Expo, one my my friends scored ticket to the Tonight Show and my wife and I were able to Go. Jay Leno came out and I'm still not sure what happened (it might've been a cue card issue) but he stopped, and he went back behind the curtain and they did the whole intro again. Obviously, the first intro never made it to air. They do a thing called editing that takes the hard work that you've put into finding a topic, and it makes sure you don't get in your own way. I know improve can be electrifying, but in my travels (see Second City in Chicago and a couple improv groups here in Cleveland) most improv sucks. It could be funny, buy it needs this thing called editing. There are movies where people are paid lots of money to read words into a camera. We've all been in a movie that would've been better had it moved quicker. It woud've been better if they left a part out. It would've been better if they had done this thing called editing. The Gold Rules of Content Editing - Listen Through the Ears Of Your Audience 1. When I edit my show, I'm listening through the ears of my target audience. I listen to see if we are on topic. If I'm not if I should cut something, I always ask WWMAD (what would my audience do). 2. It should never sound edited. There will be times when Skype burbs, and you have almost nothing to piece together - I get that. But if you go to cut out an "Um" and the person said, "UuuuuumI think that.." and it's to hard to get the Um out without it sounding weird then leave it it. 3. If you want someone to promote it, they better sound good. These are my opinion/rules do with them what you will.
When podcasting first came on the scene in 2004 you could use your built in microphone and just talk. Much like Milton Berle was the king of TV in the 50's you could be the king of podcasting. Looking back you had a choice of watching Milton Bele or a test pattern. In 2004 you had about 50 podcasts to compete with. Guess what? TEN YEARS later podcasters are spending hundreds of dollars on microphones and using dedicated media hosts and interviewing A list celebrities. You can't just wing it. Wait, I take that back. YOU CAN. The question is should you. I'm here to throw my vote as a yes. I edit my podcast. I love this quote: "“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” - Arthur Plotnik."
It takes time, and from my days of being a public speaker - it's harder to do a 15 minute presentation than a 30 minute presentation as you have to pick out the key points and hit them well.
Be Prepared - One of the reasons we have "ums" is our brain is trying to figure out what to say next. SLOW DOWN, and you will have less ums to worry about. If you're doing an interview, have some questions planned to use as a "game plan" that you can refer to if the conversation needs a poke. Don't Mess With Your Stuff - If possible set your equipment up and leave it. This eliminates technical issues in the future.
Here again, the more you "Wing it" the more you will be editing later. If you are doing interviews, it is your responsibility to give your guest a target. Let them know you might pause between questions, this helps to avoid the "over answer" (more on that later). Let them know what to expect. Let Your Guest Know Who They are Talking To I do a number of podcasts. I was asked what my favorite book. I had a very vague idea who the audience was for this audience. I want to deliver great content. I want to provide life changing answers. So I gave a book that I like to read, and hoped his audience might find if useful. Let Your Guests Know How Long the Interview Should Approximately Be I was recently interviewed for the Boomer Business Owner podcast. The host of the show sent me to a link that help me understand who I was talking to, and what they were looking for in regards to answer length. If you ask me how I got into podcasting I have a 30 second answer and a 5 minute answer. Which one would you like? Here is another great site from Jim Collison that helps him prep his guests. Politely Cutting People Off My buddy Erik K Johnson of Podcast Talent Coach (and one of the co-hosts of the Podcast Review show) he had mentioned that when someone starts to take a tangent you can politely interrupt them and ask them for more details on whatever they just mentioned (and to get them back on track). It seems rude, but you're guiding them back to the information that you know your audience will enjoy. (see Erik and I talk about this)
Train Wrecks - These are obvious. You hit the wrong button, your guest starts dropping F bombs, you have 30 seconds of silence in the middle of your show etc. You don't have to look for these they hit you in the face Low Hanging Fruit - These are the "ums" and "ya knows" that stand alone. If the idea is to make you (or you guest) sound smart you can easily highlight them and press delete. If Your Guest Answers "No" to a Question - In most cases finding out that someone is NOT doing something is not helpful. Over Answer - This is where your guest answers your question and then there is a pause (maybe you're looking for the next question) however they think you are wanting more information so they start to answer the question with more unnecessary details. Listen for the Answer to the question - In many cases the guest may give you details that are not needed (off topic etc). My favorite is when you ask a guest a question and they say, "Well first I want to tell you about..." TMI - In some cases a guest will give you too much information. You asked them what they had for lunch, and they tell you how they cooked it, what they used to eat it, etc. Tangents - Look we all love to take a tangent. The problem is in the middle of the tanget you take a tangent. This is followed by another tangent. You get so far off topic that its not longer useful information.
Today we look at the topic of podfading. We are going to examine what it is, what are the top causes, and how to avoid - and ask if you should? We get help from Jim Collison, Ryan Parker, and Rev. Kenn Blanchard.
Steve Steward produces the Moneyplan SOS podast (learn to pay attention instead of interest), and he had a listener who found his show and downloaded a ton of episodes and listened to them all as he went on a long trip in the car. Today we talk about making great content that connects with people, and obviously Steve is doing a great job.
Podfaing is when your show just stops producting content. There is no "final show" it just stops. The term was invented by Scott Fletcher of the now podfaded show Podcheck Review. According to the Urban Dictionary "A podcast that after a while becomes less and less frequently updated and then blinks out altogether."
According the the Book Tricks of the Podcasting Masters from Rob Walch and Murr Laferty (A great book from 2006) they list the top five reasons people podfade. Lack of time Lack of interest Lack of material Lack of listeners Lack of funds I add to this: Lack of FUN.
If you TURN OFF YOUR TV, you will have time to podcast. But realize there is a 4 to 1 ration. This means that for every one minute of finished podcast it will take you four minutes to produce it. You need to know this up front so you don't say I'm going to do a 30 minute podcast 5 days a week. That's 150 minutes of total episode, so multiply that by 4 and you get 600 minutes of time to create those episodes (10 HOURS). Do you have an extra 10 hours PER WEEK (40 hours per month) to produce a show that will more than likely generate zero income for the first few months?
I once started a "Customer Service Show" where I spotlighted my experience as an award winning customer service representative. It turned out that I just reported on the bad customer service I received everywhere I went. I sounded like a grump old man. After a few shows, I just lost interest. I wasn't really that passionate about that topic. I thought I should podcast about what I know. You should podcast about what you are passionate about. If you are not interested in your topic, maybe bring in a co-host or mix up the format.
My wife and I did a "Dates from Hell Show" where we told stories of horrible dates we had experienced. We thought our audience would chime in with their stories. The bad news is we didn't have an audience, and nobody chimed in. I have a tutorial at the School of Podcasting that shows how to use the Website Feedly.com to have all sort of content come to you. Lack of material can change a podcast from Fun to "Feeling like work." That always leads to podfading.
Never use the word "Only" when describing your download numbers. Last week I had 18 people in a classroom. If I "Only" had 70 downloads, that would be 3.5 classrooms of people. Currently according to Rob Walch the VP of Podcast relations at Libsyn.com the median download of a typical podcast is around 170 (as of May 2014). So 50% of podcasters have over 170, and the other 50% don't. With the right content, you can find yourself in the hundreds of downloads, and eventually the thousand of downloads. It takes time. It takes good content. It also takes you GOING to where your target audience is and networking with them.
Once you have purchased your equipment, the ongoing price of a podcast is around $30 a month (less if your shows are shorter). I've spoken about finding money to podcast in the past. If you want it, you can find it. Some of the things you can do is podcast in mono (it cuts your file size in half - which lowers your media hosting bill). Also if you "take a break" then you can lower your storage space on your media host to the lowest level (just to keep your account active) and then raise it back up when you return.
When you have no time, interest, or money for your podcast it becomes work. When you have to struggle to find content - GOOD content - it becomes a burden.
While I'm not saying its OK to podcast "whenever you want," I would recommend keeping a schedule if you want to be seen as reliable. With this in mind 2 of the top 5 podcasts produce shows on varied lengths on various schedules. What they DO deliver on is great content when they do. These podcasts are the Joe Rogan experience and Dan Carlin's Hardcore History
Babies are wonderful bundles of joy, but they take over your life. Their schedule dictates YOUR schedule. When you move to a new location, or get a new job, or grow a spouse, etc. All of these can lead you to shifting your life's priorities. I'm here to say, "It's OK." Ryan Parker of the Food Craftsmen Podcast stated, "Nobody is going to punch you in the face."
Unless you're the Simpson's television show, most shows eventually stop production. Growing up I loved Happy Days, Cheers, Friends, Seinfeld, M*A*S*H, Family Ties, and more. They all eventually stopped. Do I hate the actors? No. I would love to shake Henry Winkler's hand. I think he is a phenomenal human being. Consequently, if you're no longer enjoying producing your podcast maybe you should shut it down. Let your audience know you're taking a break. If after the break is over, you still don't want to produce it - record one more episode and explain that you're done. Nobody will punch you in the face.
The first question to ask is should you avoid podfading. Ryan Park mentions that we well thought out podcast that has 15 episodes could be planned and produced with that in mind. You could say, "This is episode 1 of 15" and let the audience know that this is intentional. There is no rule that says you have to go on forever. One of the key steps to avoid podfading is to put some thought into it when you start. A properly planned podcast may help you avoid the starting - stopping - starting syndrome.
One of the things that STOP US from making great content is obsessing over stats. If we aren't looking at our download numbers, we are looking at our "Competition" and seeing how many sponsors they have. This (often) makes us envious and frustrated. Ken Blanchard speaks how he was one of the first Gun Shows on the Internet. Others have moved in over time and they have the magic touch and are getting sponsors. This leads many of use to think, "Hey what about me?" I know I think we all fall into this trap from time to time.
We all know that "Life happens" so if you have a life changing event, its nice to have a stockpile of podcast episodes to feed to your audience. If you don't you can always repurpose older shows that many not be so easy to find on your website, or are available in your feed anymore. Go in With Your Eyes Wide Open - Have Realistic Expectations If we just do the opposite of the above Set aside time Pick a topic we are uber-interested in Something we have a great stream of material We understand that growing an audience takes time. We shouldn't focus on "growing our audience fast" but instead, "What content would touch our audience the deepest?" We need to know that any hobby or small business costs money to maintain. $30 to reach a global audience is the best value on the internet. Lack of funds
If you know you are taking a hiatus (permanent or otherwise) it is always wise to keep you audience in the loop. Let them know when to expect you back. In the event you decide to call it quits, thank them for listening, and let them know where to find you. If you might come back, you may want to create a email list to alert people where they can sign up for future updates. Ryan Parker took a three month hiatus. He still created blog posts, and sent out email blasts, and in the end didn't see much of a dip in numbers. He was still communicating with his audience. He was just communicating in a different matter. Remember to lower your media hosting package to save money.
Rock bands like KISS, the Eagles, Cher, and others have done a "Last tour ever" tour. This is usually followed by the "We're out of money already" tour about four years later. There is no rule that says you can't come back. Just don't be surprised if you've lost some of your audience (possibly).
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