Is It Worth Using Anchor To Make A Podcast? Review
Starting a Podcast from scratch may seem like a logistical nightmare but there are several apps out there designed to help you create your own piece of work in no time at all. One such app is Anchor.
Designed as a really simple, basic way to create a podcast, Anchor allows you to download their app, record audio clips directly into your phone and publish your podcast on all major platforms with one button. It's pitched in a similar way to Alitu, which helps you record, process, edit and publish your show, and automates a lot of it.
The difference is, however, that Anchor is also 100% free.
“Free” doesn't always equate to “good”, right enough. Traditionally in the tech world that raises questions about quality, customer service, and not least of all, sustainability. More than one ‘free' podcasting service has disappeared overnight having never found a way to pay their bills.
But, does Anchor serve a purpose, perhaps at the start of your podcasting journey, or just to test things out?
Well, since they’ve just launched ‘Anchor 3.0’, I decided to try the app out, and did successfully manage to record and publish a podcast all in an afternoon. Let’s delve into how I found the process.
Anchor is an app aimed at first time podcasters, therefore if you're familiar with voice recording apps, you don't really need to run through many of the tutorials.
Setting up your account is very easy. You can sign up using a social media account or an email address. You can also connect your Twitter & Facebook so you can share your published work at a later stage.
The app has a function that allows you to view programmes made by other users which is handy in giving you some inspiration with your own content.
Anchor also pride themselves on being a great platform for new music discovery. You can create a radio show on the app. You can import tracks from Spotify & Apple Music and record in your own voice links. This is available permanently on the Anchor store however the music does not sync with external podcasts you wish to post online.
The home screen is laid out compactly and easily for users. Alongside the obvious big red record button, you can also spend time listening to various other Anchor podcasts for inspiration, as pictured above.
There’s also settings to access your own bio where you can customize what people see when they click on your profile.
Anchor has a website as well as an app, which I found better for finalising the podcast and actually hitting publish.
The web player allows you to access listener statistics and gives you detailed information on how many plays you have, both per episode, and across your podcasting overall on Anchor.
There are also some pretty attractive graphs for the statistic geeks out there which detail the plays and downloads you’ve had from your podcasts.
Whilst the app still lacks much in the way of the ability to edit your audio, you can move your recorded segments of audio around easier on the web player. It’s as easy as dragging and dropping your segments until they fit in the order you like.
Overall, it’s pretty basic in format but it absolutely does the job it sets out to do. It’s reliable and gives you good information on how your podcast is performing.
Anchor’s greatest triumph is how easy recording audio is. You simply hold your phone up to your ear and it starts to record a podcast segment for you. It stops recording when you remove the phone from your ear.
If you’d rather visually monitor your recording, you can also record by pushing the red record button and holding the phone in front of you.
As you can see from the screenshots above, the app allows you to listen back to your audio recording and name it. For my piece, I used this to record an intro and outro clip.
If you’re unhappy with your clip you can re-do it, although you can’t edit it. UPDATE: Anchor have now added some basic editing functions. I've found them a little fiddly to use on the phone, I'll admit, but at least it's there.
However, one cool feature is the ability to add a bed underneath your voice. This means you can have a professional sounding podcast introduction with music without touching any audio editing software.
There is also a bank of ‘Transitions’ which are stings that can be used to separate different segments of your recorded podcast. I found these particularly useful in splitting up our intro/outro with our focus interview.
Some of the beds and transitions available are too loud and Anchor do need to investigate normalizing audio, both from recordings and from their included music and transitions. There is also a limited amount of beds and transitions available, so it’s very much a trial and error until you get ones that you like.
Recording With Friends
Whilst the app feels very DIY, it also allows for lots of collaboration when recording. There are two features which allow you to bring in more voices.
Anchor have Voice Notes which allows other users to record small sound notes for you which appear on one of the home screen menus. You can then use these as segments in your overall build of a podcast.
If you’re recording a talk show or a debate show and you use social media, using these voice notes is a great way of having listener’s questions and comments on topics appear on your show.
The function we used was ‘Record With Friends’ which allows Anchor users to group up and record a phone call straight into their podcast.
This does work easily, and it does work well. However, your podcast guest does need the app too, so if time is of the essence, this may not be the best way to record a podcast interview.
Another small issue is that the podcast starts to record as soon as your guest picks up the phone. Given that you can’t do any substantial editing on the app, you’re stuck with any awkward hellos and goodbyes that transpire as part of the phone call.
Due to the lack of built in editing, you can’t edit out any of the audio in the middle of a clip either. If you record a 10 minute piece and there’s a bad section half way through, you’ll need to re-record the full clip again or be stuck with it.
If those issues were remedied, this would be a really useful piece of software. But despite this, Anchor is undoubtedly a handy option for new and inexperienced podcasters.
With regards to publishing, Anchor is a bit of a mixed bag.
If you’re a hobbyist podcaster or just looking to get audio out into the world, Anchor is fantastic. With one click of a button your podcast can be on Apple, Spotify and all the other major podcasting services.
This takes away a lot of the hassle for new podcasters who could be intimidated by promoting their content online.
If you’re serious about starting a podcast for personal brand or business reasons though, then Anchor probably isn't for you. When podcasting with Anchor, your content will be heavily branded by them. Because it's free, they'll take the opportunity to promote themselves anywhere and everywhere your content can be found. That's the trade off.
They submit your show to iTunes/Apple Podcasts through their own account too, which means you don't “own” your show's listing in the biggest podcast directory in the world. You also won't be able to access your Apple Podcast stats because of this.
Anchor do say that any user can contact them to have their podcast transferred over to their own Apple account. But it is something that should rightly hold a lot of podcasters back from using the software. Be wary of any service which ‘owns' your content for you.
- I really liked how practical Anchor was for actually recording a podcast and pushing it out into the world. I downloaded the app, recorded, edited and published the podcast in less than two hours.
- The interface is easy and nice to look at. There’s plenty of content on the app for inspiration and the ability to bring in other voices and still record so quickly should be commended.
- Perhaps the best use of Anchor is for distribution. You may not wish to record your podcast using Anchor but you can still upload clips using the web player and then distribute them across lots of platforms. The stats for your podcast will display on Anchor, making it quite a powerful distribution tool.
- The editing system isn't great looking and a little fiddly to use.
- You can ‘top and tail' your audio, but you can't make internal edits to the content
- The audio mixing is also lacking and there’s no audio normalization in sight. What makes it worse is that there isn’t any way for you to normalize the audio yourself.
- Right now, it does have a lot of positives. But the basic editing will always mean you have to take the good with a rather unfortunate bad.
- The issues with Anchor heavily branding themselves over your content, as well as effectively owning your show in places like iTunes, means that they really aren't an option if you want to create a serious and long-term podcast.
- The final issue is that Anchor is free. It's a much repeated phrase but with any free service you use, you are the product rather than the customer.
Anchor is an app which has a great deal of potential. It can publish your podcast across all the major podcasting sites with one click of a button. The app can record a podcast with numerous people as easily as making a phone call.
It does lack editing power, but it does have a bank of sounds you can use to bring your podcast to life.
Unfortunately despite all these positives, I'm not convinced that podcasters should be rushing to their app stores to use it.
Lack of really good editing is frustrating for people looking for even moderately good quality. Anchor posting work across sites as its own is an issue for your branding. And that's before we get to the fact that it's free business model. How much longevity will that have?
If you're looking to start a podcast and really OWN the content yourself, then here's a list of established media hosting services that offer sustainability, flexibility, and allow you to build your own brand around your content, as opposed to someone else's.
Oh, and check out my finished piece of work from our time using Anchor below.
If you're looking for an alternative, then Alitu.com is worth looking at.
It doesn't have a mobile app, quite yet, but that's in planning to make recording even easier. And you can record direct into the web app instead, for now, or obviously upload clips you've recorded elsewhere, from Skype or otherwise.
Next your file is polished up with normalisation and a range of other processes, before offering you a really good, flexible editing interface. From there you can piece together your episode from multiple clips, and then publish direct to your host. It's super easy.
If you're looking to podcast for free, then I'd recommend going with Buzzsprout. They make it incredibly simple to set up, launch, and submit to places like iTunes. There's no ownership issues around your content, and if you decide to stick at it, you can easily upgrade to a paid tier further down the line.
If you use our Buzzsprout link to sign up then you’ll get a $20 Amazon gift card if you stick around for at least 2 months.
July 2018 Update – Anchor Controversy
Anchor received some bad publicity recently when their (rather sinister sounding) terms of service were brought to light on social media.
“By submitting User Content through the Services, you hereby do and shall grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, fully paid-up, sublicensable and transferable license to use, edit, modify (including the right to create derivative works of), aggregate, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the User Content in connection with the operation of the Services, the promotion, advertising or marketing of the Services, or any purposes.”
“You agree that this license includes, without limitation, the right for Anchor to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make User Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Anchor for the syndication, broadcast, distribution, or publication of such User Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such User Content use.”
Justifiably, this has been interpreted by many as Anchor basically owning anything you host on there (your podcast).
Anchor have since taken steps to deny this and have reworded their TOS slightly, removing the word “irrevocable”, and stressing that creators do own their own content.
Their reputation has certainly been harmed by this though, and many remain suspicious of their motives and intentions in the podcasting space. It's bizarre that anyone at the company thought such TOS were a good idea in the first place, and suggests a lack of understanding about the podcasting medium as a whole.
So is hosting with them worth the risk? That's entirely up to you.
But with a healthy selection of established media hosts on the market, is there any real need to take a gamble on them?