Anchor is one of a few different podcast-making apps on the market today, and is set up to be a one-stop shop for podcasting. In Anchor, you can do all your recording, editing, and hosting, either via the free phone app, or online at Anchor.fm. In preparation for this Anchor review, I created a new Podcast with the service, and put it through its paces. Here are my thoughts on whether Anchor really is a good place to create and run your podcast.
Reviewing Anchor as a Hosting Platform
Anchor provides unlimited free hosting, and there doesn't seem to be any sort of limitation on the size of the files that you can upload. I tend to do a lot of dramatized audio productions that use really intense soundscapes. So when I create an audio drama, I want to have that full range of sound available to my audience.
For that reason, I like my bit rates to be at 256 kbps and above. However, a lot of audio hosts, even the paid hosts, push that down to 128kbps. Now 128 kilobytes per second is a great rate if you just want to record people speaking. The quality doesn't need to be as broad, because the human vocal range is limited. 128 kilobytes per second is more than enough to handle basic speech. But when you get into sound effects and music, where you're trying to create the immersive world of either a song or a story that you're telling, 128 kilobytes per second is going to have the same effect that it has on music. You lose detail in the highest and lowest frequencies.
I uploaded an episode from our 11th hour Podcast show by Faith McQuinn called To the Moon and Back, which was produced in 256 kilobytes per second. I uploaded it to Anchor podcasts and checked the audio quality. It was still at 256 kbps.
Anchor do limit the size of the file you can upload however. They have a 250MB cap here, so you might potentially struggle to work with a source WAV file that's any longer than around 15 minutes. You wouldn't release your actual episode as a WAV though, and you'd struggle to find a completed episode file that was anywhere near that size. It'd be over the 2 hour mark at 256kbps!
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This upload limit is worth keeping in mind if you'd like to use Anchor to edit though. We'll cover that in just a bit.
Is Free Hosting a Good Thing?
On the one hand, it's great to be able to upload as much of anything you like, free of charge. This will be appealing to many beginner and hobbyist podcasters.
On the other hand, it's always worth a bit of caution when it comes to free services. As the old saying goes, “if you use a service for free, you are the product, not the customer”.
If you're podcasting for your brand or business, it's definitely worth opting for a paid hosting service, which will cost you little more than couple of coffees per month.
That's worth the peace of mind that you have a service working for you and your podcast. If you need customer service, it's much better if they're fully accountable to you as a paying client.
Charging for a service is also typically a more robust business model. Paid services have more chance of staying in business than free ones.
That said, Anchor is a great way for beginners and hobbyists to test the water with podcasting, before deciding whether or not to investing fully in it.
Publishing & Distribution
The beauty is media hosting services is that you only need to upload your episode to one place, and it'll automatically appear in places like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. Here's how media hosting works, and why it matters.
Typically, podcasters will need to submit their show to these directories in the first place, though. This is a one-time-only task, and once you're approved in, let's say, Apple Podcasts, all future episodes you upload will publish there automatically.
Top hosting services like Buzzsprout and Captivate make it super simple to submit your podcast to all directories. Anchor go one step further and actually do this for you.
This is great if you're just toying or experimenting with running a podcast. But if you're serious about growing your show long term, be sure to opt out of Anchor's automatic distribution, if you decide to host with them.
Having Anchor submit your show to Apple Podcasts, means it's in there under Anchor's own account, rather than your own. This means you'll be unable to look at your stats inside Apple Podcasts Connect. These analytics are really useful in the long run, because they show drop-off and completion rates for each episode.
This can help you work out what content is resonating with your audience, and what's causing them to hit skip, or stop. If there's one thing you take away from this Anchor review, make sure you submit your show to iTunes/Apple Podcasts manually, and opt out of any automatic distribution option wherever you might find it.
Monetizing the Podcast with Anchor
Anchor offers monetization options through placing ads in your episodes. To set expectations though, you'll need thousands of downloads per episode to earn yourself a couple of pints at the end of the month. How many downloads can you expect your podcast to get?
You also need to decide whether any ad money is worth the potential annoyance it'll cause to your audience. There are loads of great ways to monetize a podcast that can be highly profitable, even if you don't get thousands (or even hundreds) of downloads.
If you are won over to monetizing your podcast with Anchor, then this really simple to set up. Creating your first episode in Anchor sets you up with a sponsorship. It's an ad read that you can record on the spot, or record and edit to upload. It's $15 CPM, which is a little low. In podcasting terms, CPM means “per 1000″ downloads”. These downloads are on a per-episode basis too. Again, check out our guide to podcast download numbers for more of a gauge on this.
As far as ad placement, it's really easy to place the advertisements. All you do is edit your episodes, treat the advertisement that you recorded as a segment, and place it where you want in the podcast. This ensures that your ad is not going to show up in some random place, in the middle of a sentence. It's a really simple interface that allows you to just throw in an ad, right where you want it.
Anchor Review: Recording from Anywhere
One of the features that stood out during this Anchor review, is that you can record from a phone, your computer, or you can upload a recording from another device. This kind of flexibility allows me to go out and be out in the world doing my thing. If I run into an opportunity for an interview, or to record something on the spot, then I can simply pull out my phone and use the built-in microphone (if I have to!), or any microphone I have with me.
So, with something as simple as my little Sampson Go Mic, or a pair of RODE Smartlav+ mics, it allows me to plug that in, walk around, talk to people with it and record that way. Or, I can do the same thing using my laptop.
I like the recording from anywhere function. The only drawback is that it records in an M4A format, rather than an MP3 or WAV format. That's not a problem so much as the fact that it records in 32 bytes per second, which is extremely lower than 128 kilobyte per second. Here's some more info on podcast bitrates.
In terms of the type of podcasting that I do, where I release in full quality audio as much as possible, not being able to record in an uncompressed format like wave or AIF is a pretty severe limitation. However, for a talk podcast with interviews, 32 bit per second seems to record with good clarity, and returns a decent sound.
Building an Episode on Anchor
In terms of building an episode itself, and rearranging your segments, it's really simple. You can just put things in the order that you want them. It works pretty much as expected. There's also the fact that you can place your advertisements within the segments, wherever you want them. Anchor lets you remix, redesign the episode, repolish everything and upload it.
For uploading files recorded elsewhere, I mentioned Anchor's 250MB limit earlier. You wouldn't be able to upload a source WAV file of any longer than around 15 minutes. You'd need to either compress it as a MP3 file, or split it, in order to work with it in Anchor.
The episode builder itself works great. It has a decent enough zoom that you can really scroll in and edit out paralanguage, but the interface is really clunky.
Sometimes you select things and they don't select. There's no clear way to de-select something. Once you have it deselected it's all kind of, “point at the screen and hope it does what you want to.” Editing on Anchor from a web browser isn't really possible. All you can do is split your audio into segments that are all recorded into one huge chunk, that you want to segment out. There's no real way to get into detailed editing in the online editor. The only way to edit is to download the audio, and edit it in your normal podcast editing software.
I'd really like to see the ability to zoom in, edit, clean up, and at least remove silence in the online editor. And I'm not really seeing that. So that was a little disappointing.
Anchor Review: The Verdict
In summary, Anchor divides opinion, because it's a great option for some podcasters, but a poor one for many others.
If I was an aspiring hobby podcaster, or someone who wanted to test the water in the medium without spending money, then I'd definitely use it.
But if I was launching a show as part of my brand or business – something that I was serious about growing in the long run – then I'd opt for a service like Buzzsprout or Captivate.
Recording-wise, it's limited on the type of recording you can do. I think if I was going to use Anchor, I would probably use an external recorder.
A Better Option for Call Recording & Podcast Editing
I definitely would not use Anchor for editing, unless I was in a position where I really needed to get the audio up there. It's really clunky editing on the phone, and there's no real clear way to edit in a browser. For more production options, check out our full guide to podcast editing, and our own ‘Podcast Maker' app Alitu.
With Alitu, call recording, solo recording, editing, and production are all brought together for you in one easy-to-use platform. It's the ideal Anchor alternative for podcasters seeking an all-in-one solution, with pure simplicity at the fore!