If you already run a show, what do you use as a podcast player on your website right now? Is it the default audio player provided by your host? Or, is it something standalone, that provides a bunch more features for growth and engagement?
Whatever you use, the podcast audio player that powers your show website can make a big difference to the success of your show. Whether you're looking for a player for WordPress, or to embed into another CMS, there are a lot of choices around, right now. And they all come with their own pros and cons.
In this article, I'm going to look at why you need to worry about your podcast player in the first place. If everyone listens on mobile, then what makes it so important, after all? Then, we'll look at the top players on the market, both standalone plugins and native hosting players.
By the end, you'll be able to pick out something that suits your website, your show and your own approach. It'll look great and it'll help you grow. Let's play!
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Why is your Podcast Player Important?
A good podcast player is, to me, an essential tool for growth. It goes hand-in-hand with a great set of shownotes to create a landing page for every episode of your podcast. There are two reasons this is really valuable.
Converting Search Traffic into Podcast Listeners
First, great shownotes open up a whole new realm of discovery for your show: text search.
We've written more about creating good podcast shownotes here, if you want to start building that out.
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Done well, shownotes provide a text version of your show, which can rank highly in Google search. Now, we all love podcasting, and podcast directories are a great place to be found. But the audience there is dwarfed by the number of people typing something into Google every single day. So, to grow fast, and reach outside the existing pool of podcast listeners, you need to do text. More about how to do blogging, audio and video together here, too.
Then, once the searcher is reading the shownotes, that's where a good player comes in. To start, it looks good to invite the reader to hit play. Plus, it offers subscription tools to make it really, really easy to subscribe. The player's job is to take a casual reader, and turn them into a subscriber. A good podcast player can do that.
From Casual Listener to Loyal Fans
Second, a great player can help convert casual listeners into loyal fans.
If you're like me, on each episode you'll read out a shownotes link and point listeners there to “find out more” and to get links to all of the resources. It's a good approach, and it provides some good value to listener.
The aim of this, really, is to entice the listener further into your world of content. Your call to action gets them to read another blog post, or listen to another episode. Then, it's to take the relationship up another level, such as signing up to your email list, or following you on social.
Either way, the eventual aim is to encourage them to support your work: to sign up to your Patreon, to buy your book, take your course, use your services.
A good podcast player can offer tools to encourage all of these things. Or, it might offer a listening experience that's so good that the listener will come back, again and again, and see the other inviting options placed around your site.
Suffice to say, a good podcast audio player can help you grow your listenership, increase their engagement, and start to earn some money from your podcast. It won't do it alone, but it's a big building block in making all of that happen.
What are the Types of Podcast Player?
There are two main types of podcast player: standalone wordpress plugins, and native hosting players. Let's take a look at each of them.
Podcast Player Plugins for WordPress
There are a range of players out there that aren't tied to any particular podcast hosting or podcast platform. Instead, they're standalone tools that ‘plug in' to a self-hosted WordPress site, and really improve how you offer up your podcast to website visitors. Read my full guide to setting up a WordPress site for your podcast, if that's your plan!
In most cases, standalone plugins offer more tools than native hosting players. They're designed to help you with growth and engagement. But, of course, that comes at a cost. Native hosting players are free. They come with your hosting package. Good standalone WordPress plugins have a price. I'll talk later about whether it's worth it!
Native Hosting Audio Players
Every one of the top hosting platforms offer their own take on the humble podcast player. These appear on the built-in website which the majority of hosts offer. But, they can also be embedded on your own website, whether that's WordPress or otherwise.
Embedding the player does involve a bit of code. Don't worry, you don't have to understand it! You just need to copy and paste it into your site, hit save, and it'll appear by magic!
The advantage of this embedding approach is that this works on any type of website where you can edit the code behind a page. The plugins above are WordPress only, but embedding works on Squarespace, Wix, Joomla and many more. If you run a custom built corporate website, for example, or some obscure content management system, then embedding might be your only choice.
Choosing a Standalone Podcast Player Plugin
Alright, time to get into the options. First, let's look at standalone audio players for WordPress. Here are the plugins I think it's most worth considering, right now.
Fusebox Podcast Player (& Transcript Tool)
The Fusebox Podcast Player (formerly know as the Smart Podcast Player) is a product of Pat Flynn's podcast success. He created this to better showcase his own show, and to provide a great tool for others to use.
The plugin is WordPress-only, and it costs $12 USD per month, or $97 per year. At around $8 per month, that annual fee is good value for all the growth and engagement features on offer.
- Full player shows multiple episodes to showcase back catalog
- Full player shows plenty of detail – full title & description
- Episode search built in to full player
- Individual player puts focus on single episode
- Sticky player which attaches to top or bottom of website
- Skip and play-speed buttons included in all play modes
- Email list subscription link built-in
- Social sharing built-in
- Subscribe links built-in
- New: Transcription display & PDF Download, built in
Binge Listening Made Easy
Another thing that helps Fusebox stand out is it's great-looking binge-mode. The full player shows your full back catalog, and listeners can sort it, search it and scroll through the entire catalog. I don't think there's another player that makes this episode browsing half as easy or as good-looking.
On top of that, though, the sticky player is a nice feature. Allowing users to browse through your pages which still keeping the player is a great touch.
Growth tools are there, from an email signup to social sharing. They're a touch hidden, which means they'll be less used than they might be with Simple Podcast Press below. But, for some that's an advantage. It's up to you how overt you want to be with pushing those ‘next steps'.
The Fusebox Player is one of the best-looking players on the market. There's no doubt aesthetics come into play here. It's something that appears front-and-centre on every shownotes page of your site, after all. So, it's excellent design is a huge plus-point.
But, it's not just a pretty face, it has the functionality to back it up! With a great binge mode, the sticky player, in-built transcription display and email subscription tools built in, Fusebox really stands out as a tool that can help you engage listeners and grow your show.
Simple Podcast Press
Simple Podcast Press is a plugin created by Hani Mourra, a long-time supporter of the podcast community. Simple Podcast Press is all about growth, providing a bunch of tools to increase subscriptions and engagement.
It also extends a little outside the ‘player' experience, adding a range of unique features that ramp up the user experience on your shownotes themselves.
- Lead magnet style email signup form to increase conversions
- Subscribe and share links right up front
- Play speed, skip and volume controls built-in
- Link to various hosting platforms & automate shownotes publishing
- Shows podcast reviews inside your WordPress dashboard
- Create clickable episode timestamps which skip to that point in the episode
- Collapsible transcripts: include the transcript without cluttering your shownotes page
- Include your own custom ‘call to action' buttons right inside the player
And finally, the extra features are the icing on the cake, from clickable timestamps to the ability to create tweeable quotes from your show. If you use Simple Podcast Press to it's fullest, the potential is huge.
Simple Podcast Press is as fully featured as it gets when it comes to increasing the growth of your audience, and moving them through your funnel.
The email signup form is really useful, allowing you to add in a headline and description. This allows for including a ‘content upgrade' or another kind of bonus, which can be great for educational shows.
The buttons inside the player are super-customisable, so no matter what your aim is, you can put it right up front. Subscribe links, email signup, ‘leave a review' or ‘sign up for my Patreon'. No matter what your Call to Action, you can include it.
There's no doubt that the Smart Podcast Player has a slicker interface, but Simple Podcast Press has the tools advantage, and the ability to bring them far more to the front. As a result, your conversions will no doubt increase if you do it well!
One tool worth mentioning here, but in a slightly different light, is Powerpress.
Powerpress is a WordPress plugin that allows you to run a podcast directly from your WordPress blog. That means the RSS feed is under your own URL, rather than your podcast hosts'. You'll be managing the podcast settings from your WordPress dashboard. You can read more about how to install and use Powerpress on my Podcast Websites guide here.
Powerpress is created by Blubrry, so it is a product of one particular hosting company. But, they've kindly make it free to use for anyone, and it's possible to use Powerpress even with rival hosting companies. Although, as you'll see in the podcast websites guide above, Powerpress + Blubrry makes for a really nice podcast publishing workflow.
Back to players, though. If you use Powerpress to run a show on your website, it generates a player on every post that has an audio file attached. The player is a little basic compared to the two paid plugins above. But, it has the distinct advantage of being entirely free! So, if your budget's limited, then it might be an option for you.
- Skip, play speed and volume tools
- Direct download link
- Shownotes link which opens the original shownotes page
- Full social sharing
- Good subscribe options, built-in
This simple player doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the other plugins we mentioned, but it's free. If you're watching your budget, this could be an asset. There's nothing bad about that.
Choosing A Hosting Platform Podcast Player
Next, let's take a look at the native players provided by each of the top hosting providers.
You get these free of charge. Many people choose their hosting based primarily on the player. It's definitely a factor in what you should choose. The player is probably the most visible, and often the most obviously unique aspect, of any hosting platform. There are plenty of other things to think about with hosting, of course. You'll find them all in our best podcast hosting article.
Right now, though, let's look at the main features of each platform.
Captivate's Podcast Player
Captivate are a brand new hosting platform with an excellent looking player. It's fully responsive on any device, and has a really nice ‘calls to action' feature you'll see by clicking the arrow icon underneath the play bar. You can also easily turn the Captivate logo on the player into an affiliate link for the service.
- Speed and skip controls
- Shownote access
- Social share buttons
- Calls to action links
- Direct download link
- Links to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, etc
- Captivate affiliate link option
Buzzsprout's Podcast Player
Buzzsprout's player is like their hosting. It's great looking, feature-rich and a lovely user experience.
- Speed and skip controls
- Social share buttons, hidden behind a popup
- Direct download link
- Subscribe buttons for all services, behind a popup
- Showcase multiple episodes from back catalog
Transistor.fm's Podcast Player
Transistor's player is no-fuss, minimal in design and does the job very well. Again, much like their hosting. Not quite as ‘beautiful' as the Buzzsprout player on it's own, but making up for it in variety of options, such as the multi-episode player, a ‘latest' episode player and, most recently, DARK MODE! For those particularly evil podcasts…
Latest Episode Appearance
- ‘Binge Mode' – show multiple episodes
- Show latest episode, or a specific one
- Dark mode design, for darker websites
- Speed, skip and volume controls
- Share to Twitter only, but a share link provided
- Direct download link
- More info shows full title and description
Libsyn's Podcast Player
Libsyn are a powerhouse in podcasting, one of the oldest and biggest hosts around. But, in it's player, that age is really starting to show. The functionality is there, but the design is quite dated. If you use Libsyn as a host, there's good reason to upgrade to either of the standalone players above, I would say.
- Skip controls only
- Share to multiple social platforms
- Direct download link
- Embed code directly from player
- Subscribe on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, & more
Blubrry's Podcast Player
Blubrry are up with Libsyn in the ‘time served' category, helping podcasters run their shows since near the beginning. Their player, to my taste, is a little more modern, but still doesn't quite compete with the most modern hosts. But, again, the tools are there, and it does the job, so if you like their hosting then it's a decent free option.
Look up at the ‘Powerpress' section to see a screenshot and the main features. The embedded player is exactly the same as the one offered by the Powerpress plugin.
Sounder.fm's Podcast Player
Sounder.fm are a new hosting service on the scene. Founded in 2019 by former Google and Spotify executives, Sounder “aims to bring discoverability, community, and ease to the podcast industry.”
Their player is certainly something they've put a lot of work into. It's well designed and it has a lot of nice features. The transcription possibly isn't quite there yet (“pugcast”, anyone?) and it seems to convert episode files to M4A format. But definitely an option worth keeping an eye on, going forward!
- Built-in episode list
- Embedded transcriptions
- Option to search through episodes, using the transcription
- Easily share episodes or episode segments on social media
Podbean's Podcast Player
Podbean are one of the older hosts, but have been investing heavily in upgrading their design and their tools over the past few years. Their player is modern and fully featured.
- Play speed and skip controls
- Display multiple episodes
- Shows original website link
- Subscribe button on popup
- Full social sharing options
- Download and embed links built in
How to Choose your Podcast Player
For a lot of podcasters, the free option provided by your podcast host is more than enough.
Say, you're running a hobby show, you're not pushing email lists and social following very hard. Then, Buzzsprout's player or Podbean's player both look great, and can be embedded on your WordPress site.
But, if you're running a business behind your podcast, or you're really trying to grow an audience, a paid plugin can be well worth it.
For the price of a couple of coffees a month, you can add in email list growth, better audience engagement, more polish and various other tools.
For sheer growth tools, Simple Podcast Press is excellent.
You can direct listeners to any number of different locations, from products to lead magnets.
For sheer polish, the Fusebox Podcast Player is great.
Listeners will be drawn in, will binge your back catalog and eventually hit the 'email list' subscription.
Need Help Choosing or Setting Up?
If you need a bit more advice, or help in setting it all up, remember the Podcast Host Academy is right there to support you.
That's our learning and coaching space, where we run live Q&A sessions, a supportive community and a whole range of courses and resources to help you grow your show. Jump in and we'd be happy to help you!