Captivate Review Summary: Should you use Capitivate as your podcast hosting provider?
- You can host on Captivate for as little as $19 a month
- Captivate has a clean and easy-to-use interface. Even a complete beginner will have no trouble finding their way around.
- Captivate's player and customisable podcast websites also look great. They offer handy ‘Playlist Player' and ‘Latest Episode Player' options too.
- You can seamlessly link up your podcast and WordPress site by using the Captivate Sync plugin.
- They offer solid stats for all tiers, no upgrade required to access better analytics.
- Captivate makes no changes to your uploaded episode files in any way.
- Sharing-wise, Captivate gives you a one-page solution for driving subscribers to your podcast.
- You can create unlimited podcasts with Captivate, as well as build and organise teams.
- You can create private (members only) podcasts, even on their lowest payment tier.
- They have some unique and useful features too, like their One-Click Sponsor Kit, Email Opt-Ins, and ‘Calls to Action' in the podcast players.
- Coming soon to Captivate – Dynamic Ad insertion, as well as Audio Processing and Mastering.
- Read on to get the full lowdown, in this 2020 Captivate review…
Captivate might be newer than many of its hosting provider competitors, but the folks behind it are industry heavyweights. They're the ones who run Rebel Base Media and Podcast Websites. They know the space inside out, and that was the first hint that Captivate might end up being one of the best podcast hosting options out there when it launched back in 2019.
Of course, reputation and experience alone isn't enough. As a podcast media host, there are a few core things you absolutely need to get right, and a million things you can do wrong. Pass those first tests, and we can then look at the “bells and whistles” stuff.
Choosing a media host for your show is one of the most important decisions you'll make. So how does Captivate actually work and perform? And does it look like a good option for you and your podcast?
This is an updated version of our initial 2019 Captivate review. In the original piece, we were so impressed by the service that it immediately became one of our top recommended hosting providers. That said, we still found some room for improvement in certain areas.
The Captivate team have been very receptive to feedback though, and have constantly been working on releasing updates and new features. So let's find out how Captivate performs as a media host in 2020!
And, just incase you need the background: What is a media host, and why do you need one?
To let you know, the links to Captivate in this article are affiliate links. We'll get a commission if you sign up, and it wont cost you any extra. But, have no fear, we review fair – the affiliate commission just helps support the free content we put out here at The Podcast Host. Thanks for supporting us!
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Cost & Download Limits
So let's get the price stuff out the way first. Captivate have 3 pricing tiers.
- Podcaster – $19 a month – 12,000 downloads per month
- Professional – $49 – 60,000 downloads per month
- Brand – $99 – 150,000 downloads per month
These total monthly download limits are the only thing that's tiered with Captivate. All other features are open to users from the Podcaster plan upwards.
Each plan includes a 7 day free trial. You can play around with the service first-hand, to decide if it's right for you. All plans allow you to host multiple podcasts/RSS feeds for one cost.
Monthly downloads can be a hard thing to quantify, because they depend a lot on the size of your back catalogue. For a rough guide, I'd say that if you were running a podcast that's about a year old, and new episodes were getting 1000 downloads within the first month of their release, then you'd be pushing the limit of that bottom tier.
For a deeper dive into stats, see what's a good number of downloads for a podcast? Bottom line though, the example I've just given would be a show in the top 20% of all podcasts, based on its numbers. To be in that position would mean you had plenty monetisation options, and the opportunity to run a decent Patreon to cover increased costs.
You'll find cheaper options out there than Captivate. But I don't think what they're charging is in any way unreasonable for what you're getting, as you'll soon find out.
Capitvate Review: Getting Started
If you're a brand new podcaster, logging into a media hosting site for the first time can be a bit intimidating. That isn't the case with Captivate, though.
Not only is the dashboard well designed and easy to navigate, they also make sure that any questions you might have are answered quickly and easily. Each time you visit a new screen, you'll get a complete tutorial of what it's for, and how it works. There's also a little chat box in each page that guides you along the way, offering you hints, tips, prompts, and advice.
Whether you're creating a brand new podcast, or moving an existing one from another media host, the process is simple throughout.
Captivate provide download analysis on a number of different fronts.
- Downloads Overview – A breakdown of downloads across set time periods.
- Download Averages – On average, how many downloads your show gets across the stated period.
- Daily Trends – The amount of total downloads your show had on each specific day.
- How They Listen – This shows you the various ‘user agents' your show has been listened to via (for example, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, etc)
- Where They Listen – Captivate's location stats show you where your listeners are, from country to country. They plan to hone in on this further to include things like states and cities in the near future.
- Episode Analysis – The total downloads each episode has received.
Captivate's stats have been proven to be robust and accurate, by not counting any downloads from bots, in a recent test by Daniel J. Lewis.
Files & Publishing
Captivate have a handy ‘Default Publish Time' setting you can use. This would be useful for someone who, for example, wants to release all their new episodes at 7am. This would save them having to set the time each time they upload new content.
Capitivate is one of the few hosting platforms that doesn't make any changes to your files. What you upload, your listener will download. That means no changes to file names, metadata, bitrates, etc.
This makes Captivate a good option for folks running highly-produced shows, such as stylised documentaries or audio dramas. If you want to encode your fully soundscaped episodes in stereo at a high bitrate, then you can. Here's more info on podcast bitrates if that's something you're unfamiliar with.
Another pleasing update to this Captivate review, is that it also now integrates with Alitu. Our very own podcast editing and creation platform.
Alitu users can connect their Captivate account and publish/edit their shows using the two tightly integrated systems. This can make your podcasting workflow super simple.
All media hosts these days will give you a basic website for your show. These are, naturally, a lot more limited than if you were self-hosting your own site.
The site you get with Captivate looks anything but basic, though. It's a heavily customisable space that you can make your own. In their latest update, they now provide 3 fully responsive website templates which will look great on any device.
In your Captivate site, you can list your episodes in ‘start at the beginning' order, or by the newest episode first. There's also a search bar so your listeners can immediately seek out the content they're after. You can pin your favourite episode or trailer to the top of the page, too!
Domain-wise, by default you'd have showname.captivate.fm. But, it's really easy to set it up to work off your own domain.
For our own example, see OrganicLife.me
Working Inside WordPress
If you plan to run your own site, then Captivate Sync is a plugin that “allows you to easily link your WordPress website to your Captivate podcast hosting account and seamlessly publish from one platform to the other.”
This plugin means you can control much of your show in one single place. For example, you can publish, edit, or delete episodes in WordPress, and those changes will immediately be reflected in your Captivate account. Or, you could do the same inside your Captivate account, and the changes will be reflected in your WordPress site.
This can go a long way towards streamlining your workflow, saving you time, and generally making life easier.
Captivate Review: Players
Captivate's superb looking podcast websites are complimented by equally superb looking podcast players.
These come with play speed settings and sharing buttons. Just like the websites too, they're fully responsive on any device.
The players have a couple of really nice additional features, though. You can register as a Captivate affiliate, and this automatically turns the Captivate logo on your player into a referral link.
That means you can earn commission from everyone who clicks through their on your player, and signs up to the service.
There's also a nice ‘Calls to Action' feature, accessible from the player. We'll talk more about this in the ‘Growth' section.
You can now showcase all episodes of your show by embedding their ‘Playlist Player' on your site. Or, you can embed a ‘Latest Episode Player' that always shows and plays the most recent episode of your show. Either one of these would be great for your show's homepage or ‘subscribe' page.
Captivate Review: Distribution
Submitting your show to podcast directories like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and more can all be done from inside the Captivate dashboard. This is yet another process that they make really simple.
Once in Apple Podcasts, you'll automatically appear in major apps like Overcast, Pocket Casts, and Podcast Addict too. Captivate automatically generates links to these aggregators, which is a really nice touch.
You can also integrate your account with your Podchaser profile, if you have one. Podchaser is considered by many to be “the IMDB for podcasts”.
Captivate automatically generates buttons on your site to places your show can be found. This makes it easy for your listeners to find and subscribe to the podcast on their app of choice.
You can also get special URLs for each episode to copy into your social media posts. These automatically generate an episode player to appear in platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
One great new feature here, is their ‘single subscribe' page, which automatically creates buttons to the key places your podcast can be found. See ours at https://www.organiclife.me/listen
This can act as a one-stop link to send to potential new listeners. But it would have been nice to have a Playlist Player or Latest Episode Player option on this page. After all, new listeners will want to look through the episodes on offer, and perhaps listen to a sample of one. Hopefully that's an update we'll see in the near future!
In this era of increasing privacy concerns, Captivate have added in a nice feature with their ‘Full Transparency Mode'.
There are a few third-party tracking, sponsorship and advertising tools on the market these days, such as Chartable & Podcorn.
Create Unlimited Podcasts
If you feel a compulsive need to start a podcast about every topic you're interested in, then Captivate is a great option.
You can start as many new shows as you like on whatever payment plan you choose. The only thing you'll need to keep an eye on is the total combined number of downloads of all your shows. Start hitting that limit, and you'll need to upgrade. However, Captivate gives you a 10% grace overage. You'll only need to upgrade if you use that grace for the second month in a row, or push past that 10%. If you have a sudden publicity spike, for example, this is great.
Create Private Podcasts
Captivate also let's you create private, or members-only podcasts. This is a great option if you'd like to run an internal show for a team inside a business or organisation. You can also use a private podcast as premium content to aid in your monetisation ventures.
The great thing about private podcasts on Captivate is that you can use this feature even if you're on their lowest payment tier. On the $19 plan you can run a members-only show with up to 150 subscribers. For $49 a month you can up that to 500 subscribers, and on the $99 plan you'd get three private feeds and up to 1000 subscribers.
Build & Organise Teams
If you have others working on your podcast(s) with you, then Captivate make teamwork and collaboration simple.
You can add an unlimited amount of team members to your account, assigned to the roles of editor, producer, show manager, host, or brand partner. No need to be sharing around the same login details.
You can also create bios for each team member, and have them appear on your website too. This integrates neatly with Podchaser's team functionality.
Captivate market themselves as “the world's only growth-oriented podcast host”. They provide some useful tools to help you grow and monetise your show.
Calls to Action
I've already mentioned the ‘Calls to Action' feature. This lets you create two links to anything you like, which are accessible through the episode player, as you can see below.
Common uses for these links would be things like downloadable resources, or you could use them to encourage support through platforms like Patreon.
You can set these same CTAs to appear in every episode player, or use an ‘Override' feature when publishing. This means you can have a unique CTA link for an individual episode too.
You can edit and change these at any time, so if one particular CTA was time-sensitive, you can always update it to something relevant and useful in the future.
One of Captivate's newest updates is on the email opt-in and lead magnet front.
You can now capture emails for newsletters straight from your Captivate website. You can integrate with AWeber or most other email providers by using an HTML snippet.
Captivate also supports in-built opt-ins, allowing you to manage your lead magnet fully within Captivate and your email provider. If you choose to upload an image alongside your email opt-in, Captivate will make your opt-in layout look great automatically, too!
One-Click Sponsor Kit
The Sponsor Kit is another really cool feature. Inside your dashboard, you can automatically generate a nice looking PDF media kit, complete with at-a-glance analytics. The document also displays key details about your show, your target audience, and your contact details. This makes it easy to reach out to potential podcast sponsors!
The Captivate team have also promised “innovative new growth-oriented features” launching as the platform grows, so I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg here. It'll be really interesting to see what comes next.
Captivate Review: Summary
At the time of writing, Captivate is still a new service. But they've already done enough to make them one of the best hosting provider options on the market.
- The platform is well designed and makes everything very simple – even if you're completely new to podcasting.
- The Captivate websites and players look superb.
- Captivate provides two way integration with your existing WordPress website via the simple Captivate Sync plugin.
- The building of teams and option to create multiple podcasts will be an attractive feature to some.
- The ‘Calls to Action', ‘Email Opt-Ins', ‘One-Click sponsorship', and ‘Full Transparency Mode' features are a nice touch.
- For audio purists, they don't alter your file in any way.
- The support team are always on hand via the live chat and helpful, guided knowledge base.
I also really like the concept of the ‘listen' page as one single URL you can use to share your show. All this is really missing, however, is the option to hit play on the podcast on that same page. Captivate's players are excellent, and it would be a great idea to make further use of them here.
As I've said already, they're very receptive to feedback, and are always growing and adapting. I'm sure an update to this feature will already be in the pipeline!
Need More Help Choosing a Podcast Host?
Thanks for checking out this Captivate review. And if you're still looking to shop around, be sure to check out our Best Podcast Hosting Roundup.
And, if you'd like more guidance and support about this, and any other aspect of podcasting, then take a look at The Podcast Host Academy.
There, you'll find all of our courses, downloadable resources, community forum, and weekly live Q&A sessions. It's the one-stop-shop place for building and growing a great podcast!