“Which media host should I use?” is one of the most common questions we get asked here at The Podcast Host. The answer, as is usually the case in podcasting, is “it depends”.
We have our roundup of good hosting services, but are always keen to test and review other options.
The latest service we're taking a look at is Simplecast. So what's the deal with them? And why might you choose to host your podcast there?
Who Are Simplecast?
Simplecast have been on the go since 2013. This makes them an established player in the space these days. There's been an explosion of startups in the podcast hosting industry in the past couple of years. Many have come and gone in that time too.
So it's fair to say they've earned their right to be considered a safe home for your podcast. This is one of the very first things to think about when choosing a platform:
- how long have they been in business, and
- are they likely to stay in business?
Simplecast market themselves as “the modern independent podcast hosting and analytics platform”.
For nearly 6 years, Simplecast has provided podcasters with industry-leading publishing, distribution, analytics, and sharing tools. Simplecast exists for the podcaster, giving shows of all shapes and sizes access to the same tools powering shows from some of the world's biggest brands.https://simplecast.com
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How Much Does Simplecast Cost?
Simplecast offer a 14 day free trial for any of their 3 pricing tiers. There's no ongoing free tier available.
- Basic – $15 a month, or $13.50 a month if prepaid annually
- Essential – $35 a month, or $31.50 a month if prepaid annually
- Growth – $85 a month, or $76.50 a month if prepaid annually
What Are The Tier Differences?
Well, firstly, what are the tier similarities?
Simplecast offer unlimited storage space, unlimited uploads, listener analytics & reports, social media sharing clips, and a customisable themed show website from the Basic package upwards.
They put a soft limit on the number of total monthly downloads your podcast receives, depending on the tier. Basic is 20,000. Essential is 50,000. And growth is 125,000. If you start hitting your limit they'll contact you about an upgrade. They don't cut you off, or upgrade your account without your permission.
With the two higher tiers, you can add additional team members to your account, access more web players (with colour customisation), and access advanced audience insights.
The entire Simplecast interface is clean, well designed, and easy to navigate. They're a host that very much caters to the stat addict. They do a fine job of visually presenting these, too.
It isn't exclusively about the aesthetics though. Simplecast serve their stats based on the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) guidelines.
IAB guidelines hold download/listen stats to a high standard. This can help podcasters get a more accurate idea of their overall audience size. It also helps them to work with sponsors and advertisers.
You can take a deep dive into your Simplecast stats, with info on devices and directories used, popular times of day, and location heatmaps. There's also an episode comparison feature, that lets you measure the performance of episodes against one another.
In May 2019, Simplecast unveiled their Unique Listeners feature, which “counts the individual listener devices which download or stream your show.”
Simplecast stress that this isn't a replacement for your actual download metrics. But, let's say that you did happen to have one superfan who binges your entire back catalogue every single day. This feature would help you get a more accurate picture of your audience numbers, without things being skewed by anomalies.
Simplecast will re-encode MP3s that are over 128kbps to that bitrate, but they won't alter anything uploaded at a rate of 128kbps or lower. Stereo/mono encoding is kept as-is at all times.
You can speak to Simplecast about maintaining a higher bitrate for your files, though. For example, if you were creating a highly-produced audio drama and wanted to stay at 192kbps. However, for spoken word shows, 128kbps is more than good enough and is largely considered to be “CD quality”.
You can add metadata (information about the podcast) to your file during the episode upload process too. This saves you a bit of time!
Your Podcast Website
Simplecast offers a customisable website for your show. Here, you can see an example of one.
By default, your Simplecast-hosted podcast's site will be podcastname.simplecast.com. But, you have the option to set up and use a custom domain, if you prefer.
Your site will update automatically when new episodes are published. You can also link to individual episode pages on there, too.
If you'd rather use your own website though, you can choose to hide the Simplecast one from search engines. Just check the No Index box in your site settings.
Simplecast Web Players
Simplecast have multiple Player options that you can embed on your own website, or social media. These Players are compelling, nicely designed, and easy to use.
You're limited to the Standard Player on the Basic tier. On the other tiers, you can use any Player option and have access to colour customisation options too.
Simplecast have created a tool called Recast, which lets you easily create short shareable audio clips.
You can tailor these with custom artwork and colouring, before sharing them on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The Recast editor is available to your listeners too, via whichever audio player you're using. Fans of your podcast can create their own clips, and share them around. It's an excellent feature for promotion and visibility.
When publishing a new episode, Simplecast gives you the option to select ‘Hide from RSS'.
This means you can publish a ‘private' episode that won't appear in your feed, or in directories like Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
You can still share this episode though, for example on a platform like Patreon, as part of a premium content offering.
You also have the option to change public episodes to private, and vice-versa, at any point.
Simplecast live up to their name when it comes to moving shows on or off their platform. Their show migrator lets you search for your existing podcast, claim ownership of it, and transfer it over to your Simplecast account in a couple of clicks.
Likewise, if you want to leave the service and move to another media host, you can easily do this without causing disruption to your show in platforms such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Simplecast lives up to its name in the sense that it's extremely simple to set up and use. However, this doesn't mean it feels like a basic or limited platform. Far from it; their stats, sharing tools, and web players are excellent.
If we're looking at some of the reasons why you might not host with them, then there's three to consider.
- The limit on the number of total monthly downloads. If you're an established podcast with a large back catalogue, then this could be an issue for you. Granted, these are “soft” limits, but they're limits nonetheless.
- The re-encoding of files higher than 128kbps. If you're mixing highly-produced audio dramas you might prefer to run at a higher bitrate than this. Again though, to be fair, Simplecast are willing to make exceptions for you, if you have a good enough reason.
- With the lowest tier being $15 a month ($13.50 if paid annually) they're not the cheapest host out there. Certainly charging for media hosting is a good thing (these companies tend to stay in business), but you will find cheaper options out there if money is tight.
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These aren't deal breakers, and I don't think they outweigh the positives of Simplecast. It's a great option for a new podcaster who initially wants a very clean, easy-to-use interface. At the same time, it lets podcasters host on a platform that has enough features and tools to grow with their show.
Remember, other hosting options are available, if you'd still like to do a bit of shopping about. And if you'd like more tailored help with choosing a host, or with launching your podcast in general, then check out The Podcast Host Academy. That's where you'll get access to our regular live Q&A sessions, as well as our community forums.
In there, you'll get all the answers, feedback, and advice you need on any aspect of launching or growing a show!