Ups and Downs for Podcast Hosting in 2008

podcasting Back in October, Dickson and I announced that we were shutting down our hosting service Podcast Spot. At the end of November, we disabled uploading and are now in the final transition phase for downloads and RSS feeds. In February 2009, the site will be taken offline completely.

We’re not the only podcast hosting service that shutdown in 2008 – at least two other services also called it quits recently:

The most visible of these services was Podango, so news of its demise created some discussion over the holidays. From Podcasting News:

While Smith attributes Podango’s state to the effects of the financial market, Podango and other podcast hosting services have not demonstrated that there’s much of a need for podcast-specific Web hosting services.

Podcango’s situation raises the question: Is there a real need for podcast-specific hosting services?

It’s a good question, and one I have thought about quite a bit in the latter half of 2008. For the vast majority of people, YouTube, Flickr, and similar tools are good enough. If they want to share some audio or (more likely) video, these services make it easy to do so. Increasingly, video cameras come with built-in support for YouTube, so the user doesn’t really have to do anything but record. This was the curve we attempted to get ahead of with Podcast Spot.

For a smaller number of people, something more advanced is required. Maybe they want to sell advertising, or have more control over production quality, or gain access to better statistics. I think this group can be split into two – the DIY crowd, and the use-a-hosting-service crowd. So yes, there is a need for podcast-specific hosting services, but perhaps the market is a lot smaller than everyone thought.

It wasn’t all bad news for podcast hosting in 2008 though. Some familiar services still appear to be going strong: Libsyn, Podbean, and Podkive to name just a few. Back in July, RawVoice announced they were entering the market with Blubrry. In August, Wizzard Software announced increased revenues and decreased expenses and losses. And on October 21st, Blip.tv announced they had raised another round of investment.

I’d expect 2009 to be similar – a mix of ups and downs for podcast hosting services.

It’s important to realize that we’re talking about podcast hosting here. I don’t think the demise of Podango or any other service should be taken to mean that podcasting itself is in trouble. As Paul Colligan said:

Podango’s problems say as little about the future of Podcasting as GM’s problems say about the future of cars.

Podcasting is all about communication, and the need for that hasn’t gone away. Podcasting itself is doing just fine.

Wizzard Software buys Libsyn

Post ImageThere isn’t much news on this story yet, except for the official press release from Wizzard Software. Today the company announced that it has agreed to acquire Libsyn, currently the world’s largest podcasting network. From Podcasting News:

According to the companies, the acquisition combines the world’s largest and fastest growing podcast network with Wizzard’s expertise in speech technology integration, creating a powerful new service for podcasters worldwide.

Wizzard has been pretty busy lately, snapping up Switchpod back on September 21st and Blast Podcast less than a week later.

So far, there is no word of this deal on the Libsyn blogs or forums. I’m interested to hear their comments, because I think they understood they had to do something. Wizzard gets the top hosting service, and Libsyn gets some financial support to improve their service (and more importantly, quality of service), so it’s a good deal for both I think.

Libsyn CEO Dave Chekan seems excited in the press release at least:

“We’ve had several investment offers in the past and we chose Wizzard due to its expertise in speech technology, its passion for podcasting and its desire to make money for our independent content creators.”

Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed.

Read: Wizzard

Podcast Spot is LIVE!

Post ImageI don’t even know what to say – I’ve been wanting to make this post for so long! Okay, Podcast Spot is now live and ready for you to use. And you’ll note we’re not in beta either; we are not hiding behind a label. You shouldn’t run into any problems on the site, but if you do, let us know. And please send us your feedback too!

For those of you that don’t know, Podcast Spot is a hosting service for podcasters. We’ve been working on it for about two years now. Actually, exactly two years ago last Thursday was when I launched BlogosphereRadio, my first foray into podcasting. You can say that Podcast Spot grew out of that project – I realized that podcasting could be somewhat difficult, and took far too much time and effort. Dickson and I realized we could make things easier, and thus, we set about creating what eventually became Podcast Spot. And while the code might have changed quite a bit in the last two years, our goals have always been the same:

  • To make becoming a podcaster and enjoying podcasts easier and more enjoyable
  • To eliminate the need for technical knowledge, and reduce the amount of time required
  • To empower podcasters and their audience with features designed specifically for podcasting

I’m proud to say that Podcast Spot is a big first step towards accomplishing these goals. That said, it’s just the first step, and there’s still a long way to go. We’re eager and excited to continue improving the podcasting experience, with Podcast Spot and other products too.

Dickson and I recorded a quick little introduction message earlier this evening, which you can listen to at Podcast Spot. Even if you don’t want to be a podcaster, I encourage to check the site out! If you have comments or feedback, we’d love to hear from you. You can leave a comment on one of our blogs, post to our forums, or email us. And if you’re going to be at the Portable Media Expo later this week, come see us in booth #408!

Read: Podcast Spot

Libsyn Pro?

Post ImageI just went to take a look at Libsyn’s site tonight, and came across Libsyn Pro. Oddly there is nothing about the service at their blog or in the forums yet. Here’s the brief description:

Built from the ground up, we took the best features of our very popular Libsyn personal system and added the elements businesses demand: World class distribution network, 99.99% Service Level Guarantee, Turnkey, ultra-simple workflow .

Sounds interesting. Judging from the website, I am guessing that it also will not be cheap. I am really curious to know what the pricing is like. Two of their current clients include NPR and National Geographic. The website looks nice, but it’s hard to tell what the service is like simply from the screenshots. It does appear, however, to be focused on businesses only. It also appears to be strictly a storage service, like the regular Libsyn, meaning they don’t create a website for the podcast.

I find the timing a little strange. Just days after they had some major problems with file distribution, they launch a service for businesses with a “world class distribution network”? Either it’s a completely separate system, or that copy was written a long time ago (though Libsyn has had problems for quite a while). And if it is the former, I can see their existing user base being pretty upset. I know I would be.

I’ll be watching this one with interest.

On a slightly related note, we’re going to start testing Podcast Spot next week. Over the next month or so, I’ll be posting little tidbits about the service here and on the Paramagnus blog, so stay tuned.

Read: Libsyn Pro

MoveDigital

Post ImageI had been looking at a service called Prodigem a couple weeks ago, but they informed me they would soon be relaunching. Well, now they have, and with a bang too! Prodigem was acquired by MoveDigital, and the new service they have launched is pretty sweet:

We’re unique, a file is only charged as delivered after the entire direct download is complete.

We also allow your audience to add bandwidth to your account, and we always roll over your bandwidth, so it’s never lost.

A free account will give you 30 days of use, 1 GB of storage space, and 10 GB of bandwidth. Paid accounts start at just $10 for an entire year. On top of that, they can create torrents for your files, and if you upload audio or video, they will even make it streamable for mobile phones.

I played around with the service a little today, and it works great. They show you download statistics for your files (but only if the entire file is downloaded). They even count a proper download for BitTorrent (though, presumably, only for files they seed). Users can also subscribe to your content using the RSS feeds that MoveDigital automatically generates, one for direct downloads, one for torrent downloads, and one for mobile streams.

Overall, it’s a pretty nicely done service. I have only two complaints really, one being that the link to their API does not work! The second is the price is pretty high. Even their Premium account (the highest one), which costs $10,100 for the entire year, is 5 times more expensive than comparable benefits (storage, bandwidth) using Amazon S3. The cost per additional GB of transfer is also 19 cents higher than Amazon S3 (and five times higher if you’re on the Basic plan).

I suppose if you had a high number of partial downloads it would even out, but you’d need a lot of those for it to work. Also note that MoveDigital does charge for partial downloads of data using BitTorrent or the mobile streams, only direct downloads can take advantage of the entire download charge feature.

Read: MoveDigital