Podcast Hosting Platforms and Monetization Options 2021

Re-Evaluating My Podcast Hosting & Workflow for the Fearless 5 Podcast


  • Anchor Adds Advertising Solutions
  • The Bad: Anchor Offers Poor WordPress Integration
  • Embedded Podcasts Fail Over Time
  • Looking Into Podcast Solutions: Podbean or Castos?
  • Podcast Monetization Options?

First, some background on my current podcasting problems with the Fearless 5. I’ve been podcasting with Anchor since 2019 and I am wondering if I’ve now outgrown the free podcast hosting platform. Anchor was great for me when I started the Fearless 5 in August of 2019. The podcast is now two years old and 180+ episodes. One problem I have is I lack the audience size to monetize with most of the platforms I mention in this blog post, but I looked into them anyway.

For the Fearless 5, I used my phone to start an off-the-cuff coaching podcast in 2019. Back then, I was pretty poor so I didn’t have home internet or much free time to use for creative pursuits. I created then F5 podcast with the informal feel of live radio, so I never edited the audio. This worked for me since I’d done radio for 20+ years (yikes) and I felt this would be the most time-friendly way to create a daily (M-F) podcast of 5 minutes a day, hence the name “Fearless 5.” I didn’t want to spend time editing despite my ability to edit audio like a beast.

Turns out, I had a great deal more to say than just five minutes’ worth! The Fearless 5 podcast has evolved to be much more than just 5 minutes, which needs to change. But it has still stayed in the original delivery of five days a week (with some pauses along the way), so the name stays. I eventually graduated from using my iPhone to using an iPad with an audio rig.

Now, I’ve grown a little more, getting a MacBook and then Adobe Audition. I’ve created a theme song for it. But after what’s been a crazy year (surviving the 🦠, dealing with long-term issues from it, and changing careers), I took a summer break.

So the Fearless 5 is returning slowly but surely with some experimentation. I don’t want to stay with Anchor because it doesn’t do enough for me — but it’s FREE. Can’t beat free…for now, anyway.

Podcast Hosting Solutions

For those like myself who are looking for a podcast hosting solution, I thought I’d evaluate what I like and dislike about Anchor. I started writing this blog a couple months ago. This month (October 2021), Anchor has shown signs of adding more services. But will they be enough to get me to stay with them long-term? I did do a short survey and said I’d offer feedback, so let’s see what happens.

The Good: Anchor Adds Advertising Solutions

Anchor just announced it’s offering three advertising solutions, but they aren’t open to every user. You need 50+ listeners to get into Anchor’s Ambassador Ads. You need to get on a waitlist in order to take part in Automated Ads. I’m not sure who’s able to get into their Premium Sponsorships, but I’m guessing you need a decent-sized listenership.

Anchor’s metrics tell you a few things, like how big your audience is, how many plays you get, and some basic demographic information. I can’t imagine their relationships with any advertiser based on much more than gender, age, and geographical location. Unless they plan to beef up the analytics they offer…

The Bad: Anchor Offers Poor WordPress Integration

The WordPress integration for Anchor didn’t work for me. I take back what I said in the original blog about it! While it did upload all my previous podcasts the day I used the WordPress/Anchor integration, the site hasn’t grabbed any new podcasts I’ve created since that day. So my WordPress/Anchor integration site is like a time capsule. Good thing I never bought a domain for it! I was initially impressed with it as I was on a podcasting break when I tried it, so I (mistakenly) thought it worked.

There’s still a WordPress bar that greets me when I log in as though I never integrated it in the first place, which is an annoying reminder that it doesn’t work.

The Bad: Embedded Podcasts Fail Over Time

I’ve also noticed some of my embedded podcasts don’t work. When I return to edit old blog posts on my website, I am finding some aren’t playing. Anchor is free, so I’m chalking it up to getting what you pay for. Again, Anchor is FREE, and has been free for me for the past two years.

Looking Into Podcast Solutions: Which Is Best?

There are different schools of thought here and “which is best” is just too broad. What’s best for my purposes may not work for yours, but I’ll do my best to dissect what’s most interesting from the offerings below.

I found this article about various podcasting platforms even though I was pretty sure I’d go with Podbean based on its reputation. I hadn’t heard of all the hosting platforms listed, so I decided to check them out before making a commitment. (Spoiler alert: I still have yet to make one). They also offer a quiz, but as is the case with most lead gen, they want your email to get results. I took the quiz and it said BuzzSprout would be best for me.

BuzzSprout Isn’t For Me

I tend to disagree with that decision! Here’s why BuzzSprout doesn’t interest me. I’d already looked at other platforms and BuzzSprout is the only one that’s not offering unlimited audio. Each podcast can be around 20 minutes for me, sometimes more. I put out five of these a week at around 30 minutes, that means I’d need to nickel and dime myself on time. What if I need 10 hours a month or more? The BuzzSprout plan is then $24/mo with $2 extra per hour I upload…and it’s overall not heavy on features.

What Initially Drew Me to Podbean as a Podcast Hosting Solution

My initial thought was that PodBean would help me monetize. For all 180+ episodes of the Fearless 5 on Anchor since 2019, I’ve earned nearly nothing. There has been only ONE time in two years I’ve had more than one ad option. So I’ve been running the SAME AD for two years. It’s just one of those things I need to pay more attention to now! There was one time, around the U.S. Presidential Election, when there was another ad to record for something election-related, like, “get out the vote,” or something.

The pros of Podbean

  • No limits on upload time & bandwidth, recording time, or or episodes.
  • You get a website.
  • You can schedule episodes to post at certain times.
  • Pushes to Alexa.
  • Gives you metrics.
  • For monetization, you can list in a marketplace to be matched with potential advertisers — so I was wrong; I thought this was more automatic like Anchor. Live streaming.

Podbean Cost: $14/mo or $9 billed annually (for what I need)

I’m most interested in Castos, here’s why:

Castos comes loaded with features I’m interested in and no bandwidth limits. Most exciting to me is that Castos offers YouTube republishing and automatic podcast transcriptions! As a content marketer, this excites me! Oh, the SEO possibilities! There is an extra cost for the audio transcriptions of $0.10/minute, which would cost me (for my purposes) maybe $10-12/month extra. YouTube podcast republishing comes standard in all their “Growth Plans,” which is $49/month. You can also create multiple shows, which is also in my plans. A little more pricey than Podbean, but comes with more features.

Since I’ve been embedding my episodes on my website, [https://destinyarchitecture.com/fearless5podcast] I don’t feel like I need a podcast website. That falls into my “nice to have” category.

Castos offers side-by-side comparison with most of the other podcasting distributors on my list. But there’s one thing it doesn’t do — offer monetization possibilities. So my research into podcast hosts continued.

So the choice comes down to this — do I choose Podbean for Monetization? Or do I choose Castos for YouTube publishing and transcription? I know I may not (yet) qualify for monetization with any platform as I continue to build the Fearless 5’s audience. There are also some changes I need to make to the F5 before I choose a platform. I’ve been inconsistent with the podcast over its first two years of life and I know I need to make it more well-defined and structured as I move forward.

Podcast Platform Comparisons:

Castos vs. Podbean

Podbean pricing $14

Castos Pricing $49 + $10-12 for transcription

Podcast Monetization Options

Now to look at monetization options for my podcast. I may not be ready to choose one, but it’s not to early to become aware of what’s available. I started with this list from Castos, since I’m looking into this hosting platform as my first choice.

Ad Results Media — Doesn’t appear targeted towards podcasters, targets advertisers, seems heavy on influencers.

Adopter Media — More geared towards getting advertisers on podcasts.

AdvertiseCast — same as the above two.

True Native Media — This is the first one that greets users with two options: one for advertisers, one for podcasts. Requires 10K+ downloads per episode within a 30-day period. Leads you here to get you signed up to learn about how to monetize a podcast. The basic course is under $100. (This is not an endorsement; I haven’t tried the course and I don’t know the teacher).

Midroll — This is the only one I’ve heard of before. Its homepage automatically greets you with podcast hosts you’ve heard of before, like Marc Maron, so it’s definitely targeted towards podcasters rather than advertisers. You have to apply to join Midroll’s community of podcasters, which requires you fill out this form.

Podcorn — Targeting podcasters with, “no contracts or exclusivities.” You have to sign up to, “see the opportunities available today.” Podcasters are offered a 0% sign-up fee and a 10% service fee. Out of curiosity and for the sake of research, I signed up to see if this could work for me. In signing up, I couldn’t connect analytics because, “Anchor does not give podcast creators the control and ability to add analytics prefixes to their Anchor RSS feeds.”

Screenshot of the message I received from trying to see what I can accomplish with Audry.io + Anchor; seems it’s not the only service Anchor refuses to integrate with. Personally, I enjoy a more open-source, less restrictive life…

“Since many other hosting providers do support the Podcorn prefix without issue, we hope that Anchor will be able to accommodate your request in the future. Good news though! You can still use Podcorn to find sponsorship opportunities. You will just need to share screenshots of your show’s analytics in your proposals, since Podcorn won’t be able to verify your analytics automatically.”

I’ve had trouble receiving Podcorn’s verification link and ended up having to send an email to get it done. This was an overnight process so there’s a delay in getting set up and started; don’t expect instant gratification here. I think we’re all looking for less abrasion, right? But this is an Anchor issue with the Podcorn product, to be clear. Once my RSS feed was verified, I logged back into Podcorn to see what was available. I realized there’s a learning curve to seeing how their system works, so I’ll come back to it. (I still have no idea if it will work for me at this time).

A complete list of podcast hosting providers by Apple Podcasts for Creators, courtesy of the Podnews Newsletter on 10/13/21.

Sign up to receive the Podnews newsletter here.

The Future of the Fearless 5 Podcast

Aside from researching better hosting with more options as well as monetization, I am also starting a Season 5 of the Fearless 5 Podcast. I’ll be adding interviews and experimenting with the format. After 180+ episodes, I know I want options to be more creative. For now, the Fearless 5 is slowly returning with an experimental nature — call it the jazz music of podcasts.

I may focus on 5 things at a time while keeping it five minutes long — or stick to a “5 ideas” format while ignoring the length. Maybe a new theme a day M-F? But I am extremely interested in the short-form audio options out there, like Racket and Beams.

I want to add in F5 podcasts that feature long-form interviews. As a veteran radio broadcaster and former TV news producer, I really miss interviewing people! But I don’t want to interview people in order to “write a story.” Conversation is king!

I think staying on Anchor as I experiment is one way to save money as I find my footing. I have a small audience that needs to grow. I’ve been using the podcast as a way to deliver content and enhance the DesmortinyArchitecture website & blog for two years.

But I think you can tell from above, I’m still learning toward Castos!

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