The 411 on Podcast Hosting Platforms with Libsyn Founder Rob Greenlee

Apr 6, 2022

Podcast Hosting Platforms

Rob Greenlee is a podcasting veteran and Hall of Famer, with years of experience in the space. He joins the show to share what every podcaster should know about media hosts and podcasting platforms, as well as the future of podcast advertising, the professionalization of the podcasting space, and what to do to increase downloads and listener retention.

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Two Things to Focus on Before You Think About Gear and Media Hosting

Rob thinks that those working on launching a podcast shouldn’t start by focusing on gear, media hosting and those sorts of technical things. Rather, they should think about the content and the show itself.


What to Look for in a Media Host

When it comes to a media host like Libsyn, you want to make sure you use a platform that is advanced. By ‘advanced’, Rob means:

“A platform that has good distribution to podcasting directories (like Spotify, iHeartRadio, etc.), that has a reliable bandwidth pipe that can deliver your episode and that features what you need to publish your RSS feed – something that’s key to your podcast distribution strategy.”

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Libsyn, as well as other platforms in that space, have been working on adding monetization tools to their toolsuite to either offer a premium podcast or offer advertising on the show. Having recently acquired AdvertiseCast, Libsyn now gives its users the ability to get assistance from an advertising sales team that works with shows that typically get over 5,000 downloads a month.

However, they’re also working on host reads and bundling shows for podcasts that get less than 5,000 downloads a month.


Programmatic Advertising: The Future of Podcast Advertising?

This form of automated advertising consists of the insertion of ad slots in your audio timeline. By doing this, podcasters can decide to include or exclude certain categories to be included in their show.

For Rob, dynamic ad insertion, as well as programmatic, is the future because it creates a sort of auction-like environment for ad buying, and it extends the podcast monetization parts.

Some agencies, however, are unsure about whether that is indeed the future of podcast monetization. One of the reasons for this are PayPal- and Patreon-like donation models and premium subscription models – like the one Libsyn enables its users to do through – that have been around for quite a while and that several podcasters have been leveraging in a successful fashion.


How to Use a Media Host

A media hosting platform is the channel through which podcasters can make their show available to the world.

Episodes are uploaded and published through a media host, which then automatically pushes them out to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and any other directory your go-to media host is connected to.

Libsyn gives its users the ability to do all that, plus add metadata – details about a specific episode – your podcast artwork and different types of imagery, some of which are specific to certain podcasting directories.

And to make sure podcasters have control over how their show is positioned and presented online, there are also platform-specific custom fields Libsyn lets you customize


Untapped Podcast Growth Opportunities 

When thinking about podcast distribution, most podcasters think of places like Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.

But did you know that there are some “hidden gems” that could potentially help with your show’s exposure?

There’s TuneIn, for example, that’s connected to Alexa and that helps make your podcast available on Alexa devices.

Then, there are a platforms Rob mentioned that could potentially enable you to tap into a pool of 300 million listeners!  Gaana, for instance, is a popular podcasting platform used by listeners in India.

It features local content, as well as international English-language content, and Rob has seen some Libsyn users get a nice bump in downloads after having made their podcast available on Gaana and other platforms of that nature.

Even though most of the podcasting content consumed outside of the U.S. is in English, there has also been the emergence of local-language directories. This is good for you to keep in mind in case you’re planning to create content in a language other than English.

Languages like Spanish and French, for example, are spoken in several countries – which means a potential audience for you in more than one country or continent.

Some countries around the world are picking up podcasting at a faster clip than the U.S., so it’s worth tapping into this as an independent podcaster.


Audience, Stats and Industry Domination

You may think that as technology evolves and data becomes more accurate, it would be easier to get a clear snapshot of listenerships in relation to various platforms… However, that isn’t the case.

Rob explains that while an opening to a global distribution market is beneficial in terms of potentially getting more listeners from around the world, it makes it challenging to paint a clear picture of what’s happening.

According to some stats, Spotify has now surpassed Apple as the #1 podcasting platform. While that may be true for shows hosted on newer platforms like Buzzsprout, it certainly isn’t the case for Libsyn, which has been around since 2004 and has some of its shows that were launched before Spotify even existed. Apple Podcasts is still the #1 platform for podcasts hosted on Libsyn.

Looking at one stat doesn’t tell the whole story.


The Podcasting Space is Growing

True, podcasting is growing in terms of global listenership and that’s very good news for podcasters.

Another great thing for audio content producers, though, is the fact that growth isn’t happening only on the listenership side but from the distribution too. 

There are more and more companies that have gotten involved in the podcasting space, like Samsung, Pandora, and SiriusXM – providing more exposure opportunities for podcasts of all genres. 


Anything You Want to Do is Probably Possible

Rob said it: ‘Anything you want to do is probably possible.’

Would you like to produce a show, charge money for it and make it available only on Apple Podcasts? You can do that.

Would you prefer to directly upload your show to Apple Podcasts and create a subscription on your audio content or want to window it like a TV show? That’s possible.

Want to make your show available through Luminary, Amazon or Spotify? You can make it happen.

Are you thinking about making your show available on any listening platform under a premium window? By using Libysn and creating a account you can do that.

There is so much that podcasters can do nowadays.


The Professionalization of Podcasting

Rob believes that there’s a “professionalization” of podcasting that’s in full swing – and this can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your position in the industry.

There are a lot of creators who need help and may be getting it through companies offering post-production or podcast marketing services, for example. This enables podcasters to focus on the content.

And this is something Rob thinks we’re going to see a lot more of in the coming years.


Podcaster Helping Podcasters

Rob credits being a podcaster as very helpful in dealing with other podcasters, like through Libsyn’s customer service.

Rob is a veteran of the podcasting space with a vast experience that dates back years. He ran Microsoft’s Zune platform, which was the second largest platform at the time, for six years. He spent time working as PodcastOne’s Chief Technology Officer, before getting involved in the hosting side of things first with Spreaker, and now with Libsyn.


The Story and Focus of Libsyn

Libsyn started in 2004 and initially really focused a lot on the functionality of the platform and on building out a robust hosting solution.

It was the platform popular podcasters like Marc Maron and Joe Rogan started on. The platform then focused on building the tools to support shows at that kind of scale and it solidified its back-end network.

More recently, a dashboard update has taken place giving Libsyn a brand new look and feel.
As Rob shared, upgrading the user experience was something Libsyn faced some early criticism for, because some people believed the dashboard needed to be modernized and simplified.

On the one hand, Libsyn had to focus on requests that were going in the simplification direction. On the other hand, though, it also had to deal with the complexity and overall growth and globalization of the podcasting industry and all of the ramifications of these changes.

A new addition to the “refresh” is a brand new, customizable, podcast episode player.

Libsyn even owns its own web hosting platform called pair Networks, which can be used for hosting websites and email, and maintain their functionalities. 

Libsyn and pair Networks are being integrated.


The Two Types of Stats in the Podcasting Industry

Rob explains that there are two types of stats in the podcasting industry.

First, there are stats that you get off of your podcast hosting platform – like Libsyn – and that give you basic numbers.

Things like how many downloads has your show gotten over a specific period of time, how many downloads per episode, and so forth.

Then, there’s data around platforms: what platforms is your show listened on? What type of device do your listeners use to consume your content? iPhone? Android devices? Tablets? Something else?

Plus, you can get geographic information too. Think of being able to see which countries, states and cities your podcast is being listened to from.

The second level of stats present in the podcasting industry are stats provided by individual platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher. 

This data is useful because it enables you to get more granular information regarding your content consumption. How many times has a particular listener listened to your episode? Have they listened to everything from start to finish or have they dropped off at a particular point?

With this information, you can actually dissect your show and try to identify causes of listener drop offs and other matters. You’ll see exactly at what minute and second a person stopped listening so you can go back to that particular episode and try to find the cause of that – did you mention something in particular? 

Did the show transition to a different topic there? Did you use a promo, a certain sound or did you do something that can be singled out as the cause of someone stopping to listen?


Tease Early 

Rob is a fan of and believes in teasing. It’s always good to put your highest value content toward the beginning of an episode but you also want to have people stick around until the end.

That’s why Rob suggests teasing what’s in the episode at the beginning of the episode. This is something he did often with his nationally-syndicated radio show. Radio shows have different segments, so Rob got into the habit of teasing what was coming in the next segment of an episode.

It’s helpful to remind the audience what’s coming, what’s further into the episode.


Your Show is Part of the Bigger World

Rob really likes adding clips from other things to your show, especially if you host a solo podcast, to add a little bit of sound depth and make it feel as if your show is part of the bigger world.

It isn’t just you talking all the time but there are breaks and clips that can enrich your show and the overall listening experience of those who tune in.


Look for Opportunities in the Market

Look for opportunities in the podcasting market and try to do something that’s a little unique. True, there may be podcasts that cover the same topic or that fall in the same category, but try to think of how you can make your podcast stand out by doing something a little bit differently.

Perhaps it’s adding guests or a co-host while all other podcasts in your genre don’t have them or anything else you can think of.

Remember: people tune in because of you and your content.

About Rob

Rob Greenlee Is VP of Content and Partnerships at Libsyn and Advertisecast, is a well-known 17+ year evangelist of the podcasting industry, Current Board Member and former Chairperson of The Podcast Academy, Current Chairperson of the Podcast Hall of Fame Induction Committee and 2017 Inductee into the Podcast Hall of Fame.  In his role at Libsyn and Advertisecast, Rob is responsible for managing content provider, technology, distribution, and monetization partner relationships who entrust their content to the Libsyn’ s pioneering podcast tools.

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