What is podcast hosting and why do I need it?

Justin Jackson

4 min

To create a podcast, you'll need a podcast hosting provider. They'll help you generate an RSS feed, host your MP3 files, provide software to create and publish episodes, and assist in submission to platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and Pocket Casts.

A podcast host generates your RSS feed

In order to submit your podcast to the different listening apps, you'll need a valid podcast RSS feed. The RSS feed is a collection of episodes for a single podcast (formatted using a language called XML). Podcast apps (like Spotify and Apple Podcasts) read your RSS feed to get your podcast title, cover art, episode titles, audio file location, and show notes.

RSS originally stood for "Rich Site Summary," however, it's now more popularly known as "Really Simple Syndication."

A podcast RSS feed is a collection of episodes for a single podcast, formatted using a language called XML. When a listener views your podcast in their podcast player, the RSS feed is what provides information on your:

  • Podcast title

  • Podcast cover art

  • Episode titles

  • Episode summaries

  • Episode MP3 location

  • Episode cover art

  • Episode show notes

  • Episode publish date

You submit your podcast's RSS feed URL to Apple Podcasts and Spotify in order to appear in their directory.

Here's an example RSS feed URL for my podcast: https://feeds.transistor.fm/build-your-saas

To ensure your podcast's RSS feed is valid, you can use a validator like Podbase.

A podcast host distributes your show to Apple, Spotify, and more

After generating your podcast's RSS feed, your podcast host plays a crucial role in distributing your content across major listening platforms. These include Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other significant players like YouTube, Pocket Casts, and Overcast. The process usually involves submitting your podcast one-time to these platforms through your hosting provider's dashboard.

Once approved, every new episode you publish will automatically appear on these platforms, ensuring your latest content reaches your audience without additional steps.

A podcast host stores your MP3 files

Anytime a listener clicks "play" in Apple Podcasts or another listening app, the MP3 is streamed from the podcast hosting provider. A podcast host (like Transistor) has the necessary infrastructure to store large volumes of data and handle the bandwidth needed for listeners to access your episodes reliably and quickly, no matter where they are.

A podcast host gives you analytics

Podcast hosting providers offer comprehensive analytics that detail your podcast's reach, including the number of downloads, listening platforms used, geographic locations of your audience, episode engagement, and more.

Episode comparison grid in podcast stats on Transistor

These insights can help you tailor your content to your audience's preferences, measure the impact of marketing efforts, and attract potential sponsors by providing tangible data on your podcast's reach and engagement.

A podcast host provides the CMS for creating episodes and more

Beyond hosting your MP3 files and distributing your content, podcast hosting providers offer a Content Management System (CMS) for creating and managing your episodes.

This includes uploading audio files, adding episode titles and descriptions, scheduling episode releases, and uploading custom episode cover art.

Why can't I upload my podcast to Apple Podcasts?

Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast players don't host audio files for podcasters.

You'll need a podcast hosting company to host your MP3 files and generate your RSS feed. Then, you'll submit your RSS feed to all the different directories and players.

Which podcast hosting company should I choose?

If you want to create a podcast, there are many podcast hosting companies to choose from. 

  • Soundcloud is a free hosting solution. It is limited in functionality and doesn't provide live customer support.

  • Transistor provides a full suite of podcast hosting tools: easily submit to all the major directories, host your audio files, publish episodes, view analytics, create private podcasts, generate a website for your podcast, transcribe your audio to text, and insert ads dynamically.

The speed of downloading and streaming your podcast is determined by how fast your podcast hosting company is. Daniel J. Lewis wrote a good guide on this here:

About half of the providers offer extremely-fast hosting for North America, but slow down in other parts of the world. Transistor had consistently fast downloads to every test region (including Sydney and Singapore).

In his guide, Daniel also discourages people from using Soundcloud for their RSS feed, citing that they "were consistently the slowest."

Need more help starting your podcast?