Podcasts should remain independent

Jeff Perry reacted to a post that Anchor wrote a couple of days ago:

I pay $12 a month on Simplecast for both Getting Caught Up and A Slab of Glass. I do it happily because I know that I am supporting developers with my money for hosting, a website, technical support, and download statistics that they share with me on how my shows are doing. I don’t have to hope and pray that Anchor makes their money with ads in order to keep my content alive.

I’ve mentioned briefly before that video podcasts used to be a thing, but nowadays everybody just uses YouTube to maintain an online video presence. Sure, it looks attractive first, but when you use a service for everything end-to-end, you automatically lock yourself into it.

Luckily, we don’t have a YouTube-like monopoly in podcasting. I produce one podcast at the moment (sorry, it’s Hungarian), and the best thing about it is that we have a lot of hosting choices. Our listeners are not bonded to the same company that does the hosting. Everything is based on open standards and there are plenty of ways to start making a new podcast.

My podcast is hosted on a Digital Ocean VPS using the same server that hosts this blog. The site is built using Jekyll (you can find it’s source on GitHub, although it’s not well documented), new episodes are posted using Workflow. Everybody can adapt its source, change the design, set up a server and start making podcasts. It’s not as nice as dedicated podcast hosting services, but I like that it’s independent and very cheap to maintain. People are always afraid of doing stuff on their own, but to be honest I kinda like messing around with it. I learn new stuff.

Anchor is an interesting service and they’re building nice apps, but to be honest, I don’t want them to succeed. Maybe they really care about podcasting, but we’ve seen what happens with a medium that gets controlled by one company and podcasting currently dominated by nobody. Apple has a directory of podcasts, but it’s just a directory, it’s not the same as hosting and running them. iOS (and Android) made possible to choose whatever podcast client you want to use. Usually, the bigger ones integrate some kind of server-side directory or use iTunes, but they’re already making possible for people to find shows and subscribe to them very easily.

If you want to get into making podcasts quickly then you can choose a service like Simplecast or Firebase, pay a monthly fee and have your content hosted there. It’s a simple and straightforward deal.

We shouldn’t walk into the same trap as we’ve already done with YouTube and Medium. Those “free” services always want to “disrupt” a medium with some innovative way of making money, but at the end, we’re back to an ads based user tracking business, with monopolies and lock-ins. A couple of guys can get popular enough on those platforms to earn the big money, but the rest of us always have to follow business rules that a company makes for everybody.