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Episode Info: provider. I could not get test accounts with Art19 or Megaphone. Please note that some of these hosts re-encoded my MP3 file without my option to change it, always resulting in a bigger file than I uploaded. One exception is Buzzsprout who re-encodes only down, but never up. So my 64 kbps mono file was not re-encoded up to 96 kbps mono on Buzzsprout like it was re-encoded up to various rates with the other indicated hosts. For disclosure, some of the paid-for hosting options were provided by the respective companies at no cost to me for the sake of my testing and review. I also invited any hosting company to preview this article before publication, which often opened a beneficial dialog, but did not affect the data. If you represent a podcast-hosting company I didn’t include and you want to see your service tested and listed here, please contact me! Combined global averages and medians First, let’s look at the combined global timings for each hosting company. Each test was performed 10 consecutive times and those results combined to calculate regional and global averages and medians. Where the average and median greatly differ illustrates potential slowness in a host. About Podbean and podOmatic Whoa there, Podbean and podOmatic! Those two were the slowest hosts. Podbeans Unlimited Audio and Unlimited Plus plans are designed with lower performance to be more budget-friendly, while the Business Basic plan performs on par with competitors. This slower performance may seem horrible, but remember this is a 60-minute MP3 that downloaded completely in a global combined median under 10 seconds. That’s about 6 minutes of audio downloaded in only 1 second. Even if the MP3 was encoded at higher bitrates, it’s still fast enough that most podcast consumers would not notice a difference. Nonetheless, if you have a large audience or your business depends on your podcast, it’s worth investing in a faster hosting option. podOmatic didn’t appear to have a free trial for their premium plans, so I wasn’t able to test for differing performance. If you host with Podbean’s Unlimited Audio and do not use their RSS feed for your podcast, I suggest updating your download URLs to the new mcdn.podbean.com URLs, which nearly double the previous performance, as shown in the following chart. (This CDN change is automatic for customers using the Podbean RSS feed.) Regional medians Get ready for data overload! Here are the median results from all 16 test locations. Click on items in the legend to hide that date from the chart and make other data more visible. (I’ll embed the full data table at the end of this article.) To make the charts more visible, I split the slowest hosts into their own chart. About half of the providers offer extremely-fast hosting for North America, but slow down in other parts of the world, especially Sydney and Singapore. Buzzsprout, Fireside, Pinecast, Pippa, Podbean Business Plus, Transistor, and, surprisingly, Soundcloud were the only options with consistently fast downloads to every test region (including Sydney and Singapore). Remember these are medians, not averages. So a single bad test out of 10 consecutive tests would barely affect the results. Wi-Fi timings Wi-Fi is a significant normalizer for download speeds and it’s more likely how most people will download podcast episodes. Here are the results of the same download tests conducted over a Wi-Fi 5 network (formerly known as 802.11ac) with a 200 mbps (down) Internet-service provider in greater Cincinnati. This raises the floor from milliseconds to seconds. There’s still some significant difference between hosts (such as Podbean and Buzzsprout), but the Wi-Fi connection (at least at 200 mbps) makes more of the hosts perform about the same as opposed to the multi-gigabit network speeds of my Vultr servers. Untested factors My regional tests were performed on virtual private servers with a multi-gigabit network connection. Real-world results will vary greatly depending on Internet speed, wireless signal strength, and device hardware. That’s another reason you may not need the fastest host: typical Wi-Fi connections and local bandwidth could normalize a lot of these results. Every test was performed consecutively, with no overlap. Thus, my data doesn’t reflect potential performance differences when there are hundreds or thousands of devices requesting the same thing at the same time. But I think it’s likely that the best perform providers also have the backend performance to meet the high demands of simultaneous downloads. And this is why a CDN is important: if the file lives in only one place on the Internet, such as with Amazon S3 or a web host, then simultaneous downloads can easily overload the bandwidth of that single point. But with a CDN, someone in California could be downloading a file from a completely different server compared to someone in London. I also could not test the upload performance of each podcast host. I’ve heard from some podcasters outside North America that uploading to some providers is extremely slow from their region because the media must first go to a server in the USA before spreading across the CDN. As frustrating as this could be for podcasters, it’s something that occurs only once per episode and doesn’t affect the audience. Nonetheless, if it becomes too frustrating for your situation, you might want to consider a different host. An important discovery on stats Only a podcast-hosting company will provide podcast stats. This is a big reason to avoid hosting your podcast media on a non-podcast host (like Amazon S3, your web host, or a private CDN) unless you can layer reputable tracking (such as Blubrry Stats) into your download URLs or, of course, you build your own IAB certified system to analyze the raw download logs. Because my testing was done with bots that were not declaring a user agent (let alone a podcast-app user agent), I wanted to see how some of these hosts would count my test downloads. 0 would be best, 16 (1 per test region) would be acceptable, and anything more than 16 would be concerning. These podcast hosts did not count any downloads from my bots: BlubrryBuzzsproutCaptivateCastosLibsynOmny StudioPinecastPodbeanpodOmaticTransistorWhooshkaZenCastThese podcast hosts counted some downloads: Anchor: 16Podigee: 16Podserve.fm: 16RedCircle: 16Simplecast: 8 (I’m guessing it counted only one per continent)Spreaker: 16Podcast stats were not available from Amazon S3, Archive.org, SiteGround, and Bunny CDN because they’re not podcast-hosting companies. And here are the concerning hosts I suggest avoiding because their stats counted more than 1 download per bot (for unknown reasons): Audioboom: 32iVoox: 32Podiant: 32SoundCloud: 24And here’s the current naughty list of hosts that counted every bot download, resulting in 160 fake downloads. Fireside—working on changes in July that should better filter downloadsPippa—see below for how to change the default and make Pippa stats more accuratePodcast.co—working on changes in July that should better filter downloadsPodmioI hate to throw any company “under the bus,” but the tracking from these four offenders was so vulnerable that I could have a single bot download the same episode 1,000 times in 15 minutes, and it artificially inflated the stats by exactly 1,000. In the interest of journalistic integrity, I reached out to these four hosts to alert them of the vulnerability and let them see my data before I published, so they will probably work to resolve this vulnerability as soon as possible. Fireside was already refining their tracking, and Pippa pointed me to a buried option. Pippa’s buried “analytics windowing” Pippa offers an “analytics windowing” option buried in the advanced settings, described as follows. Windowing affects the way that plays of your podcast are counted and presented. For example, with a 1 hour window, if the same device plays the same episode twice within 1 hour, then only 1 play will be counted in the analytics. Windowing does not affect delivery of the podcast to listeners, only presentation of the analytics. Your chosen window will be effective going forward, not backwards. (When Pippa says “play,” they really mean “download.”) Thus, Pippa presents three windowing options: deactivated (the default), 1 hour, and 24 hours (IAB’s measurement guidelines). I conducted my tests with the default show settings, and thus with windowing deactivated. This explains why the stats were so easy to manipulate on Pippa. When I changed the windowing option and retested, Pippa counted only 1 download per region. That’s an acceptable number, but leaving this option to the user, buried in advanced settings, and having it deactivated by default is still corrupting the data. For Pippa stats, this would always require the question, “How is your analytics windowing configured?” Thus, it’s possible to have three separate podcasts with identical audiences report three completely different numbers. Conclusion If you want the truly fastest podcast media hosting, or you want to ensure your hosting can handle the high demands of simultaneous downloads, then I recommend choosing the best performers from this list (in no particular order). Top recommendation still: Blubrry or Libsyn tied for first place—IAB certified and in process, respectivelyCaptivate—claims to follow IAB guidelines and interest in certificationTransistor—claims to follow IAB guidelinesSimplecast—claims to follow IAB guidelinesBuzzsprout—claims to follow IAB guidelinesPodbean Business Basic—claims to follow IAB guidelinesPinecast—claims to follow IAB guidelinesWhooshka—IAB certified (but they re-encode up)Complete data table Host Stats Wifi Average Wifi Median Global Average of Averages Global Median of Medians NY/NJ Average NY/NJ Median Chicago Average Chicago Median .........
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