Tips on Using Libsyn from its VP of Podcaster Relations

Libsyn is a popular and powerful podcast hosting service that may be of use to professionals, businesses, and online entertainers looking to build a more robust audience. Its service plans range from $5 per month (for 50 mb of storage, a podcasting RSS feed, an HTML5 media player, OnPublish, and a Libsyn podcast page) to $75 per month (includes premium features such as 1500mb of storage, advanced statistics, a smartphone app, and media transcoding).

To get trustworthy tips on earning an income through podcasting, choosing the right services, and fully utilizing the features Libsyn has to offer, we reached out to Rob Walch, Libsyn’s VP of Podcaster Relations (and host of the podCast411 podcast and blog), who generously provided the insights below.

Why do most of your customers create podcasts? Is it to make money through sponsorships and ads, drive sales of products and services, spread a message, or do something else entirely?

Rob WalchThe number 1 reason Podcasters podcast is to get their voice / content out to the world. Podcasting is by its nature a global, democratized distribution method. You can build an audience for your audio or video content all around the world starting at just $5 a month when you sign up with Libsyn.com.

If you were to ask the 13,000+ podcasters hosting with us if they would rather make more money or increase their audience size – 12,900+ would likely pick increase their audience size.

I believe even those looking to monetize look at podcasting long term and realize the larger the audience size the more options and opportunities they will have in the future.

That said, most podcasters would like to both grow their audience and monetize it. This is not the case for all podcasters; there are podcasters like churches, and those promoting their books or consulting services, that are only looking at podcasting as a way to get their word out as mentioned above – and that really is the power of podcasting. And the power of Libsyn – we are here for those looking to just grow their show or to both grow and monetize it.

In what ways might one monetize a podcast?

Advertising, premium subscriptions (MyLibsyn), and smartphone app sales are the biggest ways that we help producers monetize their shows.

How do Libsyn’s Advertising System and MyLibsyn work?

On the advertising side there are two ways. One way involves an ad sales team that helps bring advertisers to the shows hosted with us. We look for shows in the 5,000+ US download range and work with them to bring in advertising.

Additionally on the advertising side we make ad stitching tools available to producers who get their own ads and want to stitch them into new and old episodes alike for a specific period of time.

MyLibsyn works on a subscription basis for end users. They sign up for a monthly (or longer) subscription and then get full access to all a show’s premium content. End users are able to access premium content via a webpage for the show from any web browser or via the show’s free-to the-end-user iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8 app. This allows the end users with one account to log in and get access via any Computer or iOS device or Android device or Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 device. Think of how Netflix and Hulu+ works.  That is how our premium content works. It is very very easy for the end users – there is no special RSS feed they need to plug in or any thing else – if they can use an app or a web browser, they can get your premium content.

As the producer, you pick the rate you want to charge – some charge $1.99 a month for full access to premium content, others charge more than $19.99 a month. By charging for premium content, a podcaster can still make an income from episodes even while still being under advertisers’ radar.

How many subscribers need one have before one’s podcast is likely to earn significant revenue (e.g. more than $500 a month) and be approached for sponsorships?

The goal I tell people to shoot for is 5,000+ US downloads per episode. If you can get to that level, you have a good opportunity to monetize your podcast with advertising and sponsorships. That is not to say a show with 500 downloads covering a niche can not get sponsorships or advertising, because many do. But if you are looking for advertising and sponsorships outside your niche, then 5,000+ is the magic number. Should you get less than that, you really need to go door to door in your niche to find the right match for your show if you want to make any real income.

How long does it typically take for a talented podcaster to build up that level of subscribers?

It really does vary. I have seen some shows take years to get to that level while others are there with their first episode. It depends a lot on your current online presence. If you have a really popular blog you can have a popular podcast rather quickly. But if you are starting out with no online presence, you will have your work cut out for you. Most shows never come close to hitting the numbers needed to monetize. Over 50% of the shows get fewer than 250 downloads per episode.

How much money might a truly dedicated podcaster realistically expect to make on a monthly basis?

Nothing – if we are talking realistically. If anyone says you WILL make money podcasting they a full of @#$%. Most podcasters make nothing from their shows on a monthly basis. If you are getting into podcasting to quit your day job – stop now – you will not be successful. Those that are successful are so because they have a subject mater they believe in and were willing to do the work of building a show and audience when there was no money coming in. But those I have worked with that started out with dollar signs in their eyes quickly podfaded when they realized they could not instantly build an audience to monetize.

That said, if you can get your podcast up to the 10,000 US download per episode level, you are now easily in the top 5% of podcasters. At that level, you can start to think about monetizing your show at the $500 per month level, but you will need to do a combo of advertising and premium content if you really want to maximize your earning potential.

The biggest shows are not making money one way – they utilize a number of monetization methods. Marc Maron has both advertising on his show – plus he also has the premium MyLibsyn offering. Don’t limit yourself to one revenue stream look for as many ways as possible to monetize.

What are the benefits of hosting podcasts with Libsyn as opposed to one’s own website or some other free hosting service?

We are rock solid and can handle any amount of traffic thrown our way. Often times a podcaster hosting on their own website host will get their website shut down for excessive bandwidth usage. We know this as we get multiple emails each month because of this issue from someone frantic to move their show over so they can get their website turned back on. Many web hosts will even send those producers to us knowing we can handle their show’s traffic. It does not take many downloads to get most website hosts to shut down a site. Podcasts require lots and lots of bandwidth.  Most web hosting services might say unlimited this or that, but if you look at the fine print, you will see their unlimited offers do not cover media files.

With Libsyn, our files download quickly and from many different nodes all around the world, so no mater where your listeners are, they are getting very quick downloads from your Libsyn account.

Per free services: I tell people to go to Twitter and search for Libsyn and read the comments, then run a search for a free service and read those comments. You will see a world of difference. We are very proud of our up time. Any time there is any issue with our service, we post it to our support blog.

On that blog, you can see all the issues we have had going back in time. Most entries are not about outages; they’re just warnings about us doing maintenance work or a delay in stats processing. Our stats, for the most part, update close to real time (usually within 10 minutes of when a download is requested). This fast feedback one of the things Libsyn users love about our service.

We believe we offer the most stable and fastest-downloading podcast hosting solution with the best stats reporting and do so at a very very low and reasonable price. If you are serious about your podcast and want the best end user and producer experience, Libsyn is a good choice. We have been providing our services since November 2004; we’ve been around longer than any other podcast hosting solution.

What type of podcaster would stand to benefit most from Libsyn’s features?

Libsyn is appropriate for any producers looking to build a podcast of any size and with or without the desire to monetize their show. We host many churchs’ podcasts and many of the top comedy podcasts. If you are looking for a stable platform with the tools to promote, grow, or monetize your show, Libsyn is the service for you.

We support publishing directly to a producers self-hosted WordPress site or their Blogger Blog. We offer up HTML5 players producers can embed within their sites. We offer up an RSS feed that is 100% iTunes and Stitcher compliant. We offer iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 apps. We offer up a blog page for producers with no web presence. We offer up a Facebook App for a producer’s fan page, and we support posting directly to any producer’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

We believe we offer  the most comprehensive podcast hosting tool set in the industry and do so with the goal of making producers’ work flow simpler and shorter, so they can spend more time creating great content and less time syndicating and promoting that content.

What type of podcaster should not be using Libsyn?

Libsyn is not appropriate for those hose that are Corporate or Enterprise customers and/or those who are looking to build their own podcast network. For those types of customers we have our LibsynPro offering. LibsynPro is used by Slate, Adobe, Microsoft, Guitar Center, The Adam Carolla – ACE network, Salesforce.com, IGN, and many other corporate customers and podcast networks. Email me rob at Libsyn dot com for more info on our LibsynPro offering.

What are some common mistakes people make with Libsyn? How can these mistakes be avoided?

Some think our storage is for the life of the show and delete episodes in their accounts. There is no need to ever delete an episode from your Libsyn account. Our storage limits apply to the amount of new content uploaded in any 30 day window. So for example, our App 400 Plan allows for 400 MB of new uploads in any 30 day window. Once a file is 30 days old, that file “moves to archive,” which just means that file no longer counts against your upload quota. By “moving to archive” a file frees up new space for more uploads. Files in archive remain active and download just the same as before. They remain active for as long as you have your account with Libsyn.

Another issue we see is when members upload of the wrong type of artwork. Apple has some very specific artwork requirements. Files need to be 1,400 x 1,400 pixel images in .jpg (RGB) or .png format.

Not publishing to your Libsyn feed is a big mistake. Some tutorials out there say to use Libsyn just as a media host and encourage people not to publish to their Libsyn feeds. What they don’t mention is by not publishing to your Libsyn feed, you don’t get your show into the Libsyn Podcast directory – and producers miss out on a great way to get their show some exposure. Even if you don’t plan to use the Libsyn feed, you still should publish all your episodes to the Libsyn feed so that your show is in our directory.

Another technical issue I see producers make is copying their show descriptions from a Word document. The issue here is that Word documents have many hidden characters and those hidden characters can break an RSS feed and cause it not to work with iTunes. The best thing to do if you type of your show notes ahead of time is to do so in Note Pad (PC) or Text Edit (Mac). Never use Word to type up your show notes.

The biggest mistake I see producers make is not taking advantage of the Libsyn tools. If they don’t have their own app, they are missing out on a great opportunity to have their show discovered in the iTunes App store, the Google play app store, the Amazon App store, and the Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 App stores.

I’ve heard that a man named Jim Logan, who claims to have patented podcasting in 1996, has been threatening successful podcasters with legal action if they do not compensate him. Is this something people interested in podcasting should be concerned about?

We have no public comments on this situation – non that would be G-rated. The EFF has said quite a bit and I would refer you to their posts on this mater.

What are the latest trends you have noticed in the podcasting world?

Most consumption today is directly to mobile devices.

Additionally I am seeing mobile devices used to create podcasts. If you use the BossJock app on an iOS device, you can create a podcast and post it directly to your Libsyn account and have it go live on your RSS feed – all from your iOS device. There is no need to ever touch a computer. The BossJock app is the only app in the iTunes App Store that allows you to export as an MP3 file and also edit the ID3 tags before uploading. This is important, as it lets Libsyn customers add a title and description to their episodes in the ID3 tags before uploading via FTP to the “quickcast” folder for their accounts. What happens when the file is then uploaded to the “quickcast” folder is that the title and description are pulled from the ID3 tags and used in the post, then the episode goes lives instantly on the RSS feed and all other destinations the producer has set up.

This is great for those that go to trade shows or conventions. You can interview someone from the show floor and upload and publish right from your iPhone. I even once created and published an episode while on stage talking about publishing from an iOS device. It is that easy to publish a podcast now.

Have major players or audience demographics shifted over time?

Yes, and they are still changing right now. In April 2012, direct downloads to mobile devices was just 43.05%. By June 2013, that number had increased to 53.86% of all downloads. Mobile consumption of podcasting plays a key role in both the present and future state of podcasting. If you do not have a mobile app for your show, you are missing out on a big opportunity.