Technology

Should I use Anchor to host my podcast? Here are the factors to consider

Microphone - Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

I started off using Anchor to host my podcast Never Mind The Bar Charts, before a year and a half in moving over to Podbean. Along the way, I’ve repeatedly benefitted from advice freely profferred by other podcasters, so here in return is my answer to the frequently asked question, “should I use Anchor to host my podcast?”

Cost: Anchor is free

Free sounds attractive, and was one of my reasons for initially choosing Anchor. If you’re trying out something for the first time, being able to experiment without cost is attractive.

When a service is free, it’s always sensible to think about the business model that underpins the service being free to you. Partly that’s about sustainability. If the service is free, will the provider be able to continue to support it, keep on top of security, add new features and deal with bugs? It’s also about not being naive. Is there a hidden cost which might put you off the zero price tag? Social networks being free to use but making lots of money about of your personal data are the highest-profile example of how free can come with significant non-monetary costs.

In the case of Anchor, I was happy to use it as there is a plausible business model that I’m comfortable with. Anchor places advertising with those podcasters who wish to run adverts and who advertisers wish to advertise with. The podcasters get a cut of the advertising revenue and Anchor gets a cut. That can be a genuine win-win: podcasters get revenue without having to manage their advertising themselves, and Anchor makes a profit from being the middle person.

Anchor’s subsequent acquisition by Spotify also gives confidence that – as much as you can judge these things – it’s likely to be around for the long-haul.

Your rights: Anchor is fine, if unusual

All podcasting platforms need some rights over what you upload to them. For example, they all claim the right to make copies of what you upload for backup purposes. That’s good and welcome, as the alternative would be no backups, and that’s never a good idea.

Anchor’s own terms of use do get podcasters going… and have some very vocal detractors. Hence the popularity of questions such as, ‘does Anchor own my podcast?’. Unfortunately, those who don’t like Anchor’s terms quite often, in my experience, go very over the top (or are not very well informed themselves, having picked up duff information from others).

To put it simply, if you use Anchor, it claims more rights over your content than other podcasting platforms do. But – crucially – the rights they claim are very similar to those claimed by other platforms, such as YouTube. Compared with other services that will publish your output, rather than just to other podcasting platforms, Anchor isn’t that unusual.

It’s also worth adding that, so far at least, Anchor hasn’t been accused of misusing these additional rights and they’ve got a strong incentive not to. Because if they did, they’d lose lots of users.

Features: Anchor covers what the beginner needs

Anchor has a decent set of features, with a particular emphasis on making things easy for the beginner. That includes some simple editing tools, a handy app for smartphone recording and a library of sounds to use.

When you get serious about podcasting, you’re likely to want to do your own editing with more fully featured software. But to get started with the basics, Anchor is great.

Especially as Anchor sorts all the hard work of getting your podcast submitted to the key podcasting platforms, such as Apple Podcasts.

The features aren’t perfect. The website you get for your podcast is limited, and the analytics you get are fairly basic. Again, both are fine for beginners. But you may end up wanting to move.

Speaking of which…

Changing your mind: it’s easy to move from Anchor

I’ve done it and it’s fairly easy.

The norm amongst good podcast hosts is that if you move away from them, they offer a permanent redirect on your podcast feed address. That means you can move smoothly without losing any listeners. Anchor does this just as well as others.

In addition, if you’ve taken the easy option upfront of letting Anchor set-up the distribution of your podcast to places such as Apple Podcasts, it’s pretty easy to claim back those presences on other platforms as your own.

You might also want to do that even if you stick with Anchor in order to get access to more advanced analytics. (Apple Podcasts and Spotify, in particular, offer more detailed statistics if you access them direct rather than via Anchor.)

In conclusion…

Anchor is a good choice for the beginner and for the podcaster who doesn’t want to spend much, if any, time on details such as playing with the website that hosts the podcast.

If you really get into podcasting, you may well end up wanting more – and it’s fairly straightforward then to move elsewhere.

Myself? I switched in the end because the speed with which my podcast was getting distributed after I hit publish slowed down considerably. From pretty near instant, it switched over to taking up to a couple of days. Their technical support was polite but not terribly prompt or helpful. All reasonable for a free service, but made me think it was time to pay up a bit.

2 responses to “Should I use Anchor to host my podcast? Here are the factors to consider”

  1. Free things in life are rarely free, and too many come with hidden features or requirements that can in the long run threaten freedom of expression, freedom of use, independence from political interference and integrity of the content. That said, off-the-shelf solutions can save an enormous amount of time, effort and money compared with self-build, and usually can be expected to keep up-to-date with regulatory and other legal requirements.

    In an ideal world it would be nice to have a British designed and based system which, in an also perfect world, would be developed using LibDem resources and managed according to LibDem principles. But in reality that may be difficult and costly to do, sustain, and future proof.

    You have perhaps taken more consideration of the underlying issues affecting podcasting than many podcasters, and on that assumption I am happy to trust your continuing judgement.

    What do others think?

  2. In an ideal world it would be nice to have a British designed and based system which, in an also perfect world, would be developed using LibDem resources and managed according to LibDem principles. But in reality that may be difficult and costly to do, sustain, and future proof.

    We have had such things in the past, some of which still exist: for example you can use Prater Raines for your web site, or submit articles to Lib Dem Voice which also has links to a number of Lib Dem bloggers. Before the Party switched to Connect, the preferred canvassing software was EARS, which was developed and supported by a Party member, while back in Paddy’s time the Lib Dem conferences on Cix were widely used and the Party’s Membership department acted as gatekeeper for them. Paddy used to lurk on Cix and, occasionally, post under his jjd username.

    Now there is no reason why we shouldn’t see podcasts as another communication channel just like web sites, blogs, email or conferencing, but it does require the Party to have a communications strategy and a commitment to following a consistent strategy in the long-term. In the case of Cix, the Party stopped actively promoting it during Charles Kennedy’s leadership, while I am aware that the Party’s switch from recommending EARS to Connect caused some bad feelings.

    Mark, as President, is in a good position to encourage the Party to set a long-term communications strategy that can cope with the development of new channels like podcasting, but any member taking on software development needs to have the assurance of a decade’s support from the Party (or longer for canvassing software that has no application outside politics).

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