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PodcastOne’s ‘free’ podcast hosting service will cost you

The rebranded service comes with new features to entice podcasters to move over

PodcastOne

PodcastOne, the podcast network behind shows from people like Mike Tyson and Tom Green, is looking to make more money off shows outside its network. The company is expanding and rebranding its free hosting service, now known as Launchpad One, with more perks to make it appeal to indie podcasters.

The free hosting platform allows podcasters to not only host their show, but also accept PayPal donations (a new feature), distribute the show across platforms, and insert their own ads. PodCastOne says it’ll also market shows that use its platform across its own network, a benefit that many hosting services don’t or can’t offer. It says 1,000 shows are already on the service, which was previously known as LaunchpadDM.

At the same time, there’s still a major catch: PodcastOne can insert two ads into any show that hosts on its platform. These ads are sold through PodcastOne’s team, and the company says it retains 100 percent of revenue “in order to keep hosting free,” it explained in an email to me. Podcasters are automatically opted into this monetization. For PayPal donations, the company retains a 4 percent service fee, with 95 percent of donations going to the podcaster. The revenue from any ads the podcaster sells, records, and embeds themselves will be fully kept by the podcaster.

This is a steep exchange for free hosting, especially because those two ads could become a nuisance to listeners, worsening their experience. If podcasters sell their own ads, it’s feasible listeners will hear three or more ads per show. Granted, free hosting isn’t all that widely available, so it’s a nice offer, but the 100 percent cut is unique and a tradeoff.

Competitors like RedCircle take a 50 percent cut on ads they sell and automatically insert, for example. Anchor, Spotify’s free hosting service, hasn’t said what cut it takes from automatically inserted ads, which it’s only allowing in the US currently for a subset of podcasters. But for its sponsorships tool, which pairs hosts with brands to create host-read ads, the company takes a 30 percent cut along with a payment processing fee of 25 cents.

Although free hosting and monetization isn’t widely available yet, it’ll presumably only become more important to the industry as larger tech companies enter the space and subsidize hosting in exchange for more ad surface. It’s easy to imagine Amazon and Facebook doing this, for example, both of which only entered the podcasting space recently. The strategy is easy to understand: encourage as many people as possible to launch a podcast, thereby creating more space to run ads; collect as many shows as possible on the hosting platform; and then sell and take a cut of those ads. I just would expect the hosting companies to give podcasters some cut of the revenue and not keep 100 percent.