Services that aggregate and help you discover various audio content, both on your computer and smartphone, are all the rage these days.
For the discerning music listener, there’s no shortage of music providers: Spotify, Last.fm, Pandora Radio, Rdio, Deezer, and Soundwave are vying for attention. And the lifelong learner who enjoys expanding his or her horizons or staying current on local or global news hasn’t been ignored either: TuneIn, Stitcher, Blogtalkradio, and Spreaker have sprung up, combining podcasting, radio, and broadcasting in their own unique ways.
But in this article, we’d like to turn our attention from the consumer to to the producer and explore the strengths and weaknesses of two platforms equally popular among hosts and listerners – Blogtalkradio and Spreaker – from the perspective of someone who’d like to create an online radio show, expand radio podcasting, or simply experiment with audio broadcasting through the internet.
Let’s begin with the first service.
Option #1: BlogTalkRadio
Launched in 2006, Blogtalkradio has been the dominant force in the growth of online broadcasting, so let’s explore its features first and point out what’s offered by both its free and paid plans.
At its core, the platform allows anyone with a phone and computer to host live broadcasts – with callers and a chat room – and then record and host them on the website. Whenever you visit the homepage, you’ll find one of the network’s popular shows featured above the fold and several staff picks and live shows as well as “sponsored networks” accentuated further down the page.
The free plan has most of the important features: the ability to host the show and chat with listeners (thought the free option allows for only 5 simultaneous guests/listeners), access to promotional tools, and the option of archiving talks into podcast format.
The paid plans allow for longer show duration, increase the visibility of your show inside Blogtalkradio, increase the number of concurrent callers, allow shows to be scheduled during prime time, and include a wider range of podcast editing features. The $99 per month removes all audio and video ads and the $249 per month removes all banner ads (and even allows you to host your own) and lets you live stream from any website.
For the novice, there are plenty of resources that teach you how to be a better host: a free 30 minute session with a veteran host, blogtalkradio University, and several pdf guides with quick tips are included.
In terms of monetization, you have the option of joining it’s “Revenue Sharing Program” which shares 35% of the ad revenue from the advertising impressions generated by your listeners.
But the platforms isn’t without several weaknesses. One is audio quality. The manner in which the system it set up ends up producing low quality podcasts – this is something which hurts listeners fist and hosts as a result.
Another downside is the audio ad placement which interrupts the primary content being consumed. Another is limited control over how a given show and its individual audio files are presented visually – this is in the hands of blogtalkradio, not the producer.
Next up on the list we have:
Option #2: Spreaker
Launched rather recently in 2010, the first thing you’ll notice about Spreaker is a substantially different and, as many would argue, better design and “smarter” user experience. Also, although not immediately highlighted on its website, Spreaker doesn’t require you as the host to speak into a phone and instead works through a standard computer microphone.
Also, the platforms not only lets you broadcast and chat with live listeners (in a similar fashion as Blogtalkradio), but also upload files in a variety of formats from your computer to be hosted on the site.
The site’s got an easy-to-use help center, a series of tutorial videos, a support forum, and a company blog. Discovery for listeners is well though out – the platform recommends and curates by asking users what genres and topics they like and featuring the best shows on a weekly blog post series.
Similar to Blogtalkradio, Spreaker has one free and four paid plans. However, regardless of the plan, all users have access to uniform audio quality, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited listeners, formidable social sharing features, easy iTunes and Zune integration, the ability to broadcast live on any website through the mobile app, and access to a mixing console. As the plans increase in their monthly fee, you get increasing amounts of audio storage and longer broadcast duration. All paid plans remove ads from your show page and provide the host with several other unique features.
It’s worthwhile to point out that unlike Blogtalkradio, Spreaker has several mobile apps and strong sharing features (with an option to embed specific episodes or the latest podcast episode on an external website).
Overall, Spreaker is a strong challenger to Blogtalkradio, boasting more features at a lower price, a more straightforward and clean layout, and a stronger sense of community thanks to its many internal “social” features.
Although the introduction said only two platforms would be covered in depth, we’re confident you’ll like our short overview of one other up-and-coming service:
Bonus Options #3: Croice
Our long-term goal at Croice is to build an on-demand platform for live Internet talk show radio. Here’s what you can already do when you sign-up:
1. Start your own broadcast and interact with listeners through a chat box.
2. Embed a widget on any website that’ll allow anyone to listen in from that location – this is especially valuable as Blogtalkradio provides this feature in its most expensive plan and Spreaker allows only recorded files to be added to external sites.
By now you should have a good understanding of the three main services that let anyone create a radio podcast. It may be a lot to process in one go, so we recommend you give each one a try and figure out what works best for you over time!