Is Squarespace Right for Podcasts?
We hear about them everywhere we seek entertainment from. It seems that every YouTube channel or podcast show is sponsored by Squarespace or Audible. Why is this? I used to scratch my head in trying to understand why this is and I quickly realized that this is not what it seems. My gut says that they probably open the gates for everyone to join their affiliate program and pay for only the leads that each affiliate sends their way. Simply a guess and it’s a great way to get a lot for not much. They are not the only ones who do this either.
Full disclosure: I am not paid, sponsored, a fanboi or anything else. This post covers a question that was asked by several people. I have zero bias other than I build better websites for cheaper in the long run.
I don’t want to hate all over Squarespace in this piece either, just so we are clear. I think they have a place in getting people and their thoughts out to the world. There are other sites like this as well such as Wix which is pretty much the same. They differ slightly in price and options but the end result is web hosting done easily. Website building and everything that comes along with it can be daunting. These simple websites take the stress off of you by breaking everything down into their smallest and basic functions. I tried doing this in the past with a WordPress multi-site platform, but I was/am a nobody so not much luck with it.
The Down & Dirty
Anyway, let’s get to the topic! Podcasting and where do you get your hosting? Good question because so many podcasters could give 2 hoots about a website. They have Libsyn and that’s that. These are the shows that die off quickly because there is little to no investment and a website costs money and time. So let’s forget those shows for the time being. We have to accept that a lot of podcasters are dipping the toe into the water and give up when they struggle to build an audience. Having a website separates those podcasters from the ones that are reading this post.
Let’s say this is your way to grow (which is a good sign). You start podcasting, and wind up on of my posts about building a website for show You want to be on the next level and you are searching Google for answers. Hopefully, before you make any decisions on how to start and branch out, you research a game plan to fame.
Boom, enters Squarespace for an easy win for so many people. If you know nothing about websites, HTML/CSS, or anything else, you’ll want a very limited learning curve. The cost of their plans are reasonable enough for your show, and if you agree then by all means do it. I discuss better ways to go about it, but I have many friends that use Squarespace or did in the past and there is very little negative feedback. It’s not my first choice, but we’ll get to that later on.
One thing you have to consider is the difference between a website host and a media host. Squarespace certainly blurs the lines here, but I want to cover both so there is no confusion. Before we talk about that, I want to talk about their pricing.
- Personal Website: $12/month if you pay annually. Month-to-month is $16 and it doesn’t come with much. My rating: 2/10
- Business Website: $18/month if you pay annually. Month-to-month is $26 and it comes with a better package. My rating: 3/10
- Alternative: I will host your site and media for $10/month if paid annually, or $15/month-to-month. Just email me, or take a quick course on YouTube and search for “WordPress”.
Warning: Small rant about domain ownership.
I would like to note that both of their packages come with a free domain if you pay annually. I truly support annual payments because you worry about it 1 time per year. Please don’t get the domain from anywhere other than a registrar. While Squarespace may be a good company, I have been burnt incredibly hard in the past. When I first started up getting into the website world, I registered domains with my shared hosting company because I thought that is how it works. I got 25 of them over the course of a year because I loved it. One day I woke up to a suspended account and they tried holding my sites hostage unless I paid them $2,000USD for some kind of terms of service breach which is not the real reason.
I looked up the WhoIs on the domains and then read their terms of service and those bastards registered my domains in their name. It was everything back for $2K or walk away. I walked away with 2 years worth of work gone. I had fairly recent backups, but I had to start over because of the ownership of the domain. This sucked but a lot of good came out of it. If that had been my main source of income I would have been in a really bad way. I am thankful that it was not.
I will never, ever, ever buy or take a free domain from anyone. I go to Namecheap, GoDaddy or an accredited domain registrars designated by ICANN. That’s it. No one between me and my domain. As of this current writing on October 31, 2016 Squarespace is not on the accredited registrar list. I wish I knew this when I started out, but I needed to go through the hard way to get here. I hope this tip helps someone.
Webhosting can be found on Bluehost, Hostgator, Wiredtree, GoDaddy, and other places. I only use Wiredtree and I pay a premium for it. Squarespace is a website host but in a much different way. They are selling you a front-end product which is a sliver of their site. They have made it slick, child-proof, and did a great job on its roll out. You can see exactly how they let you setup your podcast here on their instruction page too. Their process seems straight forward which so far I dig it.
Often people will just start searching for web hosting and they don’t know that every site on the first 20 or more pages of results are shills. Great reviews on even the shittiest of hosts. Everyone in this sector seems to only list hosts that they get kick backs from or the hosting companies hired a bunch of people to write rave reviews. The web is full of these fake reviews and it is what circulates the money around. A lot of what you see on a website is there because of money. I recommend Wiredtree for bigger projects because I have with them since 2008 without a break. It’s the only reason I promote that. Perhaps I will build my own Squarespace in the future…/s.
Web hosting is solely to server files to browsers. When you go to a website, you see the code that someone wrote appearing in the browser of Chrome, Firefox, or even IE if you really have to. A typical web host is not the perfect thing to serve big files from. When someone goes to your website they are requesting the page from your host. They may be querying the database and all of this takes a lot of resources. If you become popular and a lot of people are hitting your server than resources are going to be taxed at a higher rate. This is what happens when a website gets to the front page of Reddit. That’s known as the hug of death. Hosting media files on top of this can strain the system beyond its capability.
I only recommend doing this when you are first starting out. I hosted almost 300 episodes of my podcasts on the web server before things got really slow. I know it was time to take action at that point. I needed a fast website and somewhere else for my podcast episodes that could handle the load. Let’s look at the media side of things.
Media hosting is where you simply store files like mp3’s, videos, or other files types so people can download them. You do not need a website for this either. You could simply use something like Amazon S3 or Libsyn to share links to your audio files. It seems that Squarespace is combining this with their website hosting and I am sure they have the infrastructure to accomplish both. Bigger websites just build a script to offload content to a storage host so it doesn’t impede the requests for file transfer. You do not purchase media hosting to build a website on unless it’s like 6 pages and static. Otherwise these two items are separate at some point in their existence together.
What I did when things got slow, was to open my Amazon Web Service and go to the S3 section and created folders for each show. I uploaded the audio into neat little folders and made them public. Since I was using Powerpress with WordPress, I simply replaced all of the links on the website with that of the S3 URL. That is not what you do on Squarespace. All of this painful description is what you do off of Squarespace. I shared it because I want people to appreciate what they don’t have to learn and spends hundreds of hours building.
Squarespace is undoubtedly working with both a web host and a media host. This is big business so it makes your first years easy so you can focus on the content and not the in’s and out’s of code. This is a huge benefit to outsourcing this out to a third-party.
Final Call on SquareSpace
I described some of the benefits of using a service like Squarespace versus getting your hands dirty. There is a big price difference too. You could get web hosting for $5/month, use Amazon S3 for about $1-5/month, and finally the $8.29 domain rental fee each year. That’s about it unless you buy a theme or plugins like I have for hundreds of dollars. You do not have to though as there are plenty of freebies out there. If you go the easy route, you are getting a business plan with lots of goodies for $18/month yearly with them. That’s a great offer. Really, they both equal out to about the same thing at the same price.
I would highly recommend getting the following if you want a more hands on approach.
- A domain, preferably a .com
- Cheap shared hosting package.
- WordPress with the Powerpress plugin
- Host on your own hosting until traffic picks up if possible.
- Or Libsyn, Blubrry, or my preferred way…Soundcloud as the host for the audio files.
- Soon, the AM Podcast Network will be hosting content and media.
WordPress is super simple, and gives you all the control you could want. I don’t like building my stuff on third-party platforms because it can be ripped away. I like building my home on my land (server) if you get what I am saying. I back up everything on a regular basis too. I know that building a site can be hard. I am currently working on fixing that for podcasting specifically. I want to do a series eventually on how easy podcasting is to setup in total. I would love to see more people go out on their own, but I know most people don’t want to get their hands dirty.
Squarespace Wins While WordPress Waits
So in my opinion, Squarespace is a good deal whether you are a store or just a regular blog. I am 50/50 on deciding if it’s the best way to go for a podcast, but for now, if it makes your process easier then so be it. As I once was told, it’s a tool that gets you to the finished result, and not how you got there. I have to agree. The difference between me and you is that you will pay up to 2 times more than I do (maybe), but I have spent years learning all of this. I give Squarespace a 8/10 rating and I think if you are a new show with less than 10-20 episodes then go for it. Pay for a year, and post 2-3 times a week and test it out completely. I beg that you not just record and post. Please write content that compliments your show so Google can index it. Google can’t index audio files.
Squarespace is a very good deal for what you are getting. If I was starting today I would use them until I had enough knowledge to do more on my own. Doing it the hard way just takes more time away from creating wonderful content. Though I never thought I would recommend them…I do. It’s perfectly okay to set up with them, not that you need permission. You will learn more as you go along. Let the content shine and leave the constant updates and maintenance to them.
For those of you that have used Squarespace and want to add to my thought process, then please comment. If there is a correction or a lie in here please let me know so I can address it. There are many ways to get to a goal and whichever way you choose to do it is your right.