Building Resilience Into Your Podcast
The case for making it easy for your podcast to recover from someone else's failed business.
It’s happened once again that a podcast hosting company, is folding because of, well, business reasons.
Specifically, I’m talking about the soon-to-be-shuttered Zcast, a company based here in Arizona.
Zcast is (was?) one of the many podcast hosting companies making the bold choice to not charge for basic podcast hosting services. Instead of charging a market standard of $5, $10, $20 they went with free, taking full advantage of the ever-reducing costs of bandwidth and hosting.
But there are still costs.
Eventually, all the other free podcast hosting companies (unless they are completely altruistic in nature) are going to have to face some very real and very hard business decisions. Because when you run a business, you have to deal with the fact that eventually you have to make money.
I’m not going to talk about what Z Cast did wrong because I don’t know if they did anything wrong. I’m also not here to tell you which podcast hosting company won’t go out of business tomorrow.
All businesses have risks. And one of the biggest, most hard to control risk is change.
Newsflash: You’re never completely in control of your podcast.That company that has all of your media files and is responsible for generating your RSS feed? There’s always a risk that that company will decide they’re no longer in that business that anymore.
How do you (or does your podcast) survive a catastrophic event like that? Podcast with resilience.
You bake resilience into your podcasting system. Resilience is basically survivability. In other words, making sure your show can withstand what ever business challenges are thrown at it.
No, I don’t think you should go start your own podcast hosting company as way to become resilient. You probably didn’t build the server that hosts your website, did you? And I doubt you wrote software to edit and encode your files any more than you build your own microphones from scratch.
There will always be fail-points associated with making a podcast. It can’t (nor should it be) helped. Resilience for your show is all about disaster recovery, not disaster prevention. Disaster is going to happen, you just have to be able to quickly bounce back.
The best tip I have for you: don’t do anything live. Always work from a “paper” backup.
Don’t write your titles, subtitles, and descriptions (key elements of “microcopy” ) directly in your podcast hosting interface. Nor should you start writing your blog posts directly inside of Wordpress or Squarespace.
Do our writing outside of the final product. Don’t enter it in live. Don’t type directly in your ID3 tagger. At our firm, we create a separate saved and isolated document for all that text. This way, in the event something goes wrong, we have the source text for quick recovery.
We take the same approach with the podcast episodes themselves. We have the raw files for everything — from the library of music that’s utilized, to the raw, uncompressed files (15–20 per episode, sometimes) that make up each individual episode saved and archived. So when (not if) something goes wrong, we’re able to rebuild quickly. Because we’ve built resilience into our process.
Resilience is often about building redundancy into processes. That helps make sure that if one point fails, there’s a way around the failed point so that the whole system doesn’t collapse.
Of course, none of that makes you feel good if you haven’t build in resilience and you get the news that your hosting company is shutting down in just a few weeks.
The good news is that all of the major hosting companies — Libsyn, Blubrry, Podbean, likely even Spreaker — all have ways to take your existing RSS feed and import your content onto their new platform. That’s a good start, but it’s not everything.
If you’ve ever tried to resurrect a show based on just the contents of an RSS feed, you know it’s far from ideal. To get it right, you have to do some cleanup. Or lots of cleanup.
Which is why, again, I say don’t create your content elements in the hosting panel! It’s like your math teacher told you: save and show your work!
Change is going to happen. That’s life. So when a podcast hosting company decides to change its business model, make sure that your show doesn’t suffer for that. You probably have a disaster recovery plan for your business. But where does your podcast fit into that?