SoundCloud For Podcasting: A Skeptic’s Point Of View

SoundCloud LogoIf you want to publish a podcast, media hosting is a big deal. You need a reliable place to store your audio/video files. And preferably, that storage system won’t cause you go to go broke due to high bandwidth costs. Over the years, a number of companies have moved into this field but most of them haven’t stuck around. Spend any amount of time in a public forum devoted to podcasting, and the question of, “Which media host should I use?” will come up. And a flurry of responses will follow. Perennial favorites in the media hosting game like LibSyn and Blubrry come up often during these discussions. But another company seems to be entering the conversation more and more as of late: SoundCloud.

SoundCloud was first conceived by its founders as an online collaboration tool for musicians. It eventually morphed into an upload-and-share service for audio. Thanks to its ease of use and social sharing features, the service took off with musicians. Its growing popularity caused some to dub it “the YouTube of audio.” Soon, podcasters began asking SoundCloud how they too could take advantage of the service. SoundCloud’s base offerings aren’t really good for podcasters, as they’re really designed for musicians. In response, SoundCloud created a program for podcasters which has never officially left the beta phase of development.

The only way to gain access to SoundCloud’s podcasting platform is to ask for an invite thru the company’s website. I did make such a request some time ago but I never heard back from them. As such, I have no direct experience with SoundCloud’s podcasting tools. But this isn’t meant to be a nuts-and-bolts review. Instead, I’d like to focus on where SoundCloud is now as a media host, and ask some questions about where the service is going.

Why has the podcasting program been in beta for so long?

It’s been over three years since SoundCloud first announced the launch of its podcasting beta program. I can understand the company’s desire to refine the service and make it the best it can be before truly taking it public. But three years seems like a long time to work on something that, at its core, isn’t really that complex. I’d like to see SoundCloud make a real commitment here. Please, either get into the podcasting space or get out.

What exactly is SoundCloud’s role in terms of podcast hosting?

I’ve asked this question of people who are currently using SoundCloud for podcasting and I’ve never received a definitive answer. Is it possible to use SoundCloud as a simple “backend” media host? Or is it mandatory to publish your files thru a page on the SoundCloud website first? Also, SoundCloud will generate a podcast-ready RSS feed which you can then use to submit to the usual distribution channels. But what are SoundCloud’s policies if you decide to switch to a different service? Will they provide a redirect to your new RSS feed? The RSS situation is particularly concerning, considering that the service is in beta. What if SoundCloud decides to never go public with the podcasting service, and they kill it off during the beta period?

Nothing official has been announced, but its worth mentioning the potential purchase of SoundCloud by Twitter. What could this mean for the future of podcasters using SoundCloud? At present, SoundCloud is a private company and it’s still working to develop itself and find its place. But if it’s taken under the wing of Twitter, it’ll be under the thumb of a publicly held company where there’s much more of an incentive to turn a profit. This doesn’t bode well for a program that’s been in beta for three years.

The buyout of SoundCloud is all speculation right now. But the point of including it in this post is to give another reason as to why I’m skeptical about SoundCloud’s future in the podcasting space. Overall, I have nothing against SoundCloud. I just can’t recommend using the service for podcasting at this time.

Posted by Shawn Thorpe