This question gives me anxiety because, in order to answer it, I have to navigate a minefield of semi-complex explanations that beginner podcasters don’t usually have the patience for. This one is going to be a little long-winded, but if you’re considering hosting your podcast on WordPress, you should read it in full when you have time.
The simplest explanation of bandwidth isn’t adequate to explain it, so this example won’t be the simplest. I hope that I can balance simplicity with adequacy and you can walk away with a strong fundamental understanding of the concept of bandwidth.
You’ve probably heard the term “Server” but don’t know how to distinguish it from a computer, let me clear that up first.
A Server “serves” things, hence the name. It serves things to nodes on a network. A node can be a laptop, a cell phone, a desktop computer, a tablet, a smart watch, or pretty much any other device that connects to the internet to do things — yes, even your smart toilet and your Alexa dot.
The internet, in its physical form, is just a bunch of interconnected servers. People using the internet are just a bunch of nodes asking those servers to show them things.
When you open your internet browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc) and type www.whateveryouputhere.com, your browser sends a request out to the server where that website is stored, asking “can I please see your website?” When that request is received, the server responds with a “Yes you can!” and then sends the website to your browser so you can see it.
This process happens very quickly, but the question is asked several thousand times because websites are delivered bit by bit and once a bit is received, your computer needs to ask the server for the next bit. This goes on until the website is fully loaded.
The amount of bits sent back and forth, is the first part of what bandwidth is.
A server can only answer so many requests within a certain period of time. Likewise, your computer can only make so many requests in a certain period of time. This limitation is the second part of what bandwidth is.
Bandwidth is a measurement of how close you are to the maximum capacity of a node (computer) and a server to pass information back and forth to one another.
A bandwidth limitation is both the maximum bandwidth possible AND the artificial maximum bandwidth possible imposed upon a single node. The Bandwidth for my server might be 10X, but a server cannot allow everyone that maximum or one node could utilize all of a server’s bandwidth. Artificial bandwidth limitations are set in place to say something like “Every user is limited to .001X bandwidth.”
This is not the most technical explanation, but it’s an adequate one. You now have a working understanding of Bandwidth.
If you’re paying less than $100 a month to your website hosting provider, you have what is known as “Shared Hosting”. Shared Hosting arose in the early years of the internet to allow for some pliability in concerns to bandwidth limitations. The concept was, essentially,
“What if we design a host infrastructure which allows users to exceed their artificial bandwidth limitations when the exceeding of those limitations don’t negatively affect other users or hit the true bandwidth limitations of the server?”
This is a form of load balancing, which, for the purposes of this example not becoming overly technical, is like car insurance. Insurance companies hedge their bets on not everyone having a car wreck in the same day. Shared hosting hedges its bets on your website, and the websites of others on your shared host, not being popular enough to produce any meaningful bandwidth. They call this bet “Unlimited Bandwidth”.
Recently though, that has had to change to “Unmetered Bandwidth” as people began getting their websites shutdown because they were exceeding their “unlimited” bandwidth. Accusations like “false advertising” started being tossed around, as they should have been, and shared hosting companies stopped billing limited as unlimited.
The biggest reason for the surge in occurrences of people exceeding their bandwidth limitations, was podcasting.
The Weight of Podcast Audio Files
The average webpage is 3MB. That means you use 3MB of bandwidth to load it. The average podcast episode is 45MB (at 128kbps).
If a user visits your website, they eat up 3MB of your bandwidth limitation. 300GB is a common limit for “unmetered bandwidth”. That’s 100,000 visitors to your website before you hit your limit (limits are monthly, by the way).
If a user streams your 45MB podcast audio file, they use up 45MB of your bandwidth to do so. With a 300GB monthly limit, you’ll hit that limit by 6,700 listens. Seems like a lot when you’re just starting out but divide that by four, as most podcasts release weekly, and you’ll begin to experience bandwidth issues with your hosting provider before you hit 2000 subscribers. Now, fair enough, 2000 subscribers will take a while for you to reach as a new podcaster but, then again, maybe it won’t.
You want to be able to scale without avoidable disruptions and downtime.
Speed, Access, and Storage cost money, no one can offer you unlimited speed, access, or storage on the internet — eventually you’ll find the limit (like the guy who gets kicked out of the buffet for eating 40lbs of lobster*).
When you exceed your bandwidth, you won’t get a warning, your site will instantly go offline until you speak with your hosting provider and they agree to bring it back online. This might include you paying them more money, or it may not, but it will definitely include your website going offline for a time.
The biggest problem for podcasters: if you get a big boost of traffic because someone with influence suggests your show (or you’re featured on Shark Tank or something crazy) that surge in traffic will be a wasted opportunity because it will likely crash your website.
The Birth of Podcast Hosting Providers
Podcasters needed hosting that was designed for high bandwidth streaming, they needed a hosting provider that could give them absurdly high rates of bandwidth at a reasonable price. Podcast Hosting Providers appeared on the scene in 2010–2012 and really exploded in 2016. Our host (https://simplecast.com) gives us 250,000 downloads a month for $85. Divide that by 4 and we have to exceed 62,500 downloads per episode before our price goes up.
So, Should You Host Your Podcast On WordPress?
Categorically no, you should not. You should host your podcast on Simplecast.com (or other podcast hosting service) and you should create posts about new episodes on your website and include embedded players in them like this:
Hope this was helpful. Take care!
If you’re in need of podcast consulting or professional podcast editing and engineering services, consider reaching out the The Portland Pod at 207.295.6039 to schedule a free 30-minute phone call to talk about your needs and how we might help you meet them. Thanks for reading and take care.
*I live in Maine. We have lobster at the buffet. It’s awesome. Come here. No, wait, don’t. This is my lobster.