Sounder .fm Backed By Google and Spotify Execs Is Closing Their Podcast Hosting Dooors

I've seen this before. A free media host launches with VC money and explains how you get free hosting, and it's paid for by advertisements. The company earns money, and you too will also get a piece of that sweet, sweet podcast advertising money. So on May 4th 2019 proclaimed:

“The Future of Podcasting is Near!
Sign up for early access and receive free podcast hosting and transcription for life.
Yep, we just said that.
Define: Sounder /?sound?r/ – a place where podcasting is reimagined.
synonyms: awesome; amazing, fabulous
Sounder is backed by Ex Googler and Spotify execs”

I'm so shocked (he sarcastically said) that someone who worked for Google (famous for closing things) and Spotify (somewhat famous for announcing things that never happen) had issues with this business model. One of the founders also worked at AOL.

The Dreaded Podcast Discovery Problem

They had great intentions. In a blog post, they mentioned when they first launched the goal was, “Make every creator successful by building discovery and monetization tools that support an open and thriving creator ecosystem.”

Maybe we should be focusing on helping podcasters make good content first.

I know, I know the whole “discovery problem” in podcasting where something understands what you want and recommends items to you. I have that system. I call them, “Friends.” But when your show isn't growing, “Discovery” is the scapegoat.

They have decided to “Double Down” on data (insert “if you're not paying for the product – you are the product ” joke here).

Let Me Explain Why Free Podcast Hosting Doesn't Work Now or Ever Will

First a little podcast monetization 101. You monetize your audience, and most of the “test, test, I think it's recording, how do I get it to stop” podcasters don't have one. They might in three years, but right now they do not. So advertising needs an audience, and you don't have one.

You join a free media host expecting to make BANK, and instead, you get paid .00017 cents per download (which is what I got paid when I tried Voxer a few years ago). As you are just starting out you get 87 downloads for that first episode which brings in .01479 cents. By the end of the month with three more episodes, you are at 350 downloads and a total of six cents (before taxes). After spending 40 hours on those episodes – you quit.


You start a podcast and it grows. You make it to the holy ground which is 10,000 downloads per episode. You are one of the 10% that make it to this benchmark that sponsors want. So instead of staying with the free media host, you move to a paid media host (like using the coupon code sopfree to get some free hosting- I work there) and work directly with sponsors and keep all the money.

That is why free media hosting doesn't work. You need an audience for sponsors and the majority of your users don't have one, and those that do – leave.


  • Podshow/Mevio 8/2005 – 4/2014 (116 months – 38.8 million dollars spent)
  • Podango 9/2006 – 12/2008 (27 Months)
  • 7/2006 – 7/2009 (36 months)
  • 2007 – 2011 (estimated 48 months)
  • 11/ 2012 – 8/2014 (21 months before being purchased by panoply and taken off the market)
  • Opinion Podcasting 11/2015-10/2017  (23 months)
  • Zcat 1/2016 – 1/2019 (36 months)
  • Whooshkaa 6/2016-5/2021 (53 months)
  • 2019-2023 (44 months) – WELCOME TO THE LIST!
  • Red 4/2019 – (added a paid version)
  • Anchor –

But Dave, what about Anchor?

An article in the Motley Fool asked, “Spotify Is Still Losing Money. Should Investors Be Concerned?” I'm just here to say that Anchor has to be losing money. Even though many of their reported 5 million podcasts on that platform consist of one episode where someone says, “Test, test, I think it's working…” and thus receive almost no downloads (so not as high of a bandwidth bill of 5 million popular shows), storage and bandwidth are pennies in the Spotify budget. I get that. However, when you gather enough pennies, they make dollars.

Someone at Spotify will eventually figure this out. They are testing this idea in New Zealand where you can record from the Spotify App.

I think we have all learned that creating a podcast isn't hard. If nothing else Anchor has proven this over and over.

However, creating a popular podcast is not easy and takes effort and dedication, and this little thing called “Talent” that can take a while to build.

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About the Author
Owner of the School of Podcasting. Also produces the "Ask the Podcast Coach." He is also the author of the book "More Podcast Money" and is a regular speaker at podcasting and media conventions.

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