I'm bummed that I didn't get to bump into the boys from Soundcloud when I was at Blogworld last week. I wanted to ask them some questions about their service. I see where there is a beta “Spoken Word” podcast testing happening.
What soundcloud allows you to do is upload your podcast/music for free. There are even desktop apps that allow you to do this without logging into the website. The file is transcoded to 128 kbps. Once the file is uploaded, it then lets you copy and paste code to put a player on your site. There is even a WordPress plugin that makes it easy to copy and paste a bit of code and your player will appear. What they don't give you is a way to link directly to your media (mp3 in my case). If you are using the free package you are limited to 100 downloads (but apparently streaming is OK). There are also tools to announce new episodes on twitter and put a player on your Facebook page. The cool thing is when a person leaves a comment it posts the text below the player (So this text may attract Google).
Back in 2006 I interviewed the people behind innertoob.com (no longer in business) where you could go “watch” the audio and leave comments at certain areas. When I saw soundcloud I thought maybe it was innertoob.com with a new name. (It's not). The interview starts at the 2:26 mark. I love that we talk about using the player on MySpace (so very 2006).
You can then see who leaves comments on your sound cloud page. You can see how many listens, likes, downloads, etc.
When I was reading about their Podcasting Beta I was glad to see that they recommend people running their RSS through feedburner before submitting their feed to iTunes (so if you ever want to leave SoundCloud you could).
When you browse around Soundcloud there are a lot of people over there playing. You can create groups, and sets to organize your content and contacts. They have tools to let you share the information.
What Makes Me Nervous About SoundCloud
One of the advantages of being around for a while, I can see cycles. I saw MP3.com have everyone and their brother jump on board. Then I watched them get sued, sold, and die. Then a new site called MySpace came along. I watch them concentrate on making profits, and we all know how that ended. Now today there is Facebook “Doing a MySpace.” But I want to go back to mp3.com as one of their problems was everyone was uploading “real” (Licensed) music to their site and eventually the RIAA got involved. When I search for tracks on SoundCloud I see Licensed music (it may be remixed, but legally I think they are in a bad place). For example a Kanye West track. Is this a problem? Could be? Do I want to tie my hosting to a company that could get shut down for allowing people to place unlicensed music? Not sure. It could happen (again, I've seen it).
The other thing that makes me nervous is most people see them as a “Free Service.” We have all seen companies who try to pay the bills with free, and fail. They do have premium versions with better stats and player. When I did the currency conversion it turned out to be (as of today) $36 a month US, or $312 a year. This is based on their Pro plan that gives you 36 hours of storage. For me I do a 30 minute podcast a week which totals up to 24 hours a year. If I add $4 to my $36 I could get 800 Megs of space a month at Libsyn (along with a free Smart Phone App), or 500M of hosting at blubrry.com
Likes and Dislikes
As a podcaster we all strive for feedback and this is another tool that allows you to specifically see WHEN you moved someone to comment.
In playing I've uploaded a few files, and I'm down to an hour and 25 minutes left (probably another 6 shows). This is a good/bad thing. It's good for them as it will force people to go premium. It's bad, as I think there are better values for your money. It might not hurt to open a US office so we don't have to go through the currency conversion.
I am nervous about the fact that as the site grows and grows, its going to be hard to stop people from uploading illegal media (which will attract law suits).
I don't see using both a “traditional” media host (Libsyn or Blubrry), in addition to Sound cloud as that would create another place to check stats (in addition to Stitcher.com).
I don't like the unlimited storage aspect of their plan. When I have to start worrying about how long I can produce content I take my focus off of the content and put it on editing. I like the blubrry and libsyn way of allowing unlimited storage so you can create a back catalog.
While I've made the above file available for download, when I look at the feed there is no default player at feedburner like when I insert a direct link to an mp3. This makes me think they are focused on the streaming end (and I'm not sure how this would work if this was a podcast in iTunes).