BuildBubbles: Closing Doors on a “Lifetime” deal for Podcast Hosting

 

Feature Image for blog post by Amar Vyas on Podcast Hosting
Introduction:
BuildBubbles, a SAAS in the podcast hosting space, is closing doors in July 2021.

This is an “I told you so” moment I do not wish to have.

On the other hand, I am not surprised with the outcome. The closure of BuildBubbles reinforces our belief at gaathastory to stick with the “OGs (Original Gangsters)” of podcast hosting: Libsyn, Blubbry, even Spreaker*. They have been around to know what works.

Background: Appsumo Deal(s) for Lifetime Podcast Hosting by BuildBubbles

In 2020, Appsumo posted a deal by developer “Max” for lifetime hosting for podcasts. There was some excitement  about the plans they offered, in particular the large storage. But the numbers did not make sense to me. The storage capacity was generous, and while the “unlimited” bandwidth was a good to have, is was bad for the business. To give you an idea about their original offer, I am posting a screenshot below.
They followed it up with an annual plan, which had less generous terms
 
Below is my take on the “Lifetime” Deal, posted in August 2020

Even for the base plan at US Dollars 59, the numbers did not add up. My post in a Facebook Group, written originally in August 2020, highlighted the same. On Appsumo site, my comments were published under user name gaathastory.

Space offered was too generous

Here I would like to use an example from a 1,000 word blog post, the analysis is based on our experience from our podcasts at gaathastory.

A narrator typically can speak between 120 and 140 words per minute, if they are really fast. The disclaimer read by narrators at the end of an insurance ad (or sometimes real estate companies) is produced at 1.5-2x speed. So at 140 words per minute, the narration might sound something like that.

For our stories, we consider 100-120 words per minutes.This range itself depends on speed of narration, pauses, background score for dramatic effects, etc..

So a 1,000 word episode would be about 7 to 8 minutes.
As a data point, Play.ht takes about 8 minutes for a 1,300 word post.

Now,
For 128 Kbps mp3, 1 minute of audio requires 1 Megabyte of storage space. Therefore an 8 minute audio will need 8 MB.
for a wav file, the ratio is approximately 4 to 5 MB per minute. That is, the same 8 minute audio will take between 32 MB and  40 MB.

So the 150 GB storage is adequate for several hundred episodes of 10 minutes. That is, even when all audio is in .wav format.With that in mind, comes my next set of questions:

a. is the 150 GB ‘storage’ or bandwidth?  Remember, they offered 150 GB of storage per license or subscription. One could easily stack them.

This was also my question for podcast.co. They had originally mentioned 1 Terabyte of storage space in their pricing plan. It was was actually bandwidth. Apples and Oranges.

b. If it is the former (i.e storage), then the math does not make sense at all.

Let us look at the base plan:
If we have a customer who converts all 15 episodes to audio every month., and let us say all are 30,000 characters, or roughly 1,500 words. That translates roughly to 23,000 words every month. That is a lot of writing!
23000 words would convert to about 180 minutes or 3 hours of audio faster narration, or nearly 4 hours at slower rate of narration.
For the mathematically inclined,
(23,000 divided by about 120 = 191 approx. or 3 hours 11 minutes)
How much storage does this consume?
Say all recording happens at standard bitrate (128 kbps mp3). As mentioned earlier, 1 minute = roughly 1 megabyte of storage.
In other words, creating and uploading new content will take up no more than 200 Megabytes of space every month. At this rate,
To fill up the 150 gigabytes of space, one would need
(150*1000)/200 = 750 months or a little over 62 years of publishing 15 episodes a month!
If all audio uploaded is wav format, then
This should not consume more than 1 GB of storage ( 1 minute of .wav = approx 5 megabytes)

At this rate,

One would require more than 12 years before the storage runs out.

In other words, the storage was generous, but wasteful in my opinion. The killer in this case would be the bandwidth (in hindsight, the ‘unlimited’ listens should have been the biggest red flag.

I have expressed similar concerns for bCast, and Play.ht Both had “Lifetime” offers on Appsumo in the past.

“Lifetime” deals often result in one compromise or another.

Most ‘Lifetime’ deals in audio and obviously video space will fall short on bandwidth, quality or something similar. The same can be said of the OGs, but the downside is clearly known. Some charge you per podcast (or RSS feed), storage and bandwidth do not have any cap. Others charge you on basis of number of downloads.
Spreaker, for example bills by number of listening hours. But on Spreaker, I can upload wav or mp3 audio at 320 kbps, maximum file size per episode can run into hundreds of megabytes. They serve the audio at 128 kbps. Podcast.co I think limits upload to 128 kbps, but the bitrate for streaming is at 96kbps. Fidelity from podcast.co therefore, was quite sub par in all my tests.
The 2019 deal for BuildBubbles had the following offer: 1 podcast feed at a maximum of 25,000 listens per month. This was an annual plan, prices at nearly 100 US Dollars. Way to expensive for the price. The cheapest plan from Libsyn offers more bang for the buck.
Now 25,000 downloads results in about 1,250 GB bandwidth/month for a 10 minute episode, fif we consider a .wav file. For a 128 kbps mp3, it will mean 250 gigabytes of bandwidth every month. If you have shows of longer duration, then the bandwidth will be higher, and vice versa.

Lower the bitrate, lower the bandwidth, lower the costs that the podcast host will have to bear.

 The deal page for podcast.co seems to have been taken down from Appsumo. But I did find this video on YouTube which describes the deal.

 

The deal page on Appsumo leads to a 404 error.

https://appsumo.com/products/podcastco

Closure comes at a cost to customers

The closure of business does not surprise me, it is the short lifespan of the project that is unfortunate. The customers might get a refund or credits from the SAAS marketplace. But imagine the time and effort involved in moving all your audio, images and metadata to a new provider! This would also mean updating links on your blog or website and podcast streaming services.

I know first hand the pain and the effort required, I had to move nearly 20 audio feeds from Audioboom to Spreaker, update the links, change the URLs (or links) in marketing promotions, and it is a nightmare we continue to live with at gaathastory.

I do wish Max and his team at BuildBubbles all the best. Below is the message sent by the BuildBubbles team announcing the closure of their service.

 

* Note: we host all our shows with Spreaker ,  except for the shows exclusively available on Spotify. For those, we upload the media on the Spotify-owned Megaphone service.
Endnote:
The aim behind my post is not to discourage startups or new companies in the podcast hosting space. And like any other business, there will be new companies established, old ones pivoting or dying along the way. But for a brand, a business or an entrepreneur, the cost of moving from podcast host A to podcast host B needs to be borne in mind at all times.
This post has been edited for language and new content was added since it was first published.

 

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