Podcast Episode

468 – Handling Audio Files within WordPress


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

Plugins Manager is a plugin that adds an additional “Deactivate and remove” link as a menu option for each plugin installed on your site.

Handling Audio Files within WordPress

  • Not-optimal: your web host
  • Okay: archive.org, podbean
  • Better: Amazon S3
  • Best Libsyn or [Blubrry](https://blubrry.com]

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Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today’s episode, we are going to talk about how to handle audio files within your WordPress site right here on Your Website Engineer podcast episode #468.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzer and I’m excited to be here with you just like I am every single week because today we’re talking about audio files and this is something that’s been dear and near to my heart over the last nine-plus years, almost ten years. As this podcast has been continuing growing and every week I have to do something with audio files, and so we’re going to talk a little bit about what that process looks like and how to host audio files for your WordPress website.

But before we get to that, I do have a couple of announcements and a plug in to share with you. The first announcement is Ten Up which is a large website development company that specializes in WordPress and usually, very large WordPress projects has a new get hub actions for simplifying a WordPress plugin deployment. So, it is a new publically available get hub actions. It’s geared toward WordPress developers and it allows developers to deploy plugin updates directly to the WordPress.org plugin directory by tagging and releasing get hub.

And the second action handles a read me file and asset updates so if you’ve ever made a plugin that’s available on the WordPress repository which there’s tens of thousands of them out there, and I know that I have; whenever you want to do an update to this plugin, it is a complete pain because you have to use SVN which is different than Get and every time I need to do an update, I have to look it up, I have to figure out the pieces in the puzzles and how this all works together and how do I upload and make a small little simple change.

Well, this is something that I’m really excited about. It was launched on November 14th so a little while ago and it is one of those actions that I’m going to have to explore and figure out, “Okay, how do I tag this as a release and then automatically send it over to the WordPress.org repository?” Because I do have a plugin out there. It’s called As Heard On and it’s basically a testimonial plugin for podcasters to say, “Hey, look at me. I’ve been on this other shows and you can hear me on these other shows.”

And so it was one of those things that’s like, “Okay, I need to update it and it hasn’t been updated in probably a few releases and so I need to go in and make those changes.” So, it’s on my to do list and my action items to figure out how this works and then maybe talk about it more on an upcoming show. So, that is the first announcement.

The other one that I thought was kind of interesting was about 24 WordPress snippets until Christmas and this submissions is now open for 2019. So, what this is is a WP snippets ‘til Christmas. It’s a site that will host 24 days of WordPress code snippets starting on December 1st and lasting until December 24th. With each passing day, a new code snippet will be revealed and so it’s kind of like an advent calendar if you’re familiar with that.

It’s kind of a countdown until Christmas type of a thing and so they have a website that’s out there that you can register to receive snippet updates and you can see and you can also go and you can send them snippets. So you can say, “I want to participate and I want to help out.”

So, some folks like Jeff Stars, Zach Gordon, Tom McFarland, and a few other prominent WordPress developers in the community have signed up to submit code. And so, it’s interesting to see what types of code. Is it going to be two, three lines of a small little function or is it going to be a huge snippet that can add custom post types to your WordPress site or whatnot. So, I have gotten signed up for this and so I’m interested just to see what this is. This is the first time I’ve heard about it. It’s happened a couple of years but it’s kind of interesting to see what this is going to do and how the community can come together as a whole to come up with 24 different snippets over the month of December.

So, that might give you a little bit of an excitement about WordPress when you’re jam-packed full with holiday schedule so that is something I wanted to share with you. The link to that and how to get to WP snippets until Christmas is in the show notes but you can – I guess it’s on a website that – the URL is too hard to say right here because it is on a subdomain of a private URL. So, you can go ahead and get that right from the show notes. Just click on the second item there in the news section and you can get right to that.

The third thing that I want to share and I don’t believe I’ve talked about this before, but the word camp US 2020 dates and locations have been announced and it’s a new week they schedule. So usually typically the word camp US – this past one in St. Louis was the 5th word camp US and it’s typically a Friday, Saturday, Sunday event. It starts on usually on Thursday night, the speakers arrive, the volunteers arrive, there’s usually a welcome dinner for those types of people: the people that are involved with the word camp, and then on Friday morning it kicks off with sessions all day.

There’s usually an after-party on Friday night or a Saturday night just depending on the location and venue and whatnot. Well, next year I guess they decided that they’re going to try a mid-week time so basically this is from October 27th to October 29th and so this is a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday instead of a Friday, Saturday, Sunday. And so, it’s still going to be in St. Louis and I believe it had something to do with the location and not wanting to be there on Halloween and making sure that people can travel one way or the other. So, that is kind of a good reason for a change. I know there was a lot of folks that have small families, myself included that was like, “Oh, it’s kind of a bummer that I miss out on Halloween and trick or treating with my kids.”

But in general, that’s not a huge, huge holiday that is one to miss with your family. So, I did some other Halloween festivities so it was okay in my household, but it’s going to be something that is going to be a little bit of a different dynamic. If you travel, if you’re not in the WordPress full-time, if you have to pay for your accommodations, you have to take off probably a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, even a Friday almost to travel back home depending on if you stay for contributor day.

So, that could be one of the downturns or the unfortunate side effects for doing it mid-week but I think it’s a good experience. It’s kind of what WordPress does in general. They try things out. They experiment. They see what works. They see what doesn’t work and so I think that that could be something that is beneficial. So, we’ll see this year what it looks like and then maybe the next year in 2021, 2022 maybe it goes back to the weekend. Maybe it stays mid-week. We’ll completely see but that is one of the announcements that I wanted to share.

And then the other thing that I do want to share is about Jet Pack. Jet Pack 7.9 came out and it came up with some better blocks and it has some new features in the Jet Pack search feature. And then as soon as Jet Pack 7.9 came out, just a couple of days later was Jet Pack 7.9.1 and so that was a spot release that had a critical error that was fixed or a security release. But it was something that was a bug found way back since Jet Pack 5.1 and so if you are using Jet Pack in any way, I want to make sure that you update to the latest version. It looks like they updated automatically for all the releases so if you’re back at Jet Pack 5 or 6 or 7, all of those have point releases that will update and fix the security bug.

So, that’s all about Jet Pack and that is everything that I wanted to share with you today in the news.

The plugin that I want to share with you this week, and I know that every single week when we talk about these plugins and there’s 54,694 plugins on the WordPress repository. Every week, sometimes it’s like, “Oh, this is the simplest plugin that’s out there. This is a very simple plugin that does this. This is a very simple plugin that does this.” And this plugin is honestly, a very simple plugin. It does something that at first it’s like, “Why do you need this?” And then you think, “Oh, well this is genius.” But if you’ve ever had to remove a plugin from your site, what’s the first thing you have to do?

You have to click on the box next to it, and then you have to go up to the top or the bottom, you have to say, “Deactivate”, and then once it’s deactivated then you can delete it. Or the little menu links that are underneath, you can deactivate and then you can delete. It’s always a two-step process. Well, this plugin, it’s called Plug Ins Manager and it adds one more menu item there. It turns it red. It’s right underneath. It’s next to deactivate. But it basically gives you a link to deactivate and remover all in one step and so this just saves you steps if you are building a website and you’re trying a plugin, you gotta remove it and you’re trying new plugins; I recommend checking this out.

Again, this isn’t going to be a plugin that’s going to change your life or be one that’s installed on every single site, but it could be a very good plugin that is installed when you launch a new site. Now, I’ll just install Plug in Manager and then as I’m getting ready, “Oh, this plugin doesn’t work at all” or “I don’t want to use this plugin” or “Maybe I should change this plugin.”

Once you’re done setting up your site and you got it all configured, then you can remove the Plug Ins Manager plugin. A cool, cool idea and it just shows you how simplistic WordPress plugins on the repository can be and just how simplistic ideas that are there that say, “Oh, this does solve a problem.” And so that is Plug Ins Manager. You can find that in the show notes for this episode which is episode #468 or you can find it by searching just for Plug Ins Manager on the WordPress repository.

All right. Let’s move along. Today we’re going to talk about audio files and this came in as a question that was emailed through the contact form at yourwebsiteengineer.com and I’m always looking for questions. You can use the contact form there. You can email dustin@yourwebsiteengineer.com and I’ll be happy to address any questions on upcoming shows. And this was a really good one so let’s read the question by Ellen and then we’ll talk it through.

So, the first thing says, “I don’t recall if you’ve ever done an episode on best practices for audio files, but I sometimes work with churches who want sermon links on their site. Is uploading and storing sermons to media libraries for the purpose a big no-no? Is there a free option for hosting off-site audio? And somewhat along the same lines, does the size of the media file affect load time? Should I be cleaning out media files regularly or is there no harm in storing old pics and other media in there? Thanks for the help.”

Well, thank you for the question, Ellen, and there is huge amounts of advice and there’s tons of different ways to tackle this question and these questions and issues that you do bring up. And I just want to say, this is where I first got my start with trying to figure out where to host audio files. I guess it was 2009, I was living in Columbus, Ohio, and I wanted to help my church get their audio files on their website. And so, I went through this whole discussion and then just tried to figure out, “Okay, what’s the best thing?” And I know that the church didn’t want to pay any extra for these media files and so it’s like, “Okay, what can we do and how can we get this set up so that someone can go to iTunes and they can get the latest mp3 download to their phone so they can catch up and make sure they didn’t miss out on what was happening at a given weekly sermon.”

So, the idea is kind of where I started as well so what you could do is you could start with just uploading it your host. Now, this isn’t going to be the best option. It’s not optimal but it all depends on the number of downloads that you’re going to get for these files. Most people say, “Don’t host any video files. Don’t host any audio files. Don’t do any of that stuff on your media library.” But it depends on how many people are actually using it. Your web host will say that you have unlimited storage and they say that in quotation marks. Unlimited storage but that doesn’t really mean that you can store unlimited amounts of data and stream unlimited amounts of data.

The bigger thing is the streaming. The web hosts just don’t have the bandwidth to have thousands upon thousands of people streaming this files all at one time or even downloading all of these files at one time. But if you are doing this for a church that is a small congregation, maybe a hundred, two hundred people, maybe only a handful of those people actually know what a podcast is and how that works; then I think that there’s no problem whatsoever putting it in the WordPress media library.

Now, I don’t know if it’s the best solution. It’s not the best solution by far and we’ll talk about some others but it’s not optimal just in case your web host says, “Nuh- uh. I don’t like this anymore. There’s too much activity.” And then they shut you down and then you have to figure out, “Okay, now I’ve got to move my files elsewhere or I’ve got to readjust and how my RSS feed and stuff is working.” So, if you don’t ever want to run into that issue, maybe you go with the next one that’s an okay option.

And there is something called archive.org. It is a free service. The service is slow and you can’t replace your media files once it’s out there so if you needed to edit or you upload your file and you’re like, “Oh, well I need to replace this. I edited some things and I need to add it.” Then you can’t really do that with archive.org and so that’s one free service that’s out there and where I actually got my start all those years ago, ten plus years ago was Pod Bean and they do have free plans and there’s some limitations on what those free plans are and how you can get set up. But it’s a good place to host media files and I’m sure that probably the files that I started hosting there more than ten years ago are still out there on Pod Bean on that free plan, that free account and they have the different tiers and whatnot.

So, that would be a good alternative to putting it in the media library. It’s something that you can at least set up a stream for or set up an RSS feed for and get your files off your web host and that way if you ever change web hosts – that’s another kind of like tricky thing. “Oh, I’m going to move from one web host to another.” Now, you have all these media files that you are moving from one place to another. It’s a tedious process for sure so if you keep them separate that makes it easier to move around if you need to, if you need to change your host.

So, that is kind of the okay option if you will. A better option is putting them on Amazon S3. It’s kind of attractive for web-savvy podcasters because Amazon can host files for extremely low costs and the only downside is there they charge when people download the files. So, maybe you can upload four sermons for a month and that is going to cost you like thirty-two cents. It’s ridiculously cheap of how much that is. If only a handful of people will listen; then you might have a bill for fifty-five cents for the month. But if all of a sudden, you have a real popular episode or you have hundreds of thousands of people downloading it; now there’s no cap on that cost and it could go upwards go to hundreds or two hundred dollars per month for those costs.

And so, if you are really popular like I said, you could receive a bill for even up to a thousand dollars I’ve seen based on using Amazon S3 for that. And then the best option, so I don’t really recommend Amazon because you’re never going to have that fixed cost. I like fixed costs when it comes to just in case somebody is having to foot the bill. They think, “Oh, it’s going to be $10 a month. It’s going to be $100 a month. We can budget for that.” But if it’s going to be this varying degree – and you can try Amazon and if Amazon for the majority of the time is a dollar or two per month; I mean that’s a great option.

I don’t think that a church sermon series is probably not going to get hundreds and hundreds of downloads. It’s more like a series like Serial. That was a big podcast, kind of a storyline that had 8-10 episodes just a few years ago and I’m sure that that got picked up by NPR and all these big-name places. And people who had never heard of podcasts before were starting to download the podcast. And had that been on Amazon S3, I am sure that that Serial podcast would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to serve all those files to the tons of people that were listening.

So, that is one option for Amazon S3. It could be a very low-cost option, but it also could be a very high-cost option depending on how many people are listening. And the last option or the kind of best, the one that I use currently is using a dedicated service for media hosting and so the two that stand out there and one called Libson and one called Blueberry media hosting. Both of those basically do the same amount or kind of the same thing I guess. For either of those plans – they do have a premium plan. Libson I know starts for at least as a minimum of $5 per month and that gives you 50 megabytes of upload time. And usually you can say one minute equals one megabyte of time.

And so I think with my account, I pay $15 per month which is 250 megabytes and so that gives me enough bandwidth to upload all of my content each and every week. So, before in the past I was actually doing shows that were a little closer to the 20-30 minute mark and so those longer shows, sometimes those would add up and I would just barely sneak under the threshold. But it basically charges you how much you could upload and then there’s no charge in addition for how many people download. So if those show when we’re talking about audio files, if it all of a sudden gets a million downloads; my bill at Libson is not going to change at all. It’s going to be exactly the same and so I really like that. I like that as a fixed cost option and it doesn’t matter how many downloads you have.

It doesn’t matter if somebody goes back and downloads all 467 previous shows. I don’t see a bill that’s any more expensive. Each month it’s always $15 per month for me to keep my host files online. The only tricky part is with Libson is if you want to keep your files on forever, but never upload any more you have to maintain and pay $5 per month forever as long as you want those media files hosted and stored online. And so, that would be something else to think about. If you have archive.org or one of those free solutions, if you stop adding the podcasts to your feed, then you don’t have any ongoing costs. But with Libson, you will have those ongoing costs forever and ever as you continue to go to the infinity of time or whatnot.

And so, that’s just something to think about so those are some of the answers to where you can host the media files. So, that was kind of the first question. The first and second question which was where do you hosts them and are there any free offline options for audio. And then along the same lines, the last question was does the size of the media file affect load time. And I think she means by the page load time. So, does that affect the page load times and I don’t believe so? I haven’t done extensive research on this, but I don’t think that will actually will affect the load times.

If you pull up a page with an audio player; it’s going to share the link to the audio file but it’s not going to do anything until you actually click the button and then the browser’s going to start downloading that audio file so that it can be played through their browser. So, I don’t think you can have a page with hundreds and hundreds of posts all with a play button and the audio player available and I don’t think that’s going to slow anything down even if your media library has hundreds of sermons in there; it’s not going to slow down the functionality of your site. Because those media files are only being accessed when you’re on a specific post or a page so I wouldn’t worry about that.

If you do want to go the option of keeping things in the media library; spend some time just putting them in there and then don’t worry about it. It’s not going to slow your site down in any capacity other than on a page itself. It’s going to take maybe a little bit longer than a faster service. I guess the Amazon S3, the Libson, the Blueberry, they have very fast servers. They are optimized for downloading and sharing audio and media files whereas your website host isn’t going to be as fast so maybe when you hit the play button on a post or a page, you might have a two or three-second delay if it takes a little while for that content to download from your host.

So, that would be the only thing that I would be worried about but those are great questions. Ellen, thank you so much for writing in and asking those. And if you do have a question like I said, use the contact form on yourwebsiteengineer.com or you can send a message over at dustin@yourwebsiteengineer.com and I’ll be happy to answer it on an upcoming show. And until next week, take care and we’ll talk again soon. Bye-bye.