Conceptually illustration of a technology stack

Complete Podcast Tech Stack: $22/month

I’m off on a new adventure. Introducing The Neurodiverse Leader Project where we’ll explore the intersection of leadership and neurodiversity.

It all starts with conversations - lots of them - that I’ll record and release as podcast episodes starting in June. What I learn throughout the process will result in blog posts and ultimately, a book.

I’m an OG podcaster, having started my first podcast in 2006. Back then, you had to be a wizard to figure out how to publish and distribute your show. And while I’m excited about the tools that are now available to podcasters, I didn’t want to accumulate a bunch of podcast and website related subscriptions when I’m just getting started.

So, I rolled my own. Sort of.

It all starts with a Virtual Private Server (VPS) from Vultr with 2 GB RAM, 50 GB of NVMe storage, and 1 vCPU running Debian 11. I get 3 TB/month of bandwidth, which I will certainly have to upgrade over time. The same goes for storage - 50 GB will only work for so long. It’s basically the speed and performance of a Raspberry Pi 5 with an NVMe installed. You can do the same with Digital Ocean or any other VPS provider. I like Vultr’s price/performance/reliability ratio.

After that, I installed yunohost because, well, my sysadmin days are long over. Yunohost is a server management platform that helps you set up a server (even at home), manage the server (including backups and system tools) and finally, install a ton of useful applications. (“A ton” is relative to the CPU, storage and RAM in your system, of course.)

Following the yunohost installation, I moved DNS management to Cloudflare. Their proxy will help prevent crazy traffic spikes and their DDOS protection will protect the server from being overloaded. I’m using the free version now. If I’m successful, I’ll upgrade to the Business Plan for $20/month.

Finally, I installed the critical applications to build my corner of the internet for this project. This includes:

  • Wordpress. Because every podcast needs a website and more importantly, I need a place to blog about what I learn. Wordpress also provides a template that I can use for “link in bio” requirements for social media at no additional cost.

  • Umami. It’s like Google Analytics but it’s self-hosted and privacy focused making it GDPR compliant out of the box. I don’t need the complexity of GA for this project. Umami gives me 80% of what GA does.

  • Castopod. Wow - I wish this podcast management platform was available in 2006. Castopod provides all the features that you would expect of a SaaS platform but it runs on your own server. Actually, you can sign up for Castopod and they’ll handle all the hosting starting at €9.96/month. (~$10.80 USD/month)

  • The Newsletter Plugin for Wordpress. This is a complete platform for email newsletters all running in my Wordpress instance. It costs $79 annually for a license. The best part about this plugin is that it can use Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) for email delivery. It costs only $0.10 per 1,000 delivered email messages.

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  • Mastodon. Mastodon is like Xitter or Threads, but the software and protocol are both open source, and you’re not beholden to Big Tech for all your social media needs. Granted, building a content engine requires that I still use all the usual services but Mastodon gives this project a home in the Fediverse using my own server and domain name.

Total cost: < $22/month

This accounts for the annual Newsletter Plugin subscription, broken out by month and SES volume of 5,000/month for comparison to Mailchimp (below).

What didn’t I include in this calculation?

  • Mics, stands, Rodecaster Pro, MacBook. I already own all these things.

  • Recording and editing software. I already own everything I need to get started, but I did subscribe to Descript. I don’t need it, but the workflow improvements are astounding compared to typical editors like Final Cut Pro or Logic. It also includes remote recording from Squadcast.

  • Administrative stuff. Google Workspace with email, calendar, sheets, meet, etc. I already pay for a license that provides this for my whole family with my own domains.

  • Free services. Things like YouTube, Xitter, Threads, Instagram, etc.

Bottom Line

What would all of this cost me if I paid for equivalent SaaS tools? Here’s a comparison:

  • for the website: $25/month for the Creator Plan.
  • Buzzsprout for podcast hosting: $24/month
  • Umami Analytics: $9/month
  • Mailchimp: $13/month for 5,000 delivered email messages.
  • LinkTree: $5/month
  • remote recording: $24/month

Total: $100/month

Sure, you could argue that I should include the cost of Descript as it provides remote recording with the subscription to make sure it’s a proper comparison. If that’s the case, my monthly costs would be $52 vs. $100. Either way, my setup is more economical, versatile and, in many ways, more powerful.

If this project becomes wildly successful, I can always migrate away from self-hosting but for now, my setup should be fine.

Stay tuned for updates and be sure to subscribe to the podcast when the first episode drops in June.

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