This post has been brewing in my mind for a while. I always come back to the same question: is there any one best way to monetize your podcast? I began by thinking about my own experiences. Then I watched other podcasts. I read several posts on the subject. Some were full of hype. But others had some great insights.
Someone shared a post about the boom in podcasting advertising dollars. How it’s all out there for the taking.
How brands are dumping dollars like madmen (and -women) to secure podcasting spots.
My initial thoughts were that the data was taken from large and popular podcasts, with no direct relation to what the average podcaster can expect. In the end, after all my reading—and reading between the lines— I put my own experiences together, added my research, tossed it into a blender and hit the puree button.
How to Monetize Your Podcast?
First you will need to clarify your goals. Then test and strategize one of these most popular ways to monetize your podcast. Through sponsorships and ads, building your brand to grow your client base, using affiliate marketing or protect extra content through memberships or subscriptions.
Start with Your Goals
As a podcaster, you need to understand the reasons behind the monetization strategy you choose. It could be to build a brand, as a marketing tool for your business, a side gig to make a few extra bucks, or the rollout of an effort that results in a steady revenue stream.
A Look at the Different Ways to Monetize Your Podcast
Let’s break this down.
By Securing Sponsorships and Ads
I’m going to start with this one as it’s probably where I have the most to say. Now some are looking at just covering basic per-episode costs. Others want to create a profitable podcast that becomes a bigger part of their income stream. Typically this strategy involves running ad rolls where the podcaster shares the promo. These can be done at the first of the podcast,in the middle or podcast break, at the end, or a mix of all. They can be a single advertiser or multiple brands. Length and styles vary.
I will start by saying, from my experience, although profitable, soliciting podcast sponsorships is a lot of work and filled with challenges. I’ll leave it at that.
The most successful podcasts in this vein are, obviously, are the ones with the huge audiences. We’re talking downloads of 6 digits or more per episode. Your success with this depends heavily on your topic and audience. Niche podcasts are going to be tougher because your advertising market is much narrower.
Many successful podcasters say this can be a good route to go, but it isn’t the best long-term solution.
Getting those sponsors on a continuing basis is going to be a lot of hard work. And it can get harder and harder unless your numbers reflect a very popular podcast, and I mean huge.
Lastly, you need to have the numbers in place. When the rubber meets the road, many sponsors want to see results. I hear lately that if you hit the 5k downloads per show in the first 30 days, advertisers will start taking you more seriously. The problem I have with this statement is there are still so many variables here that still can’t guarantee that those dollars will come your way.
So your traffic, reach and conversion stats are important to them, but also who you are, what your show it about and so many other hanging pieces.
Now let’s look at a few other ways to monetize your podcast:
By Building Your Brand to Get More Clients
This may be the top strategy that a lot of you are going to use. Podcasting is a great way to create a new audience, connect with others in your industry, and share your expertise with potential clients and customers.
The latter is one of the huge benefits. Your exact goals will dictate whether your podcasts are guest-driven or whether they focus on you—and people in your company—sharing your expertise.
If done right, by providing solutions and telling stories, this is where you gain the confidence of your listeners.
And unlike getting sponsors, and having to constantly grow your numbers to demonstrate your reach and conversions, the numbers are not as nearly important as the trust and relationship you are building with your listeners.
From my research, this is where the smaller podcasts— 50K or fewer listeners per show— will find the most success.
Another potential upside to consider is traffic. Your podcast is adding another digital media source to your site. As with blogging, that content can bring additional, fresh traffic to your business website, which is a good thing.
Through Affiliate Marketing
Two points here. First, through my research, I discovered that a lot of podcasters view this as one of the more favorable routes to go. Secondly, from my own experience, since we no longer have podcast sponsors, this is the monetization strategy I am moving forward on.
To start with, scrap the idea from your brain that affiliate marketing is slimy. There are many different strategies used my affiliate marketers, but, if done right, it can be a seamless plan that affects neither content nor the usefulness to your listeners.
If you choose to have guests on who have a product or service that is helpful to your listeners, you can certainly use affiliate links, as long as you are still providing education, entertainment, or both.
Many who dive into affiliate marketing feel they are walking a thin line and must be careful not to make it all about sales. It takes practice and testing to find that sweet spot.
When your guest educates your listeners and teaches them how to do something better, and their service or product is only one example of a solution, the hard sell slips away and instead, you are giving them practical ways to solve a problem.
By Way of Protected Content and Subscriptions
If you are familiar with the site Patreon, you know where I am going with this. And with the recent allowance of adding a monthly fee to Facebook groups, I think we may be seeing more of this.
Let’s take the example of the Patreon model. In a nutshell, you provide your regular episodes but you offer additional content for a monthly subscription. This paywall content may be special shows, member-only interviews, or some other kind of extra content. Some podcasters offer swag to members or ad-free episodes (not sure how they explain this to the paid sponsors). In any case, members get more access behind the paywall.
Although we have had membership sites in the past, I am looking at this strategy from the outside in. And from what I’ve read from other podcasters, they are all over the board on the pros and cons
As an observer, I’m seeing that many listeners are happy with the status quo (free podcasts) and are not eager to begin paying for content, although that may change.
For listeners, extra shows and content mean more of their time consuming it. It also means another chunk of change dropping out monthly, even if it’s a matter of a few bucks. They all add up and people are getting wiser in what they are choosing to invest in on a monthly basis.
As with sponsorships, it’s the big shows that are successful at this, the ‘rockstars,’ influencers, etc. Their rabid fans are happy to fork out more money. But you may be perfectly content with a hundred or two bucks to get your expenses covered.
By Asking for Donations
I’ll be totally honest here.In our past podcasts, we asked for support via donations. It didn’t work for us.
The culprit is probably all the free content on the web.
You may be lucky with your own audience and I would never say don’t give it a try. Again, based on your podcast—who you are, who your audience is and what you offer— most people won’t throw money your way unless there is something more for them.
So What Should You Do to Monetize Your Podcast?
These are typically the most frequently used strategies for monetizing podcasts. I didn’t write this to dash anyone’s hope. I am simply telling you what I have learned from my own experience and from listening to and watching others. Heck, you may hit the jackpot and be incredibly successful. Luck may have something to do with it, or being in the right place at the right time. Or it may be a reward of your hard work. But it can also be frustrating when others make it seem to easy and you fall into a spot where it becomes agony to put out another show.
Personally, I wish you the best and much success when you make the move to monetize your podcast. I hope you meet or exceed your goal.
And if you podcast for the love of it, and no monetization strings need to be attached, then good for you. Happy podcasting!
An audio option for this post.