How Podcasts Make Money
An Introduction to Monetizing Your Podcast
11.05.18 | Podcasting | By: Jon Street
Did you know that podcasting is not only a growing broadcast medium but is also an opportunity for developing a legitimate side hustle or even a paying career? For many podcasters though, the monetization of their podcast is at best a goal (more likely a dream) and rarely does it seem like a reality. It’s just something that seems too difficult to do. It seems like something reserved only for big, well-known personalities with massive followings or influence. Maybe this is where you are finding yourself as well. You love podcasting and you wish it could be more than just a creative outlet, but you don’t know how to do anything more with it. Just the process of creating content and carrying out the vision of your podcast can seem overwhelming (not to mention the recording and post-production process), let alone the consideration of trying to find ways to make money from it. But as challenging as it may seem, there are a growing number of podcasters who are able to do just that through monetization. So what is monetization exactly? Well the concept of monetization in podcasting is really just the process of utilizing your podcast (more specifically the people you reach through your podcast), in order to generate some form of revenue. In other words monetization is when you start making money for making your podcast. While the general concept is very straightforward, there are some key things podcasters need to understand about the process to make it most palatable to their listeners (or prospective advertisers) and most impactful for themselves. And as podcasting continues to grow it’s important that more and more podcasters are given the tools needed to know how to have ultimate success from their podcast. Part of that process includes the capability of understanding how to make money from it. Now I want to be clear that monetization is not for everyone. Not everyone wants to make money from their podcast and more importantly not everyone will be the right fit for it. But if you are looking for ways to grow your podcast and enable it to make a return for you, this article will be a resource to provide you with a few things to ask yourself as you troubleshoot your readiness to monetize your podcast as well as offer you a few concepts on how you can put the process into play for yourself.
Can Your Podcast Make Money? – Things to ask
Before you can jump straight into asking people to sign up for paying you for your podcast-wizardry, you have to do a little soul-searching. The truth is you have to evaluate whether you are really at the place in your podcast journey to even start entertaining those ideas. If you asked every podcaster whether they would be interested in making money for their podcast, they would obviously say yes. And if it were just as easy as snapping your fingers, everyone would do it. But it’s not that simple. Since all monetization hinges in some way on the listeners, you first have to take a step back and evaluate your podcast and your audience. Specifically, you’ll need to think about:
1. Do you have an audience?
This is the most important factor to consider with the concept of monetization because your listeners are the commodity you will draw from for income capabilities. Without them there is nothing for you to leverage to advertising partners and no one to ask for direct support from. So ask yourself: Do people listen to your podcast? How many and how often are people listening? Is your audience growing, plateauing or decreasing? In order to answer these questions you must become an expert in the analytics of your podcast to track your average listenership and growth trends. If what you find out is not encouraging, take a deep breath. All is not lost. Ask yourself if you are creating something that people want to listen to. Do a little brainstorming to see if anything can be done to make your content more engaging. To do this it will be helpful to get feedback from as many people as possible. Once you do, digest the feedback and then create a concrete plan to better your podcast. If you need to, find ways to improve your content by focusing on topics that you are most passionate about. It’s a simple reality that you cannot fake true passion. Because passion is contagious, you will need that contagion for your podcast to go viral. If your content or passion are not the issue, something else to troubleshoot would be whether you may have issues with distribution. Translation? Are you publishing your episodes to all the major listening directories (i.e. Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spotify, etc.)? If not, people will not be able to find you on their favorite listening platform. Simply getting your podcast live in some additional directories can have a major impact by allowing more people to listen, follow, rate and review your podcast.
2. Do you know your audience?
Once you have established that you have an audience, then you need to do everything possible to get to know the people who are listening to your podcast. Your opportunities to successfully monetize your podcast will skyrocket with a greater knowledge and understanding of who your audience is. One thing to remember is that even if your podcast is new and just starting to gain traction, you will also want to factor in any additional audience you may already have who will be impacted by your podcast. Your existing networks from sources like a blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. are all necessary to factor in to who you will be reaching through your podcast overall, especially as you start to develop your analytics and learn about your audience. Think about: What is the average age of your listeners? Is your listenership more saturated by one gender or another? What is the typical demographic? Are they tuning in for personal or business development or just for entertainment? What kinds of ads or brands would appeal to them? The more you know the better off you will be. Once you begin to understand them, it will be easier to develop a game plan for monetization as you learn what appeals to them and factor in that there are always businesses who are interested in marketing to the people in your audience.
How Podcasts Make Money – Things to do
Once you’ve confirmed that people are listening to your podcast and you’ve taken time to learn about your audience, what they like and what will resonate with them, it’s time to create a plan and put it into action. This is the practical part of the plan as you think about the approach you want to take to start making money from your podcast. To be clear there are several different approaches you can take, and it will be up to you to figure out what makes sense for your specific goals and objectives. While you may start with just one approach, you will always be able to change your strategy in the future as your podcast grows, and you may also be able to find ways to utilize several strategies at the same time. While there are variations of strategies for monetization, here are the 3 main approaches podcasters take to start generating income from their podcast.
1. Create affiliate sponsorships
Affiliate sponsorships are a great first step towards creating revenue. Simply put, an affiliate is another company, brand or podcast that you recommend to your listeners in exchange for something (like a referral fee) when your listeners use a specific code or refer to where they heard about the affiliate. This approach is a great first step into monetization because the size of your audience won’t ultimately matter with this strategy. While other strategies will require larger audiences to make it worth the while, you don’t need to have a minimum number of listeners to get started with affiliates, just interested partners. So how do you start? Ideally there is a product or service that you already genuinely like and would recommend to your audience through an affiliate program. So think about what you like, what your listeners will like and what would be a good fit based on the nature of your podcast. No one will know your audience better than you, so think about what will make sense for them and start creating some ideas of people to approach. As you’re thinking about how to approach affiliates, present the idea of adding in a simple shoutout into your podcast that will advertise their product, serve or podcast. An example of a shoutout could be, “This episode is brought to you by Resonate Recordings. Visit resonaterecordings.com/free-podcast or mention the promo code FREE to claim your free offer for editing of one 30 minute podcast episode, exclusive for listeners of this podcast.” The outcome is that every sign-up through that promo link gets whatever you have agreed on from the affiliate sponsor and you receive whatever payout you had negotiated. Hopefully, that will be some form of commission or income. So what are some places you can approach for affiliate sponsorships? You can really link to any company, like AirBnB or Audible, that will give you credit for each sign up. Think of some brands you feel like would be a good fit for your audience and approach them about the concept to see if they already have a program in place or what you can do to help develop one.
2. Add in-show advertisements
Another option for your monetization could be in-show advertisements. This is simply you selling “air time” on your podcast to a company or brand that values that space as a potential way of getting in front of potential customers. These ads are the more traditional method of monetization as they function like television and radio advertisements yet can be incredibly successful. The truth is that the success of these sponsorships is largely predicated on the number of subscribers to your podcast, as these ads are typically sold on a cost-per-thousand subscriber basis. What this means is that if you have minimal downloads and subscribers, you’ll need to bulk up your listenership before any real company will bite at the idea of buying airtime on your podcast. If you have the following, one question you might have is how you will get in contact with these brands. One strategy is that you can negotiate directly with companies that you think would be interested in advertising on your podcast, which inevitably requires more work for you on the front end, but allows you to keep all the earnings. The alternative option would be use another company, firm or broker to connect you with potential advertisers. While this makes less legwork for you, the downside to this strategy is that there is always a broker fee for turning to those companies. But, if you’re looking into the idea here are a few platforms that do just that: PodAds, Adopter Media, Ad Results Media, AdvertiseCast, True Native Media, and Audioboom.
3. Ask for audience donations
Sometimes the best course of action (or at least an additional one) is to just be direct, and ask for what you need. There’s something attractive about authenticity and genuineness, especially from people we look up to and admire. One way of exercising this is by relying directly on your listeners for the support you’re hoping to get. Ask your audience to support your efforts in the production of your podcast by making direct donations to you in some way. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable doing this or you feel awkward asking for help. The truth is, if you feel like you’re developing a camaraderie with your listeners, they will be happy to help. But this is another reason why it is important to know your audience! They will be much more likely to donate money to support your efforts if they feel like they know you, and truly believe in what you are doing. Now you may be hard pressed to sell them on the idea of needing to quit your day job to podcast full time and asking them to fully support your lifestyle, but anything is possible! So how do you ask while being realistic with the outcome? Start small. Many podcasters position their ask as a way to have the listeners tangibly benefit from their donations. How? Well, as you gain financial support you can begin looking into better equipment, outsourcing your production for better results and adding in additional elements to your podcast that will be more engaging, etc. But since these all require finances, podcasters usually take time to grow and improve their podcast. So now to the question of how to set this all up. Well there are many apps out there that allow you to easily set up donation accounts which will make it easy to be real, honest and ask for donations (without causing a headache). You can consider any of the following platforms to help you: Patreon, PayPal, Venmo, CashApp
For many serious podcasters the inevitable pipe-dream is to become a full-time, paid podcaster who spends all of their time doing what they love. While this type of opportunity is feasible, it doesn’t always happen and doesn’t happen overnight. It often takes a lot of hard work for the pieces to fall into place. But remember, anything is possible! The reality is that podcasters of any level can benefit from their hard work and monetize their podcast in some way, and the great thing about monetization is that the sky’s the limit since there is a methodology for everyone corollary to where they are in their podcast journey. The bottom line is that monetization is a real opportunity that many podcasters miss out on due to ignorance or just being unwilling to look for the opportunities. Make sure you don’t let the opportunity pass you by! Reach out to the Resonate team to learn more about monetizing your podcast and to hear about the success our podcasters have found through these opportunities.
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By: Jon Street
As the Production Manager at Resonate Recordings, Jon leads the production team and ensures that all our podcasters have everything needed to release consistent high-quality episodes. Jon and his family are from West Palm Beach, Florida and now live in Simpsonville, KY.