8 Methods to Make Money Through Your Podcast
Updated October 23, 2020 | 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.
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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. There are a number of different strategies for monetizing your podcast both directly and indirectly through your podcast.
Making money from your podcast ultimately hinges on your audience. Making money hinges on how much your audience trusts you, how engaged they are in your show, and how well you know who they are. Monetization is a complex subject in a lot of ways because it requires very careful reflection on your specific and unique set of circumstances (eg the topic of your podcast, your stance on that topic, your audience’s stance, how broad or specific your audience’s preferences are, etc). But at the end of the day, there are two core questions you should ask yourself to find out if you are able to monetize your podcast.
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.
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.
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 for monetization 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. Here are several creative ways to monetize your podcast.
8 Ways to Monetize Your Podcast
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 their website 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.
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.
Podcast ads are typically sold on a CPM (cost-per-thousand =subscriber basis). There are several different approaches to getting advertisers on your podcast.
How to Find Podcast Advertisers For Your Show
1. Directly contact brands you want to promote
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.
2. Sign up for Ads through a podcast advertisement Firm (PodAds, Adaptor Media, Etc)
The alternative option would be to 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.
Podcasting Advertisement Brokers
Crowdfunding for your podcast is an increasingly popular and powerful method of monetization. The dominant name in the space of podcast and creative crowdfunding is Patreon. Patreon’s concept for how to make money is simple: offer your fans exclusive content in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. For podcasters, this means offering early access content, ad-free content, exclusive behind-the-scenes content, Q&A’s, live streams, and sometimes even physical merchandise. There are a plethora of different strategies for podcasting on Patreon, and that creativity and freedom is one of the reasons we love this method of monetizing your podcast.
One of the key benefits of podcasting with Patreon is that there is no barrier to entry. You can set up an account for free regardless of how big or small your podcast audience is. The crowdfunding strategy of podcasting on Patreon is powerful because it can allow you to cut out the middlemen of ad agencies and sponsors and authentically ask support from your audience. This strategy will push you to always make sure you are adding value to your listeners and will deepen your relationship with them as you authentically ask for their help, support, and collaboration. Another crowdfunding platform that lets you implement this strategy is Glow.
Hosting a podcast is a powerful way to establish yourself as a key leader and voice in your industry. Public speaking isn’t for everybody, but it’s a powerful opportunity for many. Now, we need to be clear, you aren’t going to get $5,000 speaking opportunities at the biggest conferences immediately just because you have a podcast. It’s not that easy. But there is more than money at play here. Oftentimes, if you are able to book a speaking engagement, you’ll have your travel expenses covered (even if you don’t get a stipend). And on top of having no out-of-pocket expenses, you’ll get the opportunity to reach a whole new audience with your message.
You can leverage your podcast to get on stage in front of a new audience, and standing on stage can get you more podcast listeners. This is the compound growth of marketing and monetizing your podcast.
Another way to leverage your voice and expertise from your podcast is to offer paid consulting services to your listeners. If your listeners really believe in your message and develop trust in you, then selling a consulting service will be super easy. The first step to earning this trust, of course, is becoming an undeniable expert in your field or niche.
Another method to monetize your podcast is to sell brand merchandise. From t-shirts to coffee mugs and stickers, merchandise can add another stream of income. For most people, selling branded products simply isn’t going to support you and your family, so it should probably be looked at as a subsidiary strategy. However, merchandise is a wonderful marketing tool. You could offer free merchandise if people give you a shoutout on their social media, or if they sign up for your email newsletter. Plus, if people walk around in your merchandise they may reach even more people with your podcast. Use products to monetize and market your podcast.
Another option for making money from your podcast is to offer your podcast on a premium podcast subscription service such as Luminary. On Luminary, your podcast is exclusively available to users who pay Luminary a monthly subscription fee of $7.99 a month. This model is really similar to the crowdfunding model of Patreon, because shows often offer the first two or three episodes for free and then invite listeners to subscribe to Luminary in order to gain access to the rest of the episodes.
The problem with monetizing your podcast with Luminary is that there is a very high barrier to entry. Your podcast has to go through a highly exclusive manual selection process to be approved for Luminary. You can learn about how to submit your podcast to Luminary here.
Luminary is ultimately a platform for premium podcast content, which means it’s by nature not for everyone. But if you’re a larger organization looking to develop exclusive original content, it might be worth looking into opportunities for podcasting through a Premium provider like Luminary or Audible.
Distributing a video podcast on YouTube opens up brand new opportunities for making money with your show. Through the YouTube Partner Program you can make money through things like placing ads on your videos, setting up channel memberships, etc. You can read more about the different monetization opportunities on YouTube here.
YouTube monetization is a great vertical to add to your podcast. The only challenge is that it has some pretty strict guidelines for being eligible. The 2 most difficult prerequisites are having 4,000+ public watch hours within the last 12 months, and having over 1,000 subscribers. So their higher barrier to entry means that you will need to plan ahead and be willing to persevere through the first year, or potentially the first several years of publishing content before these opportunities are available to you.
Substack is a fast-growing platform for independent writers and thinkers who want to earn money through a subscription content model. And while this platform is predominantly for written content, they have rolled out a feature for paywalled podcast content as well.
Substack is quick and easy to set up. It gives you a website that will house all of your content and allows you to manage your podcast and your email newsletter in one streamlined platform. One thing to note that is different about substack is that by using your platform for podcasting you are actually using them as your podcast hosting platform. You can set up a new show on their platform or migrate your RSS feed from your current platform onto Substack. If you are new to podcasting, we recommend learning more about how hosting works in this blog before you get started with Substack, because hosting on their platform could impact other areas of your podcast distribution and podcast management as a whole.
They make their money by taking a 10% cut from any revenue you make on the platform. But in exchange you get free podcast hosting, an email newsletter platform, and a website with archives for your posts. Since this platform is so young and has not been adopted by many podcasters, we don’t have experience using it with any of our clients. But it will be interesting to see how this changes in the coming years as more podcasters adopt Substack and independent journalists start new podcasts.
You can learn more about how Substack’s private podcasting works and see some example podcasts on substack here.
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! Schedule a call with the Resonate team to learn more about monetizing your podcast and to hear about the success our podcasters have found through these opportunities.
As the Operations 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.