We get it, podcasting is your passion from thought-provoking conversations to networking with like-minded individuals. But even your passion can get a little expensive after a while. So, wouldn’t it be great if you could get paid for what you love doing? But the question remains, how do podcasts make money?
In the beginning, you may not be rolling in the dough from your podcast (and that’s ok). But that doesn’t mean that you can’t start building your community and monetizing your content right now. There has never been a better time, seriously!
Start by setting yourself up for monetization by nurturing your community and selecting the right hosting platform. These two components are the premise for growth. Once you’ve nailed those down, you might consider monetizing with affiliate marketing, sponsorship deals, and now more intuitive ways like programmatic advertising.
Whether you’re a beginner or if you’re here to take monetization a step further and make it your full-blown job, we’ve got your back. But, before we get down to the details, let’s review some elements that are crucial to have as part of your podcast so it’s a breeze to start bringing in money.
- Before You Monetize Your Podcast
- When Should You Start Considering Monetizing?
- How Do Podcasts Make Money?
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Before You Monetize Your Podcast
We mentioned that selecting the right platform and nurturing your community is crucial aspects to solidify before monetizing. For one, choosing the right podcasting platform will make it seamless to manage your podcast and grow your audience at the same time.
Create A Community
Podcasting is a powerful medium because it cultivates feelings of intimacy between a podcast host and their audience. When people listen to a podcast, they feel like they know the host and are in the room with them. Listeners enjoy podcasts because there is a level of accessibility and trust with the hosts and if you can use that in an authentic way, then you can grow your show and monetize regardless of the size of your audience.
For podcaster and So You Want to Start a Podcast author, Kristen Meinzer, an engaged audience is key to a podcast’s financial success. “My advice is generally to work on your audience size and loyalty first,” she says. “Get people coming back week after week through your outstanding content and smart listener engagement strategies. Then, learn all you can about them.” This knowledge helps with ad targeting. “The more you know about your listeners and the more loyal they are, the more likely you’ll be to get advertisers,” she says.
But remember, do not use your listeners to make money. Instead, develop authentic relationships with your listeners and use those relationships to make money. There is a distinction there. People know when you are being inauthentic. Don’t alienate your listener’s ability to feel like they are participating in the podcast experience by not respecting them. It needs to be a symbiotic relationship and can not work if it is one-sided.
Highly engaged listeners who have an emotional connection to your podcast, listen more, promote more, buy more, demonstrate more loyalty, and become brand ambassadors.
Choose the Right Hosting Platform
There are many hosting platforms available on the market, however, not many of them allow hosts to use programmatic ads from the beginning like Spreaker does. This is a huge benefit to any podcaster looking to make money from their content, so be mindful of this when selecting your podcast hosting platform. Being able to use programmatic ads also means that if you are considering migrating your podcast to Spreaker, and have a full catalog of shows, you can start making money almost immediately by placing ads in your entire back catalog. We’ll touch upon programmatic ads later on in this article.
In the end, unlike ordinary websites, podcasting platforms have built-in features that optimize the entire podcasting experience.
In the end, it is important to choose a platform that can meet all of your needs throughout your podcasting journey. As you grow, for example, your podcasting needs and wants will inevitably grow and expand as well. Therefore, you’ll need a hosting platform that will provide the right tools, knowledge, and support for you to succeed as a podcaster.
At Spreaker for example, our professional dashboard covers everything from editing, feeds, social media distribution, and monetization opportunities (amongst other things) so that podcasters have greater control over their content. We also have developed tools like our automatic insertion ad tool, which includes a ground-breaking silent detection system.
In the end, choose your podcast host wisely. We recommend that you take a look at what Spreaker has to offer.
When Should You Start Considering Monetizing?
Now. There is no better time to start considering podcast monetization than at this exact moment. But let’s be clear. You can start monetizing from the beginning, but this doesn’t mean that you can monetize your show from day one. See the difference? Let’s break it down.
As soon as you can, you should lay the foundations for monetization which is a strong community of listeners and the right hosting platform. Then you will begin to see the benefits as your audience grows.
You can create a Patreon account for your podcast before you launch your first episode, but don’t go into it thinking that from day one you will get fifty Patreon subscribers each episode. In fact, you may only get two. A good way to start building your community is to cross-promote your community groups in order to connect your listeners. For example, when a listener joins your Patreon account, you should drive them to your Facebook group where they can talk with other listeners about their experiences, thoughts, and opinions regarding your podcast, therefore strengthening your community.
Now, as the old saying goes, “all great things take time” so be patient with yourself in this process. The trick is to think of it as a long game. Start monetizing now, but develop a long-term business plan. It will be hard, and you’ll have to hustle, but if you stick with it in a smart and authentic way, then you will eventually get there.
Now let’s talk about how do podcasts make money.
How Do Podcasts Make Money?
Do podcasts make money? Of course they do!
The most common way podcasts are currently generating revenues is via ads, sponsorships, listener donations, membership, and subscription models. However, most monetization strategies fail because podcasters don’t have a clear plan or a solid understanding of what goes into making a show that will generate a revenue stream. Yes, you need to talk about your passion, but you should also be strategic.
So how do podcasts make money? Let’s get those monetization ideas flowing and look at 10 ways you can make money from your podcast, starting with programmatic advertising.
1. Programmatic Advertising
Using the most simple explanation, programmatic advertising refers to the marketplace where the automatic buying and selling of podcast advertisements occur. At Spreaker, for example, we have our own programmatic marketplace, which is full of advertisers that are ready and willing to automatically deliver target ads on your podcast.
With the flip of a switch, you can start delivering relevant ads to your listeners… simple as that.
Programmatic ads can help podcasters sell 100% of their inventory, not only to domestic but also to international markets. So, for example, if 30% of podcast listeners are from France, then Spreaker, for example, can serve them specific ads for that specific region.
Before we go any further, let’s address two programmatic myths:
Programmatic Myth #1: Lower CPMs.
This is not true, in fact, lately, Spreaker has seen CPMs in the $30+ USD range and not for small buys, these are campaigns of tens or even hundreds of thousands of total buys. We cannot talk about CPMs without referring to ad-fill which is the percentage of ad requests we are able to fulfill within a specific market. Our ad-fill in the USA, for example, is currently at over 95% which drives up the CPM value, great news for podcasters.
It is important to note here as well, that programmatic is able to sell a share of the impressions at the same level of CPM that a “per podcast” direct sale/sponsorship/host read sales team is capable of, since typically these type of sales are capable of selling a portion of the impressions (~20%).
And in addition to that programmatic has 2 main advantages:
- programmatic (at least in the US) is able to sell a large chunk of the 80% of remaining impressions
- per podcast direct sales/sponsorship/host reads require the podcast to have a minimum critical volume of downloads/listens to be able to sell the show. Programmatic doesn’t!
Programmatic Myth #2: They are disruptive and at times obnoxious.
However, we have found in our experience this is only the case when they are not managed correctly. In reality, programmatic ads can be seamlessly stitched into strategic breaks in your content. Advertisers are becoming increasingly better at producing ads that are delivered in a tone of voice that creates a pleasant and engaging listening experience.
If you want to learn more about programmatic advertising, we recommend that you read our article about podcast monetization.
Now, onto how podcasts make money option number two, sponsorships
Since there are different reasons that one might want to monetize their podcast, one thing that is important to know before we carry on is that you don’t need an enormous audience to land a podcast sponsor. However, you need to know what you’re offering to a potential podcast sponsor and what they can bring to you.
Generally, there’s no certain amount of downloads you should have before starting to reach out to podcast sponsors. However, you should ask yourself if your audience is ready to start hearing ads. If you’ve already established to your audience that you are a good podcast host with quality content, then their loyalty won’t be swayed by a few seconds of advertising.
So when should you start reaching out to potential podcast sponsors? If you have 5,000 downloads per month (primarily in the US) or more, then you’re more likely to get a sponsorship deal. That doesn’t mean, however, that if you have less than that that you shouldn’t try. Some companies look for smaller, more niche but highly engaged audiences to partner with as it’s the engagement component they are particularly interested in.
Want to learn more about podcast sponsorship? Specifically?
- Types of podcast sponsorship
- When to start seeking a podcast sponsor
- How to find podcast sponsors
- …and more?
We wrote an article about it: How to Get Podcast Sponsors: The Ultimate Guide.
3. Affiliate Marketing
So how do podcasts make money with affiliate marketing? Oh let us tell you the ways. Affiliate marketing is a way to make money selling other products and services. You get a commission on anyone who signs up for a service/product under your unique link.
We don’t want to toot our own horn, but Spreaker has an affiliate program you can earn 20% commission on for every new referral! This means, if you love Spreaker and invite your friends to use it as their podcasting platform, you can start monetizing from those recommendations. How neat is that?
Another great place to start is to think about the products and services you use for your podcast or business. Aside from becoming a Spreaker affiliate, consider what other online or physical tools make your life easier. Maybe you’re always raving about that Blue Yeti Nano Microphone (not an affiliate link) that creates quality audio for your podcast. If you become an Amazon affiliate, you can incorporate that link in your show notes thus creating a passive income stream when someone clicks the link and makes a purchase.
Skillshare is another widely used platform that is like Youtube but with more qualified and cohesive courses that you can take. If you’ve used it before or have knowledge about this program, you can sign up to be their affiliate and earn $7 for every listener who signs up under your name.
Note that we mentioned, if you’ve used it before. You want to make sure you’re signing up to promote a product or service you have extensive knowledge about or you’ve used yourself. People buy from people who speak from experience so you wouldn’t want to diminish your credibility by promoting something you don’t truly believe in.
Where should you promote your affiliate links?
Anywhere that’s visible and appropriate. You can slide them in your show notes, your Youtube videos, on your website, in your emails, and your blogs.
And, don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Sometimes, new companies don’t officially advertise affiliate programs or even have one…yet. Reach out to these businesses and let them know what you’re about, how you can help, and then in return, they can pay you.
On a different note, you can also research to find out what your audience is already in love with and branch out from there. To find out what your audience is into, use your podcasting analytics tool to understand their interests and find patterns in what resonates with them. That way, you’re creating the most aligned matches for you, your audience, and the company that you’d partner with.
Ultimately, if you have a tight-knit audience and continue to keep tabs on what they love with persistence you can sell them and make the money you desire.
Want to learn more about affiliate marketing? Specifically:
- Is affiliate marketing right for my podcast?
- how to choose the right products
- how to join an affiliate marketing program
- …and more?
We wrote an article about it: Affiliate Marketing for Podcasters: The Ultimate Guide
Let’s consider a service-based option in terms of how do podcasts make money: coaching.
You already have a vast array of knowledge in your industry that you’re sharing with the world, but each person is different and therefore has personal questions about your industry based on their experiences. As a result, why not try out coaching.
If you don’t have a ton of extra time, explain to your audience on your podcast that you have a couple of extra hours and are looking to help X amount of people.
Take it a step further by seeing what others are doing in your niche and identify how you can highlight your strengths. We said it before, and we’ll say it again: your experiences, upbringing, and character traits are uniquely yours. So even if there are other coaches out there who are in the same industry as you, nobody else is you and that is your advantage.
Once you start bringing in coaching clients, listen closely to them so you can find out what issues they all have in common and grow your coaching business with their needs in mind. Establishing closer relationships and helping the lives of others through coaching services will prompt your clients to share your podcast and content because they know and trust you on a deeper level.
Let’s look at a tangible example
|It’s Yvonne again, Spreaker’s Content and Social Media Manager. I have a podcast called The Branding Lab, which specifically focuses on the topic of, you guessed it, branding. |
I initially started my podcast because I was launching Now in Rio Swim, an ethical and sustainable swimsuit brand. As I was launching a brand, I wanted to learn all the tips and tricks, straight from the experts. However, after talking with so many brand strategists coupled with my own experience launching a brand, I’ve become somewhat of a branding expert.
So what did I do? Well, the first thing I did was I created my own website. But instead of creating a podcast website, I decided to do something a little different. I created yvonneivanescu.com as a way to not only showcase my podcast but also as a way to introduce myself and offer my consulting services to anyone wanting to up-level their brand strategy. It was actually through my podcast, that I learned not only the importance of branding but also what it takes to create a solid brand strategy – something that I now teach to others. In a way, podcasting can help you further your expertise in a specific subject or niche.
5. Selling Courses
This option goes hand-in-hand with coaching because you can use prior coaching experiences to create a course if you find you don’t have enough time in your day to provide for all your one-on-one customers.
Think about it…you’ve provided a ton of knowledge about your industry via your podcast so a great way to monetize that information is through the creation of a course. Compile all the most popular topics on your podcast using your analytics and feedback from listeners to curate more in-depth lessons.
As we mentioned in the last section, young professionals and anyone else looking to level up on their skills, are seeking online courses. With the pandemic forcing students and businesses online, the numbers of online courses are popping up every day. In fact, the online education industry is said to grow to $350 billion by 2025.
If there was a time to create an online course, it would be now.
This choice is profitable because you can of course sell it over and over again, tweaking it as you go.
To market your course, add a sound bite in the introduction or end of your podcast to let listeners know if they’re interested in diving further into the topics you discuss and how they can purchase it.
Unlike one-on-one coaching, customers can go through the course on their own time which can prove advantageous to you and your customers. This way you can work on your podcast all the while you’re making money from someone who’s learning with your course.
6. Sell a Service
This option is a level up from coaching because you’ll be doing part of the work for the client. To illustrate, let’s say you’re an expert in the CBD industry and you offer consulting services but one of your clients would love for you to write for their blog. Maybe you start freelance writing on the side as a service.
This podcast monetization strategy will take a bit of leg work because you’ll need to spend more of your time carrying out the service but if you’re willing to go this route, this could be a great way to bring in some money.
Selling your services through means of your podcast is a great marketing strategy because people can connect with you first through your vast array of knowledge and personality and then think, “Wow I love her energetic spunk, and the way she teaches this concept on her podcast, I want to work with her!” People buy and work with others they know, like, and trust so by continuing to push out quality podcast content in combination with selling an aligned service, you’ll be monetizing in no time.
7. Selling Products
We know what you’re thinking, “what am I supposed to sell?” How do podcasts make money selling products?!
For one, there’s merch. Imagine all the money the Harry Potter book makes from selling all the wizardry equipment at Disney theme parks. Or, how many shot glasses and hats Jack Daniels has sold based on their whisky brand.
Merchandise is an excellent way to monetize your podcast and promote your brand at the same time. You know those food samples you get from Costco? They always make you want to buy the whole package. Think about your podcast episodes as a sample of your product. If the customer enjoys it, they’ll be wondering how they can get more.
And, if the products are good enough, they’ll stay loyal to your business.
Now, let’s talk about how you can make your products. The website Bonfire provides a space to craft customized items, ship, and sell them. They even handle payment processing, order fulfillment, and customer service so you don’t have to spend hours of your time running a t-shirt shop.
You could also sell your own products. Maybe you are an illustrator or graphic designer and you want to sell your wall decorations. It’s the perfect way to extend your podcast and showcase your talents to the world. Platforms like Bonanza, Etsy, or Spreadshop are great for already made products.
Selling online takes some strategy and detailed planning, but it can become a great passive income stream to support your podcast and business.
8. Selling Ebooks
Let’s not forget about all the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve already put into your content. You have mounds of blogs, podcast episodes, and possibly YouTube videos ready to compile and share.
When you were a kid you most likely learned differently than the classmate sitting next to you. The same goes for adults. We all learn in our own ways and some of your listeners might consume ebooks way more efficiently than your podcasts. By creating diversity amongst your content and repurposing a couple of podcast episodes into an eBook, you’re creating more opportunities to monetize.
So how do podcasts money with ebooks? Well, today you can quickly assemble an eBook using services like The Flipping Book, Canva Ebook Maker, Venngage and/or the VISME Ebook Maker. Another substitute would be to find someone via Upwork or Fiverr to do all the work of manufacturing and designing it.
Once finished, head over to Amazon Kindle Direct Publish, Blurb, or Barnes & Nobles Press to self-publish your book in minutes. The key to monetizing this eBook comes from linking it everywhere from your website, Instagram call to action to your email list. If you keep it there long enough and promote it consistently you’ll have a recurring stream of income.
Now it’s time to talk about how podcasts make money with premium content.
9. Premium Content
Selling premium content is a great way to scale up your business and monetize your podcast. Premium content is different from memberships in that it is usually more in-depth and longer than something you’d receive in a membership or with free content.
Premium content can be another episode that isn’t available on your regular podcast feed. For instance, you could create two podcast episodes a week, one is free and the other for a premium ticket. Other options include turning your podcasts into case studies, longer-form blog posts, webinars, product guides, or checklists. Sometimes people need tangible content that they can interact with to fully grasp what you’re teaching on your podcast.
Here’s an example of user-generated content you might turn into a guide. Let’s say you see frequently asked questions in your comments section. You can create a guide with in-depth answers to your listeners’ questions.
To give another idea, if your industry is more technical like Facebook Ads or coding, you can go in depth on a tutorial where you’re actually showing the audience how to do a specific task.
Patreon is a service you can utilize to organize your premium episodes for a fee. To facilitate this set up you can use a password-protected page for your premium content so that way it’s separated. This option is the next level up from your free content but might not be as much of a project compared to coaching or services.
Okay, onto how do podcasts make money with memberships and how to set them up.
To branch off the last section, you could lay out your premium content in a membership-based model. Like for instance, Netflix. They made almost 25 billion dollars from annual revenue in 2020 alone from their subscriptions. You can offer memberships for levels of your premium content at different prices. Some options to include are behind-the-scenes footage, ad-free content, a question and answer section, or a community area where your members can learn from not only you but each other. Consider using slack, or a private Facebook group for the community area as most people are familiar with those platforms.
Memberships allow flexibility to continue evolving the available content. To further explain, Digital Marketer’s podcast, Perpetual Traffic constantly refers to their memberships like The Lab (free), and The Lab Elite (paid) throughout their episodes. In the Lab Elite, they offer 36 marketing playbooks that are interchanged monthly, one-day workshops, and a supportive community of over 10,000 other marketers. Because they’re always changing the content in their paid membership, it stays fresh and relevant for their audience. And, since they reference these tools and explain how to use them in their podcast, it grows their listeners’ curiosity and urge to become a member.
Memberships are a fantastic way to nurture the audience you already have and create more tight-knit relationships. The stronger the relationships, the greater they are to stick around in the long term.
So how do podcasts make money?
Well now that you have some fresh ideas on how do podcasts make money, remember the driving force of your podcast should always be sharing your passion with the world and cultivating your superfan listener community!
When you keep those in mind, and stay consistent, making money from your podcast will flow naturally to you.