How to come up with membership content your listeners will love (and pay for)

Photo by Malte Wingen on Unsplash

This is chapter one of Glow’s Membership Launch Playbook, a four-part guide that covers brainstorming, building, launching, and growing a podcast membership.

Are you interested in building a membership for your podcast, but not sure where to begin? You’ve found the right place. 

The number one question we get from podcasters here at Glow is, “what should I offer my members?”

By the end of this chapter of the Membership Launch Playbook, you’ll have several ideas for exclusive content that your biggest fans will love (and pay for). We’ll walk through two steps to landing on the exclusive content behind your soon-to-be amazing membership: 

  • Step 1: Identify your listeners’ goals
  • Step 2: Determine your membership offering, based on your listeners’ goals

Step 1: Identify your listeners’ goals

Before diving into what your membership offering is, think about why your listeners appreciate your podcast. Remember, people break out their phones, pop on their AirPods, and download one of your episodes for a reason, even if just to have fun and escape.

We call these reasons listener goals

Here are a couple of examples: 

  • Listeners of The New York Time’s The Daily tune in every morning because they want a deep understanding of at least one thing going on in the news
  • Listeners of Bachelor Happy Hour with Rachel and Ali want a debrief on the latest episode of The Bachelor as if they’re hanging out with close friends.

Once you identify your listeners’ goals, the content that they will pay for comes into focus.

Another way to zero in on your listeners’ goals is to choose a specific fan of your show and ask yourself, “Why does this person listen to my podcast?”

Your listener goal should be specific and not easily applied to most podcasts. For example:

“I think behavioral economics is interesting, and I want to learn more about it in a fun way” is a well-stated listener goal.

“I want to listen to something interesting” is vague a listener goal.

Exercise 1: What are my listeners’ goals?

Take five minutes to write down two to three listener goals. Why does your listener like your show and spend their limited time listening to it? For some inspiration, see the examples of listener goals below.

...

Stop!

Did your write down your listeners’ goals?

Okay, cool. Proceed to step two.

Examples of listener goals

Listener Goal #1: I want to feel inspired by the founding stories of major tech companies and hear about how they started

Listener Goal #2: I want to better understand what’s going on in the stock market and feel more prepared to evaluate potential investments 

Listener Goal #3: I want to make healthier eating choices in a way that’s sustainable and fits with my lifestyle

Listener Goal #4: I’m a lawyer and I miss my Constitutional Law classes from law school, so I want to be able to keep hearing about the latest issues in the Court.

Step 2: Determine your membership offering based on your listeners’ goals 

Every successful membership has a way of helping their listeners achieve their goals. In other words, your fans are more apt to pay for content that relates to what draws them to your podcast in the first place.

We call this content membership offering.

Your membership offering could simply be the knowledge and recognition that your listeners contributed to something they love. That may sound inconsequential, but if positioned correctly it’s a huge benefit to potential members. 

Here are a few examples of membership offerings, and how they further the goals of the podcasts’ listeners:

Example #1: Techmeme Ride Home

About: Techmeme Ride Home is a daily tech news podcast where listeners can stay on top of   the latest on what happened in tech that day on their commute home.

Listener goal: the ability to feel like they know what’s going on and can stay on top of tech news, without an extensive time investment.

Membership offering: An ad-free version of the regular, daily show.

The regular show offers listeners the chance to get smart on the latest tech news in a limited amount of time. By offering an ad-free version of the show, Techmeme Ride Home has doubled-down on the core value they offer their listeners by giving paying members the chance to listen to the show in even less time.

Example #2: The Upside with Callie and Jeff

About: The Upside with Callie and Jeff  is a podcast about gratitude, inclusiveness, and positivity. 

Listener goals:

  • Get away from divisiveness and make sure that there’s always a time in their day where they can smile
  • Become a part of a community that appreciates these values

Membership offerings:

  • Behind-the-scenes bonus episodes where Callie and Jeff talk about future plans for their podcast
  • Special pins that they can wear at meetups so that fans can recognize each other and bond over the fact that they’re in this incredible community

Example #3: Strict Scrutiny

About: Strict Scrutiny is a podcast about the Supreme Court and the legal culture that surrounds it. It’s wonky, in the weeds, and hosted by four women who are lawyers and Supreme Court experts. They give lawyers and legal nerds the chance to stay up-to-date on the latest Supreme Court cases in a way that’s difficult to do otherwise. 

Listener goal: Hear incredibly in-depth, smart analysis about the latest in the Supreme Court from hosts they appreciate and often admire.

Membership offering: Listener support.

Strict Scrutiny gives listeners the chance to support the show, and ask for nothing in return except the knowledge that the show’s producer gets paid more. Listeners value the show and they want it to keep going. Strict Scrutiny anchored their membership program around paying their producer, Melody.

Exercise 2: What could my potential membership offerings be?

First, write down your listener goals from Exercise 1. If you haven’t done Exercise 1 yet, go ahead and do that first. We’ll wait. 

Take ten minutes to write two potential membership offerings that could help your listeners achieve those goals that you could feasibly create. 

(Feeling stuck? To help get your brain firing on all cylinders, below are a few potential membership offerings to spark inspiration.)

Potential membership offerings to spark inspiration

Listener Goal #1: I want to be an educated member of my industry and feel like I can contribute to conversations about what’s going on in tech

  • Potential Membership Offering #1: Access to a members only Slack or Discord channel, where I can build connections and talk to other people in my industry
  • Potential Membership Offering #2: Extra podcast episodes where two venture capitalists or technology leaders discuss trends in the industry
  • Potential Membership Offering #3: A members-only mailbox where I can send in questions and get responses distributed through an extra podcast and email from the hosts of the show 

Listener Goal #2: I’m an entrepreneur and want to build a better business by learning from the lessons of people who have been successful in the past

  • Potential Membership Offering #1: “Pitch” debriefs, where investors provide 45 minute breakdowns of the best pitches they’ve seen in the past month and why they were good and bad
  • Potential Membership Offering #2: “Your strategy for x” weekly emails, where an industry figure provides 2-3 of their favorite tips for developing a strategy in various segments of the business (“Your strategy for sales”, “Your strategy for recruiting”, “Your strategy for product”). 
  • Potential Membership Offering #3: Exclusive podcast interviews with entrepreneurs, where they talk through their founding stories and their biggest failures

More examples of membership offerings

  • Raw, uncut interviews with podcast guests (bonus podcast)
  • Deep-dives into topics (bonus podcast)
  • Access to episode archives (bonus podcast)
  • Summary newsletters with key talking points from the show
  • Early access to new episodes (bonus podcast)
  • Featured on a call-in only show
  • Monthly Q&A with the host
  • Self-publish an audiobook
  • Access to an eBook
  • Audio versions of a daily newsletter
  • Members-only tracks or access to music
  • The ability to contribute to a philanthropic cause 
  • Weekly recipe guides, sent out over email

Et, voila! You have your listener goal and the beginnings of a membership offering. 

In the next chapter of the Membership Launch guide, we’ll bring your membership offerings to life and walk through building your membership page.

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