Making a podcast is hard enough, but taking the first steps towards monetizing can be daunting. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to get paid, regardless of whether your podcast is big or small. Here's Team Glow's overview of the four primary ways to generate revenue off your podcast.
Method 1: Turn to your biggest fans (listener support)
While securing a large financial sponsor for you podcast works for some podcasts, there’s a more direct source of revenue—your listeners. The upside of monetizing this way is that your subscribers are incentivized to support you because they’re already fans of what you’re creating. And unlike with potential mattress sponsors, you don’t have to explain the concept of your podcast or provide listenership demographics- you simply need to provide your audience with a way to support you and then entice them to do so. Glow specializes in making it easy to earn listener support, and we’re big believers that this it the best way to monetize your fan base. There are several ways to think about this.
Bonus or Premium Content for Subscribers
While many loyal listeners happily make monthly payments to their favorite podcast, others subscribe to the theory of, “Why buy the cow if you get the milk for free?” For these listeners, you may need to incentivize in order to monetize. Creating a virtual velvet rope of exclusivity can do the trick, dangling premium features and exclusive content that are only accessible to your VIPs (paying subscribers). These can include....
- Bonus episodes only available to members
- Ad-free episodes
- Show notes and episode transcripts
- Input on future episode topics
- Links to a YouTube or Facebook livestream of the podcast recording
- Access to extended cuts of guest interviews
- Opportunity to listen to new content before it’s officially released
- Behind-the-scenes interviews and access
- Access to episode archives
- Shout-outs and thank yous to members during an episode
Some Real-Life Examples:
Preet Bahara’s podcast Insider offers listeners who sign up for a $5.95 monthly membership a weekly ad-free podcast, text alerts with Preet’s real-time reactions to breaking news, a weekly newsletter featuring recommendations, and the promise of other bonus content.
Acquired, a podcast about venture capital, uses Glow to enable listeners to sign up and pay $5 per month to become a “limited partner.” In exchange for this they offer an array of subscriber-only content that provides more in-depth content and interviews related to how venture firms work.
In addition to his podcast on the science of longevity, Peter Attia provides additional free content via his website and weekly newsletter. However, for his monthly paid subscribers ($15-$89 per month), Attia offers members-only AMA podcasts, access to the AMA forum, comprehensive podcast show notes, and exclusive discount codes for products he believes in.
Many podcasters face real reluctance when it comes to asking their listeners to contribute, but they shouldn’t. There’s nothing wrong with providing your listeners the opportunity to determine the value of your content and pay you for working so hard to create it. And by using Glow, the process of collecting payments is simple, easy and seamless.
Tim Ferriss, of the popular podcast The Tim Ferriss Show, recently announced he was turning away from sponsorship to a donation-only model. His reasoning was twofold: 1) sponsorship takes a lot of time, and 2) fans are constantly looking for ways to support the show. The reality is that listeners who spend a lot of time listening to a podcast often start seeing the host as their friend--or even their advisor, coach, or teacher. Often, they want a way to say thank you.
Other ways to monetize with listener support
Crooked Media’s podcast empire makes plenty of money from sponsors, but it also sells out venues for live tapings and its online store churns out T-shirts and other merchandise that serve as walking billboards. As digital as the world of podcasts is, people still enjoy an in-person experience or a physical product.
● Merchandise: If tote bags and coffee mugs can drive decades of donations to public radio, just imagine what some creative branded merchandise can do for your podcast. Think beyond branded T-shirts and temporary tattoos to discover something that’s on brand and would be loved by your specific listeners.
● Events: Some podcasts host live tapings and provide subscribers with free tickets or discounts, while others host in-person meetups or virtual ones via Slack channels or other online AMAs.
Method 2: Sponsorship
The conventional way to monetize a podcast is through a sponsorship--receiving payment for recording or placing ads on your podcast. Popular podcasts like The Daily, 99% Invisible, and Pod Save America rely on being paid to promote E-Trade, Squarespace, ZipRecruiter or other large brands. However, convincing large sponsors like Stamps.com or Casper to advertise on your particular podcast is easier said than done, particularly if your audience is less than 10-15,000 downloads/episode. Finding a business or organization whose desired customers match your listening audience can be a time-consuming challenge, but if you manage to secure a sponsor you’ve also secured a significant source of income.
One upside of joining a podcast network is that the network takes responsibility for securing sponsors, but they also take a cut and you’ll have little say in what ad you’ll be reading. On the upside, you’ll have more time to focus on creating great content instead of chasing down sponsors.
For fledgling podcasts, starting small is a necessity, but the size of the sponsors can grow along with the popularity of the podcast. Consider The Walking Podcast, which is simply the recorded sounds of a popular writer tromping along the wooded trails near his house. Relying on friends and Twitter followers, Mooalem landed a series of small sponsors right from the beginning. The first was a fellow writer promoting a new novel, then a popular TV chef encouraging listeners to support her favorite non-profit, and so on and so on.
Method 3: Repurposing Content
If a podcast continues long enough, there will eventually be large amounts of content to repackage into some sort of sellable form. Some podcasters choose to repurpose it in the form of a published book, audiobook or some other form they can sell. The Moth, a popular podcast (and syndicated radio show and live event), has been around for years, and it has repackaged some of its recorded stories in print books for sale.
Method 4: Affiliate Marketing
Some sponsors won’t do an up-front deal with you, but will pay you for every product you sell that can be attributed back to your podcast. This often isn’t a huge source of revenue, but may be worth looking into, especially if you have extra ad inventory.
One example is Audible’s affiliate program. This Amazon company has the world’s largest selection of audiobooks. Many podcasts promote free trials of Audible through banner ads, links in show notes, and through a speakable URL in their podcast. Audible will pay your for each person who signs up via a trackable affiliate link.