Monetizing a Podcast
“How do podcasts make money?” is a legitimate question to ask yourself as you pour time and resources into creating a show. If you want to do it seriously, finding a way earn money podcasting will help you produce it over the long term.
In this post, we’ll go over 20 different strategies to monetize a podcast to help you get started. Updated for 2020, we sourced advice from successful podcasters, industry veterans, and newbie hosts on how they monetized their podcast.
How Do Podcasts Make Money?
There are two main distinctions in how podcasts make money today. When combined together, they produce a steady revenue stream that can help you earn an income podcasting.
The strategies that are currently the most popular fall into the direct monetization category. Direct podcast monetization is when the show is the thing you’re selling. You can profit from creating original content, repurposing it, and granting exclusive access to paying members.
On the other side is indirect podcast monetization. This is when you use your podcast as a tool to sell other things. Your podcast becomes the vehicle to promote products and create demand among your listeners.
With the general definition down, now let’s dive into specific podcast monetization techniques for each category. Remember, finding a balance between many strategies is the best way to make money podcasting.
How To Monetize A Podcast Directly
Here are our favorite direct podcast monetization strategies to explore. Choose the ones that fit best for your show.
1. Ask for donations
The simplest way to monetize a podcast is to ask people for money. Plenty of fans are happy to throw a few dollars to their favorite podcasters to ensure they continue to get great content. When people ask us how to monetize a podcast, this is always the first solution we recommend because it’s easy to set up and promote.
To avoid feeling slimy about this kind of self-promotion, keep your calls-to-action authentic. Are you asking for donations so you can spend more time creating new episodes? Tell your audience that.
If people understand where the money is going, they’ll be more apt to donate.
2. Create paid membership tiers
The latest trend in podcasting is creating paid membership tiers. Listeners can pay to access exclusive content, private Facebook groups, or podcast swag.
The best way to get this started is to create a Patreon account. It’s well-respected and simple to use. You can use their default settings or create your own system of levels and rewards for donors.
If you go with Patreon, play around with the level options. You can reward fans for their contributions with swag, content, or other perks. You may find more listeners are willing to support the show because they’re receiving either a physical product or exclusive episodes for their contribution.
3. Sell sponsorships or ads
Sponsorship is the most common way to monetize a podcast. Aside from accepting donations it’s also the easiest because you don’t have to create or sell anything. You just have to set up a deal with a sponsor.
You’ve probably heard podcasters start their show or break in with something like “This episode is brought to you by [some company]. If you’re looking for a…” You get the idea. That’s a sponsorship.
Sponsorships pay more depending on how many people listen to your show. As the number of people who listen increases, so will your revenue. But that also means this is a tough way to make money if you don’t have many listeners.
Generally, you can charge for “pre-roll” and “mid-roll” mentions. Mid-row (during your episode) pay more. Promote the sponsor at both points if you’re comfortable.
Here are a few places to find sponsorship deals:
4. Join an advertising network
When you apply to each platform, they will take a cut from the ad placements included in your show so be sure to read the fine print. Typically, the revenue share follows a CPM model where you are paid for every 1,000 impressions served to the ad unit.
Confused? Here’s what the math boils down to. AdvertiseCast has a 70/30 revenue share model where the podcast host takes 70% of the revenue earned and they take 30%. If a podcast has between 1,000-2,499 listeners per episode, the 30 second ad unit has a $23 CPM. After 2,000 listens, the sponsor pays $46. That’s $23 * 2 because the sponsor is charged per 1,000 listens. In the end, the podcast host will take home $32.20 and AdvertiseCast takes $13.80.
Depending on your reach, it’s important to estimate what you might earn from an advertising network. AdvertiseCast has a pricing calculator that estimates the total cost of ad units placed in your show. Just remember, you’ll only take home 70% of the total.
5. Sell premium episodes
Since you know your audience likes to listen to your podcast, there’s a good chance some of them will pay for premium versions of your content. All you have to do is create some special recordings that are only available for purchase.
You might sell:
- Q&As with special guests
- Early access to episodes that will be free one day
- Ad-free episodes
- Live-streamed episodes
The Daily Wire takes a unique approach to premium content. For $10/month, subscribers can access video versions of their podcast episodes.
An easy way to create premium content is to record it while you record your free stuff. Let’s say you invite a guest on your show. Record a 30 minute discussion, then an additional 10 minutes to sell as a bonus. Make sure that extra 10 minutes includes something juicy people will want to buy.
A word of warning here: Make sure your free stuff still has plenty of value. You don’t want your listeners to assume you’re hiding all the good stuff in the paid content or they won’t bother.
6. Gate your back catalog
If you started a podcast ages ago and have built up a back catalog of episodes, try this strategy.
Instead of creating new premium content, you can restrict access to your older episodes. This means you’ll add a paywall for users to listen to the older material.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is a great example. His recent episodes are free to download, but his older stuff costs $1.99 on his website.
7. Sell repurposed content
A great way to create sellable content is to repurpose things you’ve already created. This reduces the time you would spend making something similar.
Take a few of your best podcast episodes that relate to similar topics. Transcribe them yourself or use Castos automatic transcription services right from your dashboard. Then edit the transcriptions, add more value and resources where you can, and package them together into a book.
If this strategy to monetize a podcast appeals to your listeners, invest a little money into a professional design from a service like 99Designs. Then you can put it in a format that’s suitable for Amazon. Selling books on Amazon is far more effective than trying to sell it through your own website.
Next, market your new book on your podcast. Point out that it’s a comprehensive way to learn everything you’ve taught.
8. Syndicate your show to YouTube
An easy way to squeeze some cash out of what you’ve already created is to publish your podcasts to YouTube as videos.
This is a quick process. All you have to do is enable monetization in your account settings and Google will handle the ads and distributing your money.
You don’t have to do a lot of video editing. Just add a single image to your episode recording. Also think about YouTube SEO best practices to surface your videos in more search results.
How much can you make on YouTube? It depends on a number of factors, like video views, how long people watch, whether they skip your ads, and whether they click on your ads. Generally speaking, you can make between $0.50 and $2.00 per view.
Instead of simply uploading your entire recording, break it into consumable chunks that last three to five minutes. For instance, you might slice out a few buzz-worthy questions from your interview. Even though it all comes from the same recording, you’ll end up with more video content. Then give it a compelling headline that makes people want to click. “Mark Roberts Says Blockchain Will Take Over The Travel Industry in 2020” is a better title than “Episode 019 | Blockchain Technology with Guest Mark Roberts.”
How To Monetize A Podcast Indirectly
Here are even more ways to make money from your podcast. Check out some of these techniques to monetize a podcast indirectly.
1. Sell physical products
When an audience loves a podcast, they might be buying merchandise that shows off the show. You could sell T-shirts, mugs, stickers, or really anything that lets your audience connect with the show outside of listening to the latest episodes.
Showcase the podcast’s name, a repeated catch phrase, or an inside joke on the merch. Your calls-to-action can describe the moment a listener may pass a stranger on the street and realize they’re wearing a tee shirt from their favorite show. Instantly a bond is formed from their shared love of your show.
Joe Rogan, host of the popular Joe Rogan Experience, has its own store stocked with many of the products Joe wears.
And these days, you don’t need to actually handle any products in order to have your own E-commerce store.
With Teespring, you can design and showcase products that are only printed/created when someone buys. This way you don’t have to put any money down.
With Oberlo, you can create a drop-shipping store that automatically purchases products from another source when your customers make an order.
We advise that you use a print-on-demand service for merchandise at first. This way you won’t have to buy a pallet of inventory. If you buy a bunch of inventory, there’s a chance you won’t be able to sell it.
2. Public speaking
Public speaking is actually a simple transition for a lot of podcast hosts. If you’re comfortable speaking on your show, you’ll probably do well in front of a crowd. Admittedly, standing in front of a bunch of people is a unique challenge, but it’s less of a problem if you already know how to craft a script.
How much you can make on speaking fees varies widely. Some speakers get a small stipend and travel expenses. Other speakers make six figures or more.
How do you get into public speaking?
- Find local groups that meet to discuss your niche or industry. Try Meetup, Facebook groups, or even your local paper to source who organizes the event.
- Contact them and offer to present a topic, but be open to their ideas for topics. Let them know that you intend to plug your podcast.
- Prepare a presentation with visuals and outline a script.
You’ll have to start small in the beginning. Don’t expect to fill stadiums–or even auditoriums. Your first speaking gigs will have 5-8 people in attendance, but that’s okay. Use those gigs to hone your presentation skills and build relationships.
3. Sell mastermind slots
A mastermind group is a unique way to monetize a podcast because you get more value from it than just money.
A mastermind is a small group of people dedicated to supporting one another toward a common goal. They offer education, brainstorming, and accountability to help you stay on track with whatever you’re trying to learn or accomplish.
In a mastermind group, you’re a member too, which means you have to limit it to a small group of people who can add value to your business as well. You should not be a teacher, but you can still charge for slots because you’re the organizer.
The challenge with masterminds, however, is that members expect value. They put a lot of work in too, so they won’t be satisfied if you or anyone else who’s part of the mastermind disappears for a week or two. If you choose this avenue to promote your podcast, you need to commit to it.
4. Sell access to an e-course
If your podcast is educational or aims to teach listeners a new skill, creating a standalone e-course is the perfect way to earn some money.
If you think courses are the right way for your to monetize a podcast, we recommend creating your first course on one of those third-party platforms. Yes, you’ll pay some fees for each person who takes the course, but you’ll skip having to build a functional system on your own website. If courses turn out to be your money-maker, then bring it all in-house.
5. Sell content upgrades
A clever way to monetize a podcast is to include a downloadable resource with each podcast episode that relates to that episode. This is called a content upgrade because it upgrades or enhances the listener’s experience.
For instance, let’s say you host a fishing podcast. In one episode, you talk about fishing for trout. At the end of the episode, you tell your fans to go to your website and buy your 99¢ map of the best trout fishing spots in the U.S.
To sell a content upgrade, you’ll have to place a payment form on your site somewhere for listeners to pay and download the form. The best place for this is the page where you publish your podcast download links and/or audio player.
And if you’re selling content upgrades to monetize a podcast, you may as well add an ecommerce shopping cart to your site so you can list your content upgrades individually. This way people can browse your previous upgrades in one place, rather than sorting through every post.
6. Sell information products
An information product is a type of content people buy to learn new things. It could be anything: A template, a resource, a guide, an ebook, a worksheet, etc. Unlike content upgrades, a general information product doesn’t have to relate to a specific episode, but would solve a broader issue or problem your listeners face.
The biggest benefit of selling information products through your podcast is that you can plug them as often as you like in your podcast script to prevent sales from falling flat. You can also source questions or comments from your listeners and answer them on your show, which adds more value to their purchase.
7. Sell an app
If you’re acutely aware of your listeners’ challenges and problems, you can monetize a podcast by designing an app that suits their needs. If you host a parenting podcast, you might sell a calendar app designed specifically for parents. If you host an astronomy podcast, you might sell a star-finder app.
Alternatively, you might sell a simple branded app that helps people interact with you and your content better. It could have your podcast episodes, blog content, updates, your schedule, and maybe a way to talk with you directly.
App development can be expensive if you don’t know how to do it yourself. Make sure you get plenty of information from a developer before you get started so you don’t burn too much cash or wind up with a half-finished product you can’t afford.
8. Host an event
If you have a local following or a devout audience who wouldn’t mind traveling to see you, sell tickets to a live event where your fans can meet you in person.
The type of event you host will depend on your audience and your podcast’s topic. You might give a lecture, run a workshop, teach a skill, or simply host a group discussion. Eventbrite is a great tool to sell your own tickets for a live event.
To be fair, this is a challenging way to monetize a podcast. We recommend holding onto this tactic until you have a loyal following. Events don’t need thousands of attendees to turn a profit but you do need some people to show up.
And if you’re considering traveling to new cities to host events, analyze where your listeners are first. Head to your podcast host’s analytics dashboard and go through the geographic reports. A no-brainer is hosting events in cities where you already have a following.
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9. Sell consulting or coaching services
The biggest benefit of hosting a podcast is that you establish yourself as an authority in a niche. Your audience comes to respect you as an informed expert. So a great way to monetize a podcast is to offer services that tie in with your topic.
For instance, a productivity and wellness podcast might offer personal life coaching. A marketing podcast might sell personalized marketing strategies.
Getting started here is quite easy. You just need a landing page on your website with a form or widget for people to sign up for a coaching session with you.
What’s a coaching session? It can be anything you like. It might as simple as a phone call or Skype chat, or as complex as an in person visit at the client’s location. Put together whichever type of service is right for your customer.
10. Sell affiliate products
Some companies have open affiliate programs you can take advantage of. You don’t have to arrange a deal or get approved. You just sign up and tell them where to send your payments. You get paid whenever someone signs up with your link.
Instead of creating your own products to sell, you could sell other people’s products for a cut of their sales. There are two methods to do this.
The first method is to promote their products yourself. For example, Audible’s partner program is common among podcasters. They give you a free link to promote. You get $15 anytime someone signs up for a free trial using your link.
The second method is to have the product owner come on your show to push their own products. The benefit here is that the product owner knows how to sell his own product better than you, so he can say the right things to drive more sales.
You’ll still need a special URL to track sales. We recommend something like yourdomain.com/product-name. Set up the URL with a redirect so you can see exactly how many people followed it. Make sure to establish a reasonable commission beforehand.
Make sure to disclose any affiliate relationships. If you don’t, your listeners might feel deceived.
11. Generate business leads
Many businesses start podcasts to support larger initiatives. Even back in 2018, Fast Company found “branded podcasts are the ads people actually want to listen to”.
If you host a podcast that complements your company, you’re in the perfect position to generate extremely qualified leads. For example, say you own an accounting company and recently started a podcast educating people on how to do their taxes. While you’re giving away free advice on the show, you’re also weaving in your company’s value in doing people’s taxes for them. When April comes around, who is the first company your listeners will think of to handle their complicated tax returns? Yours.
12. Start a podcast network
Some hosts love being part of a podcast network while others enjoy their independence. But one perk of a network is bargaining power.
Bargaining power is the relative influence someone has over someone else. When each party has relatively equal bargaining power, each has the same footing inside a negotiation. By building a podcast network, you’re positioning your podcast and others to have more equal power to the sponsors you want to attract.
Starting a podcast network can take many forms and be either a formal, contractual structure or something more DIY. Team up with complementary shows in your niche where you have some overlap or build a network full of unrelated shows to hit multiple niches.
In either circumstance, pooling the reach and influence of each podcast within a network allows you to pitch more lucrative sponsorship deals. You also have more of a chance to get on the radar of larger advertisers with bigger budgets because you’ve increased your bargaining power.
Experiment With Multiple Monetization Techniques
There are plenty of methods to monetize a podcast. There’s not one path or one right way to do it.
The trick, however, is to monetize your podcast in a way that doesn’t disappoint your listeners. This means finding the monetization technique they don’t find intrusive. In many cases, that means using a little bit of several techniques, rather than pushing one method too hard.
Frequently Asked Questions About Podcast Monetization
1. How do most podcasts earn money?
Recently Matt Wolfe and Joe Fier surveyed 1,000 podcast hosts on how they earn money podcasting for Podcast Magazine. Most were using a combination of the techniques we outlined above. Here’s what they found:
2. Should I start a podcast to make money?
No! While podcast revenue is on the rise, starting a podcast solely to earn money isn’t advisable.
The foundation of how to earn money while podcasting is having a loyal audience. Loyal audiences follow hosts who are passionate about their topic. If the sole objective of a podcast is to earn money, there will be an obvious lack of enthusiasm and in turn, no eager fans tuning in each week.
Start a podcast because you want to share your unique voice with the world, not because you want to make a quick buck.
3. When should I start thinking about monetizing my podcast?
We’re firm believers in starting to thinking about podcast monetization even before you publish your first episode. If you haven’t started a podcast yet, be sure to consider how the show’s topic, style, format, and content will lend itself to future monetization strategies.
If you plan to talk about sensitive subjects or hotly debated topics, know you may alienate a specific set of sponsors. But fear not, podcast ad revenue is expected to reach $863 million in 2020. There will be sponsors out there who want to speak to your niche audience, and that’s just one monetization avenue to consider!
Once you start publishing a podcast, we recommend putting out 10 to 12 episodes first to build an audience.
4. How many downloads do I need to start monetizing my podcast?
There’s no hard rule here. Generally gathering 400-500 downloads per episode is a great time to starting monetizing a podcast but this is a guideline.
If you’re considering joining a podcast advertising network, they may have minimum download requirements before you can apply.
Brought to you by Craig Hewitt from Castos of Audience