Monetizing a Podcast – A Complete Guide

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Monetizing a Podcast

It’s amazing to run an independent online source of debate, entertainment, journalism, news, or whatever you want. Podcasting has emerged because of how attractive the model is, and how accessible it is.

As anything exponentially gains traction like the industry of podcasting has done, money begins to pour in. Advertisers want to reach your audience, and it’s up to you if they get to or not. In fact, they’re not even the only way you can earn money.

In this guide, we’re going to talk about all the ways that you can earn money on your podcast. It’s a vehicle for so many different forms of revenue, so let’s take a look at what you can stand to earn from yours.

How Do Podcasts Make Money?

How Do Podcasts Make Money?

Podcasts have become exceptionally popular in recent years, and as with any popular media, there’s money to be made. But how can we actually make money from podcasts?

We’ll go over all the different avenues you can explore in just a minute, but first, we want to explain why these work.

While the word “influencer” makes a lot of us gag, it stems from the fact that online personalities absolutely do influence people. They can influence decisions, time, engagement, and more.

You’re not controlling someone; you’re giving them value, and in return, they’re giving you value by trusting your opinions and following (or financially supporting) your platform. It’s a fantastic exchange, but you have to use it properly.

Podcasts are no different from stream personalities. Look at Joe Rogan. He was a comedian with moderate success, but he found his niche in podcasting. Regardless of your opinions on his content, it can’t be argued that he has the biggest podcast in the world.

How did he do it? He monetized, reinvested money, and continued to provide value to people. It’s what we call content marketing.

You provide content, garner an audience, and rightfully gain their trust. As a result, they trust your recommendations on products, trust that you’ll bring them quality content (which you still have to do despite “acquiring” an audience), and they will support you if they like what you do.

That’s some powerful stuff, and it takes time. When someone notices that you have a trusting, loyal fanbase and audience, they want access to it. They want access to your influence.

That’s why companies sponsor podcasts, why ads work on videos, and why people want to do business with successful podcasters. Understanding that your monetary value is 100% tied to the value that you give others is imperative; never forget that.

Now let’s talk about making some money.

Direct  Monetization

Direct monetization refers to the way you directly monetize inside of the podcast. Ads, sponsors, receiving donations while you’re live or shortly after being live. These are all a direct result of your efforts, your program, and come as a direct result.

We’ll get into indirect monetization later and how you can leverage that, but for now, let’s see how our direct actions can help our podcasts make money.

Sponsorship

Sponsorship

Sponsorships are where the dream is at. A company pays you money to sponsor an episode or a video, and then they’re able to put their name in front of your average viewing audience. Hey, maybe they’ll even get some paying customers out of it.

Sponsorships should be combined with affiliate marketing in the form of referral commissions, that way you can gain money per individual sign-up or qualified lead, but you can also make money from the sponsorship placement as well.

Just be sure that if you choose additional means of monetization in this guide, such as paywalling old episodes, that you have your business model laid out in your contractual obligations to a sponsor.

If you pull a video down that they sponsored and then paywall it, you could seriously harm your chances of working with them or other sponsors in the future. Hey, you don’t have to tackle every method of monetization in this guide; pick and choose.

Referral

Referral programs work similarly to affiliate marketing. If you refer someone to a product, service, or something that they have to pay for, you get a percentage of the sale or a fixed, flat rate for bringing people to that referral space.

Some referral companies will also pay you for conversions (as in not paying customers) because the data is still valuable to them. It all depends on the network and how they want to do it.

Donations

Donating to your favorite podcasts is a rewarding experience. That sounds like some marketing ploy, but it really is. If your podcast is live and you’re having a conversation that engages people in real-time, they’ll do anything to get noticed.

They want you to say their name, read their message, and appreciate their contribution (as you should).

They want to be part of the thing that they enjoy. Make sure you have a way to give a simple reward for donations, such as reading on-screen messages or having their names and donation values pop up on screen.

This is common with Twitch and plugins for YouTube, so just watch some stream videos to get an idea on how to make this work. The cool thing? People can pay for other people’s paid memberships through Twitch with gifted subscriptions, so those people can actually bring you more viewers who may re-up their own subscription as time goes on.

You can use this on YouTube Memberships or Twitch subscriptions if you’d like, but there are also ways to do this on a website with a membership-only access area.

Either way, you could have paid memberships with some perks, like discounts on merch, free digital goodies, and access to premium episodes (which we’ll touch more on in just a minute).

Ad Networks

Ad Networks

YouTube ads on videos, Google Adsense on personal websites, you get how it works. Few programs can rely on consistent sponsorship to pay the bills, and so they use that money sparingly, instead relying on ad network income as their primary source.

There’s nothing wrong with this practice, and you should know now that if you want to earn enough money to keep going all-in on this podcasting thing, ad networks can be the gateway to get you there.

Premium Episodes

You have your normal podcast schedule where you release full episodes, and that’s great. But what’s beyond that? Semi-regular premium episodes.

Make them half-length of your normal podcast, and a bit more structured, then put them as a product available in your membership-only area.

These could do deep dives on individual topics, or they could be a slight variation in your regular content. Brainstorm, but don’t be afraid to try this once you have a sufficient audience size.

Paywall Old Episodes

Did you have some amazing old episodes that you can put behind a paywall for new subscribers to watch if they want to?

No viewer likes the term paywall, but if the episodes were free around the time they aired (depending on how you publish them), you can make it a common practice that free episodes go into the “vault” where you can pay to access all of them.

New viewers who are enamored with your podcast will pay, even if it’s just for a few months, to access those old episodes. That could be some powerful short-term cash.

Some users may even do this if they can’t listen to your podcasts except for one day a week, or one day per month. Then they can catch up on it all.

Chop Up Clips

Some viewers love the format and idea of a podcast, but can’t commit for 60-180 minutes in a single sitting. Who can blame them? They like short-form, edited content instead, which is just their preference.

You can leverage this. Make short-form clips to post on social media, but most notably, on YouTube. 8+ minute clips can still generate double ads, so you can stand to make a lot of money.

These clips can also be an indirect monetization tool because it can show new viewers what your content is like in bite-sized form without you going all-in on customer acquisition.

Clips make money, attract a new audience, and the content is already there. All you’re doing is chopping up the interesting bits and separating the podcast into digestible content for an audience that has slightly less time on their hands.

Indirect Monetization

Indirect Monetization

There are forms of indirect monetization that don’t guarantee anything. It’s not as simple as putting a 30-second ad spot in the beginning of your podcast in exchange for a fixed amount of money from a company. If only!

Instead, it relies on other means beyond ads and memberships; things that can earn a lot of money but can’t be counted in the same way.

Sell Products

You can sell products. You don’t have to be super salesy, either! It doesn’t suit a lot of people to push sales, so instead: market the products. Marketing means that you’re presenting the attributes and unique angles of a product instead of telling someone all the reasons they need it.

A good product can be marketed instead of sold and make a ton of money. Just be sure that you know and love what you’re promoting.

Physical Products

Merchandise is another option that you can explore. Once you get a large enough following or have enough people asking, you can open up a merch store with relative ease. You can even host it on your podcast’s main website if you really want to.

Merchandise can make a pretty penny per unit, so as long as you have somewhere to store the merch in the meantime or you use a print-on-demand service, you can get a nice stream of revenue from merch. You’ll only sell more as your podcast grows in popularity.

Apps and Digital Products

Because of how dense the world of apps is, you can hire someone to design and build an app for you for a lot less than you think. It’s still in the thousands, but you can use your direct monetization to fund things like this. Make a paid-for app or one with a subscription model.

Additionally, you can sell apps through advertisements. One amazing thing that you can sell are digital products. A lot of programs will pay you 30% up to 50% to sell their digital products or services, and sometimes those commissions pay you month over month.

It’s no overhead to make digital products and produce copies, so you stand to gain a lot of money.

Public Speaking

Think of your podcast as a portfolio. If someone in an important position in a company comes across your content and likes the way you speak, they can offer to pay you for public speaking opportunities. Nothing will prepare you for it quite like podcasting.

These paid-for gigs can generate a lot of money while also giving you a new slice of the population to market your podcast to (indirectly, of course), and opens up so many opportunities.

Even if you hate the idea of public speaking at a graduation ceremony or something of the sort, you should get ready to do it anyway; it can make some nice money on the side.

The real question most new podcasters have is how much money can i make running a podcast?

It’s Time to Make a Plan for Full Monetization

Paywalls, ads, sponsorships, memberships, donations, and merchandise are just the tip of the iceberg. Your podcast can also have a website, you can introduce affiliate marketing, YouTube Members, Twitch subscriptions, and behind-the-scenes content for sale.

The possibilities are endless. Just be sure you don’t get greedy or you’ll alienate your fan basis.

Don’t forget to look into the costs of running a podcast, you want to try ensure your podcast is profitable.

Focus on the content and have someone help with the monetization channels so you don’t get completely consumed by the prospect of making money, and more will flow in than you know what to do with.

Resources:

Brett Robinson

Head of content and marketing over at Wired Clip HQ. I'm an Audio enthusiast and have been interested in anything from microphones to speakers. I am the lead guitarist for a small band and my main passion is editing our tracks.

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