We all see big-name podcast hosts making money off their content, but how can independent podcasters with smaller audiences make their content into a sustainable revenue stream?
While we don’t suggest that people start a podcast for the money, it is possible to make it a profitable side hustle. In this blog, we break down how to set yourself up for maximum monetary success as a podcaster and which monetization method is the best approach for your show in the exact phase it’s currently in. Let’s get started.
First things first: Turn your listeners into loyal supporters of your content
Having an engaged audience--however many subscribers you have--is the key to powering podcast monetization strategies.
While it's great to have a lot of downloads, the most important factor is how involved your audience is with your content. You want to focus on gaining loyal supporters who will take action and support your podcast financially.
Start by offering valuable content consistently that speaks to your target audience’s needs. From there, follow these tips:
- Create exciting content that keeps your listeners on their toes
- Ask for listener feedback and feature it in upcoming podcasts
- Leverage social media to promote your podcast episodes and gain more followers
- Test out different topics, lengths, formats, and audio qualities to find what resonates best with your listeners
- Invite guest speakers to add insight and perspective on topics and engage in conversations with your listeners
- By engaging your existing followers and attracting new ones, you can create more opportunities for monetization down the road.
The 6 best ways to monetize your podcast
Option #1. Advertising
Best for: This strategy works best for podcasters who have a larger audience base and can purchase higher CPMs from advertisers.
Advertising your podcast to generate revenue is one of the most popular monetization strategies. It involves placing podcasting ads within your episodes and charging a fee based on the number of downloads, subscribers, or CPM (cost per mile, cost per thousand).
- Pre-rolls: Ads placed at the beginning of an episode. Cost per mile (CPM): $20 - $45
- Mid-rolls: Ads placed in the middle of an episode. CPM: $18 - 40
- Post-rolls: Ads placed at the end of an episode. CPM: $15 - 35
Typically, podcasters earn up to 70% of the total advertisement revenue, and 30% goes to the ad platform or network. So what are the pros and cons?
Summary: There is potential for revenue if you have an audience of at least 5,000 per month. If you have fewer downloads per month, other strategies might be a better fit.
Option #2. Sponsorship
Best for: This strategy is best for podcasters who have a smaller audience base but an engaged one, as this allows them to pair with the right sponsors.
Podcast sponsorship is a type of partnership between a podcaster and a brand or company. The company pays the podcaster to showcase their product or service to the podcast's audience, typically in the form of a personalized ad read by the podcaster themselves.
Sponsorship can come in different forms:
- Host-read ads: These are the most common type of podcast ads. The host talks about a product or service, often sharing their personal experience with it. This adds a personal touch and often results in higher engagement.
- Branded segments: Here, a company sponsors a particular segment of the podcast. For example, a book review podcast might have a "book of the week" segment sponsored by a publishing company.
- Product placement: In this case, the product or service is integrated into the podcast's content. For example, a food podcast might use a specific brand of kitchenware and mention it during the show.
The rate for podcast sponsorship usually depends on which model you use. There are three models. Most independent podcasters prefer a value-based model where brands pay a flat rate to promote products or services. The payment is typically fixed and agreed upon beforehand, irrespective of how many listeners end up buying the product or service.
Summary: Can be mutually beneficial for brands and podcasters and result in more regular income than other methods. Just be careful not to alienate your audience and to keep the sponsor messages authentic and aligned with listener expectations.
Option #3. Affiliate marketing
Best for: This strategy suits podcasters with a niche audience base that trusts and values their recommendations.
Unlike sponsorships, podcasters who do affiliate marketing earn a commission for each sale made through their affiliate link or when their promo code is used for purchase.
Affiliate marketing is a performance-based strategy. This can be a double-edged sword. While there are no guaranteed earnings like with ads and sponsorships, the earning potential can be much higher, especially if the podcast has a loyal and engaged audience that trusts their recommendations.
Here's how affiliate marketing generally works for podcasters:
- Choose a product or service: Select products or services that offer an affiliate program and would genuinely add value to your listeners' lives. You can also use an affiliate marketplace like Podcorn to connect with brands.
- Use your unique affiliate link: When promoting the chosen product or service, use your unique link provided by the affiliate partner.
- Earn a commission: Every time a listener purchases the product or service through your link, you earn a commission.
Remember, honesty and transparency are crucial in affiliate marketing. Always disclose to your listeners that you will earn a commission if they choose to purchase through your link, and try to select brands somewhat related to your content (don’t, for instance, have an affiliate link for hair dye if you create self-help content). This not only helps to build trust with your audience, but it also aligns with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations.
Summary: Low barrier to entry, but profits are directly dependent on sales.
Option #4. Merchandise
Best for: Podcasters with a loyal following who have created a brand around their content.
Merchandising is another popular option for podcasters looking to monetize their content. This involves selling branded products such as t-shirts, mugs, and stickers. You could even create an online course if you’re knowledgeable in your field or sell tickets to live events.
To be successful with merchandise sales, you'll need to have a strong brand that your listeners connect with. It's not just about slapping your podcast logo onto a product but about creating items that your audience will find valuable or exciting.
Start by understanding your audience and what kind of merchandise they might be interested in. Conduct a listener survey or ask for feedback on social media.
To promote your merchandise, introduce it in your podcast episodes and show off items on your social media channels. You can also offer special promotions or discounts to your loyal listeners to encourage purchases.
Remember, the key here is to create merchandise that represents your brand and resonates with your audience. The better the connection, the more likely your listeners will be to purchase and proudly wear or use your podcast-branded merchandise.
Summary: Selling merch can help you grow your brand and create a community around it, but there are upfront costs to production. We suggest considering factors like your podcast’s overall popularity, audience size, and listener engagement before making the investment.
Option #5. Paid subscriptions and premium content
Best for: Podcasters who offer niche content unavailable in other places or have dedicated listeners and a highly engaged fan base.
Paid subscriptions and premium content are two distinct strategies often employed in podcast monetization. The key factor here is that access to the podcast is gated behind a paywall, making the content exclusive to those who subscribe.
Premium content refers to additional, high-value content that podcasters offer on top of their regular episodes. This may include bonus episodes, ad-free experiences, or early access to content. While this may also be offered as a part of a paid subscription, it can also be part of a different revenue strategy, such as crowdfunding, where supporters receive premium content as a reward for their contributions.
The Podpage Memberships feature integrates with popular platforms like Patreon and Supercast that make it straightforward to set up.
Summary: Once you establish yourself as a podcaster and have earned the trust of listeners, offering paid subscriptions can help bring credibility to your content. However, podcasters are used to free content, so as the host, you have to work extra hard to create something worth their investment.
Option #6. Donations
Best for: Donations are low-pressure, and pretty much any podcaster can have the option available for listeners. Crowdfunding specifically works best for podcasters working toward a specific milestone or project.
Donations are voluntary contributions from listeners with no explicit expectation of receiving something in return. They can be one-time or recurring, and they offer flexibility, as supporters can contribute as much and as often as they wish. Donations don't typically involve a formal campaign or rewards system, making them less labor-intensive but potentially less predictable and profitable.
By leveraging platforms like Patreon, Ko-fi, or GoFundMe, podcasters can receive direct support from their listeners who 'donate' or 'pledge' a certain amount of money per month or per episode.
This strategy is highly dependent on the size and dedication of your audience, as well as the value they perceive in the content you provide.
Some podcasters offer exclusive content, early access to episodes, or other perks as incentives for their supporters. The Podpage Donations feature integrates with all the biggest donation platforms, including GoFundMe, Paypal, Glow, Buy Me a Coffee, Ko-Fi, and more.
Crowdfunding is another way to accept donations from listeners but involves receiving donations as part of an organized, targeted campaign with a specific monetary goal in mind. It's often used for launching new projects, expanding existing ones, or covering significant costs. The campaign is generally time-limited, and contributors often receive rewards or perks in return for their support, like exclusive content or merchandise.
Summary: Donations are an excellent, casual way to get support from listeners who resonate with your content. Crowdfunding can work if you have enough fan engagement, but the campaign will require time and effort, and the results might be slow going. Always keep the listener in mind, you don’t want to ask for money before a relationship is established, and this can take time.
Final thoughts & additional resources
In conclusion, podcasting offers a myriad of opportunities for monetization, ranging from advertising and affiliate marketing to donations, merchandise sales, and premium content. However, successful podcast monetization is no easy feat. It requires diligence, creativity, and strategic planning.
Most importantly, it demands a comprehensive marketing strategy tailored toward audience growth and engagement. By combining these revenue strategies with hard work and commitment, podcasters can successfully monetize their content, transforming their passion for podcasting into a lucrative venture!
For more information on how to use Podpage to monetize your podcast, check out these guides: