Podcast networks are conglomerations of podcasts collected under a single brand or umbrella organization, ultimately with the purpose of connecting podcasters with advertisers. These networks play pivotal roles in the podcasting landscape and can provide benefits like:
- expanded audience reach
- marketing and promotion
- revenue opportunities
- production and distribution support
Should you join a podcast network? What are the pros and cons? In this blog, we break down everything you need to know about whether or not to join a network, including the most popular major networks and the best ones for independent podcasters!
How can podcast networks make you money?
Podcast networks can aid podcasters in monetizing their content through various avenues.
The main way networks help podcasters monetize is through advertising. Networks often have a set of established relationships with advertisers, so creators don't have to make the brand deals themselves.
This allows them to easily put advertisements into your podcast, often at a flat rate per 1,000 listeners (CPM). Ads can come in the form of pre-roll ads, mid-roll ads, or post-roll ads. The most lucrative is typically the mid-roll ad, which occurs in the middle of the episode and is less likely to be skipped by listeners.
Other ways networks can boost podcast monetization:
- Cross-promotion: Being part of a network means that your podcast can be promoted across other shows in the network. This cross-promotion can draw in listeners from other podcasts, thereby increasing your audience size and, by extension, your advertising revenue.
- Premium content: Some networks offer premium subscription models that provide listeners with exclusive extra content, early releases, or ad-free listening. This can be an additional source of revenue, especially for popular shows.
- Merchandise and live shows: Podcast networks can assist with the production and distribution of merchandise related to your podcast, as well as the organization of live shows, both of which can be lucrative sources of revenue.
Now that you know more about how podcast networks operate, let's take a look at the most popular networks out there.
Top 10 most popular podcast networks
These top podcast networks on this list will probably sound familiar; they're the home of many of today's most successful podcasts. Keep in mind these are major networks and typically have a requirement of 10,000+ downloads per month to join.
If you're looking for networks better suited to independent podcasters with a smaller but loyal audience, scroll to the next section!
NPR is a top choice for many podcast lovers, offering a diverse range of podcasts on various topics, including news, arts, and science.
iHeartRadio is home to some of the most popular and entertaining podcasts available, spanning genres like music, news, and comedy.
Wondery is renowned for its immersive podcasts focusing on true crime, business, and entertainment.
#4. Gimlet Media
Gimlet Media produces high-quality narrative podcasts known for their primo-storytelling and engaging content.
Stitcher hosts a multitude of podcasts, offering content across a wide spectrum of genres, including comedy, news, and pop culture.
PodcastOne is a leading destination for the best and most popular podcasts across many top genres.
Radiotopia is a network of independent, listener-supported podcasts offering unique storytelling and cutting-edge design.
Megaphone, by Spotify, is a powerful technology platform designed for podcast publishers and advertisers.
PRX hosts a selection of award-winning educational and informative podcasts.
Earwolf is a comedy podcasting network that houses popular shows like "Comedy Bang Bang" and "How Did This Get Made?"
The best podcast networks for independent podcasters
While joining top-tier podcast networks requires having a larger audience, there are some excellent alternatives for independent podcasters with a smaller audience.
These networks may not have the reach of the larger ones, but they often have a dedicated and engaged audience of people already listening to podcasts within your genre. This can lead to a higher rate of listener growth for podcasts that cater to that niche, whether it's true crime, pop culture, etc. Here are some:
- Audioboom (spans a wide range of genres)
- BlueWire (sports)
- New Books Network (scholars, experts, authors)
- The Incomparable (pop culture)
How much money can you make by joining a network?
Podcast advertising networks help connect podcasters with brands looking to get their product or service in front of a highly targeted audience. They offer various ad options (like pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads) and assist in ad sales and placement, which can help generate revenue for your podcast.
Earnings can vary widely depending on your podcast's popularity, the network's monetization strategies, and your contract terms. Some networks operate on a flat rate per 1,000 listeners for ads, while others may negotiate a revenue share–typically, the creator keeps 70%, and the network takes 30%.
So...should you join one?
Joining a podcast network can be a lucrative step for some podcasters. But if you have a small audience (less than 5-10,000 downloads per episode), joining one likely won't be very lucrative, at least not as lucrative as your own brand deals could be.
Networks can, however, provide numerous benefits, such as increased visibility, access to established advertising relationships, and opportunities for cross-promotion. It’s just not a decision to be taken lightly.
Here are some pros and cons to consider:
- Increased visibility and audience growth through cross-promotion: Podcasters can benefit from the network's cross-promotional efforts and collaborations with other creators. This can lead to a larger audience, more downloads, and better discoverability.
- Access to established advertiser relationships for monetization: Podcast networks often have established relationships with advertisers, which can help increase your chances of getting sponsored and make the ad sales process easier.
- Assistance in managing ad sales and placement. Of course, networks can help with ad sales and manage the finances so you can focus on creating great content.
- Potential loss of creative control: Some networks may include contracts that require a certain number of episodes per month or potentially certain reactive restrictions (in some cases).
- Revenue sharing with the network: Networks may take a portion of ad revenue or subscription fees–typically, the creator takes 70%, and the network takes 30%.
- High audience requirement for larger networks: Some networks may require a podcast to have 10,000+ downloads per episode before they can join.
So, if these cons outweigh the pros for you, what should you do instead of joining a network? Let’s take a look.
Alternatives to joining a network (that can offer similar benefits)
Other good alternatives to podcast networks could be simple engagement within your community's niche. Join podcast communities, cross-promote with other creators, attend podcasting events, engage on social media, and other digital marketing efforts can help achieve the same thing. These relationships can lead to guest appearances, shout-outs, or maybe even invitations to join a network eventually.
Creating a website through Podpage is one way to support your monetization and marketing effort–whether or not you decide to join a network.
Podpage can serve as your home base for listeners to find and engage with your podcast. With premium features like a storefront, blog capability, monetization and guest management tools, Podpage provides an all-in-one solution for podcasters who want to maximize their content’s potential.
In conclusion, while podcast networks are an attractive avenue for monetization and growth, podcasters must consider these pros and cons thoroughly to ensure joining a network aligns with their long-term goals.
Before making the decision, consider asking yourself these questions:
- Am I comfortable with shared creative control? Some networks may have guidelines or requirements that could potentially impact the content or structure of your show.
- What are the financial implications? Understand the revenue sharing model, potential earnings, and whether the financial benefit outweighs the cost.
- Does the network align with my vision and goals for the podcast? Consider factors such as the network's reputation, the other podcasts in the network, and the potential for growth and exposure.
We hope this helps!