If I had a nickel for every time a client or potential client or random podcaster has asked me…
How can I monetize a podcast?
I wouldn’t need to monetize a podcast.
It’s a natural question, I guess – there’s nothing wrong with making money from providing value to the world – and podcasts are some of the best vehicles for value-delivery I’ve ever seen.
So heck yes, go ahead, monetize your podcast! You should if you can.
But… it’s not quite that simple, is it? You can’t simply go out and monetize a podcast. You have to take a little time to figure out exactly what the options are, which one fits you and the purpose you have for your podcast, and so on and so forth and such and such.
That’s exactly why I recorded this episode.
My goal is to help you understand what I’ve seen as successful or potentially successful ways people have monetized their podcasts.
I’m also going to be frank with you (or maybe I’ll be Joe this time) and let you know what I don’t like about each of the methods, what I do like about them, what the pitfalls may be, and whether or not that approach to monetization will make you rich or only pay for your weekly coffee.
OK – coffee is more than a weekly expense, I get it. But you get my point, right?
Here’s a rough outline of How to Monetize a Podcast
- [1:25] What do we mean when we talk about monetizing a podcast?
- [2:53] What are sponsorships? A fancy word for a commercial
- [8:01] Have you thought about hawking affiliate products to your listeners?
- [12:16] What would happen if you had a patron (or many of them) support your podcast?
- [14:24] Could make a membership community for your listeners (and charge for it)?
- [18:41] YOUR podcast should definitely feature YOUR resources
If you want to Monetize your podcast, FIRST focus on delivering value
When we talk about monetizing anything we’re talking about making money from it.
I hope that’s not too unrefined for you sensitive types, but it’s the truth. You’re trying to figure out a way you can ask people for money in exchange for the value you’re delivering to them – in this case, your incredible podcast content (for example).
That means you’ve got to be providing them the VALUE side of that equation.
You owe it to your podcast audience NOT to fill their ears with fluff.
It’s the people who throw together some quick and dirty (and useless) PDF download piece of junk who give all of us a bad name. Don’t be that girl or guy. Make your offer something worth having.
And now that we’ve got THAT out of the way…
Idea #1 to monetize your podcast: Sponsorships
Whenever I hear people talking about monetization of their podcast, they usually mean gaining some kind of sponsorship.
What’s a sponsor? It’s a fancy way of saying a person who wants to pay you to put commercial advertisements on your show.
The ads could be pre-produced or they could be something you read. Either way, it’s a commercial, plain and simple.
Sponsorships DO have benefits:
- Someone with deeper pockets than you is paying the bills for your show, at least partially
- It can be a type of recurring revenue for you
- If you/they can track sales directly from your listener base, it could be a long-term relationship
But there’s also the drawbacks (the things I don’t like about sponsorships)…
- It’s a commercial. On your podcast.
Part of what I LOVE about podcasting is that I get to listen to a topic I’m interested in WITHOUT interruption.
- Many of the companies that are getting into podcast sponsorships may not be directly related to your topic (Audible, Casper Mattress, etc.)
When I have commercials from a mattress company, or an email list company – on my show about Christian Homes and Families it seems pretty obvious that I’m just trying to make money.
Nothing wrong with that… but does it build trust? That’s what I care about – and what I think you should care about.
- The legalities of doing a sponsorship right can be a bit sticky at times.
One tale I heard told was how a podcaster had to provide multiple months worth of “free” sponsorship to a sponsor because of supposed mistakes he was making in the way he read the ad copy. In his mind, the HOW of it wasn’t covered sufficiently to warrant the claim, but he didn’t want to lose the sponsor so he continued to consent to their demands.
And that brings me to the biggest deal about sponsorships that I don’t like…
- Somebody BESIDES YOU has influence over your show
You may say they don’t. But they do.
If you’re concerned about what a sponsor might thing regarding what you say, or how you say it, or how it might reflect on them – they ARE having influence on you.
The beauty of podcasting (again, in my mind) is that you get to do YOUR thing with nobody telling you that you can’t.
Naturally, you can do what you want when it comes to sponsorships. I’m sure there are good experiences out there to go alongside the bad ones I’ve heard about. It also has to do with the “type” of show you’re publishing. Some lend themselves to sponsorships more than others.
In the end, you’ve got to do what you believe is best for you, your listeners, and the sponsor.
Monetization idea #2: Affiliate relationships
In case you’re new to this whole internet thing (like some attorneys I know), it would be a good thing for you to know what affiliate relationships are before I tell you to establish them…
Affiliate (according to Entrepreneur Magazine):
A way for a company to sell its products by signing up individuals or companies (“affiliates”) who market the company’s products for a commission.
#1 – You find a company that sells products or services your listening audience needs
#2 – You make those products available to your listeners through an “affiliate link” on your website or show note
#3 – When somebody clicks on that link, the company’s website is setup with a “tracking code” that recognizes that person as coming from your link.
#4 – When/if they purchase, you get a commission.
Simple enough, right?
Affiliate relationships can be a gold mine for podcast monetization… sometimes. Maybe.
It depends on a lot of things… but to me it’s an issue of whether your niche has legitimate products/services that you can offer to your listeners.
Yeah, yeah, you can technically offer anything as an affiliate product – related or unrelated to your audience – but I don’t think you should.
Your audience has done YOU the incredible favor of self-selecting you as their go-to resource for the topics you address.
The feel like they know you (or are getting to know you). They like you (at least you’d better hope they do). They are starting to trust you.
And trust is a valuable thing.
My recommendation is that you do everything in your power NOT to violate that trust in any way. You want to build on it, make yourself a valuable, indispensable resource to your listeners.
In my thinking, a big part of that is NOT trying to get them to buy any old thing. That goes back to making them feel you’re “just trying to make money.”
Instead, why not offer them things that further connect them to you and your topic?
That seems like a winner to me – and when you do it well, it really CAN be a gold mine.
As an example: You’ve probably heard of a guy named Pat Flynn. One of his most successful affiliate relationships has been with a web hosting company called Bluehost. In September of 2017 he made $18.655.00 by referring people to Bluehost. That figure was even down by $815.00 from the previous month.
The reason I know such details is because Pat publishes his income reports every month.
It’s a great idea – transparency to show people what’s possible by building your own thing online like he has.
The point I want to make is this… that relationship with Bluehost is a hand-in-glove thing for Pat, it’s a service 99% of his listeners will need eventually, so he offers it to them with a full disclaimer that it’s an affiliate relationship.
And it banks for him. Month after month after month.
So… if you’re going to do affiliate relationships, go for it. Just make sure you’re offering things that are truly of benefit to your listeners and do it consistently and genuinely, like Pat does.
But there’s another way to offer affiliate products to your listeners… Guest resources
If you do guest episodes – conversations with experts in your niche or industry – you have a very natural, incredible opportunity to make some income through no more work than recording and publishing a great conversation with that person.
Many people who are guest on podcasts regularly are established in their niche and have already created their own stuff – books, courses, coaching packages, events, etc.
Before you hit the “record” button, stop to discuss what your guest wants to offer your audience. Yes – offer them the opportunity to highlight what they have to sell.
And find out if there’s an affiliate-type relationship you might be able to establish with them.
You’ll find many such people already have an official affiliate program setup. All you have to do is sign up and place the link in your show notes page. Then, during the interview, disclose that you have that relationship and make the offer.
Better yet, let your GUEST make the offer since they know the product much better than you do. Then you get to simply endorse their offer and recommend it to your listeners.
And keep in mind… podcast episodes are out there forever (as long as you keep paying your hosting bill). This kind of partnership could be a long-term cash cow for you if you do it effectively.
It benefits you.
It benefits your guests.
It benefits your audience (at least it should).
A caution about affiliate offers: Do it right
Remember that trust thing I spoke of earlier? It’s vital that you maintain trust when it comes to affiliate offers.
You don’t want your listeners to in any way feel that you’ve tricked them into doing something that will benefit you directly – even if the supposed “trick” was that you forgot to disclose an affiliate relationship.
So don’t forget.
Always, Always, ALWAYS tell your listeners – both in writing on your show notes page or website – AND verbally on your podcast audio, that you have an affiliate relationship with any product you’re recommending, if you do in fact have such a relationship.
It’s honest. It’s clear. And I believe if you do it right, it can build trust with your audience even more.
And… it’s the law.
#3 Podcast Monetization Idea: Donations
Let me ask you a question…
What sort of compulsion do you feel when somebody does an amazing thing for you? You want to do something for them, right?
It’s what social psychologists refer to as “the law of reciprocity” and there’s something to it. When somebody does good to/for you, you naturally want to do good for them.
Take that concept and apply it to your podcast…
If you are truly adding value to the lives of your listeners, don’t you think some of them are going to start feeling like they want to say “thank you” in a more tangible way than listening to your next episode?
It’s natural. And it’s OK to make a way for your listeners to support your show.
It’s called a Donation Model – and it works. You can see a sterling example of it here – on Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Site.
And I could be a bit off on this, but I recently heard Dan interviewed at Podcast Movement 2017 and I believe he said that he only asks $2 per episode – and that the approach does VERY WELL for him.
So… if I were doing this for my “Live Build Change” podcast (which I may do someday), I’d say something along this line…
The Live Build Change podcast is my effort to help you live your faith in an authentic, genuine way, to build a business either part time or full time, and then to integrate those two things in a way that enables you to truly change your world. If you’d like to make a donation (one-time or recurring) to ensure I can continue to do so, you can find out how to do that at (website link).
No high-pressure tactics or begging. Just giving listeners an opportunity to reciprocate and moving on.
A similar but different way to accomplish it… Patreon
Back in the olden days… when Kings, Lords and Ladies, and Dukes ruled the lands… there was such a thing as patronage.
For example: The famous artist Michelangelo had two primary patrons who supported him so that he could produce his artistic works: Pope Julius II, and the Medici family.
Patreon is a fairly new approach based on the idea of patronage – it’s where your fans can intentionally set up a recurring payment to you SO THAT you can continue doing what you’re doing with your podcast.
It’s really what I spoke of earlier – but again you’ve got to set it up in order to make the opportunity for your listeners/fans.
Here are the details as I understand them:
- You set up the account
- Patreon gets 10% of what you receive (administrative costs at 5% and profit at 5%)
- Your fans can choose to send you any amount on a recurring basis
- Patreon takes care of credit card issues, chargebacks, etc.
- And the site claims to have funneled over $150 million to its users so far
Here’s Patreon’s video called, “The Future of Funding Artists” – in case you’re interested
My #4 Monetization idea for Podcasters: Memberships
We’ve all done the membership thing at one time or another…
When I was a kid I got into the Columbia Record and Tape Club. For one penny the Columbia people (whoever they were) sent me 14 albums I selected and I committed to buy 20 more in the next three years.
I loved it. It was a membership I was happy to participate in.
Today we have Netflix, Health Clubs, Spotify, etc.
You get it. You understand memberships.
But have you thought of the benefits received by the company OFFERING the membership?
- Fairly consistent recurring income
Sure, a subscriber can cancel their subscription at any time (in most cases). But how often does that happen in comparison to the big number of subscribers an outfit like Netflix has?
That dynamic is a reality that makes the income of a company like Netflix consistent. In fact, because of new subscribers, their revenue goes up over the long run.
And don’t miss the RECURRING part of the setup – people pay over and over and over for what Netflix has to offer rather than a one-time purchase.
That. Is. Bank.
- Set-it-and-forget-it payments (they don’t have to invoice monthly)
When I first got this concept it was a game changer for my business.
Invoicing on a monthly basis is a hassle. There are costs associated with it both in time and in tangible goods like paper, etc.
But recurring payments – subscriptions – do away with all that (with the exception of credit card processing fees). A one-time setup BY THE CUSTOMER starts a potentially never-ending source of revenue.
- Forgettable fees
I don’t remember where I first heard the phrase “forgettable fees” but it’s brilliant – and important to understand.
Think about it: How many of us even THINK about our $14/mo Netflix subscription?
We just watch Netflix. We enjoy the service. We hardly give the monthly charge a thought when going through our credit card statements.
Why? Because the amount is so reasonable compared to other expenses we have to pay – like a car payment or mortgage or rent.
It’s a forgettable fee – and companies like Netflix count on that as a big part of why people will buy into their subscription service and STAY in.
What does Netflix have to do with monetizing a podcast?
SO much, my friends.
What is stopping YOU from creating a membership for YOUR audience, YOUR listeners?
No, you don’t have the tech that Netflix has. You don’t have the bankroll they do.
But a membership model may not be as impossible as you might think.
You can set up membership functionality with a fairly inexpensive plugin on a WordPress Website and start things rolling today.
WPKube.com lists 13 of the best plugins right here.
The point is that there’s really nothing technologically that stands in your way.
And there is definitely more than one way to do this membership thing…
In fact, if you remember Episode 67 in this very podcast feed – Rob Walch explained how the good folks at Libsyn have created an option for every one of their customers to have a custom app for their podcast – and it can be set up to have “gated content” in it.
Translation: Membership-ONLY content
So think that through…
- You have your own custom app
- You encourage your listeners to download it
- They listen to your show, connect with you and each other, through the app
- You add ADDITIONAL content that ONLY MEMBERS can have
- But everyone can see it as available (but NOT access it)
What do you think is the likelihood that many of those people who enjoy your show enough to download your app, will be willing to pay the forgettable fee you ask in order to get more goodness from you?
I think it’s pretty high. This app option from Libsyn is DEFINITELY worth looking into.
And Patreon is getting into this membership game as well…
A few paragraphs earlier I mentioned Patreon as a donation platform – and so it is.
BUT… (you knew that was coming, right?)
There’s a new one on the list now – WordPress – which opens the door to integrating the Patreon payments portal to memberships ON your website.
In a recent post from the Patreon blog – Patreon Powers Membership Across The Web – the company highlights a new WordPress plugin that essentially makes your site into a membership site, with Patreon as the payment gateway (by donation, of course).
So… if you like the donation thing – and think it might fit with a membership thing – this is a VERY promising looking option for you.
Cautions about setting up a membership
I tried to set up a membership on one of my sites a few years back and it didn’t go so well.
I still think the idea is a great idea, but both my timing and my implementation were off.
Here’s what I learned…
- Critical Mass is vital
In order to launch a membership of any kind you’ve got to have enough momentum to build a movement – of sorts.
It won’t be enough to buy the needed plugins, install them on your site, and start announcing that you now have a membership.
You just might hear crickets like I did.
You’ve got to have a very excited, raving fan base established in order for a membership site to launch successfully. Some signs you might be ready…
- Your listeners ask you for help often
- You can’t keep up with the demand for new content
- Your industry/niche is exploding
- You get lots of engagement on social media when you post about your topics
- People tag you as a resource in their own conversations about your niche
And that’s just SOME of what I’d consider.
The good news is that if you take the time to set up a membership of some kind and you DO hear crickets, it didn’t cost you much. Chalk it up to your education.
- You’ve got to be able to deliver over-and-above value consistently
It’s one thing to establish a membership site.
It’s quite another to keep pumping it full of new, great, helpful content that makes the cost of admission worth it.
True, a good membership will become a self-perpetuating thing over time, with members themselves adding great content that helps the community.
But you’ve got to be the catalyst for that, the one who pumps the community up with enthusiasm, information, and helpful tools, tips, and tricks for your niche.
If you don’t have time to do that – DON’T set up a membership site.
An example of a guy who does this very well is James Schramko.
Here are a couple of James’ podcast episodes about memberships you might enjoy…
Idea #5 for monetizing your podcast: Sell your own stuff
To me, this one is the most obvious, no-brainer, you’ve-got-to-do-this option when it comes to monetizing a podcast. Let me explain…
Your audience is YOUR audience. They’ve chosen YOU to speak into their ear-buds.
They like what you have to say, that’s why they are listening.
Doesn’t it seem natural that if you were to provide a resource they would be very interested in buying it?
That’s what happened to Pat Flynn (mentioned previously). He had added so much value to his listeners over the years that they actually began begging him to make a product for them.
That may not be where you’re at right now… but you’re on the way. I can say that confidently because every podcaster I know is eager to add value to their audience.
And there’s nothing sullied or distasteful about creating something of enormous value and selling it to that audience.
It’s the way the “free enterprise” system works. Give it some thought…
- You create your amazing product to help your audience on a deeper level
- You set your “asking price”
- Your listeners get to decide if it’s worth that amount – to them
- Those for whom it is, will buy it.
- And likely tell others about it when it delivers the value they are seeking
Do you see how that works?
Nobody was coerced. Nobody was pressured into buying.
It’s a very natural process of exchange we participate in almost every day of our lives.
You exchange your great content for their money. They exchange their money for your great content.
And everybody is happy.
Tips for making your own products a legitimate way of monetizing
- Create truly helpful, good stuff your audience can use
When it comes to purchases there is NOTHING WORSE than buying something that turns out to be a disappointment.
I remember buying an “iPod” for one of my kids from eBay years back, and when it arrived it was a cheap knock-off. I called it a “lie-pod” from then on.
You DON’T want to be that guy or gal. You’ll destroy any amount of trust you’ve been able to build with your audience thus far, not to mention your reputation.
So don’t shortcut your products. Make them great. Give it your all.
- Be ready to devote the TIME required to learn how to create a great product
Building something great takes time. Decide right now that you’re going to be patient, but persistent.
Learn. Grow. Make use of Youtube University.
Get clear on what you’re going to build and how you’re going to build it.
But don’t postpone your launch simply because it’s “not perfect yet.” It will never be perfect.
Make it good – then publish it.
Then you can concentrate on making it great as you get feedback from those who purchase it.
- Mention your resource often – on your podcast – on your website
The “Build it and they will come” philosophy will NOT work with products you create for your listeners. You have to tell them that it exists.
And you have to do it repeatedly.
I suggest you create what’s called a “call to action” for every episode of your podcast. It’s an offer of help you make to your listeners via the product you’ve created.
Tell them what it is.
Tell them why they need it.
Tell them how to get it.
Nothing needs to be high pressure. Nothing needs to be urgent or over-hyped. Just be honest, tell them, and let them decide.
But do it consistently. On every episode of your podcast.
Think about it – how many times have YOU heard about a product or service that was of interest to you and then forgotten about it, or forgotten to look it up? Lots.
But then you hear about it again and take action.
Your listeners are the same. Do them the favor of always talking about your offer.
And maybe you’ll find that monetizing your podcast through your own products is the BEST and most NATURAL way of monetizing you could have dreamed of.
The folks over at Hubspot have created a post titled “31 Call-to-Action Examples You Can’t Help But Click.” Helpful stuff you’d do well to read and learn from.
And one more thing about monetizing via your own stuff…
By “your own stuff” I don’t only mean products. Think outside the box.. You could offer
- Group coaching
- Online courses
- Mastermind groups
- Service-related work
- Anything else you can think of that has a legitimate benefit to your audience
That’s it. If you’re looking to monetize a podcast, pick the option that works best for you, your show, and your approach to business, and get started.
The money won’t come in unless you open the door for it.
- www.PodcastFastTrack.com/5 – A podcast sponsor challenge for you!
- Keyword Finder (this is my affiliate link.. Meaning, I get paid if you buy from them)
- Ringr (another affiliate link)
- Patreon (NO affiliate relationship)
- www.ChristianHomeandFamily.com (one of my websites and podcasts)
- Episode 67 with Rob Walch about having your own custom podcasting app
Connect with me…