“How do I make money with my podcast?”
This is one of the most common questions I get. And it’s a great question, assuming you’re already done the work it takes to create the foundation where monetization is an option for your podcast. Even if you haven’t though or you’re just starting a new podcast, “how to make money with your podcast” can be something to think about for the future.
The “Podcast Monetization” Foundation
You need listeners. You don’t need a lot of listeners, but you need the right listeners. And if you have a lot of the right listeners, all the better.
To get the right listeners, you need to have a podcast that delivers a helpful message in an entertaining way. How to do this goes way beyond the scope of this article, but lucky for you, I’ve written a 462-page book on creating a “big podcast” the explains the entire process.
Does reading that much sound intimidating? Imagine writing it, then having to read it outloud, perfectly, to create the audiobook version. Believe me, that was intimidating as hell, but the good news is I can now read it to you in the comfort and privacy of your own home.
I didn’t write this aricle to sell you a book. But know that you need to have your podcast foundation in order to be able to monetize it, whether you do that via the help of my book or via something else. If you don’t have the right podcast in place, meaning you have a podcast people actually want to listen to and do listen to, it doesn’t matter what you do to monetize it – it won’t work.
9 “Podcast Monetization” Options
As I go through these, I want you to think more of “little faucets” of income rather than a lottery-style windfall. This stuff isn’t sexy and it’s probably not going to pay all your living expenses at first, but if you keep at it, it will add up and be a nice chunk of money by the time you tally it up each year.
1. “Classified” Ads
This type of ad is most commonly seen in newspapers and online newsletters. Ads are typically short, as they are charged for by the line or word, or limited to a certain number of characters. Most classified ads are segmented into different categories to make them easier for readers to find.
Classfied advertising is used because it’s cheap and flexible. It works when other advertising options, such as display ads, don’t. You don’t need a lot of space or a graphic to sell a lawnmower, for example.
If you have a podcast with a niche audience, classfied ads (done via audio) are an option. For example, let’s say you have podcast like I Am Salt Lake, which is designed just for people in a certain geographic area. It would be easy to offer local bands the option of being included in a “Weekly Music Calendar” segment for just a few bucks each. You could do a similar segment on housing, charging real estate companies to mention a home for sale, or a segment on food/drink options where you charge a local bar or restaurant to mention current specials.
Note that this is not a full “sponsorship” with a 60-second ad read – it’s a segment of your show that several people at a time pay to be part of. It’s a short ad, just like a classfied ad you’d see in print. For example, “Band XYZ is playing Club ABC this Friday at 10pm.”
A classified ad is the churn-and-burn of advertising. Advertisers will come and go, depending on the timliness of a promotion, and the money you make will be made by doing a large volume of ads with many different advertisers.
Want to make even more money from your classfied ads? Include links to advertisers in your episode notes and offer social media or newsletter options.
2. Sponsored Ads
This is the classic “radio ad” that you think of when you think about advertising on podcasts. You tell listeners about a product or service for 30-60 seconds. Done.
This is another topic I’ve covered in great detail within the Big Podcast book and you probably have an idea of how this works already, so there’s no need to go too much beyond just mentioning it here, except for that fact that you should always have a multi-episode deal as longterm sponsors are best for both you and the sponsor.
Listeners and potenential advertisers won’t think a thing about your stability if you swap out “classified ads” often, but that’s not the case with traditional podcast ads. Changing full sponsors on a regular basis makes it look like you can’t get results for the people who advertise on your podcast.
If you have a weekly show, I suggest doing advertising contracts that are a minimum of six episodes. Always get paid a flat rate, never per download.
3. Affiliate Ads
Affiliate advertising is performance-based and you’ll be paid either per visitor or per purchase that comes from that ad.
This can be very lucrative and companies like Impact can help you find offers that are a match for you as well as provide statistics, advertising tools, and other information to help you make the most of the opportunity.
If you have a relatively successful podcast, you’ve likely been approached by companies wanting to do affiliate offers with you. My suggestion is, assuming you want to work with them, to offer these companies a flat-rate podcast sponsorship based on your relationship with your podcast listeners and the work you’re doing upfront. You want to work with people who have skin in the game you’re playing together and affiliate offers are extemely low-risk for the companies you’re advertising and high-risk for you.
4. Membership Options
People want to be “insiders.” They want to feel part of a group. A “membership” option (not necessarily a membership site, although that could be part of your offer) is a great way for listeners to feel more connected to your work. You can sell your offer via a one-time or recurring payment.
What can you offer people via a membership option?
- Extra episodes
- Ad-free episodes
- Extra content (anything from videos to handwritten podcast episode notes)
- Early access
- Live Q&As with you after podcast episodes are released
- Q&As with podast guests
- “Ask Me Anything” sessions
- Live chats
- Exclusive merch (like a members-only t-shirt)
- Recognition on your podcast (producer credit, for example)
- Behind-the-scenes content, such as a video tour of your podcast studio
- Archive or “vault” access
- A recorded message from you
- A handwritten message from you, such as a postcard
Sometimes you don’t need “extras” to encourage people to give you money. Many listeners want to support your work just because they enjoy it or think it’s helpful and will give you money so that you can continute to do it.
6. Digital Goods
Selling “digital goods” are been around for years, but had just recently become more popular to those outside the entertainment and software industries.
Digital good options:
- Desktop and lockscreen graphics
- Icon sets
Print-on-demand services like TeePublic make it easy to create everything from custom t-shirts, to mugs, to stickers. You only make around a couple bucks per item, so you’re going to need volume to make a lot of money, but making branded merch can also be helpful in making listeners more connected to your and your podcast, so setting up at least a t-shirt option is definitely worth the few minutes it takes to so.
Need more than a few shirts or stickers? Try Contagious Graphics.
8. Products and Services (New and Existing)
Many of the people who hire me to work on their podcasts either own a company or work for a company with existing products or services they’re looking to promote via those podcasts. This is, by far, that best way to make money in podcasting for the majority of people as it allows you to maximize even a small audience and continue working with an existing income stream rather than start a new one.
Being a podcaster can also open you up to being able to offer new services as you will find listeners come to you with requests for help on certain things. Should this happen, listen up, as it may be an income opportunity you hadn’t thought of previously.
Here is how that works:
A podcaster talks about financial topics, such as a personal finance. He co-hosts his podcast with his wife.
When people hear this podcast, they think, “They’ve got a great relationship, I’d like to know more about it.”
Then what? Obviously, you can keep your relationship (or anything else) private, but maybe for these guys, there’s an opportunity to branch out on variations of what they’re doing together and how they do it together, maybe a “relationship and money” book, instead of one that focuses solely on money.
9. Non-Podcast Monetization Options
People advertising aren’t spending money with you because they like podcasting – they’re spending money with you because you’re connected with an audience of people who value what you have to say. And podcasting isn’t the one way this audience will listen to and connect with you.
It’s easy to set up a newsletter for your podcast, which give you another way to connect with your audience and another option for earning sponsorship money. Want to see a newsletter example? Check out Big Podcast Insider.
Simply publishing a “sponsored post” on Instagram, depending on your audience, can be more lucrative for you (and the sponsor) than a mention on your podcast. It’s also a lot easier.
So why have a podcast at all? Your podcast is what connects you to people and makes them want to subscribe to your newsletter and follow you on Instagram – it’s the engine that makes everything else happen.
The Bottom Line on “Podcast Monetization”
There’s money to be made in podcasting. You can start now, with something small, like classified ads or affiliate offers. Even if you don’t make a lot of money, doing this will better connect you with your audience, learning what they respond to and what they don’t, as well as set you up for future monetization success.
If you want to earn more money from your podcast, go ahead and jump in. You’ll learn a lot more by actually working with sponsors, even if things don’t go perfectly, than reading about it or hearing other people talk about their podcast sponsorships.