The number of podcasts out there has exploded in the last few years. In 2020 there were 700,000 podcasts but as of June 2022 there are 2.4 million podcasts with over 66 million episodes between them. The growth of podcasting is set to continue. According to DemandSage, there will be 424 million podcast listeners by the end of 2022 and the podcast industry is a $2 billion industry that will be worth $4 billion in 2024.
Despite the huge growth in shows and episodes, it’s still lonely at the top. Buzzsprout reports that while the top 1% of podcasts get more than 3994 downloads per episode within the first seven days, the bottom 50% get no more than 30. Whether one of the biggest or just getting started, monetizing a podcast requires strategy and intention.
If you’re a current or aspiring podcast host wondering how to make more from your audio creations, here are 6 ways to monetize your podcast.
1. Secure sponsorship
Offering sponsorship slots is the first and most obvious way of monetizing your podcast. Even if you have a tiny audience in a small niche, if it’s well-defined and highly engaged, brands will be interested. Brands seek opportunities to be ultra-targeted and utilize micro-influencers as a way of connecting with their target audience. You could feature products in your shows and add sponsor messages to the intro, middle or end. You could also include their links in your show notes.
To kick start this process, get an idea of the brands you might want to partner with. Think about products and services relevant to your podcast’s audience and start with the brands you and they already use. If you’re already getting enquiries, create some rules. Do you draw the line at gambling and alcohol and will you only work with brands you’ve personally tried and tested? Next, put together a one-pager of your podcast stats. Downloads, countries, episodes, listenership. Then break down the listenership in terms of demographics. This information will be vital for sponsors when paying you for mentions. Make it easy for potential sponsors to get in touch and decide from there.
2. Create a community
By now you are growing an audience of people who know, like and trust you. You are likely developing superfans. While they have an increased affinity towards you as the host, they likely have heaps in common with each other. If sponsorship isn’t your thing, you could create a community. That way, you use your network to help people find their next best friend, business partner or tribe member. You facilitate relationships between your listeners.
This is possible through Discord, MightyNetworks, or even a Facebook group. Charge a monthly access fee and then let members join and do their thing. You could facilitate events, live sessions and exclusive interviews. You could hire a community manager to ensure everything runs smoothly. Membership groups are a serious way to monetize a podcast that could mean tens of thousands in monthly recurring revenue depending on your niche.
3. Upsell one-to-one access
Chances are you know your stuff. Whatever your podcast topic, by now you have done heaps of research, developed your knowledge and interviewed or referenced countless people in your field. Your listeners are looking for you to educate them; to curate all the knowledge out there and make sure what they hear is useful. They trust your opinion and they’re hungry for more. Many of your listeners might have found themselves wishing they could ask you questions directly.
Perhaps you already coach or mentor or perhaps it’s brand new. Either way, using your podcast to upsell one-to-one guidance is a solid plan. You can restrict the spaces available and communicate this in your outro. You can keep a waiting list going and cherry pick when you’re ready. You can provide asynchronous support, microcoaching or live coaching sessions with your clients. You choose your prices and deliver the goods.
4. Create and sell courses
Your listeners are used to hearing you in pre-recorded format, which means they are likely to consider buying courses you create. Turning your methods into easy-to-follow and valuable courses might be the next step up from podcasting that generates more revenue. To start, think about the questions you are asked most often. Write them all down and see which might lend themselves to a course.
Once you have your course ideas in mind, work out where to put them. Using Udemy and Skillshare might work two ways; you monetize your podcast audience and find new listeners for your show. Self-hosting or using Teachable means you’re completely in control and keep nearly all of the proceeds. Whatever your priority, the success of your courses is in the planning and production. After that, announce them on your show and open enrolment in short bursts.
5. Add your show to YouTube
Podcast advertising networks are in their infancy, but YouTube’s ads platform is fully formed. Have you considered adding your show to YouTube? Repurposing the same content on another platform makes sense, and you might find it’s even more popular over there. You could cut down the most hard-hitting segments and make YouTube shorts, record some episodes while streaming live, or give advertising a go and grow your listenership from YouTube.
Just 17% of shows create accompanying videos and only 10% go live, but it could unlock a significant revenue stream. Put each track over a still image, or better still film your interviews, then tick to run ads on your channel and collect the winnings. Gain YouTube subscribers and let your podcast listeners know they can also find you on YouTube. Increase your chances of being found in more places and funnel everyone in through the same path. This strategy might be one you run alongside another monetization method.
6. Ask for donations
The final suggestion is to ask your audience for donations. While not a regular and reliable source of income, you might think it can’t hurt. Until you have a finalised course or sponsorship offering, this might allow you to test the waters with your listeners propensity to part with their cash. You’re simply enabling those listeners who are willing and able to support what you’re doing.
Add a donate button onto your site and let your listeners choose what they give, then mention it in episodes. Remind listeners of the free value they are receiving and ask them to donate the price of a cup of coffee. This final method of monetizing your podcast is not for everyone, and you might not enjoy feeling like a charity. If you can get over your pride, however, it might work for you. Many shows are monetized via donations alone and some use Patreon to collect monthly ones.
There are countless ways to monitor your podcast with enough creative thinking, but here are my top six. Secure sponsorship, create a community, upsell one-to-one access, create and sell courses, repurpose to YouTube or ask for donations. Perhaps you find one and stick to it, perhaps you make a combination work. Perhaps you ask your listeners what they would most like to buy from you and use that to determine what you create. You’ve been adding value to your audience for a long time, so don’t feel uncomfortable about being remunerated.