John Lee Dumas launched Entrepreneurs on Fire as a daily podcast in September 2012. Today, this award-winning podcast boasts a monthly revenue of over $250,000.
Incredible, isn’t it?
Producing podcasts is serious work. From brainstorming exciting content ideas and working on the script to recording and launching it – every episode demands meticulous planning.
Considering the time, money, and effort being put in, the only logical step forward is monetizing your podcast. When you implement your monetization strategy well, there can be no stopping you from making big bucks from podcasting.
However, let’s get one thing straight – before deciding to monetize it, you need to build a loyal audience base because your podcast is nothing without dedicated listeners. So, if you are a podcast beginner, spend time releasing quality content and appealing to new listeners first. Get a gist of the medium and learn what kind of content works and does not work for you.
After you feel you have created valuable work and have a considerable amount of people downloading your episodes, you can consider taking the next step.
In this article, we will share 11 different ways to monetize your podcast.
1. Affiliate Marketing
Like a product or service a lot? You can make money promoting another company’s product or service on your podcast. You need to direct listeners to an ‘affiliate link’ or code, and every time someone takes action on it; you get paid – that’s affiliate marketing for you.
Does that mean you can join any affiliate program and keep getting paid? Well, that’s not it works. You want to promote products that are relevant to your podcast topic. If your listeners constitute of college students, you should not be offering them an affiliate product or service related to working professionals.
Here are some useful tips while monetizing your podcast with affiliate marketing:
• You need to offer or talk about something relevant to your audience and will be of interest to them otherwise; you will come across as spammy.
• When you choose to promote other products or services on your channel, you are endorsing it. Hence, be very careful about what you decide to promote. Your audience has instilled trust in you, and you must value that above anything else.
• When it comes to inserting affiliate promotions, you should strive to be creative and seed it in such that it appears natural and genuine. While you can say, “buy XYZ’s virtual reality products,” what you should do instead is share personal experiences using that particular product to make it appealing and drive action.
• The success of affiliate marketing programs depends on how many people take action so ensure you make the process extremely simple for them.
Don’t know where to get started? Here are some affiliate programs you can explore:
• Affiliate Window
Apart from checking these programs out, the best way to find affiliate products or services in your niche is by searching for the following phrases on Google.
• keyword/niche + “affiliate program”
• keyword/niche + “become an affiliate”
2. Sponsorship Opportunities
Have you ever come across the line, “This podcast is brought to you by…”? Have you heard a radio or podcast host endorsing another product or service on his/her podcast? These are indicators that sponsorship arrangements are in place. Similar to advertising on TV or publishing an ad in the newspaper – inserting ads in podcasts is a traditional advertising method that is commonly used to generate revenue.
Brands/companies pay you a fee for running their ad on your channel. More often than not, companies decide rates with a CPM (Cost Per Mile) basis, which means you receive a specific amount for every 1,000 listeners.
Considering that 75% of listeners take action on ads in podcasts, selling ad space on your channel has massive potential. What’s more, it does not require any investment from your side.
The 2 main types of podcast ads are:
• Host-read ads – read by the host, these are organically seeded in the content
• Pre-recorded announcements – these are recorded by a third party and are played by the host
While host-read ads are part of the episode, you should dynamically insert pre-recorded announcements, which means it can be added anywhere within the content as you see fit.
There are three slots to place podcast advertisements – pre-roll (before the episode begins), mid-roll (in the middle of the podcast episode, usually during a break or before an important part) and post-roll (at the end).
The slot is decided based on listener engagement at the various stages. Mid-roll is considered to be the most expensive because it accounts for the highest engagement level.
The key to getting sponsorship is to build a community of engaged listeners. Advertisers will want to know how many subscribers you have and how engaged your listeners are. It’s always a good idea to work on a media kit and keep it updated.
You don’t have to wait for companies to approach you. You can also explore advertising agencies and networks (given below) for opportunities:
• True Native Media
• Ad Results Media
3. Create Premium Content
Your podcast might be free to listen to, but everything you offer within it need not be necessarily free.
As your podcast grows, there is an opportunity to introduce premium content to your listener base. Premium content means giving listeners access to certain content pieces for a fee is referred to as premium content.
While most of your content can be made available to everyone, an example of premium content is that you can offer specific episodes such as ad-free, bonus episodes (e.g., featuring an esteemed guest) as ‘premium content’. Those who pay the fee will have access to this content.
Other ways to introduce premium content is via online courses or an “insider” email list.
In a nutshell, everything categorized as premium content needs to be exclusive and valuable – that’s the only way people will agree to pay for it.
You can either manage premium content manually or get onto an automated network.
In the manual option, you can set up password-protected podcast feeds. People who subscribe to that feed can access it by entering the password. The manual option works well if you have a small set of audience.
For automated premium podcasts, you can join a network that offers premium podcasting such as Stitcher Premium and Luminary, among others.
You can also integrate it with your podcast hosting if you already have a subscription plan.
4. Develop an Online Course
So you have a dedicated set of listeners who enjoy tuning in to your podcast to hear you speak, to seek advice, and of course, get entertained. They value what you have to say and most importantly, they trust you.
How about leveraging the trust they have instilled in you and make their listening experience even more worthwhile? You can do this by producing an online course and offer it to them for a fee.
You’ll need to come up with a topic that would interest them and within your area of expertise. The best way to know what your audience wants to learn more about is to ask them.
You can also conduct keyword research on Google and check bulletin boards like Reddit and Quora to understand what challenges people face and identify gaps in a particular domain.
Once you have narrowed down on a topic, design the course material. Remember – as people will be paying for it, they need to derive immense value from it and consider it to be worth it.
So, create an online course in the form of a video, audio, or downloadable eBook or PDF. Keep it engaging and valuable, and charge a small fee to see the response it gets.
You can also release a small portion of the course for free to give them an idea of the content and ask interested listeners to pay and enroll in the class.
Creating an online course takes time and effort. Make sure you market it on other channels such as your website, blog, and social media channels to increase your online course sales.
Some useful tools you can use to create the course are:
5. Charge a Subscription Fee
Think services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zipcar, and Spotify.
Get the gist? Good.
What stops you from adopting the subscription model and charging your listeners a subscription fee? It can be a nominal fee. Listeners pay a reasonable price to listen to your podcast, and you get recurring income – it’s a win-win situation for both parties.
Image via Behind The Break
An excellent way to lure new listeners into paying a subscription fee is to offer the first few episodes for free or share a 5-10 minute teaser, so listeners know what’s in store for them.
6. Accept Donations
If you are someone who wants to keep your podcast ad-free and refuses to charge a fee, the only way you could make money from your podcast is by asking for donations.
Don’t hesitate to ask for donations – it is okay to turn to your listeners for support. While asking for donations, be upfront about it. Share your goals with them, such as upgrading your podcast equipment or growing your podcast. Some of your loyal listeners might even agree to donate to show their support.
So, how does this work?
The two common platforms you can use to accept donations are:
Image via Patreon
A trusted and easy-to-use service, Patreon allows you to set up a monthly billing system and get recurring payments. You can also set up rewards and levels wherein you can thank them with a small token, for their contribution. Patreon will charge you a service fee for managing this.
If you do not want to pay service fees and want to manage this process yourself, you can accept donations via PayPal. All you have to do is create an account and add the PayPal button on your website. Listeners can send one-time donations or send recurring ones by clicking on the Recurring Donation button.
Once you have set up either one of the accounts to accept donations, the next step is informing your listeners.
You can tell listeners about it during your shows, include the link on your social media page, website, and podcast description or send an email to your listeners, encouraging them to donate.
Got a donation? It’s always a good idea to do a shout-out on the show, thanking the person. It shows your appreciation and also inspires others to follow suit. You can also send across a small token of appreciation to show your gratefulness.
7. Host Live Events
If you are running a podcast that has a considerable number of loyal listeners, one thing is for sure – you are an excellent communicator and have the ability to engage people.
How about leveraging this clout to host a live event and making money in the process?
Think about it – after intently listening to you speak, your audience would love to come to see you in person if you ever plan to host a live event.
As per Vivid Seats, an independent online ticket marketplace, the number of events that have sold based on podcasts has increased by over 2000% during the past six years as hosts have been able to cash in on the intimate relationship they develop with listeners.
The event topic can be related to your expertise. You can conduct a workshop, host a panel discussion, or call notable experts from the same field and interview them. The idea is to line up an exciting event in an area well-suited to most of your listeners for people to pay for the ticket and turn up.
Remember – talking to a live audience is very different from recording a podcast. Make sure you plan the event well and have a rough script ready. It’s also a good idea to do a dress rehearsal at the venue. If your first event goes well, you can do this regularly.
If the thought of going up on stage is making you nervous, you can also host online events or virtual summits wherein you can line up exciting interviews and webinars over 2-3 days and charge interested listeners.
8. Offer Consulting Services
Everyone seeks advice for something or the other – whether it’s about relationships, starting a business, productivity, mental health, working independently, achieving success in the corporate world, and whatnot.
Being someone who has established his/her expertise in a niche, you are in a position to offer consulting or coaching services to those in need and guess what, people will be happy to pay you for it too.
Start with identifying what kind of consultation are you adept at offering. Apart from announcing your services on your podcast, you should create a website wherein people can understand more about your services and rates. You can choose to do one-on-one sessions or also offer these services via Skype.
It’s a great way to leverage your skills and loyal listener base to generate additional revenue and strengthen your brand.
9. Sell Branded Merchandise
Why only sell affiliate products when you can sell your own branded merchandise and keep the profits?
Image via Higher Primate
Having a decent audience base who trusts you, they will be happy to pay for fun and quirky branded merchandise you sell.
Here are some feasible product ideas:
• Tote bags
• Phone covers
You can also ask your listeners what kind of products would they like to see and crowdfund ideas.
Now, let’s come to the designs – you can’t just be slapping your face or your podcast channel’s name on the product.
It needs to be something that resonates with your podcast or something your podcast stands for – it can be its tagline, an inside joke you share with your listeners or even a quote that was hugely appreciated.
You can use a print on demand platforms like TeePublic to sell your merchandise. All you have to do is send them your designs, and when someone shows interest, they will have it printed and sell it for you. While there is no monthly fee, they get to decide the price of the merchandise, and you get a fixed amount for every product that gets sold.
Another option is setting up an online store using Shopify and selling your designed merchandise on that platform. Shopify will manage the shopping experience and payments, and all you have to do is to get the product developed.
While this option is great for generating revenue, having listeners purchase your branded merchandise also creates a sense of community and serves as a useful marketing tool.
If you aren’t too keen about selling branded physical products, consider selling eBooks or audiobooks that would offer informational value to your listeners.
10. Create a Mastermind Group
Firstly, what is a mastermind group? It is a group of like-minded people or people sharing the same interests coming together to improve and grow together. It is usually an intimate group consisting of only 4-6 people.
Creating a mastermind group is a great way to scale your podcasting efforts and make additional money from it. Being the organizer, you can charge the other members for being part of the group and ensure they derive value from it.
The reason why most mastermind groups fail is due to the lack of consistency. Members have high expectations when they join, and you need to make it worth their time by including the right people and consistently setting up meetings and feedback sessions.
You can have virtual meetings over Slack or another collaborative channel or have regular in-person meetings.
11. Paid Guest Interviews
There will be instances when brands and PR companies might reach out to you to have you feature their spokesperson on your show. Paid arrangements like this are usually a medium for them to speak about their product or service and use your channel for marketing their brand. It’s as good as selling ad space – the only difference is that this is more conversational and organic.
While this option will raise some eyebrows, if you were to see it logically, it’s not a crime to charge guests. After all, you are giving them space on your channel and investing time and effort in hosting them and their content.
However, this option is only viable once you have achieved a certain level of success as a podcaster because guests should find your channel worthy and credible enough to pay for it.
Now you know the answer to, “Do podcasts make money?”. Yes, they do!
While you might make efforts in monetizing your podcast, what’s important is keeping your audience in the heart of everything you do. Don’t let the greed for money make you compromise on the quality and value you offer to your listeners. If anything, it should only heighten their listening experience and take your show to greater heights.
Are you inspired to start a podcast, given the monetization potential it holds? Please take a look at our Podcast Launch Checklist, which is the perfect podcast guide with essential podcasting tips to help you get started and build an audience.