If you want a successful, profitable podcast, you need to know your audience and what they want. Start with imaginary listeners, then use social media and statistics to get a real sense of what they value.
Provide that value professionally and consistently. From there, use their loyalty to your brand to reach your goals.
Before I illustrate three ways to make money through a podcast, let me give you a word of warning.
When you’ve put so much effort into your podcast and you’re giving your audience consistent value, they’ll keep coming back again and again. That means it’s easy to monetise your podcast, right?
If you are starting a podcast with the sole idea of monetising it, you won’t go far at all. Why? Because you need to first remember that what you are trading, before anything else, is time.
What your audience is giving you first and foremost is their time, and without that time, those listeners, you do not have a show in the first place.
I am reiterating this because until you have a clear USP, a great show idea, an amazing structure you can follow you will struggle to create a show that stands out from the crowd.
There are a few cases where you may start a sponsored podcast – which means you’ll already have a deal before you even start your show.
However, even in this instance, your podcast needs to perform in order for you to be able to keep up with the partnership in itself.
Monetise your podcast via sponsorships and ads
One of the easiest ways to monetise a podcast is through ads and sponsorships.
Let me talk about ads first. Ads can either be native or non-native. Native ads are designed to feel like a natural part of the show. Non-native ads are obvious commercial breaks. The latter generally only works if your audience is large enough to interest advertisers.
Regardless of the type of ads, you’ll probably be looking at having to do a lot of audience research to “sell” your audience to the right advertisers. Anything from your audience’s interests, all the way to demographics and location are key for potential advertisers.
You can use your statistics here to find a good fit. This is important because if the product targets a different age group or location from that of the majority of your listeners, the advertisement won’t work, and the advertiser won’t stick around long.
A lot more brands these days are looking to create their own podcast, or flat out sponsor a full season or even a whole show.
This in itself has its pros and cons. Sponsored shows created as a partnership with a brand are a double-edged sword as they may limit your creativity – it also means that if your sponsor decides to discontinue the partnership, the show may be over.
You can also look for sponsors after your show is aired, and have one to three companies on rotation for native-style ads throughout your episodes.
One more option to monetise your podcast is to join platforms like Open Acast that allow you to sponsor your podcasts through their marketplace. This could save a lot of obvious back-and-forth with multiple companies.
Exclusive podcast content and subscriptions
A common approach with creatives to monetise a podcast is asking your audience to pay you directly for your content. Take Patreon, a subscription service that can provide content producers with a steady and predictable income.
In return for their monthly donations, listeners receive special rewards like merchandise or access to special content.
This model has allowed many people to quit their jobs and become full-time podcasters and can work for creatives who may not be looking to align with a brand or company in particular. One of the biggest red flags in this model are obviously the types of rewards you can offer through your subscription.
I am a firm believer in the subscription model, as we have run a membership ourselves for the past 6 years. Most likely because of that, I am increasingly aware of the amount of work subscription and exclusive content require.
A lot of podcasters have been using the reactive approach to monetising their podcast, through which they started a podcast and subsequently used it to promote their own courses, services, or even book launches – BCast specialises in this type of cross-promotion specifically.
This has been the main model we have used in the past for a variety of content marketing avenues. We still do this to some extent to be very honest, as it works really well with very simple calls to action.
Especially for book authors, it can be a great way to lead up to launch and can harness the power of a completely different audience.
Podcasters such as Tim Ferris, Lewis Howes and entrepreneur Marie Forleo have done this in a multitude of ways before.
Your monetising goals
It’s time to layout your financial podcast goals. You may actually come to the end of this piece and think
Sod it, I just want to bring awareness to my brand
That is totally fine, as long as your listeners grow, your audience is engaged and you can see it becoming a key asset of your brand, I am going to be your biggest cheerleader.
If you are looking to monetise your show, start asking the right questions.
Are you looking to generate direct income from online sales, for example? Or are you playing the long game and looking for leads toward future sales? Perhaps you simply want to promote your brand without any direct, measurable financial benefit.
And remember: a good podcast has a symbiotic relationship with its audience. Communities emerge around your brand, and that’s a tremendously valuable asset for any business.
Take time to see what works
After we finished season one of the Make an Impact Show, I took a long break to rebrand (yes, both the company and the podcast rebranded). This allowed me to think about what worked and didn’t, and look at our audience overall.
We use BCast to host our podcast – it’s easy to distribute and upload, yet, the statistics it provides are incredibly valuable.
Knowing your audience will help you stay on topic and engaged. Statistics tell you not only how many people downloaded your show, but where they’re from and what app or distribution platform they’re using.
How large is your audience? Is it growing? Shrinking? In what countries? On what devices? Did certain topics or guests lead to a spike in traffic?
I love having a look at the most successful episodes, as it helps me understand what people are looking for from our show.
Some services track not just downloads, but how far into individual episodes listeners made it.
Obviously, social media traction is yet another great way to see the traction your show got from your audience. Making it easy for your audience to share key learnings and their favourite episodes helps with virality.
Time of reflection is also a great time to come up with new ideas.
If you want to be the go-to source for your niche, you need to keep your finger on the pulse. That means searches, social engagement, and analytics. Knowing your audience means listening to them. Knowing your area means studying and learning. Is the new topic a bit over your head? Bring in an expert to talk about it.
Putting it all together
As I said, the first season of the Make an Impact Show was great, but I felt I was missing something. By taking the time to look at our audience’s behaviour I was able to truly head back to the key goal of our podcast, which falls into the category of brand awareness and discoverability.
Once I knew that, I was then able make sure the podcast would attract similar people to our current audience, that it would have the right mix of content to keep listeners come back.
I hope this guide was useful for you to take the next steps towards producing an amazing show – for more ideas on how to launch, check out our 12-week podcast launch plan.
My name is Fab Giovanetti and I am a writer, author, marketing consultant, founder of the Creative Impact Group and professional troublemaker. I help people grow their online audience and monetise their content and unleash their potentials as creatives.