According to The Infinite Dial, more than one-third of Americans ages 12 and up are regular podcast listeners. Since the inception of podcasts in 2004, podcast awareness and listening have drastically risen through the years. More people are tuning in to their favorite episodes of voice-only entertainment.
The mainstream popularity of podcasts has allowed tens of thousands of creators to share their stories, share the news, talk about critical issues, and paint pictures with their words. Much of this creation is possible through monetization — earning money off every podcast episode.
Unfortunately, creating a podcast isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Most of the top-earning podcasts have been around for years and took a while to start making even a modest income. So while it is possible to make money as a podcast host, it can take some time before seeing any income.
Don’t let this deter you, though. Producing podcasts has a lot of upsides, with a few downsides. However, if you’re determined to make money from your podcast, you can follow these tips to get started.
How Podcasts Make Money: Direct Support From the Podcast Audience
One of the easiest ways for your podcast to make money is to set up an option for your fans to support your efforts directly. Most podcasts use this option, especially in the beginning, when advertisers aren’t interested in their small numbers. There are a variety of websites that you can use to collect funds from your die-hard fans, and you might be surprised by how many people donate to your podcast.
It’s challenging for a brand-new podcast to earn money, so don’t be scared to ask for donations. Running a regular podcast isn’t free, and your supporters realize that. You can include an outro at the end of every podcast to ask for donations and name the podcast website where they can give the money.
How To Get Direct Support
- Patreon: Patreon is a database of creators who ask for direct support from their fans. You can set up options for one-time donations or monthly memberships that include exclusive content.
- Kickstarter: Kickstarter is one of the most popular crowdfunding websites out there. You can set up an account for your podcast and offer exclusive content as a reward for donations. While Kickstarter is a great option for a lot of reasons, it does have downsides. There are thousands of podcasts trying to get funding on the site, and countless examples of podcasts have failed to reach any of their goals. So ensure you do extensive marketing.
Complementary Products and Merchandise
Direct support is the best way to start making money early on, but if your podcast is past the beginning stages and you already have a following, you can add to your direct support campaign. One popular option is adding complementary products, such as publishing an eBook, offering an online course, or any other service. If you haven’t already written an eBook on your topic or developed a course to teach what you know, you should consider doing that now for an additional podcast revenue stream.
If complementary products aren’t something you’re interested in, another option is selling podcast merchandise. Most of the biggest podcasts sell related merchandise, like coffee mugs with their podcast name printed on them, or maybe a recurring slogan or joke on a hoodie.
How To Sell Merchandise To Make Money From a Podcast
- Shopify: If you have manufactured merchandise or make your own, you can set up a store through Shopify to sell the products to your fans. Shopify comes at a yearly cost, which can get substantial, depending on which package you choose. However, if you have a sizable fan base, it might be worth your time to set up a store and market your products through your podcast.
- SpreadShop: SpreadShop is a print-on-demand merchandise service. Unlike Shopify, you don’t need to have ready-made products. Instead, you design a customized site on SpreadShop and list merchandise. When you make a sale, SpreadShop prints your design on the product and mails it directly to the customer for you. You don’t earn the full cost of the item, but SpreadShop lists that sellers earn an average of $25 for T-shirts, hoodies, and mugs.
Not-for-profit podcasts can apply for and use grant money to fund their endeavors. The grant money comes from various foundations, and you can typically find a foundation that aligns with your subject area and the goal of your podcast.
However, while grant money can help you start or extend your podcast reach, it typically comes with strings attached. The foundation will likely require that you post a certain number of podcasts that feature specific topics and that you keep track of your spending.
Examples of foundations that give grants to podcasts or have in the past include:
- Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: 200 grants per year for podcasts that are “in support of research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics.”
- National Endowment for the Humanities: Maximum award amount of $1 million for podcasts that “engage general audiences with humanities ideas in creative and appealing ways.”
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Open opportunities for a “wide array of research and initiatives to help address some of America’s most pressing health challenges.”
Advertising and Sponsorships
Podcast advertising and sponsorships are the most lucrative ways to make money with a podcast. Unfortunately, they aren’t easy to get. It would help if you had a significant following and thousands of downloads per episode to get and maintain sponsorships.
Direct response advertisements are the most popular form of ads on podcasts. With a direct response ad, you give your listeners a code or URL they can use to get a discounted product from the advertiser. These ads have high success rates on podcasts, which means you can charge a high price for them.
Most creators sell their ad spots in three places: pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll. The pre-roll is about 15 seconds before the start of the podcast, where you introduce a product or service. The mid-roll is an average of 60 seconds in the middle, where you go into greater detail about the product or service. The post-roll is 15 to 30 seconds at the end, where you deliver a call to action (CTA) asking your listeners to do something that the advertiser wants, like going to a website to buy the product or service.
As a successful podcast host, you can capitalize on affiliate sales to make more money. Affiliate sales are similar to sponsorships. But instead of getting paid by the number of downloads, you make money by selling another company’s product.
The company you partner with pays you money for each sale. Audible has a popular affiliate program that podcasters and YouTubers use. Audible provides you with a special affiliate link to promote. When someone uses the link, you get credit for the sale and make $15.
How Do Podcasts Make Money: Sponsorships
- Networks: A podcast network is a group of podcasts that are produced, distributed, and then made available to different advertisers through a network company. Podcast networks have a lot of benefits, helping you with hosting and promotion, but they also come with significant drawbacks like taking a cut of your earnings.
- Hosting Services: A podcast hosting platform is great for showcasing your podcast. Hosting services (like the ones Apple podcasts partner with) have benefits like in-house advertising programs and downsides similar to networks — the service takes a cut of your earnings.
- Pitching on Your Own: If you want more money, there is a third option. It involves striking out on your own and finding your podcast sponsor without a network or hosting service. This is a more challenging route to take, but you keep complete control of the advertising process, and you also keep all the advertising revenue. You can get your own podcast sponsors by doing research on the best advertisers for what you talk about and then developing a pitch to entice them.
Once you have some traction in gaining an audience and are growing a large fan base, you can try tapping into other markets for increased revenue. Try hosting a live stream on Twitch or posting videos of the podcast taping to YouTube. You can attract a broader audience by posting content into more than one market, and you can also get different advertisements on YouTube and Twitch videos than you can on podcasts.