How to Make Money Doing Podcasts

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Podcasting has been around in its current form since 2004 and there’re now over 1 million+ podcasts now. Many podcasters are generating money through podcasts and making a living even. This is the age of monetization where if you have enough of a following, then you can monetize virtually anything. The rise of online platforms has allowed companies and individuals to monetize basically anything that they can do.

Advertising revenue for podcasts is expected to surpass $1 billion in 2020.

There’s no lack of ways to make money doing podcasts. Various ways include affiliate marketing, sponsorship, ad placements, merchandise, eBooks, online courses, membership, and premium content.

Before we get into how to make money through the different revenue channels, let’s discuss podcasts in general first. Some people believe that podcasts won`t be able to sustain much longer in the presence of online streaming platforms but this argument doesn`t hold much weight because podcasts have their own niche and they aren’t affected by other streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix. There’s a different audience as it’s a different way to communicate being audio-only.

What is a podcast?

A podcast is like a radio show except that it isn`t live and it can be downloaded on your phone or computer. Audiences can listen to podcasts whenever you like. Podcast shows can be on any topic, just like a YouTube video can be on any topic or subject matter. Some of the most common and popular podcast topics include:

  • True Crime
  • Comedy
  • News
  • Current Affairs and Politics
  • Commentary on Shows and Movies
  • Storytelling – Fiction and Non-Fiction

Podcast topics and formats are covered more in-depth in the How to Start a Podcast step-by-step guide here.

Podcasts have been here for quite a while and so far there is no indication that they are losing market traction. In fact, the podcast industry is growing quickly as more brands start their own podcasts. Podcasts act as another marketing channel to connect with their target audiences because it’s a lower barrier of entry than other social media. People can listen to podcasts while they are driving, exercising, or doing other tasks because all you need are your ears to engage. YouTube and Netflix require both ears and eyes to be attentive. Twitter, Facebook, and blogs all require eyes to read tweets, posts, and articles. Being in a listener’s ears, podcasts are a great way to connect intimately with listeners and create a friendship and real connection.

According to Forbes the Covid-19 pandemic induced lockdowns have pushed up internet usage by almost 70%, this means that people are not only at home but they are also consuming more content and this means that more content is being demanded. The past few months have seen a surge in content on social media and while more traditional forms of income generation like brick-and-mortar retail stores have suffered, content creators have been busy this whole time, trying to cater to the demands of their followers online.

In order to monetize a podcast, you need to create have a podcast brand and a large enough fanbase if you want to make a living as a podcaster.

How to make a podcast?

You may be thinking that creating a podcast is easy – you just have to talk right? Well, yes and no. Yes, because that’s literally what you’re doing. No, because you need to plan it out, you can’t just pick up a mic and record whatever you want. In order to communicate your message across effectively you need to plan and structure your podcast properly, especially if you’re looking to monetize it. The point is to engage and share information with the audience.

There are a few things that need to be done before you can think about properly monetizing your podcasts. You need to create a brand, quality content, and have something of value to offer to customers.

Find a Niche

First, find your niche. What’s the theme of your podcast? You don’t have to pigeonhole yourself into a single topic. You can cover a lot of different areas, but you still need to develop a brand around your podcast. For example, if you are going to cover a technical topic, then you can add quality content to your podcast by inviting experts as guests. Experts will add credibility to your podcast and listeners will continue to come back to your podcast to learn.

Having a specific niche will allow you to attract a core audience. For example, if you define your niche as classic cars, then people who are into classic cars will be attracted to your podcast. If you choose a more general topic of “sports,” then you might attract people who want to hear discussions on sports. But since sports is a more general niche, it will require you to cover different types of sports since it is a very broad term and failure to do say may result in losing some followers. Or you’re not covering enough baseball or another specific sport for those specific sports fans to stick around.

Build a Brand

Once you’ve found a niche, you’ll need to start building your brand. Branding is about creating your podcast style, visual style, cover art, tagline, logo, and intro/outro to add that professional feel to your podcasts.

Branding will help you differentiate your podcast from others in the same niche. Differentiation is very important if you aim to create a community around your podcasts.

Storytelling Structure and Format

Follow a structure and format to tell the story your way, make it your style.

Be sure to communicate your message clearly. Follow the rules of effective communication. Whatever the topic is, take your time to introduce it to the audience, so that they understand it before moving into details. Build it up and use examples to make sure that whatever it is, the listeners connect with it. Effective storytelling is key here.

Next, you need to divide your podcasts into episodes so that you have a clear idea about what you will need to produce in the short term future, dividing your podcasts into episodes and knowing beforehand what you will cover in future episodes is also a great way to keep your audience engaged and waiting for the next podcast. This is also a good way to break down detailed and big topics into smaller chunks. Think about the attention span of your listeners. If you drivel about a very complicated topic for about an hour, only very dedicated listeners will stay, so it is better to break it down into chunks of 15 to 30 minutes, so that you can build upon the topic in each episode.

Delivery Mechanism

Once you have got everything ready and your podcast has been recorded, now you need to figure out how you are going to distribute it. There are 2 ways to go from here. You can either set up your own website or you can use a podcast hosting platform. There are pros and cons of both approaches.

If you have got the resources and skills to set up a website and manage it, then you can go for your own website but if you are a beginner and don’t know much about the technicalities then you can use any podcast service providers. Different service providers offer various features that also include monetization support and statistics to help you create your content in a better manner.

Let’s take a look at the various ways of how to monetize a podcast.

MONETIZING your podcast

So you have managed to set up your podcasts, you have created a brand and also have a dedicated followership. What comes next? Of course, monetization!

Affiliate Marketing

You can take different routes with monetization. The easiest way is to become an affiliate marketer. Affiliate marketing for podcasts works in a manner similar to affiliate marketing for blogs. You review a product or promote it into your podcasts. The product can be one that you personally use and like. For example, if you podcast on pets, then you can become an affiliate marketer for the dog food brand that you use for your dog. The bigger following you have, the greater the chances of getting more affiliate sales. You can provide the affiliate links on your website or in the show notes where your podcast is published. Listeners then use those links to purchase the product the affiliate link goes to and then you earn your affiliate commission. Our friends at Producerinyou.com have a great explanation of affiliate marketing if you want to learn more.

Sponsorship and Ad placements

If you have a sizeable follower base then you may also be eligible for sponsorship offers by various brands and companies. For example, NordVPN sponsors podcasts, YouTube videos, and blogs. In sponsored podcasts the hosts are required to advertise NordVPN and as an incentive, the followers of the channel or podcast can use a special link to receive exclusive discounts and promotion offers that would otherwise not be available to them. However, in order to be eligible for sponsorship deals, your podcasts need to have a certain level of quality and number of followers. These sponsorships won`t come in the beginning but they will come as you develop your listener base and deliver quality content episode after episode.

In a similar manner you can get product placements and advertisements for your podcasts.

Merchandise

Merchandising is a way to make money if you’ve created a brand and quality content. Your fans will want to purchase merchandise with your podcast’s logo because they’ve fallen for your podcast. Merchandising usually works best for the podcasts that’re able to build a community out of their listener base. Give them a sense of purpose, togetherness, and a community. The more that they feel like they’re part of a community, the more that listeners will want your merchandise.

As an example, the My Favorite Murder podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark has a huge fan base. They’re able to hold tours around the states and continually sell out. They’re able to sell merchandise well and their listeners are all called Murderinos, creating a sense of community. I do a case study look at what’s made them successful. Go check out the case study and see what you can also implement to build a fan base and make money.

eBooks and Courses

In addition to merchandise, you can offer eBooks, courses, and other educational content to your followers, depending on the nature of your podcast. If you have a podcast that is academic or technical in nature then you can offer your own ebooks or you can even deliver books to your followers.

Similarly if the content is academic, then maybe you can offer online courses to your followers on sites like Teachable. In all fairness you can offer courses on your own site if you have one and if you don`t have one then you can utilize sites like Teachable to offer specialized courses. Check out Teachable and what they have to offer on their site.

At this point, it is all about effectively expanding and diversifying your product offerings. For example, if you talk about the economy, then you can offer an Economics 101 course to new followers. You can kill two birds with one stone here. One, you’re able to give them a base financial and economic literacy that’s useful for them to get the most out of your podcast. Two, you’re making money doing that through your online courses!

Membership and Premium Content

If you think that the content you are offering is exquisite then you can set up paid membership for your site or once again if you do not want to get tangled in the web of managing a site then you can use any platform like Patreon to connect with your followers and also offer premium services to your followers who are willing to pay a little extra to access your content.  

Your success will depend on the topic and quality of your podcast content. Podcasters who run economic and financial podcasts can offer interviews with guests and investing advice as premium content for paid members. Similarly there are scientists and researchers who run podcasts and offer access to their research and professional advice for premium members.

Wrapping Up

There is a lot more that you can do to monetize your podcasts. Monetization methods are not limited to what we have mentioned here. The crux of the matter is that your podcasts need to have quality content in order to have a dedicated following and for this you will need to work on your content, what it is, and how you are going to offer it. Remember, it is not black and white. There are many podcasters who have great content, but they do not do so well because they don’t have good storytelling skills.

Also be kept in mind that for most podcasters there is a trial and error process. Don’t think that you’re going to get everything right in the first go. You’ll have to tweak your content, your promotional strategy, and your structure as you go along, using the feedback that you generate. Quality doesn’t come with great planning, it comes over time through experience and constant improvement.

So, if you are thinking about monetizing your podcasts and generating money through them, then hopefully these guidelines will help you out. Remember, trial and error. You may not get everything right at once. There is no need to get demoralized, a lot of podcasters make the mistake of quitting after a few months just because they haven’t gotten much traction yet. Success requires persistence and constant improvement.

  1. Popular Ways to Make Money Doing Podcasts

    1. Affiliate marketing
    2. Sponsorship
    3. Ad placements
    4. Merchandise
    5. eBooks and online courses
    6. Membership and premium content

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