Listening To Some Good Stuff: 3 Popular Ways of Monetizing Podcasts
Let’s talk about podcasts, shall we?
In 2004, Adam Curry and Dave Winer coded a program to download internet radio podcasts to their iPods. This momentous instance would mark the dawn of the podcast era.
And in 2005, as Apple entered the market, Steve Jobs called out podcasts to become the future of audio.
Prophetic, if anything.
To say that podcasts have been a game changer when it comes to consuming information and disseminating information would be an understatement.
The audio format ensures that for the most part, the listener is able to multi-task. Coupled with the fact that most podcasts focus on niche-specific topics ensures that there is almost certainly a podcast for anyone and everyone out there.
For instance, My Favorite Murder, one of the most followed podcasts out there, hosted by comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark pulls in 19 million listeners a week and is a must for true crime aficionados, much like myself.
Consider this as well: revenues from podcast advertising alone are projected to hit $679 million by the end of 2019, and $1 billion by 2021.
What's the takeaway from these kind of numbers then?
Monetizing a podcast can be quite a profitable venture. And there happen to be a few ways you can get around to doing just that.
This one's a no-brainer.
Most YouTube channels and Instagram influencers are sponsored by every kind of brand or organization these days. It makes sense then that podcasters would eventually be tapping into this revenue strategy.
To be fair, there was a point of time where no one seriously thought about blockbuster sponsorship deals for podcasts. But all of that changed with the arrival of Serial in 2014.
Hosted by Sarah Koenig, it was the fastest podcast to reach 5 million downloads and streams on iTunes. The first season was a runaway hit, concerning host Koenig's investigation into the murder of a young woman a decade and a half prior. Such was the podcast's popularity that even celebrities like Chris Pine and Jason Sudeikis got around to dissecting the minute aspects of the case.
As it approached its third season, Serial had struck a deal with ZipRecruiter that would, in effect, be counted among the biggest podcast sponsorship deals ever.
There usually is a process behind a successful sponsorship deal. And it begins with....
Finding the Right Sponsor
Potential sponsors are constantly on the lookout for up and coming projects to invest in. Most sponsors are looking out for an audience whose interests would preferably align with theirs.
This American Life (TAL), Serial's parent podcast which began as part of Chicago's public radio scene in the nineties, has among its sponsors for different episodes ranging from quip, a company that makes electronic toothbrushes to Capital One's Walmart Rewards Card, giving access to cash backs on purchases made at the retail giant.
Considering that TAL focuses on the sort of slice of life depiction of events in the American heartland, it's a smart move to have sponsors whose products can be used by the average American in their every day lives.
Figuring Out The Placement
Once you have locked in your sponsors, you need to figure out what kind of ad you should go for and more importantly where you should place it.
There are live read ads, which are basically the podcaster introducing the sponsor's support or their products in the duration of the show. The best thing about these ads is that they feel natural, and in tone with the rest of the podcast. They differ from recorded ads, which can be considered as ads in the traditional sense.
Then there is the placement. You have a choice between pre-roll ads (found at the beginning of the podcast), mid-roll ads (found most commonly at the halfway point, and the most expensive of the three) and the post -roll ads (found at the conclusion of the podcast).
You can experiment with the different forms of ads with varying levels of success. The key, as always, is to be different.
If you used to listen to Serial back in 2014, you would have gotten to hear a recorded ad in the form of a MailChimp advertisement that preceded each episode. The rustic and (almost) unscripted feel of the ad made it go viral, helped by the fact that the subject of the podcast itself was extremely compelling.
In the end, both Serial and Mailchimp were winners.
A sponsorship deal is quite profitable. But by no means should the podcaster consider to sticking to a single source of income.
Think about this: even after the success of their debut season, Sarah Koenig appealed to Serial's followers to support them for the next season.
Which brings us to another popular monetizing method.
Accepting Support From Your Followers
I must admit, I am pretty new to the podcasting scene, and it took me a couple of hundred hours of listening through several podcasts to get a sense of the medium.
The first thing that made an impression upon me was the sense of camaraderie that is created by the host, almost leading you to think that you are listening and taking part in a conversation about a topic that you are interested in. Which brings me to an important point.
The success of the podcast lies, for a large part, in the presence of a highly engaged audience.
The engaged audience in question, can often consist of people who listen to at least 7 shows a week on average.
It stands to reason then, that the people who are avid listeners would want to, in some small way, do their part in contributing something to their favorite podcasts.
There are several platforms which can help podcasters in such an endeavor, one of the most notable among them, being Patreon, where followers can pledge monthly subscriptions to a creator, and earn rewards through subscribing through several tiers of monetized value, where subscribers can also gain access to exclusive content.
And while Patreon may lead the pack when it comes to this sort of service, there are some people who may get turned off with the idea of monthly subscriptions.
The good news is you don't have to look far for an alternative.
Buy Me A Coffee is a free, simple and creator friendly platform which can fulfill your requirements.
An Easy Way to Get Support
People say that time is money. So it's probably good news that creating a Buy Me A Coffee profile takes less than 5 minutes.
All you need is a Facebook/Google account, or an email for signing up. Set up your preferred method of payment and voila, your page is live.
A Chance to Thank Your Favorite Creators
Buy Me A Coffee allows your supporters the ability to make one - time donations as well as monthly subscriptions, which means your followers are not encumbered by the demands of patronage.
Support can never be limited to money. And for this very reason, you have the opportunity of leaving encouraging messages for your favorite creators, to which they can respond to as well.
An Opportunity for Creators to Give More
Say you want to sell some exclusive merch to your followers. Fret not, for creators have the ability to publish lockable/exclusive content on their profile page, which can be accessed only by their supporters.
As Simple As It Needs to Be
A cluttered up UI turns off most people before they even get going. Luckily, with its elegant and user-friendly interface, Buy Me A Coffee makes it simple for users to navigate across various platforms, including smartphones and desktops.
Creators can also utilize a range of payment methods, including PayPal and Stripe. Your followers, can then use these methods, along with all major credit cards, Google Pay and Apple Pay for supporting you.
Support from followers helps in creating a more engaged and active audience. And most importantly, goes a long way to keep the podcast afloat.
Hosting Live Events
The live event is an opportunity that can create a sense of community that goes beyond the pale of a conventional digital following.
Entrepreneur Chris Marr, for instance, speaks about the experience of hosting a live event as one in which a brand's customers got a chance to connect with each other in a unique way, and were able to create something special for them.
Unlike your normal podcast, with a carefully thought out (or written) structure for the duration of the show, the best thing about hosting a live event is that it is liable to be dynamic.
Which means that there is room for some good old 'improv.'
Planning Out All the Details
To be quite honest, the success of the live event depends on how well you have planned the entire show, which also happens to be the biggest challenge in this kind of endeavor.
To explain this point better, let's look at an example.
Slate was one of the first online news outlets to jump on the podcast scene, and now they happen to have a thriving live events business, hosting around 25 shows a year all over the United States.
Faith Smith, Slate Live's executive producer explains, there are a million different things to take into consideration for a live show, including logistics to the content of the show.
Other checklists would include promoting the event on social media, acquiring quality microphones and speakers, creating the proper ambiance for the audience, rehearsing and re-rehearsing in the live context and so on.
Planning would also encompass ticket pricing for entry and striking deals with existing or new sponsors for promoting the event.
Bear in mind though, to not get carried away with extravagant rates and revenue generated from these events.
The most important thing is to make a connection with the audience; as Faith Smith says, the live event is meant for galvanizing and building a relationship with your loyal followers.
Onward and Upward
Interestingly, people have started making more time for listening to podcasts than any other form of social media. And it's probably because there's something that sets podcasts apart from the rest of social media.
For instance, in My Favorite Murder, two good friends simply sit together and talk about crimes. I mean, it's something people would do in real life.
There's a sea change on the horizon when it comes to changing the way that people present opinions and tell stories, and podcasts are going to be at the forefront of this.
The enterprising podcaster, therefore, has on their hands a great opportunity, as well as a great responsibility (I believe I just ruined the infamous quote from Spider-Man).
In any case, this is me, signing off.