It’s no secret that the podcast industry has blown up in recent years, and it’s only going to continue growing exponentially in the near future. The industry is expected to surpass $2 billion over the next two years, which goes to show there’s never been a better time to get in on the action.
With a $2 billion price tag attached to it, the podcasting world is evidently a lucrative business to get into. But how are all these entrepreneurs, creators and corporations cashing in on the podcasting biz, exactly?
For one thing, podcast advertising is a massive market. In February 2022, the top three advertisers in podcasting were BetterHelp, HelloFresh and Athletic Greens. BetterHelp spent $7,883,000, HelloFresh spent $3,137,000, and ZipRecruiter spent $2,613,000, which should give you a sense of just how much cash is flowing in the world of podcasting at any given time.
Podcast ad slots can cost advertisers a pretty penny, with most of them selling on a CPM basis, meaning “cost per mille” or per 1,000 listeners. The industry standard for these ad slots can range anywhere from $18 to $50 CPM, which can get pricey when it comes to shows that are high in certified downloads.
In any case, there’s money to be made in the podcasting world. Let’s dig into some of the most common and accessible monetization strategies for podcasters today.
A great way to monetize your podcast or your entire brand, for that matter, is to partner with other brands to help promote their products or services through your content. Of course, there’s a fine art to this, and some podcasters have a more refined style than others.
It’s all about working the brand mention into your show in a subtle and believable way so your listeners don’t feel like they’re listening to an ad, but rather an actual recommendation from a friend.
But let’s cross that bridge when you come to it: first, how do you land the brand sponsorships anyway? Here are a few different avenues you can take to get there:
Once you’ve amassed a solid following on social media and a certain number of downloads on your podcast, you may be able to work with an influencer agency to help you land brand sponsorships and work out the logistics of contracts, payments and more.
Otherwise, you can also try approaching the brands you genuinely love yourself to ask them about potentially working together in the future. They may say no, but they may also say yes, too, so it’s worth a try. Either way, you may receive insights into how you should pitch your podcast in the future or the type of brands that you should be approaching.
Once you find your voice and unique niche through your podcast and overall brand, the companies that are aligned with the topics you discuss may begin to approach you about working together. Above all, remember to stay authentic, be patient and keep building your brand consistently over time.
As we’ve already mentioned, advertising represents a massive chunk of the podcast monetization game. In general, there are two different types of podcast ads:
A host-read ad is exactly what it sounds like: an ad slot that’s read by the host of the podcast. Typically, a brand will send a podcaster a sample of their product or service, and the host of the podcast will draft a short testimonial about the product to be read during the episode.
On the other hand, dynamically-inserted ads are ad spots that are recorded separately from the podcast episode by a voice actor or someone else who isn’t the podcast host. This is often referred to as the “creative,” and it’s inserted into the podcast episode during the post-production phase.
There are several ways to work with advertisers and make money off your show. One of the easiest ways to sell ad spots on your podcast is by applying to join an advertising network.
Most of these networks have a minimum requirement for listeners, downloads, etc., so you’ll want to make sure you’ve grown your audience to a solid place before you apply. Here are some of the best podcast advertising networks to check out:
Many podcasters and creative types are completely averse to the idea of selling ad spots since they believe it could take away from the quality of the content (although we disagree). If you feel this way, then a private membership group or platform may be one of the best ways for you to monetize your brand.
If you’ve built a devoted and loyal fanbase by offering compelling content that helps people in some way, whether that’s by providing advice, information or just entertainment, there’s a good chance they’ll pay a small fee to access your content each month. You could move all your content to a paid platform, or just bonuses, extras and special product offerings like courses or eBooks.
To do this, you could try one of the following options:
Create your own private membership platform.
Again, if you’re all about having 100% creative control over your brand, then it could be worth the added cost to work with an app or web developer to create a private membership platform that’s completely customized to your brand, style and needs. Once it’s up and running, you’ll charge subscribers a monthly fee to be a part of your community and gain access to special content, freebies and promotions.
With Patreon, creators have access to a turnkey solution for creating their own membership platform. Over 200,000 creators have joined Patreon as a way to monetize their business and promote their art, products or service offerings. Anyone from podcasters to writers to visual artists to reiki healers can join, and the platform only takes 5-12% of your monthly earnings as the fee for using the platform.
Other sites that can help you monetize your podcast by creating an online membership platform include Memberful, Supercast and Glow.
Another great way to monetize your podcast is to sell merchandise, products, services or really, whatever your heart desires. Once you’ve built a solid following through your podcast, you’ll be able to leverage this community by offering them tangible products and services as an extension of your brand.
Whatever you’re selling, it doesn’t necessarily have to be related to your podcast content. If you have a devoted and loyal fanbase who appreciates the authentic content you release through your podcast, there’s a good chance they’ll love the same things you love and feel compelled to purchase them through you.
Essentially, once you’ve built trust and credibility among your community, you have more freedom to experiment with new tactics and launch exciting new offerings.
Here are some ideas for products, services and merchandise you could sell via your website or even an Etsy shop:
This monetization strategy is pretty straightforward, so it’s definitely an easy way to top up your monthly income that you won’t want to miss out on.
All you have to do is upload your podcasts to YouTube, click “enable monetization” under “status and features,” and let the platform do the rest. You don’t even necessarily have to pair your podcast content with video—a simple graphic image to act as the visual aspect will do the trick. But also note, this strategy requires a very high audience volume to effectively monetize your show.
As we’ve already covered, once you’ve built a devoted and loyal fanbase and increased your brand exposure, the world is pretty much your oyster as far as monetization strategies go. Having a popular online platform is a great way to land other opportunities you may not otherwise have access to.
If you’ve amassed a solid amount of listeners, downloads and followers through your podcast, don’t be shy—take advantage of your newfound fame by leveraging other opportunities in your community and abroad. Some examples may include:
If people like listening to your podcast, chances are, they’ll pay to see you speak live and in-person at conferences, events and more.
Another way to take advantage of your podcast fame is to hold events related to your field or industry like cooking classes, tarot card readings, or fundraisers.
As we’ve already noted, selling products and services such as coaching, teaching, healing techniques and more is a great way to monetize, depending on your skills and expertise.
Holding private webinars and classes online through Zoom or another video conferencing service allows you to reach a much broader audience base than in-person events by giving you a chance to communicate with people all over the world in real time.
When it’s all said and done, sometimes the simplest way to make money is to just ask for it. Many creators today will simply ask their followers and community to donate money through their brand’s website, GoFundMe or a similar platform so they can keep their business going and raise funds for things like new podcasting equipment.
This is a pretty pure, simple and honest way to make money, so it’s another great option if you’re advertising-averse. #AskAndYouShallReceive.
Mackenzie Patterson is the Senior Producer & Content Strategist at Quill Inc, and a Toronto-based writer, and journalist. She's always exploring the latest movies, TV shows and wellness trends.