For many, creating a podcast is something that’s done solely out of passion. But even among those who do it strictly for the love of podcasting, after awhile, once you’ve built up an audience, there comes a time when you think to yourself, “I can’t keep doing this for free.”
Such was the case with many of the people I interviewed in my 15-part series, “Making Money from Podcasting.” From a $50 donation to cover an afternoon of babysitting to a six figure sponsorship, the people I spoke to have been making anywhere from pocket change to lucrative careers from podcasting.
What follows is a compendium of nine proven money-making techniques for podcasters. All are successful to varying degrees and some podcasters use a combination of methods. This summary provides an explanation of all the techniques, and tips from the podcasters who have pulled them off. For more tips, advice, and to hear the full money making podcast story, make sure to read and listen to each the interviews linked throughout this article.
1. Got audience? We’ll get you sponsors
Podcast networks such as Mevio, Podtrac, and Wizzard Media welcome any podcaster that has an audience, because that means they can sell advertising against it. The networks collect shows, categorize them, and sell advertising on a CPM (cost per thousand) or CPA (cost per action) basis. Adam Curry, former MTV VJ, podcasting pioneer, and President of Mevio (interview), is looking for podcast producers that know their audience and can motivate them. Using either their show programming or social media, podcast producers promote show-specific coupon codes for their sponsors. Every time one is used, the podcaster gets paid. Of their network of 15,000 podcasters, Curry said he has three podcasters that will make between $500,000 to $1,000,000 this year.
Kevin Kastner of Alaska HDTV used to be a Mevio customer but left because he was unsatisfied with what he was being offered (he wasn’t willing to make a CPA deal) and the opaqueness of the deals. He had no idea how much Mevio was selling his show to advertisers. Curry said he splits all revenue 50/50 with podcasters.
2. Get your own sponsors
Kastner left Mevio (interview) because he believed he and his partner could land their own sponsors and make more money. They did, and in doing so increased revenue 200 to 300 percent, said Kastner. But he admits it has come at a serious cost: his workload has increased more than ten-fold.
Wizzard Media offers a hybrid advertising solution for podcasters that want to make more money by landing their own sponsors, yet still need the crutch of an ad network to fill out any unsold inventory. Royce Hildreth, co-producer of Pregtastic, the podcast by and for pregnant women, uses this Wizzard Media hybrid solution. For podcasters that get their own sponsors, Wizzard Media will insert the ads for a flat fee, explained Rob Walch, Wizzard’s VP of Podcaster Relations (interview) and host of the Today in iPhone podcast.
3. Be like public TV, beg for donations
Pregtastic’s Hildreth (interview) admits that the hybrid sponsorship alone isn’t cutting it, so he’s put up a begware button and instructed podcast hosts to say that the show costs a donation. He and his co-producing wife aren’t making a lot of money from donations, however. It’s usually enough to hire a babysitter for when they have to go to the studio to record another episode.
4. Give some away free, charge for the rest
This technique comes in multiple variations. One of the innovators of this technique is Don McAllister, host of ScreenCastsOnline (interview), a weekly video podcast of “how to” Mac software tutorials. McAllister gives away every other episode and makes viewers pay for the rest ($57 for the first six months) which includes additional bonus content and hi-res videos.
The formula has become his livelihood for the past three years, and it’s been copied successfully (with McAllister’s blessing) by Israel Hyman host ofIzzy Video (interview) and producer of Rolling R’s and Paperclipping.
When Hyman and McAllister first produced their podcasts they were completely free. It wasn’t until after a few years and some success that they started charging for some of their shows. Ken Ray, host of Mac OS Ken (interview), a daily podcast about Apple news, didn’t want to start charging for his free podcasts, so he created another show, “Day 6,” which can only be accessed through a paid subscription. Ray said the “Day 6″ show is designed to pay for his daily show.
Apple doesn’t allow podcasters to charge for podcasts within iTunes, so if you want to create a paid podcast, you need to use a service such asPremiumcast.com which allows you to create personalized RSS feeds, explained CEO Paul Colligan (interview). Personalized RSS feeds allow for complete control over the podcaster/subscriber relationship, allowing you to serve different content (e.g., PDFs, video, or audio) and time the distribution, plus turn off a feed if someone stops paying.
5. Partial show free, full show paid
One of my favorite podcasts, Never Not Funny, is hosted by a great comedian I knew in Chicago, Jimmy Pardo. The show is 90 minutes long, but only the first 20 minutes is available for free. If you want the rest of the show, you need to become a paid subscriber ($19.99 for a season of 26 episodes in audio, $24.99 for the season in video). Like McAllister, Hyman, and Ray, the Never Not Funny podcast didn’t begin with a paid model. Pardo and his co-host and producer Matt Belknap (interview) created 100 shows for free first, and then switched to the partial show free, full show paid model. It’s paid off. Belknap estimates that 35 percent of their total listeners are paid subscribers.
6. Build your own media network of programming and sell advertising against it
Launching a radio or television network has enormous overhead. A podcast network doesn’t. Personal Life Media is an online network of blogs and podcasts that address personal life issues such as career, love, health, and finance, explained CEO Susan Bratton (interview). Unlike podcast networks such as Mevio and Wizzard Media which are just collecting a mishmash of programming, Personal Life Media behaves like a radio network that controls its programming and its overall brand. With her lineup of forty programs, Bratton can sell advertising packages by specific category that get from 100,000 to 250,000 downloads per month.
Unlike Bratton’s Personal Life Media, ESPN didn’t have to start from scratch when creating its podcast network, ESPN Podcenter; they already had a brand and a radio station. When they first began podcasting five years ago, they repurposed some radio content for the web, but soon learned that it was more effective to create original podcast programming. Now with a lineup of more than 100 podcasts, ESPN sells integrated sponsor packages across multiple media that can include advertiser images that appear on the show’s icon within iTunes’ podcast directory, said Marc Horine, VP of Digital Media at ESPN (interview).
7. Build your brand to sell your services
Marketing and digital technology coach John Jantsch is the host of the“Duct Tape Marketing” podcast (interview) which is also the name of his book and his consultancy. In his early days of podcasting, when he was a complete unknown, Jantsch would request interviews from well known social media types like Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin. Having them on his podcast raised his profile. Since, his consulting business has increased 500 percent and is now landing him six-figure sponsorships repeatedly, said Jantsch.
Mike Auzenne, co-host of the Manager Tools podcast (interview), doesn’t charge for his podcast or take any sponsorship money. He just focuses on delivering great advice and actionable tips to be a better manager. The four-year podcast trust building exercise is working. All of Manager Tools’ clients come from hearing him on the podcast first, and as a result business has increased ten-fold, said Auzenne.
8. Sell an iPhone app along with your podcast
Elsie Escobar is the host of the podcast Elsie’s Yoga Class Live and Unplugged (interview) which is simply an audio recording of her yoga classes. Though the podcast is distributed completely for free, she’s just starting to make money with a $3.99 iPhone application. The application, developed by Wizzard Media and available to any podcaster on a revenue share basis, lets Escobar and anyone else offer value add content for their podcast. Escobar uses it to add PDFs of routine sequences and quick access to 70 of her past yoga classes. It’s an ideal platform to be on since Wizzard Media’s podcast metrics show that 85 percent of people download podcasts through iTunes. Combine that with the 50 million iPhones and iPod Touches sold and you’ve got yourself a strong podcasting platform, said Wizzard Media’s Rob Walch.
9. Integrate sponsorship with the show’s editorial
Digital audio book seller Audible is a regular sponsor of many different podcasts. It is natural for them to advertise on podcasts, since their product is usually consumed in the same place: iPods. It was even more appropriate for them to advertise via sponsored editorial placements onSlate’s Culture Gabfest, a group discussion podcast of the week’s arts and entertainment happenings, explained Andy Bowers (interview), Slate’s podcast and video producer. The Culture Gabfest’s hosts were already consumers of Audible’s product and were eager to recommend books or take recommendations from listeners. Book recommendations fit in naturally with the show’s editorial and it also has increased engagement as they continue to track their success through a show-specific promotion code.