5 Ways to Monetize a Podcast … and One Way Not To – Plus My Results

monetize a podcastA few weeks ago I started listening to a podcast called Startup. Along with The Side Hustle Show and several others, it was nominated for Best Business Podcast at the annual Podcast Awards.

Figured I better scout my competition, right? Well it turns out to be about a million times better produced than my little ol’ podcast, in part because the host, Alex Blumberg, has had a career as a radio producer.

The premise of Startup is very meta. It’s a podcast about a guy starting a podcasting network, and podcasting about his journey. One of the way he plans to monetize the shows he creates is with sponsorships.

That got me thinking about the several different ways I’ve monetized the podcast, and a couple others I haven’t touched yet.

After all, producing a show takes real work, and if it doesn’t work for you, what’s the point?

Side Note: the point could very well be that’s it a ton of fun and great to make connections with awesome people (both 100% true!).

So here are some ways I came with for podcast hosts to make money from their work.

5 ways to monetize a podcast

1. Referral Sponsorships

For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with some “affiliate sponsorships” on The Side Hustle Show.

This is a great way for podcasters to get started because you don’t need to have any minimum number of listeners to begin. All you need is a product or service that you like and can recommend to your listeners with an affiliate or referral link.

For example, when you hear me say, “This episode is brought to you by Ting … visit sidehustlenation.com/ting to claim your free $25 sign-up credit…,” that’s what I mean by a referral sponsorship.

The story goes I’d never even heard of Ting, but heard them advertised on Entrepreneur on Fire. I checked them out and signed up through John’s link. Living proof that podcast advertising works!

So far this strategy has generated a few hundred dollars in revenue for the show – nothing amazing but not too bad either. These are companies I’ve been testing with:

So far these are my results:

  • Ting – $175 (woohoo for free cell phone service!)
  • Airbnb – $25 (I only earn my $25 AFTER someone completes their first stay, so I have several more potential $25 credits pending.)
  • Website Magazine – $182
  • Audible.com – $0.

So yeah, $382. I’ll chalk that up in the “better than nothing” category.

One cool thing is that since these links are still “live” and active, they have the potential to continue earning for months or even years down the road as more people download back-episodes of the show. In contrast, traditional sponsorships will earn you a flat fee without that upside potential.

This referral sponsorship strategy is the exact method that Scott Oldford used monetize his Executive Minute podcast right from the start (much more effectively than me, I might add), and probably what I would do from the very beginning if I was starting over.

I think it gives the perception that the show is perhaps bigger or more established than it really is, which can help build credibility and authority. Listeners might think, oh wow, this guy already has a sponsor, he must be legit!

At least that’s what I might think. Am I way off-base on that assumption?

2. Traditional Sponsorships

These are sold on a CPM, or cost-per-thousand basis, and generally priced as follows:

  • $18 per 1000 downloads for a 15-second “pre-roll” mention at the beginning of your show.
  • $25 per 1000 downloads for a 60-second “mid-roll” mention during the middle of your show.

A weekly show with 1000 listeners could generate $43 an episode, or $172 per month. As the number of listeners scales up, or the frequency of episodes increases, or your comfort level in including multiple ad spots softens, you can see how these numbers can become quite significant in a hurry.

If your weekly show has 5000 listeners, you’re up to $860 per month, or a little over $10,000 a year from just one sponsorship spot at the beginning of your show and another one in the middle.

Not a bad side hustle, right?

The same audience for a daily show would yield over $50k a year.

I had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Podcast Sponsorship himself, John Lee Dumas, in 2013 and he explained how it all works and how you can begin seeking out sponsors for your show.

This is something I haven’t done yet, but hope to pursue at some point this year. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting closer to that 5k weekly listener mark that would make the $10k/year income stream from sponsorships pretty tough to ignore.

There are also companies like Midroll that can act as a liaison between you and advertising partners. However, I believe you may be able to negotiate better rates and find more relevant sponsors by reaching out directly.

And if you hear a company sponsoring another podcast, you know they are at least open to the discussion. Otherwise, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

UPDATE: In 2016, several companies reached out to me to sponsor The Side Hustle Show. Win!

3. Sell Your Own Products or Services

Selling my own products and services is another podcast monetization angle I’ve been testing. On several shows I’ve invited listeners to check out my Inner Circle Mastermind group or sign up for my Kindle Launch Plan course.

On the recent “public coaching” episodes, I invite listeners to reach out if they’re interested in coaching services themselves.

For the Udemy course, I registered the vanity domain KindleLaunchCourse.com, and redirected that to the Udemy landing page, with a built-in special offer for podcast listeners.

So far 9 people have signed up through that link, earning me $209.53.

It’s hard to say how many mastermind members have come through as a result of the podcast, but my guess is I would be hard-pressed to generate any applications without building that trust over time through the show.

4. Sell Your Guests’ Products or Services

In a couple instances, my guests have a product or course they’re selling, and after them spending 30-45 minutes dropping some useful value, I have no problem with them inviting listeners to check it out if they want to learn more about the topic.

I don’t always have an affiliate link for these types of offers, but I’ve found it’s most effective when the guest creates a special offer for Side Hustle Show listeners, as Sean Marshall did with his “Clone My Business” Udemy course.

On top of delivering an awesome episode, Sean offered Side Hustle Nation 70% off his Udemy course, and 46 people took advantage of that, earning me $619.50 in affiliate revenue.

Of course, the risk in pushing this strategy too far is your show becomes a thinly veiled pitch-fest with everyone just looking for a new audience to sell to.

That’s why it’s refreshing to have guests like Benny Hsu and Dayne Shuda (just two recent examples) who really don’t have anything to sell, and are just here to provide their valuable insights to the listeners.

5. Listener Donations

One fascinating way to monetize your show is from your listeners themselves.

Joshua Sheats from Radical Personal Finance is an awesome example of this. Joshua set up a pledge page on Patreon.com, and now has over 100 backers contributing a total of more than $1100 per month at press time.

He puts out a killer show every day and asks his fans to consider a monthly donation to support the cause.

Reality TV podcaster Rob Cesternino has over 800 “patrons” contributing a total of nearly $7000 per month.

Patreon takes a 5% fee on top of any credit card payment processing fees. According their site, “We’re happy if a creator sees around $0.90 of every dollar!”

Theoretically you could accomplish the same thing with fewer fees by hosting the donation campaign yourself, although their platform looks really nice and has some fun social proof elements.

It’s essentially a pay-what-you-want pricing model. The content will still be available for free, but if you find value in it, there’s at least an avenue to collect on that goodwill.

My Podcast Monetization Totals

For those of you scoring at home, that’s a little over $1200 in earnings directly from the show over the last few months. Sweet!

And One Way Not To

This may surprise you, but some podcast appearances are actually paid for by the guest, essentially making the entire episode sponsored content. They do it to reach a new audience and to pitch their product or service.

I haven’t been approached with any of these offers in a while, but it does happen. I’m not sure what kind of disclosure rules would surround this kind of arrangement, but I think you’d have an obligation to let your audience know your guest paid you to get in front of them.

Without that disclosure, and I’m just imagining how awkward it would sound, you may be at risk for some FTC violations. Plus, would your audience really want to listen to a giant infomercial?

Your Turn

If you have a show, how do you (or how do you plan to) monetize it?

As a podcast listener, which of the above monetization angles do you prefer?

7 thoughts on “5 Ways to Monetize a Podcast … and One Way Not To – Plus My Results

  1. This is a great information. Question – do you place the links to affiliates in the show notes? I’ve only looked through a few of your blogs and don’t see any. Or do you only mention it in the podcast itself. I’m starting to experiment with affiliate for monetizing my podcast as well. I’m at the 2500/week download level.

    Anyway, thanks again. This is super helpful.

  2. Can you really say “this podcast is sponsored by so-and-so” if they aren’t paying you advertise them? Are most Podcasters using affiliate links in the beginning and at the end when they talk about products?

  3. Good tips here. I’m very reluctant to put ads on my podcast. I find them annoying as a listener. Right now I get about 1600 downloads per episode, which translates to about $70/episode in revenue foregone by your numbers. Maybe I should reconsider my position on those ads…

  4. We started our podcast More Than Ordinary because we’re a small tech company and we couldn’t afford a lot to advertise on radio or other podcasts but we have a lot of technical skill and hardware. We include a couple of ads every podcast for our games. The key though is NOT to make it a giant infomercial. Other than those ads, we don’t talk about our company. We have a lot of guests from the entertainment industry, start-ups, etc. from our personal networks and we talk a lot about living a more than ordinary life.

  5. I did recently listen to a podcast who pitched his coaching for at least 5 minutes at the beginning of the show. Needless to say I’m not listening to him again.
    However, he does have a good audience base.
    Not huge but def growing so I guess that’s what makes horse racing.
    I have no problem with ads, sponsorships, but I don’t plan for my show to be a pitch fest in any way.

  6. well….im about to launch a kindle book, and grabbed your course. i’ve eye’d it for a bit, but right now its on sale so i couldnt resist.

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