If I had a nickel for every time a client or potential client or random podcaster has asked me…
I wouldn’t need to monetize a podcast.
It’s a natural question, I guess - there’s nothing wrong with making money from providing value to the world - and podcasts are some of the best vehicles for value-delivery I’ve ever seen.
So heck yes, go ahead, monetize your podcast! You should if you can.
But… it’s not quite that simple, is it? You can’t simply go out and monetize a podcast. You have to take a little time to figure out exactly what the options are, which one fits you and the purpose you have for your podcast, and so on and so forth and such and such.
That’s exactly why I recorded this episode.
My goal is to help you understand what I’ve seen as successful or potentially successful ways people have monetized their podcasts.
I’m also going to be frank with you (or maybe I’ll be Joe this time) and let you know what I don’t like about each of the methods, what I do like about them, what the pitfalls may be, and whether or not that approach to monetization will make you rich or only pay for your weekly coffee.
OK - coffee is more than a weekly expense, I get it. But you get my point, right?
When we talk about monetizing anything we’re talking about making money from it.
I hope that’s not too unrefined for you sensitive types, but it’s the truth. You’re trying to figure out a way you can ask people for money in exchange for the value you’re delivering to them - in this case, your incredible podcast content (for example).
That means you’ve got to be providing them the VALUE side of that equation.
You owe it to your podcast audience NOT to fill their ears with fluff.
It’s the people who throw together some quick and dirty (and useless) PDF download piece of junk who give all of us a bad name. Don’t be that girl or guy. Make your offer something worth having.
And now that we’ve got THAT out of the way…
Whenever I hear people talking about monetization of their podcast, they usually mean gaining some kind of sponsorship.
What’s a sponsor? It’s a fancy way of saying a person who wants to pay you to put commercial advertisements on your show.
The ads could be pre-produced or they could be something you read. Either way, it’s a commercial, plain and simple.
Part of what I LOVE about podcasting is that I get to listen to a topic I’m interested in WITHOUT interruption.
When I have commercials from a mattress company, or an email list company - on my show about Christian Homes and Families - https://www.ChristianHomeAndFamily.com it seems pretty obvious that I’m just trying to make money.
Nothing wrong with that… but does it build trust? That’s what I care about - and what I think you should care about.
One tale I heard told was how a podcaster had to provide multiple months worth of “free” sponsorship to a sponsor because of supposed mistakes he was making in the way he read the ad copy. In his mind, the HOW of it wasn’t covered sufficiently to warrant the claim, but he didn’t want to lose the sponsor so he continued to consent to their demands.
And that brings me to the biggest deal about sponsorships that I don’t like…
You may say they don’t. But they do.
If you’re concerned about what a sponsor might thing regarding what you say, or how you say it, or how it might reflect on them - they ARE having influence on you.
The beauty of podcasting (again, in my mind) is that you get to do YOUR thing with nobody telling you that you can’t.
Naturally, you can do what you want when it comes to sponsorships. I’m sure there are good experiences out there to go alongside the bad ones I’ve heard about. It also has to do with the “type” of show you’re publishing. Some lend themselves to sponsorships more than others.
In the end, you’ve got to do what you believe is best for you, your listeners, and the sponsor.
In case you’re new to this whole internet thing (like some attorneys I know), it would be a good thing for you to know what affiliate relationships are before I tell you to establish them…
A way for a company to sell its products by signing up individuals or companies ("affiliates") who market the company's products for a commission.
#1 - You find a company that sells products or services your listening audience needs
#2 - You make those products available to your listeners through an “affiliate link” on your website or show note
#3 - When somebody clicks on that link, the company’s website is setup with a “tracking code” that recognizes that person as coming from your link.
#4 - When/if they purchase, you get a commission.
Simple enough, right?
Affiliate relationships can be a gold mine for podcast monetization… sometimes. Maybe.
It depends on a lot of things… but to me it’s an issue of whether your niche has legitimate products/services that you can offer to your listeners.
Yeah, yeah, you can technically offer anything as an affiliate product - related or unrelated to your audience - but I don’t think you should.
Your audience has done YOU the incredible favor of self-selecting you as their go-to resource for the topics you address.
The feel like they know you (or are getting to know you). They like you (at least you’d better hope they do). They are starting to trust you.
And trust is a valuable thing.
My recommendation is that you do everything in your power NOT to violate that trust in any way. You want to build on it, make yourself a valuable, indispensable resource to your listeners.
In my thinking, a big part of that is NOT trying to get them to buy any old thing. That goes back to making them feel you’re “just trying to make money.”
Instead, why not offer them things that further connect them to you and your topic?
That seems like a winner to me - and when you do it well, it really CAN be a gold mine.
As an example: You’ve probably heard of a guy named Pat Flynn. https://www.smartpassiveincome.com/ One of his most successful affiliate relationships has been with a web hosting company called Bluehost. In September of 2017 he made $18.655.00 by referring people to Bluehost. That figure was even down by $815.00 from the previous month.
The reason I know such details is because Pat publishes his income reports every month.
It’s a great idea - transparency to show people what’s possible by building your own thing online like he has.
The point I want to make is this… that relationship with Bluehost is a hand-in-glove thing for Pat, it’s a service 99% of his listeners will need eventually, so he offers it to them with a full disclaimer that it’s an affiliate relationship.
And it banks for him. Month after month after month.
So… if you’re going to do affiliate relationships, go for it. Just make sure you’re offering things that are truly of benefit to your listeners and do it consistently and genuinely, like Pat does.
If you do guest episodes - conversations with experts in your niche or industry - you have a very natural, incredible opportunity to make some income through no more work than recording and publishing a great conversation with that person.
Many people who are guest on podcasts regularly are established in their niche and have already created their own stuff - books, courses, coaching packages, events, etc.
Before you hit the “record” button, stop to discuss what your guest wants to offer your audience. Yes - offer them the opportunity to highlight what they have to sell.
And find out if there’s an affiliate-type relationship you might be able to establish with them.
You’ll find many such people already have an official affiliate program setup. All you have to do is sign up and place the link in your show notes page. Then, during the interview, disclose that you have that relationship and make the offer.
Better yet, let your GUEST make the offer since they know the product much better than you do. Then you get to simply endorse their offer and recommend it to your listeners.
And keep in mind… podcast episodes are out there forever (as long as you keep paying your hosting bill). This kind of partnership could be a long-term cash cow for you if you do it effectively.
It benefits you.
It benefits your guests.
It benefits your audience (at least it should).
Remember that trust thing I spoke of earlier? It’s vital that you maintain trust when it comes to affiliate offers.
You don’t want your listeners to in any way feel that you’ve tricked them into doing something that will benefit you directly - even if the supposed “trick” was that you forgot to disclose an affiliate relationship.
So don’t forget.
Always, Always, ALWAYS tell your listeners - both in writing on your show notes page or website - AND verbally on your podcast audio, that you have an affiliate relationship with any product you’re recommending, if you do in fact have such a relationship.
It’s honest. It’s clear. And I believe if you do it right, it can build trust with your audience even more.
And… it’s the law.
Let me ask you a question…
What sort of compulsion do you feel when somebody does an amazing thing for you? You want to do something for them, right?
It’s what social psychologists refer to as “the law of reciprocity” and there’s something to it. When somebody does good to/for you, you naturally want to do good for them.
Take that concept and apply it to your podcast…
If you are truly adding value to the lives of your listeners, don’t you think some of them are going to start feeling like they want to say “thank you” in a more tangible way than listening to your next episode?
It’s natural. And it’s OK to make a way for your listeners to support your show.
It’s called a Donation Model - and it works. You can see a sterling example of it here - on Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Site.
And I could be a bit off on this, but I recently heard Dan interviewed at Podcast Movement 2017 and I believe he said that he only asks $2 per episode - and that the approach does VERY WELL for him.
The Live Build Change podcast is my effort to help you live your faith in an authentic, genuine way, to build a business either part time or full time, and then to integrate those two things in a way that enables you to truly change your world. If you’d like to make a donation (one-time or recurring) to ensure I can continue to do so, you can find out how to do that at (website link).
No high-pressure tactics or begging. Just giving listeners an opportunity to reciprocate and moving on.
Back in the olden days… when Kings, Lords and Ladies, and Dukes ruled the lands… there was such a thing as patronage.
For example: The famous artist Michelangelo had two primary patrons who supported him so that he could produce his artistic works: Pope Julius II, and the Medici family.
Patreon is a fairly new approach based on the idea of patronage - it’s where your fans can intentionally set up a recurring payment to you SO THAT you can continue doing what you’re doing with your podcast.
It’s really what I spoke of earlier - but again you’ve got to set it up in order to make the opportunity for your listeners/fans.
Here are the details as I understand them:
We’ve all done the membership thing at one time or another…
When I was a kid I got into the Columbia Record and Tape Club. For one penny the Columbia people (whoever they were) sent me 14 albums I selected and I committed to buy 20 more in the next three years.
I loved it. It was a membership I was happy to participate in.
Today we have Netflix, Health Clubs, Spotify, etc.
You get it. You understand memberships.
But have you thought of the benefits received by the company OFFERING the membership?
Sure, a subscriber can cancel their subscription at any time (in most cases). But how often does that happen in comparison to the big number of subscribers an outfit like Netflix has?
That dynamic is a reality that makes the income of a company like Netflix consistent. In fact, because of new subscribers, their revenue goes up over the long run.
Check out this graphic of Netflix profits: https://ycharts.com/companies/NFLX/revenue s
And don’t miss the RECURRING part of the setup - people pay over and over and over for what Netflix has to offer rather than a one-time purchase.
That. Is. Bank.
When I first got this concept it was a game changer for my business.
Invoicing on a monthly basis is a hassle. There are costs associated with it both in time and in tangible goods like paper, etc.
But recurring payments - subscriptions - do away with all that (with the exception of...