How to Make Money Podcasting

Tips on Increasing Your Podcast Revenue, Regardless of Audience Size

Young woman speaking into a professional microphone in a booth for a podcast.
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 Jasper Cole/Getty Images

As podcasts continue to increase in popularity, many are looking to join the growing field with hopes of monetizing their knowledge or passion. From hobbyists wanting to share an interest and supplement their income, to business owners looking to grow a customer base and assert their expertise, podcasting offers broad appeal. 

The audience for podcasting has grown significantly over the past year, according to The Podcast Consumer 2019, a report by Edison Research and Triton Digital. Fifty-one percent of Americans ages 12 and up said they had listened to a podcast before. Thirty-two percent reported having listened to one in the past month, and 22% had heard one in the past week. While all key demographics grew, many of the increases were seen in listeners ages 12 through 24.

Even small podcasts can make money through a variety of different income streams—popular methods include advertisements, affiliate marketing, crowdfunding, selling merchandise, and hosting live events. Big platforms like Spotify and Apple Podcasts allow users to upload their shows, which can help build an audience and attract more advertisers—a key source of revenue. 

How Do Podcasts Make Money?

Advertisements are one of the most effective ways that podcasts can produce an income, although it may take time to build an audience that attracts the attention of potential advertisers. 

Advertisements are usually sold by CPM, or cost per mille, meaning per 1,000 listeners. Ad buying and management platform AdvertiseCast places the going industry average rates for podcast advertising at $18 per 30-second ad CPM and $25 per 60-second ad CPM. 

Advertisement sales usually happen either directly between the brand and podcast, or by using an agency as a broker or marketplace. 

Commission from affiliated products or programs is another common income stream for podcasters. Hosts can mention products on their show and give listeners a specific discount link. The podcast then receives a percentage of each sale made with its unique URL. 

Rather than including advertisements, some podcasts prefer to sell subscriptions to their show by keeping some or all of the content behind a paywall. Crowdfunding platforms like Patreon let subscribers pick a donation tier for different perks, such as exclusive content or early access to episodes. 

Most of the aforementioned methods are more financially beneficial with a larger audience. While certainly helpful, a big following isn’t necessary in order to make an income through podcasting. Later, we’ll discuss opportunities to monetize a podcast that aren’t directly tied to audience size. 

Expand Your Audience to Attract Advertisers

Podcasts are becoming an increasingly sought-after advertising medium for brands. Podcast advertising revenue in the U.S. is expected to increase by 14.7% in 2020, according to IAB’s U.S. Podcast Advertising Revenue Study, prepared by PwC. The study reported $708.1 million in podcast ad revenue in 2019, a 48% increase from 2018. 

While advertisers do look at other factors such as audience demographics, engagement, and interest group, audience size is a key consideration. When starting out, it’s important to focus on appealing to and expanding your audience, which in turn will help you attract advertisers. 

There are several key components that you should focus on in order to build an audience and establish your podcast.

Target Audience

Identify your target audience, and keep them in mind throughout the entire process. Every time you release an episode, have a plan for how you’ll market it—who are you trying to connect with, and how will you reach them?

User Experience

Always keep user experience in mind. You want to make finding and listening to your podcast as easy as possible. Marketing tips from Apple Podcasts advise optimizing your show for mobile platforms. Make sure your logo looks good as a small thumbnail, and that your website is mobile-friendly, for example.

Visual Appeal

The visual and written aspects of your podcast should convey the same theme and tone as the show itself does. Your platform should have a cohesive look and feel—things like cover art, website design, and social media activity, all should represent the podcast’s identity in a uniform way. 

Collaboration

Collaborating with other podcasts can be a way to increase your audience—make guest appearances on other shows, and cross-promote with other podcasters. Getting big-name guests on your show, or mentions from influencers, can also expand your following.

For more information on how to build an audience and appeal to advertisers, check out Apple Podcasts’ tips on podcast marketing best practices.

How Do You Use Spotify and Apple to Make More Money?

Listing a podcast on big platforms like Spotify and Apple Podcasts can help make your show more accessible. Below are the basics for submitting your podcast to these sites; see their websites for more information. 

If your hosting platform is one of Spotify’s aggregator partners, it will provide instructions on how to submit your podcast to Spotify; otherwise, you can do it manually by signing up with Spotify for Podcasters. Even if your host automatically distributed your show to Spotify, you’ll still need to sign up to Spotify for Podcasters, as this will give you access to a dashboard with your show stats and notifications. After submitting your podcast, it can take a few hours to appear in the app.

To submit a podcast to Apple Podcasts, you must have a Podcasts Connect account and an RSS feed that includes required tags, at least one episode, and artwork. Submit your RSS feed URL to Podcasts Connect, Apple’s podcast portal, where you will validate your podcast RSS feed to make sure it meets technical requirements, contains the required tags, and includes show cover art and episode media files. After passing validation, submit your podcast for review, which may take up to five business days. 

While having your show on large platforms can provide many benefits, such as increased listener access, marketing tools and resources, and the ability to be featured in site roundups, make sure to consider the restrictions before deciding if it’s the right fit. It can be a tedious process to tailor your podcast to meet all the requirements, and both Spotify and Apple Podcasts have regulations regarding the content they allow on their sites. 

Income Alternatives to Building an Audience

There are many additional ways to bring in revenue from your podcast without having a large audience. Here are a few to consider:

  • Regardless of the size of your following, if it’s dedicated, selling branded merchandise could be a good option.
  • You could generate additional income by offering tickets to live shows of podcast recordings, or throw podcast-related events.
  • Podcasts can be good spaces to test out and develop ideas for other projects, such as books, films, TV shows, etc. that could potentially bring in more revenue. 
  • If the podcast is linked to a business, promoting the organization’s goods and services on the show can be an effective way to drum up more traffic for the company, and increase sales.  
  • Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the process of running a podcast, you can offer your expertise as a podcast consultant or producer. 
  • Similarly, you could create a course to sell, either on podcast-related topics or about material connected to your show. 
  • Podcasts are a good way to demonstrate your experience in a field. Once you’ve asserted yourself as an authority on a topic, you can monetize your knowledge with public speaking gigs. 

The Bottom Line

Hosting a podcast can be a way to demonstrate industry knowledge or share a hobby and earn some extra income. Selling advertisements, participating in affiliate programs, offering subscriptions, or crowdfunding are the primary ways a podcast can generate revenue. 

Increasing accessibility by uploading your show to big platforms like Spotify or Apple Podcasts can help build your audience, which in turn can attract advertisers. But even without a large following, your podcast can bring in income through options such as selling tickets to live shows, coaching others on how to run a podcast, or monetizing your expertise at speaking events.