Podcasting is great because you get to talk about your interests, build a community of like-minded people, and maybe even make some extra money once you’ve monetized your project.
In 2021, it may seem like everyone has their own podcast; and yet the medium continues to increase in popularity due to its effective format. Compared to its older cousin, the FM radio show, podcasts are on-demand, available for replay anytime, and give their audiences the liberty to choose which episodes they wish to listen to.
No wonder podcasters make money!
Podcasts also tend to be more straightforward to record and edit - making podcasting a great choice for digital content creators.
Today you can find podcasts geared towards every imaginable niche. There are podcasts for gamers, film and TV geeks, health enthusiasts, and many more. Brands and businesses are now utilizing the format because it allows for in-depth discussions, expert interviews, and increasing brand awareness.
According to a study conducted by Edison Research and Triton Digital, the audience for podcasts is also growing steadily, with nearly 104 million Americans consuming podcasts regularly. That’s more than one-third of the American population! Monthly podcast consumption has also risen to 37% across various age groups in the past year - further testament to their universal appeal.
Over the past four years, researchers have seen a 120% growth in the number of Americans who listen to podcasts on a weekly basis. These statistics indicate that the podcasting format continues to have significant mass appeal and may continue to rise in popularity in the coming years.
If you’re looking to begin one of your own and hopefully monetize it, here’s how to get started!
Things to Have Ready Before Starting a Podcast
If you haven’t started your podcast yet but are interested in the idea, here are a few things to consider and prepare for:
What do you want to discuss on your podcast?
You might already have an idea concerning the types of things you’d like to talk about. However, for you to be able to promote your podcast effectively, you’ll have to organize your content and focus on a certain topic, audience, or lifestyle.
If you choose to go by topic, choose something that you’re familiar with and deeply interested in. After all, the goal is to be able to produce many episodes of your show - if you pick something that you’re not passionate about, you’ll inevitably run out of things to say and feel unmotivated.
Topics can be as vague or as specific as you want. A great example of a topic-based podcast is the ‘Stuff You Should Know’ podcast by iHeartRadio. The topic itself is broad (random useful trivia) but it allows for a certain kind of focus in the sense that listeners know what to expect each time they release a new episode.
Going by target audience can also be good if you already have a specific niche market or community in mind. Examples of this type of podcast are YouTuber-led podcasts, such as the H3 Podcast and VIEWS with David Dobrik and Jason Nash. In many cases, these YouTubers’ followers carry over to the podcasting medium to hear them talk about various topics.
Lifestyle-based podcasts, on the other hand, are usually led by industry experts or community leaders for that particular lifestyle. For example, ‘A Cyster & Her Mister: A PCOS Lifestyle Podcast’ is hosted by registered dietitian Tallene Hacatoryan and her husband, PCOS physical trainer Sirak Hacatoryan. Their podcast is all about ‘the PCOS lifestyle’ wherein women diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) focus on eliminating gluten, dairy, and finding the right supplements and exercise.
Having the right equipment for podcasting can save you a lot of time and energy from having to deal with technical issues such as poor audio and corrupted files.
You don’t need to go all-out on buying the most expensive equipment especially if you are just starting out, but it would be helpful to have some basic gear that you can rely on:
Computer: This is the most important piece of equipment you need to own for podcasting. If you’re on a really tight budget, you can even start with just your computer, a basic microphone, and audio recording software which usually comes built-in with most units.
Microphone: A high-quality microphone can spell the difference between an unprofessional-sounding podcast and a professional-sounding one. Microphones work well at focusing on your voice while eliminating background noise, so a good microphone is a worthwhile investment. Go for either a separate analog mic or a USB one which you can just plug into your computer.
Pop filter: Pop filters are the unsung heroes of audio recording. These are the square or round screen attachments on the microphones of recording artists. They work to eliminate the annoying sound created by plosives (P and T sounds) by capturing any extra bursts of air.
A Small Audience That’s Continuously Growing
It’s important to establish an audience for your podcast. Like most successful podcasters, it’s okay to start small. Instead of fixating on numbers, focus on consistently putting out quality content, establishing your credibility and likability among your listeners, and building a strong online presence.
Here are a few tips to help you build an audience for your podcast:
Publish content regularly. Build a listening habit among your listeners by consistently publishing content on the same day of the week or month. You can also include this in your script to create recall for your podcast schedule, at the beginning and end of each episode.
Encourage listener feedback. Establish rapport with your audience by asking for their honest opinions on a certain topic or by letting them pitch podcast topic ideas to you. Ask them to subscribe to your podcast so that they can rate it and leave comments on your episodes as well.
Address your audience’s requests and concerns. People appreciate it when they feel that their voices are being heard and that their opinions matter. Depending on the format of your show, you can engage with your listeners by answering questions they sent in, or by having a dedicated segment for reading subscribers’ comments.
Maximize social media. A lot of content creators are discovered by users on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Use social media to your advantage by curating your content into shorter formats (30 seconds to 1 min. videos) which you can upload on socials. Remember that people’s attention spans are shorter now, so make sure to put subtitles on your videos and make sure you only place the highlights of each episode. Lead them to the full episode on your preferred platform.
The Goal of Your Podcast
What is the goal of your podcast? Depending on your content and target audience, you may have different goals for starting a podcast. Like many endeavors, having a goal in mind will help you focus on the right steps to take after you’ve started your podcast.
Your goals may vary from wanting to entertain, to wanting to inform, to build awareness for your brand or business, or to help a specific cause. It doesn’t have to be just one single goal as well (Ex.: I want my podcast to entertain others and also generate revenue.)
With a clear goal, you can then plan concrete action points to help you realize them. For example:
If your goal is to entertain, you should focus on producing high-quality content and improving your craft (comedy skills, gaming, etc.). This way, you’ll focus on making investments that will improve your podcast’s entertainment value. You’ll also be able to focus on collaborations and partnerships with other creators and brands that you know your listeners will enjoy.
If your goal is to inform, then you’ll focus on credible, well-researched topics. You may also invite industry experts whom you can interview in your podcast to lend your show even more credibility. Again, you can partner with brands and creators that will enrich your listeners’ knowledge.
If your goal is to make your podcast a main source of income, you’ll need to invest in great equipment and have a solid marketing plan to help increase target audience's awareness of your podcast. You can also utilize hosting platforms like Spreaker, which includes built-in features for podcast monetization.
Ways to Make Money With a Podcast
Affiliate marketing is where you get a commission for referring someone to a brand or business. Typically, you get paid when someone makes a purchase from your affiliate. You’ll be given an affiliate link, through which your listeners can purchase from your affiliate company. The link makes it possible for your partner company to track the traffic and sales coming from your channel.
If your podcast format is the type where you mention sources or recommend products often, you’ll be able to seamlessly integrate affiliate offers into your script. You can also create a special segment for it so you can talk about the product or service in-depth, and therefore convince more people to purchase.
It would be helpful if the affiliated brand is something you are already using or are familiar with so that you can communicate things more authentically. In this case, it’s helpful to have a blog or website where your listeners can revisit the links and products you’ve mentioned. For some creators, dedicated social media posts also work for promoting affiliate offers.
Affiliate marketing is great for podcasters whose content is not news-based or time-sensitive. Meaning, your content is evergreen and listeners can choose to listen to any episode of their choice at any given time. As a result, the affiliate links contained in each episode can also be a source of passive income for you.
For more information on affiliate marketing, check out our blog post titled: A Beginners Guide to High-Ticket Affiliate Marketing.
Sponsorship & Advertising
Most podcasts make money through sponsorship and advertising. You may have already noticed portions in your favorite podcasts where the hosts plug their sponsors at certain intervals during each episode.
Podcast advertising is sold on a ‘cost per mile basis, which means that it’s sold by the thousands. You earn depending on the number of listens your episodes have. For example, the usual CPM for beginner podcasts is at $15, which means that you earn $15 for every thousand listens that your episode receives. CPM can go as high as $50 or even higher as a podcast’s popularity increases.
Ads can also be priced differently depending on their location within your show. Ads that run at the beginning of the show are called pre-roll ads, while ads that run at the end of the show are called post-roll ads. Ads that run in the middle of the show, called mid-roll ads, are the most valuable to advertisers because they indicate a time when listeners are engaged in the material.
Check out the Podcast Sponsorship Calculator and current industry rates on AdvertiseCast to help you estimate how much to price your ads when you pitch to potential sponsors.
Host Events and Collaborate
You can host events and collaborate with other podcasters who may have podcasts that are similar or complementary to yours. This can be a great way to form business relationships and also earn money from ticket sales. Events are a great idea for podcasts that focus on hobbies such as toy collecting, gaming, and the like.
The same is true for podcasts geared towards TV and movie franchise fan bases (Ex. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones) and followers of a certain lifestyle such as vegans and yogis.
On the other hand, you can put together a virtual summit or digital conference if you run a podcast that is largely informative, such as a creative or tech podcast. You can either collaborate with other podcasts to provide talks/sessions on various topics or invite industry experts as guest speakers during the conference.
Sell Products and Services
Another way to earn money with a podcast is by selling products and services that your listeners may be interested in. Depending on your expertise, you can offer any of the following products and services to your audience:
Online Courses - These may take the form of how-tos and discussions where you can teach your listeners about content similar to your podcast specialization but in a more in-depth manner.
Coaching & Mentoring - Offering one-on-one coaching and mentoring; Usually popular in business, mental health, fitness, and education industries.
Books - Repurposing your high-value content into books or e-books to create a product that people will pay for.
Consulting Services - You can offer consulting services by using your expertise to help others grow their business or brand.
Merchandise - Producing podcast merchandise is a great and affordable way for listeners to support your brand. They can be as simple as your podcast logo, or as specific as having merchandise featuring special guests, topics, or popular quotes and catchphrases that your listeners are familiar with.
Helpful tip: Put together a website where customers can order your products from or subscribe to your services. For podcast merchandise, you can also choose to partner with companies like Printful and Spreadshop who can help you design, print, and distribute your merchandise.
Donations & Crowdfunding
You can ask for donations from your listeners to help support your podcast. In many cases, podcasts with a loyal following have no problem gaining monetary support from their fans. Platforms such as YouTube and Twitch allow for these donations especially during live streams, where they can pledge a certain amount of support and the podcast streamer can acknowledge them on-air.
Donations work best for podcasts with a small niche, such as hobbyist podcasts, or entertainment podcasts where listeners turn into fans who genuinely want to show support for their idols. Educational podcasts may also ask for monetary support to purchase equipment and other learning resources that can help add value to their content.
Patreon is another popular platform for crowdfunding and accepting donations. You can choose to offer additional content and bonuses depending on the amount of money people donate. PayPal is also another way to accept donations since it’s accessible, widely known, and trusted.
Memberships for Premium Content
Setting aside premium content behind a paywall is also something a lot of podcasters do to earn money. Premium podcast subscriptions pertain to content that you sell on a regular basis. This is a popular means to earn profits from podcasting because a lot of listeners do enjoy the fact that they are also compensated for their money by receiving special content that’s only available to paying subscribers.
Premium content can be anything that offers added value for a few dollars, such as early access to episodes, bonus content, live Q&As, merchandise, and the like. Here are a few other ideas for premium content:
Exclusive interviews with guests
Access to ‘back catalog’ (archive of older episodes) for fans who love to binge-listen/watch
Exclusive newsletters containing special offers from partner brands
Shoutouts/ Reading fan letters segment
Early access to merchandise
Early access to meet-and-greet events
Publish Your Podcast on Podcast Hosting Platforms
Publishing your podcast on hosting platforms can be a great way for you to organize and monetize your podcast content. A hosting platform is a specialized service that stores and distributes your podcast episodes. It’s like a website hosting service but for your podcast files.
Generally, it’s not a good idea to store your podcast files on the same server as your website because media files are large and might affect your website’s load time or even cause it to crash. That’s not a very good experience for your website users nor your podcast listeners.
The best thing to do is to keep your website and your podcast separate. Many podcast hosting platforms offer great value for money. On top of the hosting service itself, some platforms even offer help with ads and monetization, analytics, and seamless linking between your podcast and your website.
Here are a few of our trusted hosting platforms:
Spreaker is your ‘one-stop-shop for podcast hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization because it has tools for podcast recording, streamlined podcast distribution to other platforms (Apple, Spotify), and lucrative monetization thanks to its revenue sharing program. You can even start for free if you just want to try out their hosting service.
Its Spreaker Prime service boasts over a million dollars in sales within three months of launching and offers a 65% share of CPM from ads. They take care of ad injection in both new and old episodes once you’ve determined the conditions of ad insertion that you prefer - these are the ad location within the episode, ad frequency, number of ads, and duration. Read more about its Revenue Sharing Program here.
It’s more friendly even to beginner podcasts with great content but smaller audiences since one would only need 5k downloads per month to earn. According to Voxnest (Spreaker's parent company) President Francesco Baschieri, they wanted to utilize it as ‘an opportunity to dispel the myth that you must have millions of downloads to make money podcasting.’ To qualify for Spreaker Prime, you just have to have five thousand downloads per month. To apply for Spreaker Prime, check out this guide or apply here.
Spreaker offers a wide range of plans ranging from free to enterprise. You can start hosting and monetizing your podcast content through their platform at only $7 a month. Their most popular plan is the ‘Broadcaster’ at $20 a month, which allows for multiple podcasts hosting, customizable RSS feeds, programmatic monetization, paid subscriptions, and advanced statistics.
Organizations can also get a subscription with priority support and collaboration features for $120 monthly. To learn more about their plans, click here.
Captivate allows you to create and distribute unlimited podcasts, get advanced analytics, monetize, and promote your content in one simple, easy-to-use dashboard. They offer a free 7-day trial for all their plans, which starts at $17 a month for personal use, $44 a month for professional use, and $90 for businesses. All plans are billed yearly.
All of their plans offer unlimited podcast hosting and storage, a fixed number of downloads, podcast distribution on other platforms such as Apple and Spotify, analytics, marketing support, and other content creation and management features to help you organize your content.
A unique feature of Captivate is its Captivate Sync WordPress plugin, which helps you to sync your podcast between Captivate and a WordPress website. They can also help you create an automatic podcast website through Captivate at no extra cost. For more information on available plans and their features, click here.
Audible is the world’s most popular audiobooks service but it also has a podcast hosting platform. However, the arrangement with Audible is a bit different compared to others because you’ll have to submit your podcast to Amazon Music and Audible for their approval. Getting your show published on these platforms is huge because it will be available on Alexa-enabled devices and on Audible.
To submit your podcast, click here. You’ll know whether they’ve accepted or rejected your podcast within 24 hours by checking on Amazon Music and Audible through a quick search. If you do not find your podcast published, they recommend reaching out to the Amazon Music Podcast Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another great option for submission is by seeking out support through the Audible Podcast Development Program. If selected, Audible will grant you $10,000 to develop your podcast and provide you with the following resources:
Coverage of production costs
Editorial and script guidance
Access to state-of-the-art production equipment and resources
Mentorship and peer networking opportunities
Podcast distribution to millions of Audible listeners
Submissions are currently closed but you can bookmark this page for updates on the next call for submissions.
Buzzsprout provides you with tools to host, promote, and track your podcast. They can help you list your podcast on other platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Alexa, Overcast, PocketCasts, Castro, Castbox, and Podchaser.
They also offer access to advanced podcast statistics to help you track your progress, as well as automatic episode optimization and a transcription tool to help ‘make your podcast more accessible to search engines, speed-readers, and the hearing impaired.’
Buzzsprout has a 90-day free trial which allows you to upload up to two hours of content per month. The number of hours increases with higher subscription plans:
Free: 2 hours each month
$12: 3 hours each month
$18: 6 hours each month
$24: 12 hours each month
All episodes are hosted indefinitely and have basic features such as advanced stats, unlimited storage, unlimited team members, and a free podcast import option.
Audioboom is a hosting platform that allows you to host, distribute, and monetize your podcast. They allow you to either create new episodes or transport old episodes from another platform.
Audioboom is also partnered with distribution platforms such as Apple Podcasts, CastBox, Deezer, Google Podcasts, iHeart, Player FM, Podcast Addict, Podchaser, RadioPublic, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn, to help you reach more audiences.
They also offer podcast analytics to help you track your progress, tools to collaborate with others or a co-host, a podcast page, and an embedded player. With Audioboom, you can start monetizing your podcast once you reach 10k listens a month through dynamic ads and sponsorship.
Subscriptions start at $9.99 monthly or $99 yearly. You can upload an unlimited number of episodes per month and gain access to basic plan benefits. Check out their plans here.
Transistor is a pretty straightforward tool that helps you record, publish, and distribute your podcasts through their platform. They also offer you access to analytics and private podcasting for premium/exclusive content.
With Transistor, you can create more than one podcast on the platform at no extra cost. This is a great option for you if you plan on launching more than one show. Starting at $19/month, Transistor allows you to host multiple podcasts under just one monthly fee. They also have a 14-day free trial and other plans for professionals and businesses. Check them out here.
SoundCloud has been around for a long time and continues to be a popular choice, especially among beginners who want to keep their overhead costs low. With a free SoundCloud Basic subscription, you can upload up to three hours of audio, get lossless HD storage, and access basic insights.
The next tier is their SoundCloud Pro Unlimited plan, which at $12 a month (billed yearly), allows you unlimited upload time, fair payment for your plays, advanced insights, and other features to help you increase your audience reach and earn income.
Podcasts are a great way to share your voice to the world, and also a great way to earn extra income. If you’re setting your sights on making podcast revenue your main source of income, be sure to check out the resources we’ve outlined above, especially those that allow you to monetize your podcasts easily.
There are many aspects to establishing a successful and well-monetized podcast. In this article, we’ve outlined the best ways to earn money from your podcast, as well as some of the tools that many podcasters trust.
Whether you’ve already started your podcast or are still exploring your options, we suggest taking a closer look at some of the best practices we mentioned in the article, especially regarding quality content, equipment, podcast goals, and how to optimize your podcast for monetization.
Remember that even after launching your podcast, it may still take a bit of trial-and-error to learn what your listeners want, and what kind of monetization options work best for your format. Don’t get frustrated - instead, focus on organically building your community of listeners, regularly publishing entertaining and high-quality content, and partnering with credible brands.
Becoming highly successful as a podcaster is possible. Contrary to the old joke that the best way to make money from podcasting is by selling your equipment, nowadays there are many popular podcasts that earn up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per episode. For example, the Top 1 Most Listened To Podcast of 2020, ‘The Joe Rogan Experience,’ reportedly makes around $750,000 for every episode and has seven to ten million downloads per episode!
Now, we may only dream about reaching the kind of success Joe Rogan has, but the point is that it’s not entirely impossible to turn podcasting into a highly lucrative endeavor. With passion, consistency, and the right tools to help you, you may very well be on your way to cashing in your very first monetization paycheck.