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Do Podcasts Actually Make Money?

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Financial success

One question I hear more than anything else is of course, “Do podcasts make money?”

Simple answer: yes.

Long answer: it depends.

With a smart strategy, interesting content, and relentless consistency, making a livable salary from podcasting is not unheard of. The gang over at Chapo Trap House pulls in over $144k a month from $5 Patreon donations alone, so there’s money to be made.

However, let’s keep things realistic. I wouldn’t expect to make over $100k/month – or even per year – from a podcast. Building up to $2k or even $10k per month? Yeah, that’s totally doable.

The question is: how? How do podcasts make money? Here are the most practical solutions.

How Do Podcasts Make Money? 6 Options to Monetize a Podcast

To make money from podcasting in 2019, 2020, and so on, I would start by looking at the monetization options.

Keep in mind that every monetization route won’t work for every podcast. Take the topic and audience base into consideration as well.

1. Crowdfunding and Premium Content

Patreon is the favorite crowdfunding platform for podcasters – by far – because it’s easy to collect donations, manage premium subscription levels, and share paid content.

2. Affiliate Marketing

Networks like Amazon connect creators with affiliate marketing opportunities. Podcasters talk about products in their show and companies send them a cut of related sales.

3. Sponsorships and Advertisements

Who hasn’t heard a Casper mattress advertisement on a podcast? Yep, it works just like that!

Authentic and Midroll are the two most popular agencies for top podcasters.

Additionally, Podcave includes Dynamic Ad insertion at no extra charge. You can flip that switch immediately and start generating revenue with minimal effort.

4. Courses or Coaching

Depending on the podcast topic, selling courses or coaching is a possibility. Coursera, Teachable, and Udemy are all great platforms.

5. Events and Touring

Touring is another option for podcasts with a solid audience. How Did This Get Made?, Chapo Trap House, and many others tour regularly.  

6. Products and Services

I see a lot of podcasters selling branded merch like shirts and coffee mugs. Do some research into the specific target audience to see what they’d like.

What Do the Highest Earning Podcasts of 2019 Have in Common?

While Patreon is a favorite crowdfunding platform for podcasters, how do podcasts make money there? By looking at the top earners in podcasting on Patreon, we can see a few patterns.

They Have a Solid Following

I’ve noticed that most people who make a living from podcasting create binge-friendly material.

In the case of Doughboys (which earns about $26k/month), the average subscriber listens to over 30 episodes. Meanwhile, The Liturgists generate $22/month with subscribers listening to about 10 shows on average – which is still a lot of time.

Focus on creating content that people crave so they’ll feel compelled to unlock paid shows.

They’ve Produced Over 40 Episodes

I know this seems like a no-brainer, but it highlights the importance of consistency. All podcasts that make a living – whether it be $2k/month or $100k, have at least 40 episodes.

The podcast is a show, and the show never stops.

To make money from podcasting, you need to put out material all the time – like once or twice a week if you can manage it.

The Hosts are Active on Twitter

High earning podcasters are all super active on Twitter. Some of the hosts Tweet all day long like it’s their job. And well, it kind of is!

Twitter is perfect because it’s free advertising. Tweeting from a branded Twitter account won’t cut it though. To build a connection with potential donors and listeners, I recommend Tweeting from your personal account and optimizing your profile for your podcast branding.

I like to jump into conversations, make jokes, share interesting links, and get a little edgy. People will start paying attention eventually.

They Have at Least 550 Paid Subscribers

Now, keep in mind that Chapo has over 32k patrons. Obviously, more patrons mean more monthly income.

Instead, I wanted to think more along the lines of “how many paid subscribers do I need to generate a livable wage from podcasting?”

Well, it looks like most podcasters who make about $3k/month have at least 550 paid subscribers. Some might donate $3 and others might donate $5. Either way, 550 patrons is generally enough to devote yourself to podcasting full-time if you’re not working with a team.

How Many Downloads Does a Podcast Need to Make Money?

It depends.

When people download a podcast on Spotify, iTunes, or SoundCloud, the act of downloading isn’t what generates money. Money comes from sponsorships and advertisements.

Advertisers use downloads as they measure your reach and decide how much to pay you.

Meanwhile, high-paying advertisers might have a download or listen threshold before they’ll be willing to work with a podcast. Each company is unique.

How to Make Money Podcasting in 2020 and Beyond

Let’s circle back to the question, “how do podcasts make money?”

As far as 2020 goals go for making money from podcasting, I recommend focusing on content quality and consistency. Create a calendar and stick to it. Don’t forget to stay active on Twitter as much as humanly possible, too.

Those are the best ways to build a following so you can nail down sponsors, paid subscribers, and even new customers depending on your topic.

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