Once you’ve been podcasting for a while (or perhaps before you’ve even started), the thought of making money from your podcast will probably cross your mind at some point. After all, you’re putting a lot of hard work into making content—shouldn’t that be worth something?
Whether you just want to make enough to cover your podcast hosting fees or you’re dead set on making a living from podcasting, it’s time to consider podcast monetization. Read ahead for tips on how to monetize a podcast, including how to secure sponsorships, set up premium subscriptions, syndicate your show on YouTube, sell merchandise and more.
How Do Podcasts Make Money?
So, how do podcasts make money, and how much money can you make from yours? From ads and sponsorships to premium subscriptions and good old-fashioned merchandising, there are plenty of ways to make your podcast start bringing in revenue.
Many podcasters make enough to support podcasting as a part-time hobby, while some run their podcasts as full-time businesses making a tidy profit. While there are a lot of factors at play, educating yourself on podcast monetization will greatly influence your chances of success.
But before we get into how to make money from podcasting, there’s one main thing you should understand: your podcast is not the product. The vast majority of podcasts are free to listen to, and that’s exactly how podcast fans like it.
Podcasting is one of the most democratic forms of media, and to put up a paywall would turn off many potential listeners. In fact, making your podcast freely available increases the size of your audience, which will help you make more money through advertising and other monetization strategies.
Sponsorships and advertising are great ways to make money with your podcast.
Sponsors and Advertisements
Podcast sponsorships and advertising are the most common routes to monetization. Podcast advertisements are typically short messages read by the host during the episode, which give the ad a personal touch.
Ads can also appear in the form of pre-recorded messages added by the distribution platform, which must be listened to before continuing the episode (YouTube ads are an example of this—more on that later).
Podcast ads come in two main types: pre-roll and mid-roll. Pre-roll ads are short messages heard at the beginning of each episode, before the main content. Mid-roll ads are placed roughly in the middle of an episode, briefly interrupting the main content with a message—similar to commercial breaks in television.
Companies usually compensate podcasters on a CPM (Cost Per Mille) basis for these types of ads, paying out a chuck of change for every thousand downloads that feature the ad. CPM rates can vary widely depending on the company and the size of your audience.
So, how do you go about getting companies to sponsor and advertise on your podcast? Quite a few podcast hosting services offer monetization programs that match podcasters up with advertisers, sometimes in exchange for a commission.
To avoid paying a commission, you can also try to attract sponsors organically. With a sizeable following, a few thousand downloads a month and a little luck, sponsors might actually come to you with offers.
Affiliate marketing is a unique arrangement in which a company leverages a podcast’s audience to sell goods or services, offering the podcaster a portion of the profit in exchange. Affiliate programs come in several forms, including special store links, discount codes and referral programs. Sometimes, guests appearing on a podcast to promote something will even offer a one-time affiliate deal.
Here’s how affiliate links and codes work: the sponsor sets up a special store link or checkout code just for your listeners, which you announce on your show and/or website. Whenever a listener makes a purchase using that specific link or code, you automatically receive a kickback, which can be a flat rate per transaction or a portion of the sale. These deals sometimes also include a discount or special offer for listeners.
Referral programs are a similar arrangement commonly used to sell subscription-based services. Listeners receive a special link or code for a subscription (sometimes with a discount), and you get a flat commission for each customer that signs up.
Some companies have open affiliate programs that anyone can sign up for, such as Audible’s Creator Program, which offers podcasters $15 for each listener that signs up for a 30-day trial. Others may reach out to you individually, or you may have to actively search for them.
Offering paid subscriptions is an alternative way to earn revenue for your podcast without relying on sponsors and advertisers. Dedicated listeners can choose to pay a monthly fee in exchange for special benefits like an ad-free experience, premium content or even merchandise. Many podcasters use Patreon to set up subscriptions, which streamlines the process of collecting money and distributing content.
Premium subscriptions provide a lot of flexibility to offer different tiers of value to your listeners. If your podcast normally has ads, you can offer an ad-free version for a small price that covers what you would have made off the ads.
At higher tiers, you can add premium content like extended interviews and special bonus episodes. Some podcasters even offer a limited number of top-level subscriptions that include unique benefits like full access to all content, signed merchandise or one-on-one mentoring.
Make your podcast profitable with merch like t-shirts, hats, keychains and more.
If sponsorships and subscriptions aren’t your style, you can always try selling good old-fashioned physical merchandise. Many successful podcasts make good money selling t-shirts, hats, keychains and other trinkets branded with their name and logo. In fact, there are even sites like PodSwag that specialize in selling podcast merch.
Clothing, water bottles and other generic items are always a safe bet, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get creative with your merchandise. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Branded carabiners for an outdoor sports podcast
- Custom USB drives for a tech podcast
- Guitar picks printed with a logo for a music podcast
Selling merchandise can be risky, however, so it’s best to gauge your audience’s interest before ordering 500 mugs with your face on them or a whole box of custom-branded fidget spinners. If you’re considering merchandise, take a moment in your show to ask your listeners what they’d be likely to buy, or put out a poll via email or social media.
An easy way to get an extra source of podcast income is to put your episodes on YouTube and enable advertisements. This should be a no-brainer for video-based podcasts, but even traditional audio-only podcasts can work well on YouTube just by adding a single background image. Simply create an account and add your payment info, upload your recording and enable the Monetization feature to get started.
Some podcast hosting platforms make this process even easier with automatic YouTube syndication. Just like they distribute your show to all the major audio streaming platforms, they can also push your episodes out to YouTube. While audio-only podcasts probably won’t see a lot of traffic on YouTube, your content will become easier for new listeners to discover, and there’s always the small chance of going viral.
Other Monetization Strategies
For the creative podcaster looking for a little extra cash, here are even more ways to earn money indirectly from your podcast:
- If your podcast revolves around interviews, consider publishing a book or e-book containing a curated selection of interviews. You’ll need to have your podcasts transcribed, edited and published, but this can be a great way to repurpose old content in a new form.
- If your podcast is about a profession, skill or trade—like graphic design, computer programming or audio engineering—you can sell video tutorials, one-on-one lessons and consulting services to your audience.
- If you manage to grow a substantial following, you may be able to book speaking events at bookstores, conventions and other venues. You can even do live recordings with audience participation! Your creativity is the only limit here.
If you have a great idea for a podcast but aren’t sure where to start, check out our comprehensive podcasting guide for tips and strategies for choosing the right microphone, using recording and editing software, and conducting interviews.