Podcasting for Profit

How can I make a profit from podcasting?

“How can I make money from a podcast” is a question I’m frequently asked by people thinking of starting a show.

If you think podcasts are dead, check out the latest stats from Buzzsprout that show at the time of writing this post, 106 MILLION podcast episodes were downloaded in December 2023.

In the past, a podcast was generally thought of as something like the old fashioned “talk radio” in that the term was applied to audio only “shows” that were distributed via dedicated podcast platforms. These days, the concept of what a podcast is has changed due to social media platforms like TikTok supporting video uploads of up to 20 minutes, YouTube launching a new “podcast” playlist type and Spotify supporting video podcasts. 

So what’s the difference between being a “podcaster / podcast host” and a “content creator” or “YouTuber”? 

There is no real difference other than (for now) most people tend to use the term “podcast” or “show” to indicate that they have a set structure and format – like a TV talk show. This may or may not include guests and co-hosts, but generally the format and structure stays the same for every show whereas a social media content creator is (normally) a lot less structured – but I am generalising!

For the purpose of this article, it doesn’t really matter at all because what I’m going to focus on is the many different ways you can make money from content, without getting too hung up on what you choose to call yourself.

Before I get into that, I have to make one very important point: for you to make any money at all, your content HAS TO be of value to an audience in order for you to consider making any money off it.

What credentials do you have? Consider the skills, knowledge and experience you have to share – what do your friends marvel at that you can do, know or have done in the past? Who would value that?

Value can come in many different forms

  • Pure entertainment
  • News
  • Reviews 
  • Insights & opinions
  • “How to” teaching a skill 
  • Knowledge sharing

And a whole lot more. The point is that in order for you to profit from podcasting or any kind of content creation, you FIRST have to think “how can I add value” before you think “how can I make money”. 

There is a trap that many content creators fall into as they focus on audience size and trying to appeal to the greatest number of people they possibly can. Be careful of falling into this trap as by trying to appeal to “everyone” you might end up appealing to “no-one”. 

“Everyone” is not an audience, although YouTubers like Mr Beast have certainly proved that there are some very, very large audiences out there that look for pure entertainment and he literally makes millions out of advertising revenue across every platform. BUT – he is an exception!

Having a large audience on any of the platforms will enable you to earn advertising revenue, which is the most common way of monetising content or a show. 

But, the vast majority of shows out there will not earn a huge amount of money from advertising as this informative post from Riverside indicates that a show that gets 25-30 downloads per month falls in the top 50% of podcasts globally ……. which doesn’t equate to more than a few pennies / cents if you are lucky enough to even qualify for advertising revenue!

So I’m going to focus on how you can profit from podcasting in other ways, which takes me back to the point I made above regarding value. 

The following steps have become a well worn path towards profiting from podcasting in ways other than, or in addition to, advertising:

  • Start a show with the aim of adding value to an audience
  • Share your experience, knowledge, insights and opinions on a particular topic
  • Once you’ve published your first show, share it across social media channels or wherever your audience is likely to discover content
  • Repeat this for a couple of shows and ask your audience for feedback and suggestions on how to improve and who they might like to hear from on the topic – maybe they also have something of value to share
  • Seek out relevant guests to join you on your show and ask them to share the show with their audience, social media follows and connections (normally, they will be very happy to do this)
  • After publishing around 10 shows, take a breather and check:
    • Have you found your audience yet?
    • Are they getting value from your show? (Are you getting positive feedback and comments?)
    • Is your audience growing?

If your answers to the above are all negative, change up what you are doing and go through the process again.

If your answers are all positive, things start to get interesting, no matter how small your audience is. Now you can begin to build your authority and reputation in your chosen niche and:

  • Offer your audience one-on-one consultation on the topic
  • Consider turning the content of your show into a keynote speech and look for public speaking opportunities
  • Are there elements of your content that could be taught in a course or perhaps facilitated in a workshop environment?
  • Could you offer an “enhanced” version of the show to subscribers / an “inner circle” of listeners willing to pay for extra content?
  • Some people prefer to consume content by reading – is the material of your show suitable for publication as a book?
  • Would your audience attend an event / convention on the topic? Consider partnering with someone or even putting on your own event.
  • Is your content or show suitable to monetise via merchandise? A loyal audience is often proud to show their support for a show by buying merchandise.
  • Can you think of companies that would pay for the opportunity to get a shoutout to your audience? Sponsorship pays far better than the standard ”per listen / view” advertising models of the common platforms.

If you are already a recognised authority on a particular topic, you can simply use your show as a channel to promote yourself and grow your reach.

I know of a number of content creators that have followed the exact playbook outlined above. Some of them are satisfied with keeping it as a side-hustle while others have gone on to build fairly substantial organisations, employing staff and earning a decent living out of it.

So, if you’re thinking of starting a podcast for profit, go ahead and scratch that itch, but don’t forget to first think about how you are going to give value to your audience, without expecting anything in return.

Come back and tell us in the comments how it worked out for you.