Blogging And Podcasting As A Business Model

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The question is not if you can make money from Blogging and Podcasting, the question is how.

There are many people (and media entities) that make money from Blogging and Podcasting. The challenge is that there are also multiple ways of making money indirectly from Blogging and Podcasting that seem to be most attractive to the content producers.

What do the revenue models look like?

  • Paid content (direct). The content is valuable and people are willing to pay for it. The price will vary based on the value as defined by your consumer base. This can be super-cheap (making it a veritable "no-brainer") or premium priced. Getting people to pay for content will be based on the perceived exclusivity and quality.
  • Advertising supported (direct). The content is freely distributed, but it is packaged with advertising. The content producer is typically paid on an impression basis (usually a flat fee for every one thousand impressions delivered), cost per click (if someone clicks on the ad) or cost per acquisition (when someone not only clicks on the ad, but takes a desired action – like buying something). Advertising can also be charged on a sponsorship basis (giving space on a monthly basis). On top of that, many Bloggers and Podcasters use affiliate marketing as well (they are paid a percentage of the total sales that are generated through the advertising that appears within their content).
  • Thought leadership (indirect). There is no advertising or "sales pitch" in the content, but the hopes are that the content creates the desire to want to work with the content producer. This can be hiring them as a consultant or as a speaker or engaging in their company for the services they offer.

The challenge with the direct approach to making money.

Because many of these Social Media channels are relatively new, there are not that many new business models (when comparing it to traditional media). Because they have the same/similar looking business models as these more traditional mass media channels (radio, print, TV, etc…), their content is compared to the media buying opportunities that currently exist. This becomes a numbers game. Advertisers will only pay if there is enough visibility for their message (a mass audience) or if the quality of the people consuming your new media is valuable enough to them (you have a strong and loyal niche).

It is a "who" and a "how many" game.

While Social Media fascinates because of the varied niches and conversational-like engagement that takes place between the content producer and the audience, the only real way to make direct money is to have a significant audience. The definition of "significant" is loose because it either has to be a big audience (the "how many") or a hyper-concentrated audience driven by a topic of interest (the "who").

The direction you choose will dictate the type of money you can make.

Evan Pedersen from Fancy Pants Gangsters emailed me. He gets the feeling that Podcasting seems to be another link in the online marketing chain. He feels that there hasn’t been much discussion about how to make podcasting a business unto itself (which includes more thoughts on how to actually grow an audience)… and he’s right. The truth is that if your podcast (or blog)  is your product, making money comes in two forms:

  1. You’re a celebrity or known entity.
  2. You have a strong database and have converted it into paying customers.

What’s your take on how to actually grow an audience to the point of being able to make money from Blogging and Podcasting?


  1. A few months ago a blogger emailed me (he had my email address because I had commented on his blog a few times) and asked if I would pay for content. He was doing a market assessment to see if he could monetize his blog. It was a genuine inquiry and did not offend me at all. My response was that his content was not unique or informative enough for me to pay for it.
    In thinking about it since then, and in reading this tonight – I think that is the measure both for paid content and advertising revenue. You have to be unique enough or informative enough that people will pay, or that advertisers will pay.
    Just realized that this sounds a lot like I am saying that I will pay for good content … it always comes back to content … doesn’t it?

  2. It’s not a chicken and egg question but I think the problem is that you only get one chance if you choose to go the paid content route. If I chose to charge for my podcasts how many would stick and how many would leave and never come back even if I flip if it’s not working. When you have put in the years and have the audience you don’t want to alienate your audience. But maybe paid content is a better route for me, so far I had mainly thought about sponsorship. Thanks for the nudge…

  3. We’ve been producing audio and video podcast content for clients for six years now. The model that works for us is producing high quality content and helping clients with the back-end distribution via rss, iTunes, YouTube, etc. Our clients have substantial thought leadership and subject matter expertise credentials, and they use Podcasts as a part of their overall marketing and PR outreach.
    Steve “@PodcastSteve” Lubetkin
    Managing Partner, Professional Podcasts LLC
    [email protected]
    @PodcastSteve on Twitter

  4. I can only answer your question from the Blog Consumers point of view Mitch. My RSS seems to be culled periodically down only to thought leaders who are not trying to overtly make money off my visit. Bryan Eisenberg, Seth Godin, Andrew Goodman and yourself that’s it. Could it be that those who choose to cash the easy ticket instead the long term home run do not put in the same effort to inform as those that don’t? Or maybe they just don’t have the goods? The aforementioned individuals do have the right stuff. If I had that F500 budget I would lock them up to long term contracts and that is just what their approach is looking for.

  5. A blog or a podcast are always great ways to start, explore, test and create credibility,once you have built that credibility ideas like Kevin Rose’s Foundation are the way to go. Offer some sort of exclusivity to premium subscribers so people feel a real motivation to start paying for content.

  6. Content is able to find its value. Its tricky, but it’s there and it’s findable. If people are not willing to pay for the content, but there are a lot of people interested in the content, then an ad-supported model could work as well.

  7. You have to figure out if the number fo people willing to pay is worth more than the amount of people consuming it for free. It’s a harder equation to negotiate if you have always given the content away for free. In that scenario, you may want to consider some kind of freemium model.

  8. Are they charging for the content or giving it away? I have no doubt that a business model around producing content for others works, but what are the new models for those who are producing the content themselves?

  9. Adding to that, I think many producers of content feel that there is value and that they should be paid for the content they are producing (whether there is value there or not). My personal preference is to use the non-direct channels and that has worked fine for my business, sales and growth. That being said, I know there are many who charge for their content (or make it ad supported) who would say that I (and many of the others you mentioned) are leaving money on the table. It depends on the strategy.

  10. Most of my clients do give away the content as part of their thought leadership activities. A substantial behavior change will be needed from the audience before pay-per-pod is successful outside a very narrow circle of celebrities who are repurposing broadcast content. We can get thousands of downloads when the content is free. As soon as we tack on even a modest charge, there is a significant drop in downloads.

  11. I think you’ve missed out on another revenue model Mitch. You can also sell your own products and use blogging or podcasting as a marketing channel to reach out to your customer. Some examples:
    Brian Clark uses to sell his online courses, WordPress themes & Scribe SEO service
    Chris Guilleabeau use his blog (×5/) to sell his unconventional guides and events
    Leo Babauta uses to sell his various ebooks
    Joanna Penn uses and its related podcast to sell her online courses for aspiring authors
    These and the many more examples on the internet prove that it is possible to make money from blogging and podcasting. You don’t even need a very large audience.
    The key is – and you allude to this in your post – is that the blogger needs to treat his enterprise like a business, the kind with a target market and goals and business plans.

  12. I’ve been thinking a lot about the writing business – blogs are writing, of course, but in this case I mean those who write books, particularly fiction. Most fiction writers want to use their blogs to build an audience which sounds like a version of your indirect model. However, I haven’t found many who actively listen to their readers and potential readers by providing a mechanism to interact through their blogs. Joanna Penn seems to be doing this but she’s an exception. I’m trying to figure this out for my own writing – have you seen any other good examples out there?

  13. You will probably see better examples of this on the non-fiction side. I’m not a huge fan of fiction, but my guess is that there are probably many great examples of authors who use these channels to interact with their audience.

  14. I’m a solid #3. I have a blog and a podcast (Ideasicle), but I see them more as “fulfillment” to my leads than as money-makers unto themselves. I can’t tell you how many times prospects have called me AFTER they checked out my blog – even if they don’t ready every post, they can sense my passion and (if lucky) my command of the subject. So they hear about my company, they check out the blog and then they call. It’s a fast and furious “mini” purchase funnel!

  15. It seems like most of the people on this are firmly in the #3 camp, which just goes to show that my initial issues were spot on, at least as far as this blog’s audience is concerned.
    One interesting thing about the premium content model is once you have gone free, it is incredibly difficult to go paid. Look at Ricky Gervais’s show from a few years ago. He was one of the biggest shows around until he went paid, and his numbers quickly dried up. Sometimes even good content isn’t enough to get people to change their ways.

  16. I think “good content” is a moving target. There are many Podcasts that are paid only that make a lot of money from people you have never heard of. The do things like 1 Podcast a week is free, but the other six are by subscription. Something tells me that if Ricky Gervais was delivering homerun content – consistently – his audience would grow… not shrink.

  17. Thanks for the post – food for thought as I’m starting a new live web radio show for the watch industry…It turns out the medium is quite popular – monetization is another story 🙂 I think the trick is to do what we’re doing: trying to have some fun first and foremost – if somehow we happen to monetize it in the process, then so much the better!

  18. That’s all fine, Jerome, but I see what Evan is after: you can set it up – from day one – as a legitimate paid media channel. The challenge is in the value and the challenge is in doing something that people will pay for… with many more customers to follow.

  19. Mary – I’ve seen better examples of this in the creative nonfiction market than in straight up fiction, where the writer’s unique voice is the main selling point, and the blog is a nice “sampler” of that voice.

  20. Right, but people won’t pay for radio content – unless you’re Howard Stern 🙂 But even he started on terrestrial radio – which was free – and advertisement-based.

  21. But, if they’re not doing some form of engagement, I’d call it a missed opportunity. Even if it’s link to interviews, articles or even things that are inspiring the author… people want to feel connected and in the know.

  22. Go look at the paid Podcasts on iTunes. Look further into the satellite radio subscription rates and feel free to look at any other form of sold audio. I think people will pay… it’s not easy, but they will.

  23. Great insights, Mitch. I’ve used an online show for years to directly build interest in my services. Ever since I was on traditional radio in fact. It’s a great way to ET people to know, like, and trust you.

  24. Thanks for the mention David. I’m definitely in the indirect category.
    I primarily use my podcast as:
    * a way to meet and talk to interesting people who have information that will help my listeners (and often myself) – this is also why I like the Twist Image podcast as there are great interviews
    * brand building and enabling my listeners to get to know me personally so they are more likely to buy from me
    * traffic mechanism for the incoming links from other blogs as well as the sharing of the podcast audios.
    I don’t actively use it to sell but I do mention launches etc. I will keep doing it because I enjoy it, not because it will ever make money (and I don’t intend it to be monetised specifically)
    Thanks, Joanna

  25. Thanks for the mention Mary, and adding to the fiction discussion.
    I have had a lot of my listeners email re my fiction which I am only just getting into, so I’ll be able to report back on sales later this year.
    Podcast fiction is generally a whole separate ball game that isn’t covered in this post.Check out which has a lot of free books for listening too. NY Times bestselling author Scott Sigler uses podcasting as a primary means of getting his books out there, as did JC Hutchins with 7th Son, one of the biggest podcast novels with over 100,000 downloads. Both of these authors got book deals from podcasts – so that could be indirect originally, but definitely direct now as Scott has a number of books for sale as well as podcasts.
    Thanks, Joanna

  26. I think the best and perhaps the easiest way would be to use podcast/blog as a kind of an audition tape for TV/radio/book appearances than work it back to your podcast/blog platform.
    Even a short stint, no matter how “unsuccessful” it might be for tv/radio numbers might bring in a significant % of audience back to your podcast/blog.

  27. Here’s what we find:
    1) Giveaway good content in the form of a podcast (that is supported by a video telling people WHY they should listen). See an example here:
    2) Offer a free giveaway item if people will simply fill in their name and email address. We give away an eCourse that shows people why video is important to their business lives online. So… just for learning about an inexpensive product, we give away an eCourse.
    3) The mini product is a longer podcast (about an hour) that is downloadable. So… the podcast and eCourse are free and if they like the information in the podcast and want to learn more from us, they can purchase the hour-long audio training.
    4) And once they feel they want the audio training, we also offer a bigger course on a similar topic. That happens on their way to the shopping cart.
    If you want to see how we make it work, just go to that link, log in, say you want the MP3, and follow us to the shopping cart.
    Oh, yes… it’s good information, so we must start with great content. If you like it, go ahead and purchase – but the reason for this post was to share the ideas to make your blog successful and profitable.
    Charlie Seymour Jr
    PS: Again… if you want to SEE how we do this, click on this link and follow what we’re doing:

  28. While the indirect benefits of a corporate blog like the one I run are somewhat obvious, having direct benefits from it is an entirely different matter.
    I don’t see myself or my company benefitting directly from our blog through any classic mean, but this doesn’t mean our social media efforts are wasted. It all depends on what kind of strategy you started with, and more on what you want to evolve into than what you want to achieve in the short term.

  29. In late 2009/early 2010, I did a lot of speaking at real estate conferences. I spoke with a lot of agents, and talked real estate tech to audiences (both live and via webinar). I blogged and recapped events hi-lighting technologies, etc. Well, at one point I had someone reach out asking to sponsor my blog to promote their mortgage calculator. They new I was going to be a featured speaker at Real Estate Blogworld (REBlogworld) and they wanted to get their new mortgage calculator in front of real estate agents.
    Basically, people are willing to pay for exposure. In this case, I was giving this company an audience (real estate agents, their key demographic).

  30. In my experience, time is the main ingredient to using blogs and podcasts to generate revenue. It takes time to build the audience, time to nurture the relationship, and time to produce the excellent content. That’s why it’s vital for entrepreneurs and business folks to get started NOW. With podcasting, too many let the technical challenges keep them back… but it’s unnecessary… there are so many who provide podcasting production services to allow the business owner to be able to podcast without knowing all the techie stuff. I’d love to connect with anyone who’s wanting to get a podcast running the easy way.

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