How To Monetize Your Podcast

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I know the title of this Blog posting is enough to make Hugh McGuire from LibriVox throw up. In fact, I’m not sure how we got on the topic, but we did discuss how to monetize a Podcast over lunch on Tuesday. Hugh and I were joined by Julien Smith from In Over Your Head and Paul Shore from the Guerilla News Network, and that’s where the conversation always leads: how can Podcasters make money from Podcasting.

It got me thinking (and, to be totally honest, I have no idea how clear this thought is in my head) that it’s not up to individual Podcasters to monetize their Podcasts. It’s up to Podcasting – as a media channel – to define it.

Here’s where I am going with this: the people who produce the TV show Entourage, don’t worry about how to monetize it. Nor do the people who produce your local FM morning radio show. Most journalists writing cover stories for national magazines probably don’t think much about it either. All of these people are paid by a media company to produce shows – to be creative. In fact, most of these media companies are looking for content to fit around the advertising – because that is the real business. The content is not to be monetized. The channels are. Just put all of this "stuff" (content) around the ads… but make it good "stuff", so more and more people stick around to see the advertising.

Maybe this is where Podcasters are getting confused. Maybe the creative people who love producing Podcasts should not spend too much time focusing on how they are going to monetize their content. I wonder what type of content people like Walter Cronkite, Malcolm Gladwell, or Charlie Rose would produce if they spent some of their time also worrying about how that content was going to be monetized.

We need to be thinking differently about this. Mostly, we need to not be looking at what worked in traditional media (like pre-rolls and post-rolls) because Podcasting is completely different. Granted it shares characteristics like being in audio and video formats… but it ends there. Podcasting is on-demand, able to be ported to different media types, content you can pause, rewind, skip, fast-forward, and content that once it is produced has a permanent air date. Let’s not forget the RSS delivery component either: as soon as a Podcast is produced (and as long as you’re subscribed to it) you don’t have to go out and get it – a Podcast comes to you. It also lingers as long as the digital file is left available.

Looking to radio and television as the model of monetization could be our biggest mistake. I don’t have the answers as to what will work, but I do know that if the responsibility lies solely on those who are passionate about creating the Podcasts in the first place, I think it will lead us down a dark (and boring) path.


  1. Don’t you think that you are answering your own question in your post? You wrote about about being having a sponsor, from big media or in your case from Twist image, which so far seem like the easiest the most viable option to get some money flowing.
    In the IAB course you gave another option without thinking about it: product placement. Own many people bought the same equipement and software you used for your podcasting demo? Same with all the other products you advertise without thinking about it. This exploit the full extend of social marketing and cost almost nothing to company. Yet it is hard to do while keeping your credibility, but it can be done. As far as I know, are a living proof of it.
    There are numerous models of free media online that are substainable. Just take a look at webcomics. Everyone at Penny-Arcade makes a decent living yet the main product is and always was free. Other podcasting are also making it. AskANinja is one exemple that comes to my mind.
    As you said, I think that podcasting shouldn’t be compared with television and radio because it has sound and images. There are more ways to make money out of podcasting that you could on television, and I just wrote a few I can think off. You just have to look at it for what it is , a web base communication channel, and one could easily see innovative way to monetize podcasting.

  2. This came up as a topic at the Ottawa Podcaster’s Meetup yesterday where Jeff talked about the ‘Pay it forward’ concept of mentoring in the podcasting community.
    I think if you have passion and believe in what you want to share with the world, a system of rewards will eventually evolve, but you can’t reduce what you do to just dollars and cents.
    If making a quick buck is your only incentive, then using social media is probably not the best option you should explore.
    Podcasting takes time and effort but you become more wealthy through the multiple possibilities available as well as the real connections you make. These eventually lead to job prospects, sponsorship offers and other ‘monetary’ gains but they shouldn’t be your primary motive.

  3. This is the exact same conversation that Adam Curry was having on his show back in late 2004 and yet here we are, 3 years later, and podcasting is guilty of everything it came out so strongly against. There is no innovation in advertising, the content is largely echoing that in mainstream media, and podcasters are torn between pursuing their passion and trying to pay their bills. Very little has changed and Curry himself was the first to sell out.

  4. I do not believe that this is “thinking differently”. This idea is actually a step backward. This is the same issue that musicians are dealing with now. Traditionally, musicians (and bands) could concentrate on making music while the label would deal with monetizing it. As we have seen, the internet has opened up numerous opportunities for musicians to work without a label. However, with this new model the musician is responsible for it all.
    This is very similiar to podcasting. The “podcast” model of broadcasting is possible because an individual manages it all. To start to rely on on the media channel to handle this aspect (monetization) would in a sense be a step back to the prior model. Along with this step back, would come at least some of the restrictions of traditional broadcasting.
    As many have noted, monetization is a tricky issue. As an individual attempts to monetize, what he/she is dealing with is the podcast as some kind of business. This allows all the independence of a business, with all the responsibility. Relying on the channel removes some of the responsibility, but wiht it will go some of the independence.

  5. Actually, I think a lot of Blogs/Podcasts are already being monetized, without having a revenue model directly attached to it. This type of Podcasts Podcasts are out there for a reason, and that reason might as well be the “money� side of it.
    At Webcom Montreal last May, Michel Leblanc was saying that most of its business was driven from his blog. That’s revenue right there. But even as a professional, I would seriously consider starting a Blog to share ideas, get exposure, raise my profile and build trust among potential employers, business partners or even current colleagues. And that, to me, would be big enough of a return on my investment.
    The comparison might not hold – you tell me – but let’s just think a second about that model, and ask ourselves if we would ever try to monetize publicity or PR efforts. Yes, sounds weird. We already now what return PR and publicity (is supposed to) produce. And thus we spend. A lot. So the question that comes to my mind is: Are we trying to monetize Blogs and Podcasts because we are still uncertain of the objectives they should be serving?

  6. Perfect time for me to jump into the conversation here… I really believe one venue for the future in monetizing your podcast is “premium on demand”, yet another acronym for “POD”. Obviously, it’s only applicable for certain podcasts, e.g. marketing/consulting/advice, or entertainment/music/video.
    In my particular case, I have chosen a “channeled” model for my music podcast, yes, similar to the XM concept. You like rock music, get the rock feed only. Jazz lover? Get the jazz feed and so on…
    Just this week we have launched a brand new and innovative, in-house developed feature: the “My Premium” feed.
    First of all, the premium music podcast has no talk, jingles or commercials. Second, it is an enhanced “chapterized” podcast, you can skip from one tune to the next one. You can build an entire ambiance music collection on our podcast.
    I don’t believe in paid monthly subscriptions, defeats the whole “on demand” podcasting model. Hence, building your own feed of premium content, channeled for your iTunes/iPod or other devices.
    I invite all of you to give it a shot at After all, it costs less than a Caramel Macchiato 🙂
    Let me know what you think, I really appreciate it!

  7. I would have to agree with Joe in the sense that back in 2004 we were all happy to have the freedom to from “the man”‘ and create content with no limits or controls. It was all about freedom.
    The dual edge is that we can’t expect “the man” or any of the older models to work for us.
    The key is to be genuinely attuned to your audience/niche and give them what
    they seek, from this opportunities for profit emerge.
    The form will be, and should be different for each and every market/audience/listenship.

  8. I think right now and for the forseeable future the key is to spread your monetization strategy over multiple sources. Adwords, sponsorship, direct ads, premium content, affiliates, merchandise, etc. The idea of a premium on demand podcast in addition to an ad-supported free podcast sounds interesting.

  9. I think this is a new world and all of your comments add value and push the conversation forward.
    It’s this kind of open debate that will challenge the industry and help us figure out where the win is for the Podcasters, the audiences and the Marketing.

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