How to make money in podcasting (Complete guide for 2023)
How to make money in podcasting (Complete guide for 2023)
When you work hard on your podcast, it shows. Hours of dedication put into creating well-crafted, interesting content pays off with a fine-tuned product— your very own podcast. A show that listeners discover and keep coming back to week after week. And while having a great show and a growing audience is rewarding, you may want to get the full benefit from your work. We're talking about a payday.
Whether you're a bedroom podcaster or a seasoned pro, Acast believes that everyone deserves to find their audience and make money from their craft. So if you're looking for tools to turn your passion into a side hustle or even a career, we've got you covered.
Getting podcasters paid is our business at Acast. We provide creators with the best monetization tools that enable them to find a model that works for both them and their audience. From ads and sponsorship to subscriptions and one-time payments, Acast makes it easy to get paid for doing what you love. We’ve already paid out over $240 million to creators, and they're all earning in different ways — we put the creator in control.
In this article, we will talk about how to make money podcasting and the different monetization methods available on Acast and beyond. We'll cover how to get started with ads, sponsorships, and subscriptions, and how you can track your earnings and growth with clear and transparent metrics. As well as touching on additional revenue streams such as merch, live events, and affiliate marketing.
Why and when should I monetize my podcast?
Look, we know that not everyone gets into podcasting to make money. In fact, we don’t encourage people to start a podcast specifically to make a quick buck — it doesn’t work like that, but more on this later. But the beauty of podcasting is that it allows you to turn a passion project into a side hustle that can earn you money and, if you’re lucky, even develop into a career. If you're in it for the long haul, you’ll want a strategy when it comes to monetizing your show.
Getting paid will allow you to sustain making episodes. For example, if you have an interview podcast, you can attract more guests by offering a fee for their time. If your podcast involves traveling, you can fund your next trip to produce future episodes. You may decide to hire specialists such as sound designers, social media managers, or a producer, to take your show to the next level and improve the quality of the show going forward.
Having a little extra money in your pocket can pay for essential podcasting equipment and recording gear. Maybe there’s a snazzy new microphone you’ve been coveting, or you want to upgrade your editing software. If you don’t record at home, monetizing can also help pay for regular studio time in a professional podcast studio.
As for when to start monetizing, it’s down to the individual. You can start straight away with ads on platforms like Acast to open up an income stream, and there’s no risk in launching a subscription early on to start developing your offering. Keep in mind there are some limitations on how much revenue you can generate while your audience is limited, but there’s nothing wrong with starting early.
What do I need to start monetizing my podcast?
As we said, we don’t encourage people to start a podcast to make money fast. Podcasting is a medium that takes planning, managing, and a fair bit of hard work to start seeing success—don’t rush to the bank after starting a podcast with one episode.
While there’s no definitive list of things you need to start making money from podcasting, as it can differ from podcast to podcast. Here are the foundations that you should have in place before exploring monetization:
When you’re starting out with a new podcast, it’s important to focus on creating the best possible content you can. This all starts with your idea, concept, and format for the podcast. Something that plays to your strengths as a creator, and offers listeners something different that they can’t hear on any other podcast. We love the phrase “Build it, and they will come” because it is so true in podcasting. We’ve got a great guide for how to start a podcast called Aclass Essentials with tons of helpful insights into how to create quality content, which is a great place to start.
Building an audience
Building and sustaining a podcast audience is crucial for monetizing — it’s your audience that advertisers are paying you to reach, or the listeners themselves who will support you financially. Ultimately, it’s a case of steadily growing your podcast and building your audience — keeping listeners tuning in, episode after episode. It’s about making sure that they don’t “dip in”, but rather hit the follow button and keep coming back for future episodes.
It’s all about consistency, which is the fuel for podcast growth. Keep a regular release schedule, and use seasons to give yourself a break. Your listeners are creatures of habit, and podcast listening is habitual behavior, so they’ll appreciate knowing exactly when new episodes are out.
The best and most obvious way of getting an audience to return is simply to ask them. Make sure you always tell listeners their support matters and tell them to follow wherever they get their podcasts — as well as leave a positive review. Point out you’ve got social media accounts they can follow, and that you’d love to hear from them. The relationship between the podcast host and the listener is an unusually close one, so make the most of this bond.
Some podcasters take advantage of other marketing channels to entice returning listeners. This could take the shape of an email newsletter, dropping a reminder of the next episode into listeners’ inboxes. Your podcast should feel like a club, where your most valuable listeners are the ones who keep coming back – the ones who reach out to let you know they’re listening. Let them know you’re listening, too.
Choosing the best podcast monetization platforms
If you’re serious about developing a successful podcast monetization strategy, your best bet is to work with specialized partners in generating revenue for your podcast. These platforms offer tools that do all the heavy lifting for you, so you can focus on doing what you do best — making podcasts. Platforms and tools vary in what they provide; from podcast advertising networks, membership subscriptions, one-off payments, donations, merch, and more.
There are a lot of choices out there, which can leave podcasters feeling overwhelmed about which platforms to choose. That’s why Acast developed its podcast hosting platform to be a one-stop shop for the most effective podcast monetization. Podcasters can access our podcaster advertising network, the ‘Acast Marketplace’, where they can monetize with ads and, once they’re big enough, sponsorships. We also have our industry-leading subscriptions and one-time payments tool ‘Acast+’, which allows podcasters to get paid directly by listeners in return for premium content, ad-free episodes, and much more. You can find out more about these monetization tools below.
How do podcasts make money?
Here we go, your complete guide to the various podcast monetization methods, along with helpful explainers and tips on how to get started.
Podcast advertising and sponsorships
Podcast ads and sponsorships are the bread and butter of podcast monetization. If you’ve ever listened to a podcast, chances are you’ve heard what these sound like. These commercial messages from brands and businesses are what put the most money in podcasters’ pockets and keep podcasts free for listeners.
First, let’s define a few important terms:
- Ads are shorter commercial messages in podcasts, usually, 30-60 seconds in length, that are typically created by the advertiser, brand, or business themselves. These will often feature their own signature voice, tone, or music associated with that brand.
- Sponsorships are commercial messages that are direct endorsements of a brand, often read by the podcast creator themself — also known as host-read sponsorship. These are typically longer, around 1-3 minutes in length. As sponsorships are personally created and read by podcasters, this ad format is suitable for podcasts with bigger listenerships.
- Dynamic Ad Insertion is a technology that inserts ads and sponsorships into your podcast, which Acast invented all the way back in 2014. Dynamically inserted ads and sponsorships are heard on your podcast episodes at the right time, targeting the right audience, across all of your shows’ episodes. This means that your podcast, no matter how far back in your catalog your listens are taking place, will generate passive income even from episodes published years ago. Neat!
In the majority of cases, it’s recommended that you sign up for a podcast host that’s got a built-in podcast advertising network, like Acast. On Acast’s platform, you have everything you need for podcast creation, publishing, and monetizing — including access to the Acast Marketplace where you can start making money through ads and sponsorship that uses dynamic ad insertion, and manage and track your revenue all from the same place.
Monetizing with Acast means you can make money from advertising no matter what app is used by your podcast listeners, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, and any other app that catches your RSS feed.
One of the beauties of podcasting is just how individual and tailor-made advertising can be, so we’d encourage even beginners to see how ads can start working for you, whatever stage you’re at in your podcasting journey.
Acast works with the world's biggest and best brands, so you don’t have to worry about any dodgy ads. On top of this, we ensure that ads sound right at home on your show by putting you in control of setting criteria for any brands or categories that you don't feel are right for your listeners. It's our job to make sure your audience hears the right ad that won't interfere with their experience.
You also have control of showing us exactly where you want ads to be heard in your episodes, using what is known as ‘Ad Markers’.
- Pre-roll markers usually play at the very start of your episode
- Post-roll markers usually play toward the end of your episode
- Mid-roll markers can be placed in the middle of any episode that is at least 10 minutes long. And want to know a secret? – this tends to be the most lucrative ad spot.
Before an ad plays in your episode, we play our iconic audio logo (the Acast North Star) to let your listeners know the difference between your show and the ads.
Once ads are in your episodes, it's time to get paid. The amount of money you earn depends on the number of listens, your show category, how brand-safe your content is, and a few other factors. Crucially, ad revenue is dependent on CPM (Cost Per Mille), which is a fancy way to say the cost-per-thousand impressions (listens) from your listeners. This can range between advertisers, but typically falls between $5-50 per CPM. Once you've reached a certain monthly threshold (for example, $50 in the US), you'll receive simple steps to tell us where to send your money. You can also track your earnings through the dashboard with our transparent metrics.
As your podcast grows and you get bigger, you may find that advertisers want to hear from you directly, in your voice. These are podcast sponsorships, and Acast can help connect you with sponsors. Sponsorships are podcast host recorded endorsements of a product or brand read aloud by the podcast creator. Podcasts allow you to fully take control of advertising in your own style. In fact, it's that personal connection between you and the listener that our advertisers want to tap into. Eligibility for the sponsorship on Acast starts at 500 listens per week, but sponsorship campaigns are managed on a case-by-case basis through our dedicated podcast sales team.
Of course, there’s the option of going it alone and pitching potential sponsors yourself for your podcast. Before you reach out, you’ll need to have some numbers ready. Advertisers will want to know how many downloads or listens your podcast gets, and therefore how many impressions their ad is likely to get. In other words, how many people are likely to hear it. You should also be prepared to talk in detail about who your listeners are, and why they’d be interested in the sponsor. For most podcasters, this is very time-consuming and difficult to manage whilst doing everything else it takes to create a podcast. And keep in mind, if you have your own baked-in ads you are not eligible for sponsorship opportunities from Acast.
Podcast subscriptions, memberships, and premium content
Working with brands isn't the only route for making money in podcasting, increasingly a lot of creators are supported directly by their listeners through subscriptions or memberships, as well as one-off payments for premium content. And you may not need masses of listeners to make this work – you just need them to be really into what you’re doing.
It’s a bit of a different approach to advertising - one that relies on building a loyal audience base before it can be truly sustainable. But when it works it can be so effective in creating revenue that grows alongside your show’s popularity and helps you build a strong, two-way relationship with the people who are investing in you.
There are a few platforms out there for podcast subscriptions, such as Supercast and Patreon—which Acast has integration with. Acast also has its own supercharged subscription tool called Acast+, which is included in its hosting platform. Think of Acast+ as the ultimate podcast membership club, all available through the same platform you host and publish your podcast.
Podcast subscriptions and premium content are a way to offer listeners all sorts of benefits or perks in return for a monthly fee, or one-time payment. Essentially you’re creating a paywall for exclusive content. Acast+ subscriptions work across pretty much every listening app including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Podcast Addict, and many others. This means a super seamless experience for your listeners. No changing apps or even feeds to access their Acast+ benefits.
Let’s look first at monthly subscribers—that is, listeners who pay a monthly subscription fee, set by you to access benefits. On average, we’ve seen that around 2-5% of audiences could become paying subscribers using Acast+. Shows that promote frequently and persistently can see upwards of 7-10%. This process can take a while – podcasts are slow-burning experiences built on trust and faith so don’t be disheartened if things take a while to ramp up. Persevere, focus on your show, and the subscribers will come in time.
You’ll need to work out what you can offer your listeners in return for their subscription. You can set up a range of tiers for different amounts of money and assign perks to each. Benefits that you can offer through Acast+ include:
- Ad-free episodes: Acast can automatically remove ads from episodes for paying listeners.
- Bonus episodes: Exclusive podcast content for the people who love it most.
- Early access: Get episodes to your superfans before anyone else can listen.
- Access to archive: Holding back your archive is a great way of turning new listeners into paying subscribers
You can also customize these tiers to fit with the themes and stories of your show. Take a look at some of Acast’s popular podcasts that are using Acast+, including WTF With Marc Maron, Sh**ged, Married, Annoyed, and Owning It.
Acast+ brings all the tools you need to convert your audience to membership, including a dynamically-inserted intro message added to your regular episodes, explaining what your subscription is and how to subscribe. And cleverly, you can make sure these messages aren’t served to any existing subscribers. You can also put a custom call-to-action in your show notes so people can easily click straight through to your subscription offering.
You can also test your listeners’ appetite for subscriptions with one-time payments for special episodes, bonus content, or bundles of episodes in one go. This can be a really great, low-stakes way of bringing them closer to your show without the pressure of ongoing payments. You’re also not limited to podcasts. Audio content like audiobooks, stand-up sets, live recordings, and more can all be delivered to your audience through Acast+.
You don’t just make money with Podcast subscriptions, they’re also a great way of building an email list—which you can use to build a closer relationship with your biggest fans.
Podcast subscriptions work because they are a great example of what makes podcasts so special. It’s about you, it’s about what you love and connecting you with the people who love what you do.
Affiliate programs allow you to earn commission by promoting a business’s products or services. When your listeners use your affiliate link to make a purchase, you earn a percentage of the sale. Here are some steps to help you make money in podcasting using affiliate programs:
- Choose a niche: Identify a specific niche that your podcast caters to. For example, if you host a podcast about personal finance, you can promote affiliate products related to finance and investments.
- Find affiliate programs: Research and find affiliate programs that align with your niche. There are several affiliate networks available, such as Amazon Associates, ShareASale, and Commission Junction. Acast also has its own affiliate program.
- Select products: Choose products or services that you genuinely believe in or have used yourself. It is crucial to promote high-quality products that will provide value to your listeners.
- Promote products on your podcast: Once you have selected the products, you can promote them on your podcast by creating engaging ad spots. You can also add links to the show notes or your podcast website.
- Track your earnings: Keep track of your earnings from affiliate marketing to determine the effectiveness of your efforts. This will help you make adjustments to your strategy and optimize your earnings.
Acast has its very own affiliate program, which can earn you a 30% recurring commission every month for each podcast customer you refer to Acast who signs up for one of our paid-for plans. This is perfect for podcasters as you’re already speaking to people interested in the medium, and can talk from experience about the joys of podcasting.
Additional ways to monetize your podcast
Donations and crowdfunding
Similar to one-time payments, there are tools to request one-off donations from your listeners to support the podcast. People often phrase this to their listeners as helping them buy a cup of coffee, a beer, or an in-joke related to their podcast. You can do this through Acast+ easily by creating a one-time payment tier and customizing the message.
Crowdfunding is a slightly different approach than a donation, but still involves your fans contributing to support the podcast. Usually, creators will launch a crowdfunding campaign to launch a new podcast or series, using platforms like Kickstarter—which has a whole section dedicated to funding podcast projects. For example, James Acaster, co-host of Off Menu, funded a new podcast using Kickstarter.
Another way to earn money directly from your diehard fans is by selling merchandise. This is a great way to put money in the bank but also to build a community with your audience around your podcast — like a real fan club. Using e-commerce platforms like Shopify and Everpress or specialist merch platforms like Spring, you can create branded t-shirts, mugs, hats, or even books or an online course that ties in with the topic of your show.
Live events, live streams, and gigs
In-person live events and live streams offer podcasters the opportunity to connect with their audience in a more intimate way. The relationship between podcasters and listeners is unlike any other medium, so many fans want to be able to interact with their favorite podcasters. You can run events such as live Q&A sessions, behind-the-scenes looks at your show, and even exclusive interviews with your guests. And the best part? You can charge your audience to access these events.
To get started, you'll need to choose a platform to host your live events and live streams. There are plenty of options out there, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and Zoom. You'll also want to promote your event through your podcast, social media, and email list to get as many people to attend as possible.
And here’s an idea, why not try using one-time payments on Acast+ to sell tickets to your live events?
There you have it, a comprehensive look at all the different ways to earn money through podcasting. Monetizing is just one aspect of podcasting, but an important one if you’re looking to turn your passion into a profitable venture. From ads and sponsorships to merchandise and subscriptions, there is a monetization strategy that can work for you and your audience. At Acast, we offer a variety of tools and features to help you monetize your podcast on your own terms. Get started by signing up or switching to Acast today.