I began podcasting several years ago, and like most people I didn’t fully understand what podcasting was all about. It started as a benevolent gesture to share knowledge with small business owners, but I wasn’t prepared for what this little adventure would do for my brand, and for my own business.
Many podcasters still enter the world of this digital broadcasting medium simply because they have that undeniable entrepreneurial spirit; they are people who love to jump into something new and open themselves to a world of possibilities. But some of these producers are learning how to monetize their efforts as they share their passion and knowledge with the masses—and you can be amongst them.
“There are about 30 million active blogs on the Internet, but only about 200,000 active podcasts,” says Rob Walch, vice president of podcaster relations for Wizzard Media's Libsyn platform. It hosts more than 12,000 active podcasts, including some of the top downloads on iTunes. With such a comparatively small number of podcasters on the Internet, there is plenty of room for more.
But why produce a podcast? A smart business owner may consider it imperative for his or her brand, but a smarter business owner will gather solid metrics to quantify their ROI. If you are considering sponsorships as your revenue driver, remember that your advertisers are smart too. They will want those stats as well, and they will want to see traffic to their website that converts.
“Advertisers look for niche podcasts that match up really well with what they sell,” says Walch. “They will want to see the proof that the podcast’s audience matches up with the demographic or psychographic that they are targeting. You wouldn’t want to advertise Omaha Steaks, for instance, on a vegan podcast.” Wizzard uses a double opt-in standard when they match an advertiser to a producer. Each party must agree on the arrangement so that everyone is happy.
But all of this talk of advertising may be premature if your podcast doesn’t boast at least 10,000 downloads per month. And if you don’t have a strong following via your blog or other platform, building to 10,000 and beyond may not be easy—not even in social media. “We find that a large number of twitter followers doesn’t really correlate to how many listeners a podcast has,” Walch says. Interestingly, while Twitter followers don’t appear to be fans, Facebook fans and friends do. And, according to Wizzard Media and Libsyn’s preliminary research results, Pinterest and Google+ connections seem to correlate as well.
Social media involvement isn’t the only way you will want to market your podcast. “Reach out to other podcasters and network with them,” Walch advises. “Interview bloggers that have great audience numbers—especially strong connectors in your niche.” Your time is well spent when you become active in groups and forums that are related to your niche. Relationship building seems to be the key to building a loyal fan base. “Get your audience involved,” Walch advises. “Have them promote your show. And get listener feedback to play or read on the show. If you get them involved and they will spread the word.”
To increase visibility, make sure to list your podcast in all of the podcast directories, including iTunes. Another powerful consideration is the use of a smartphone app to increase your following. Wizzard Media's Libsyn platform offers the smartphone app as a part of their hosting package.
Once you have built a following, there are other creative ways to monetize your podcast. Here are a few. If you have found another way to generate dollars via your podcast, I’d love to hear from you!
Sell Your Products or Services: Convert loyal listeners into paying customers who want to learn more from you and your information products. If you have a tangible product your listeners may prove to be great consumers for you as well.
Paid Podcast Model, or Premium Content Offer: Some popular podcasters offer a few free episodes and listeners pay to access the library to hear the rest. Combining this model with sponsorships can generate a solid revenue stream.
Repurpose Your Content: These podcast recordings are yours to do with as you please. You have some outstanding content here and you can create audio products with it. Get over your hang-up of repurposing free content for sale. You are enhancing your fans' experiences.
Affiliate Sales: If you don’t have products of your own, you can find affiliate opportunities in your niche and push traffic to your landing page. Remember to create your own affiliate offerings once you do create your information products.
Paid Placement: A sponsor may be interested in a guest interview on your podcast and will sometimes pay for the time. Of course, your numbers must be strong (with verified stats) and your listeners must fit the sponsors target audience.
Funding Platforms: Put your new project on Kickstarter or another popular funding platform. How much does it cost you in time and money to deliver your amazing content to the world? Your listeners may want to support you by contributing and spreading the word. “Fans want to support the producers,” Walch tells me. “Help them and they want to help the producer back. They like to pay back for all of the time and effort that the producers put into their work.”
So, yes, podcasting can be a great addition to your business or even a stand-alone revenue model. But there is much more to a great podcast than the hour that you spend on air. “For every minute you spend producing your podcast you have to spend at least the same amount of time marketing it,” says Walch. Passion for your niche is important to success, but time is critical to success.