With Google reporting up to 10 million monthly searches for “podcast” via the search engine giant in 2019, it’s safe to assume that the popularity of podcasts will only grow greater in the coming years. Millions of people also search for more specific terms like “best podcasts” or “Google podcast” and “Apple podcast” in order uncover shows that may strike their fancy.
In June 2019, Edison Research reported that approximately 90 million Americans tuned in to a podcast in the previous month, quite a leap from the 42 million listeners in 2014, and a 26% increase from 2018.
Additional statistics prove the trend toward podcast listening increasing even more, especially among the older U.S. population. According to Marketing Charts, 74% of Americans from 25-year-olds to 54-year-olds tap into podcast listening every month. And the group of 55-year-old Americans and older are among the fastest growing online audio listeners, leaping in growth from 33% in 2018 to 40% in 2019.
The hundreds of thousands of folks asking Google how to make their own podcasts and seeking information about how much money podcasters earn may discover a gold mine behind a microphone. Bloomberg reports that top podcasts are currently bringing in more than $1 million per year in revenue. In 2018, the New York Times’ The Daily podcast earned more than $10 million via advertising.
From $0 to an estimated $100,000 per episode and up - Podcast income reports vary widely
New podcasters may make next to nil when they create their initial episodes and work on building listeners. For example, The Jerry Banfield Show creator reported earning $188.73 for 74,080 plays, meaning he’s earning about $2.55 for every 1,000 people who listen to his Anchor.fm broadcast, although sponsors on the platform tend to pay more, Banfield reports.
However, tried-and-true podcasters who have built a skyscraper-load of avid fans over the years tend to make considerably more money. In the video titled “Yes, The H3 Podcast Can Make $100,000 an Episode - GFM,” The Gamer from Mars breaks down how the H3 podcast of Ethan and Hila Klein earns an estimated $100,000 per episode from a variety of revenue streams.
The YouTube star noted that since the H3 podcast airs live on Twitch and has 48 emotes, they enjoy a minimum of 6,200 subscriber points. Therefore, with a minimum of $2.50 earned per subscriber point, and based on four podcasts potentially published monthly, that equals $15,500 per month — or $3,875 earned per podcast.
Although The Gamer from Mars estimates a conservative $1,000-per-YouTube-video earned for the H3 podcast, according to Social Blade, the H3 podcast earns upward $425,100 per year, based on a CPM rate of $4 per every 1,000 views. With the H3 Podcast YouTube videos routinely gaining close to or more than one million views each, the podcast’s estimated monthly earnings via YouTube that Social Blade lists - ranging from $2,200 to $35,400 per month - are reasonable.
Counting the many ways podcasters make money: From ad revenue to merch...
Podcast listeners are comprised of demographics that can be very attractive to sellers of goods and services. Advertising brokers sell commercials at rates of $25 to $50 for every 1,000 podcast downloads. One podcast episode may average 2 to 3 commercial breaks, therefore the revenue can build, especially for top shows such as Freakonomics Radio, which has on average more than 1.5 million downloads for each episode. That’s a cool $225,000 per episode for three mentions of one advertiser paying $50 for every 1,000 downloads - minus any ad broker fees and the like.
Various age brackets may be more or less valuable to ad brokers. As reported by Edison Research in The Podcast Consumer 2019 report, all of the important demographics increased, but most of the growth in podcast listening was credited to Americans aged 12 to 24. Previously, the number of Americans 12 years of age and older who listened to podcasts each month grew 24% in 2018, with the amount of podcast listeners tuning in during commutes in their cars, SUVs and trucks growing in spades.
According to comScore, almost one in every five Americans who are 18 to 49 years of age have listened to a podcast at least once per month. As reported by TechCrunch, approximately one in three men who are between the ages of 18 to 34 enjoy podcasts.
Well, if you’re impressed by all the above numbers and are considering jumping into the podcasting game or are already there and wondering how other podcasters are turning their podcasts into profitable pursuits, be forewarned that while there are people who have made full-time careers out of podcasting, it isn’t necessarily an easy pursuit.
Whereas viral podcasts like Serial have been downloaded almost 100 million times for the initial dozen episodes, and full-time NBA expert podcaster creators of Dunc’d On have experienced unprecedented success, per Bloomberg, these podcasters are at the pinnacle of the game.
Though making the transition from part-time podcaster to full-time may be tough, it’s not impossible, as Joanna Graham and Kefin Mahon — creators of the How2Wrestling podcast — have discovered, reports Culture Vultures.
Lore by Aaron Mahnke is another podcast that is run by a full-time podcaster — one who cautions others to use a variety of means to monetize their podcasts. As reported by Forbes, Aaron advises would-be podcasters to combine multiple streams of income to create a river of money flowing in from their podcast. Mahnke mentions making money off of his podcast in many of the ways that are explored below, such as selling ads and merchandise, using crowdfunding, hawking tickets to live podcasting shows, and more.
This article lists eight intriguing ways that some real-life podcasters are making money.
#1 — Podcasters Make Money Through Sponsors
One of the most popular ways that podcasters make money is via companies willing to pay them to get their brands in front of the podcast’s listeners. However, many podcasters will warn those jumping into the podcasting arena that it may take a bit of time or ingenuity to gain a paying sponsor.
For instance, the AskPat Podcast earned Pat Flynn $3,389.00 in December 2017, according to his most-recent detailed income report. Pat has been active online since 2008, when he lost his architecture job right before his wedding. He was able to parlay a related website he’d created into his big money-making venture, Smart Passive Income, and create a value podcast to go alongside the cash cows.
Keep in mind that podcast revenue — be it from sponsors or elsewhere — is often reduced by the cost to create the podcast. As an example, Joseph Liu, who runs the Career Relaunch podcast, spends about $150 to put together each episode — but says he got his first sponsor after publishing approximately 15 podcast episodes and gaining 500 monthly downloads per episode. Liu wanted to avoid littering his podcast with a plethora of ads, like he heard on some other podcasts.
As reported by The Atlantic, popular podcasters can command from advertisers approximately $25 to $40 for every 1,000 listeners. Advertise Cast places the 2019 average podcast advertising rates throughout the industry at $18 CPM (cost per 1,000 listeners) for a 30-second ad, and at $25 CPM for a 60-second ad. Therefore, larger podcasters charging $25 CPM based on one million listeners per episode can command at least $25,000 or more to read an ad. Even if an ad agency receives a 20% commission fee on such an ad, the podcaster is still left with a healthy 80% portion of their sponsorship revenue, minus any podcasting expenses, of course.
Where to find podcast sponsors
In an interview with On Comedy Writing podcaster Alan Johnson via Listen Notes, he describes gaining his sponsorship through a podcast network called Boardwalk Audio. Johnson called it one of the big benefits of joining a podcast network for like-minded individuals — because the network handled things on the business end, which freed Alan up to simply read an ad on his show. “Without a network, I almost certainly would not have sponsorship,” he said.
A common theme discovered via more than 120 interviews with podcasters is that plenty of them make no direct money at all via podcasting — or the monies they do earn took quite some time to arrive, only turning their podcasts profitable after their popularity grew.
Such is the case with Tony Martignetti, who has run Nonprofit Radio since 2010. Tony admits — like most podcasters — that he began paying the costs for his podcast out of his own pocket in the beginning. Now the sponsors of Nonprofit Radio “more than cover costs” that are incurred to create the weekly show.
Martignetti is proud that his podcast not only turns a profit, but that he has not missed putting out a weekly show since July 2010, even though his hour-long episodes require approximately three hours worth of pre-production. By the time Tony gained his first sponsor, he had garnered approximately 5,000 listeners per show or 20,000 downloads per month. At first, Tony would give away sponsorships for free to let companies grow familiar with the idea and get attached to the benefits of advertising through podcasts as a vehicle for promotion. Tony didn’t reveal his secret that his earliest sponsors were getting free advertising, but now that he enjoys more than 60,000 downloads per month, he’s free to share his tactics for gaining paying sponsors to his profitable podcast.
Whether you are a podcaster seeking ways that other podcasters make money or simply a person who enjoys listening to podcasts, one cool way to find deals from sponsors is to search for promo codes in order to get discounts from a variety of companies. As you’ll find, certain podcasters make money by offering discounts for their listeners to places like Harry’s Shave Club or Stamps.com with special promo codes that tell the companies the specific podcaster that sent them the customers — offering a way for the podcaster to make an income on the sales.
Podcasters searching for ways to find their own sponsors can find them in a variety of ways. First off, they can look to the sponsors that other podcasters are promoting to learn the specific companies who are open to sponsorships, and approach those companies via social media, the firm’s contact pages or through the business’ advertising email address.
Online forum sections designed specifically for podcasters, like this subreddit, assist podcasters in sharing all manner of information about gaining sponsors, listeners and other helpful podcasting data.
Ironically, Blog Talk Radio Network contacted podcaster Justin Rimmel, who runs Mysterious Circumstances, without Justin having to seek out the sponsors that the network finds for him. Rimmel says that the network discovered him when he began getting 50,000 downloads monthly, a coup that has brought him money — along with the next way of making podcast money, via donations and crowdfunding.
#2 — Podcasters Get Paid Via Donations and Crowdfunding
Plenty of podcasters fund their labors of love out of their own pockets, and a portion of them turn to their listeners for help.
Leslie Krongold, who runs the podcast titled Glass Half Full with Leslie Krongold, Ed.D., set up a GoFundMe website where she collects donations for her chronic health condition-focused podcast.
Podcasters can lead listeners to their Patreon, GoFundMe or Kickstarter crowdfunding campaigns — or solicit donations to be paid to them directly by other means — in order to encourage the continuation of the podcast.
Elecia White and Christopher White took advantage of Patreon to raise funding to offset the expense of providing their podcast guests with microphones for their Embedded podcast.
Elecia explained that she and her co-host only planned to create six or 12 episodes of their engineering-focused podcast in the beginning, but ended up creating more than 200 episodes. She said that whereas the Patreon fund allowed folks to donate money for the costs of shipping microphones, it has become a boon for making excess funds available to buy stickers. Elecia states that the podcast has also provided a spotlight for the duo’s company and book, but admits that there are likely less intensive ways to advertise a firm or tome outside of a podcast.
To see a real-life example of the kind of donations provided to podcasters, check out the Radical Personal Finance Patreon page, which currently lists 216 patrons providing $1,220 per month to the podcaster.
If your listeners fall in love with the content you provide, they will be willing to fund your vision in order to help it succeed.
#3 — Podcasters Gain Increased Income Through New Consumers of Their Products or Services
There are ways that some podcasters are making money outside of the traditional sponsorship avenue. Side Hustle Nation creator Nick Loper describes earning at least $5,200 by selling his services for $97 per month for a private mastermind group.
The Fearless Millionaire Podcast is run by Nathan Amaral, a man who decided to get over his fears and launch his first podcast in 2014 by recording a 30-minute audio session on his iPhone and releasing the podcast. By 2018, Nathan spoke about a podcast listener buying a program he sold for $15,000.
The trust established via the podcasts helps turn listeners into consumers.
Graham Jones, Simon Hazeldine, and Phil Jesson are three sales experts who run the Sales Chat Show, a podcast that helps other professionals get ahead in their own sales pursuits. As the trio of salesmen helps others by imparting their experiences and advice to salespeople, sales managers, and sales directors, the podcasters are also gaining clients to boot.
The Sales Chat Show podcast provides a platform to the three men that ends up promoting them as sales experts — as well as available consultants and speakers. Firms have tapped into the knowledge base of the three men to discover ways to light a fire under sales teams or to allow the podcasters to brainstorm with the sales departments in other companies. Such outside gigs have become a symbiotically beneficial process for the podcasters, since fulfilling the sales consulting jobs and meeting with selling staff helps provide new ideas for their upcoming episodes that they can pass on to listeners.
Beauty Inside & Out podcast creator Angela Dileone also notes that while she hasn’t spent much time thinking about gaining a sponsor for her beauty-focused podcast, the episodes already benefit her career by helping the beauty expert build a following.
#4 — Podcasters Get Paid From Affiliate Income
Whereas some podcasters accept money for ads, podcasters can also make money by getting a cut of the income that their listeners are willing to pay for brands or services discovered via the podcast.
For example, when The Undisclosed true crime podcast provides their listeners with an offer code to save 10% when using SquareSpace.com to set up a website, the podcaster will earn a portion of the monies that those who use the specific code pay SquareSpace.com — a company that plops down $12 million annually for podcast advertising, according to AdExchanger.
Podcasters who create show notes for their listeners to access, which may include the links to products or services mentioned during the episode, can include monetized links to items via the Amazon Affiliate program, CJ Affiliate by Conversant, Ratuken Marketing or sites like the Blubrry Affiliate Program.
After joining the affiliate program, the podcaster can search for the specialized links to products that they can then pass on to their followers in order to earn a percentage of the sales made through those links.
Side Hustle Nation has earned nearly $1,000 from selling their guests products or services as an affiliate.
#5 — Podcasters Make Money From Paid Content
According to the Wall Street Journal, there are podcasters who choose to eschew running ads and instead make money via paid content and subscriptions. Whereas many podcasts are available to listeners for free, some podcasters might charge $4.99 per episode, in order to allow their customers access to episodes early — or offer their listeners bonus content with their ad-free experience. The publication describes how the Swedish company Acast+ is experimenting with subscriptions ranging from $2.99 to $6.99 per month for podcast listeners.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast, for example, makes money by charging $1.99 per episode for older content, and anywhere from $5.99 to $69.99 for Hardcore History compilations of the podcast’s episodes for listeners who want to binge-listen to the series. However, newer and current episodes of his Hardcore History podcast are free to listeners.
Within the Stitcher Premium app, fans can pay $4.99 monthly subscription fees for exclusive content, such as fictional shows about Wolverine.
Amy Schumer’s podcast, 3 Girls, 1 Keith, is available to Spotify customers, with future podcast episodes potentially placed behind Spotify’s paywall.
#6 — Podcasters Gain Funds By Selling Branded Merchandise
Some podcasters have discovered that their fans are willing to promote their love of specific podcasts by supporting the podcaster through becoming a consumer of the merchandise offered for sale.
Dan Carlin’s shop offers everything from hats to t-shirts to gift certificates and more that promote his brand and bring him extra income via promoting the podcast and through the gross revenue of the products.
YouTube has even begun allowing creators to sell their own merchandise directly below each video on their channel. Therefore, podcasters who place versions of their podcasts on YouTube can use platforms such as Shopify, Squarespace, Teespring, or others to help design, produce, and/or distribute their merchandise and promote it directly to their listeners.
Podcasters can avail themselves of sites like Teespring to design their own t-shirts, leggings, hoodies and other items, by placing logos and sayings on the gear and selling the merchandise through the platform.
Shopify also allows ecommerce sellers to establish their own retail brands on the shopping website.
#7 — Podcasters Make Money By Selling Ticket To Their Live Shows
Plenty of podcasters have discovered that the popularity of their podcast has grown beyond folks who want to strictly listen to the episodes whilst driving on long commutes or during other periods of downtime.
Viral podcasters have found success with selling tickets to their shows to customers who want to watch the podcast in action and be a part of the episode-creation process. Such is the case with podcast shows like Pod Save America, with tickets for sale from New York’s Radio City Music Hall to venues that stretch from Atlanta to Nashville and beyond.
The hosts of the 2 Dope Queens podcast won a four-episode HBO series that found the comedians taping their podcast in Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre with a host of celebrities.
Bloomberg notes that the popular podcast called Welcome to Night Vale, covering strange happenings in a desert community, sold out two shows at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle. With tickets priced at $30 and 800 seats in the auditorium, the podcast brought in about $50,000 during PodCon.
Welcome to Night Vale went on to perform more than 20 shows, from international locales such as London and Berlin to U.S. locations like Phoenix and Austin. Jeffrey Cranor noted that while the show often gets 400,000 downloads per episode, touring is more reliable and lucrative. Cranor said, “Advertisers are fickle.”
#8 — Podcasters Find Creative Ways to Lower Expenses, Therefore Make More Money
There are times that increasing podcast profits means lowering expenses so that the revenue isn’t eaten up by hosting fees, pricey equipment, and the like. Whereas certain podcasters might spend hundreds of dollars per month on hosting fees and production costs — spicing up their podcasts with fancy editing and musical backgrounds — others run on a nearly free basis by using inexpensive hosting and equipment they already own. An iPhone for voice recordings thrown into GarageBand suffices for some podcasters who want to keep their expenses extremely low as long as possible, like Nathan described above when he delved into getting his podcast’s first episode online.
Other podcasters turn to non-traditional and creative ways to offset their podcast expenditures. For example, the Mind Gap podcast set up a partnership with a Chicago bar named Elephant & Castle, which gives the podcasters a venue to record in exchange for weekly advertisement during the podcast.
In Summary: There’s More Than One Way to Fund a Podcast
In studying the above examples of real-life podcasters who use a variety of ways to make money from their podcasts, it becomes evident that profitable podcasts are not necessarily a dime a dozen, but they are possible.
The case profiles also prove that the money made from podcasts can flow to the episode creators in non-obvious ways, whether the monies represent career-improving sales, donations, crowdfunding income, paid content and subscriptions models or a unique outside-the-box way of earning discovered after gaining listeners.