Smaller podcasts make money too

(2 min read) Three simple ways to make a living with a smaller podcast

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I've been running my podcast weekly for 7 years and never get more than 20-30k listens per week. 

Ad revenue is a good way to monetize content, but only if you're reaching a large audience, which is quite a challenge for most niche podcasts. 

Other methods for revenue are available though, including highly targeted partnerships with brands that have products tailored for your niche audience, as well as platforms such as Patreon.

I always appreciate direct feedback from readers.

Matt’s comment is a valuable reminder that the tactics that work for big Creators - and in podcasts, a show getting 50k+ downloads per episode is a “big Creator” - aren’t always super relevant to those looking to monetize more niche audiences.

Fortunately, there are many ways to make a living from smaller podcast audiences!

Here are three (3):

Sell products or services

This is the big one. A podcast is a great way to funnel people interested in your niche towards a product or service that is very lucrative. If you charge enough, you wouldn’t need to convert that many listeners to be very profitable.

For example, if I had a podcast (I don’t…but maybe one day…), I would interview Creator partnerships and growth executives from social media and Creator Economy companies. 

The audience would be small - maybe a few thousand if I’m lucky - but they’d likely be founders, executives, product managers, and heads of growth at various companies that work with Creators. That’s mostly who follows me on LinkedIn, aside from Creators.

I’d plug my go-to-market consultancy, Partner with Creators, throughout the show, and make my email readily available in all the show materials. Most likely, I’d get 1-2 inquiries a week (<0.1% of the audience). 

If I converted 1-2 of those per month into consulting clients, at a rate of $10,000 per month depending on services, and I worked with 1-3 per month on average, that would be a $120k - $360k annual business!

Offer exclusive content and/or community through membership

Jay Clouse made >$500,000 in annual revenue from an audience of <100,000 people. His 9000 download/month podcast contributed about 10% of that - so $50,000 - by building deep trust with his audience and driving them towards his high-priced ($2000/year) membership.

I would probably rank the podcast and email audiences above Twitter and LinkedIn. The absolute size may be smaller, but there’s a deeper level of trust in the relationship that I have with those people.

Do deeper partnerships with companies selling in your niche

Jerry Won’s Dear Asian Americans podcast only gets about 2,000 downloads per episode - but thanks to its subject matter and charismatic host, it’s attracted big-name guests like Vice President Kamala Harris, Instagram celebrity “Your Rich BFF” Vivian Tu, and TV/movie star Kal Penn (among many other API luminaries).

[You have to] become known as a subject-matter expert - which for me is broadly “the Asian American experience in the workplace” - through sharing content, sharing studies that come out, sharing my thoughts.

The credibility and quality of his content is attractive to big brands like Adobe, who want to sell to the Asian and Pacific Islander Creator audience that he reaches. As a result, he can negotiate larger partnerships that are longer-term, more deeply integrated, and more lucrative than standard ad reads.

Other tactics to generate incremental revenue include:

  • Programmatic advertising via a network like Acast

  • Affiliates and referrals with codes and links in the show notes

  • Ticketed live shows and meetups a few times a year

There are plenty of ways for Creators to make great money off of relatively small podcast audiences.

For his podcast, Matt Payne focuses on membership and supplements with incremental revenue:

Patreon is my #1 source of income. After that, it's low-yield affiliate agreements with magazines/websites. Monetization was never really my goal, but it is nice to get paid for the hard work! =)

Thanks for reading!

My mission is to enable a million people to find freedom in the Creator Economy.

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Written by Avi Gandhi, edited by Melody Song,
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