Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life? Debatable, but there are certainly ways to turn your passion project into something that can turn over a profit.
You may be wondering how to make money with your podcast, and we’re here to help. Whether you just want to cover the cost of your recording equipment or are in search of a full-time podcasting career, turning those downloads into dollars is possible through podcast sponsorship.
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The road to getting a podcast sponsor is a steady climb with many different options. Podcast ad spending is expected to total around $354 million this year. So there is no time like the present to start thinking about cashing in. It won’t be something that happens overnight, but with this guide, you’ll be on your way to monetizing your content, no matter the size of your audience.
Very simply put, podcast sponsors, are businesses that pay to advertise to your audience. Podcasting might not be your main source of income. But it still feels good to get paid for something you put effort into. Maybe you want podcasting to be your job title? Then you’re in luck because podcasting is a medium that is constantly on the rise, thus appealing to more advertisers every year.
Since there are different reasons that one might want to monetize their podcast, one thing that is important to know before we carry on is that you don’t need an enormous audience to land a podcast sponsor. However, you need to know what you’re offering to a potential podcast sponsor and what they can bring to you.
Before we go any further, let’s also address one thing. Podcasters deliver ads through live reads. So let’s define what is a live read.
A live read or a host read ad is an advertisement/endorsement communicated conversationally by the host or hosts within a podcast episode. It can happen naturally at the beginning (pre-roll) or in the middle of the show (mid-roll). Although most advertisers want an authentic testimonial of the product, hosts more often than not, receive a copy and/or talking points from the advertiser with instructions for the live read.
Have you ever listened to a podcast before where the host begins an episode by stating “…this episode is sponsored by …..” followed with a brief personal experience with that particular brand? Well, that’s a live host ad.
Want to hear a real-life example? Click below to listen to a live read sample.
Knowing how to make money with your podcast will begin with understanding the different types of podcast sponsorships available.
Affiliate sponsorship follows a cost-per-action model rather than the cost per mille (CPM). As a podcast host, you give your listeners an affiliate code or coupon for a product or service. If your listeners go through with the purchase, then you will get a percentage of that sale. Given that you have an extremely loyal audience who believes every word you say, then the affiliate model could be profitable for you.
This is a classic advertising model that relies on your audience’s purchasing power. But also on the strength of the company’s advertisement. If their product isn’t marketed well, then you won’t be making much money on your side either. Likewise, if the affiliate company has a website that is difficult to navigate or constantly comes up with payment errors, then that could hurt your potential commission.
Typically, this type of affiliate-based podcast sponsorship is used by smaller podcasts getting started. Once you grow your audience, you can start branching out into different types of monetization.
In your search for a podcast sponsor, you’ll come across CPM a lot, which stands for cost per mille (CPM). Mille is Latin for a thousand. It is used in advertising as a method of measurement for the number of impressions an ad can receive.
For example, let’s say a podcast sponsor is offering $20 CPM. CPM of $20 means that for every thousand listens your podcast gets, you will be paid $20. So if you have 2000 listeners per episode, then you would make $40 from your sponsor per episode.
For podcast advertising, it is hard to give a benchmark CPM. Everything depends on your audience, the type of podcast, and where the ad will be placed during the episode.
While it certainly helps to have tons of subscribers for CPM-based models, if you don’t have a following in the thousands, don’t fret. What matters is rather the strength of your audience rather than your follower count.
For example, let’s say you have a podcast about remodeling luxury homes with a following of 300 very dedicated listeners. Your small but mighty following likely have bank accounts that align with your subject matter. So, you’ll be able to charge relevant advertisers more to access your high-profile listeners. Versus a generic home remodeling podcast that has 2000 followers of varying income and listener loyalty levels.
There are three options for placing sponsored ads in your podcast: pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll.
- Pre-Roll – The ad appears before your content begins. This is usually a short 15-second blurb about your podcast sponsor’s product or service. Think of a classic radio ad along the lines of “This podcast is powered by EarthMask. For an eco-friendly face wash, check out their website…”.
- Mid-Roll – The ad appears in the middle of your content, like a commercial break. This ad spot is the most coveted by podcast sponsors, thus could be the most lucrative for you. Your audience is captivated by your content. At this point and is less likely to skip through it as they are with pre-roll or post-roll ads. The form of mid-roll ads can vary, and podcast sponsors might even give you an exact script to readout.
- Post-Roll – The ad appears at the end of your show after your content has finished. Follows a similar format to a pre-roll ad. But is the least desired of all three spots because the listener can easily tune out at this point.
Baked-in vs. Dynamic
A baked-in live read is a read that stays within a podcast indefinitely (also called embedded). Why? Because it is recorded at the same time that the host records an episode. These advertisements are woven into the content of the show. Therefore, allowing a unique, organic, and authentic description and endorsement of a product and/or service. They only exist within that specific episode forever.
On the other hand, a dynamically inserted host read is recorded at a separate time by the host and it’s inserted into the episode post-production via cue points from an ad server.
There are various benefits to both baked-in and dynamic host-read ads. As a result, the use of either or both of these formats is up to the podcaster. Using dynamic ads is scalable as it is an audio file that is inserted into a podcasters entire catalog. Therefore monetizing across all of your content, not just in one episode like a baked-in live read.
Dynamic also allows you to continuously work on different live-read campaigns with brands as the live read is inserted into your ad cue points. Baked-in reads can sound more natural within your audio as they are recorded with your content. The good news is, there’s no need to definitively decide between the two; they can work in tandem depending on the desires of your advertising partners.
Remember that if your hosting platform offers advertising technology like Spreaker does then you don’t have to go to another platform to run your ads. So it is best to find a platform that can host and look after your ads.
Nothing is stopping you from asking how to make money with your podcast from the beginning of your podcast journey. If podcasting is something you’re passionate about and work on regularly, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t want to monetize your content.
Generally, there’s no certain amount of downloads you should have before starting to reach out to podcast sponsors. However, you should ask yourself if your audience is ready to start hearing ads. If you’ve already established to your audience that you are a good podcast host with quality content, then their loyalty won’t be swayed by a few seconds of advertising.
If you’re still in the early stages of getting started, talking about another company’s services and products could be off-putting to people who have just discovered your show. The last thing you want is to slow your audience growth, so make sure you are in a comfortable position before going ahead with your podcast sponsorship plans.
Browse relevant keywords
Consider your niche
Think about the specific niche your podcast occupies, and specifically, your podcast avatar. A podcast avatar is your ideal listener, one you want to pretend you’re speaking to directly when doing your show. You should know them inside out, including their wants, fears, desires, and uncertainties.
If you know your podcast avatar well, you should know exactly what they’re seeking in life. What products or services could be of interest to them? Make a list of possible leads and reach out to any you know of.
For example, if you’re a hiking podcast, you would know the type of equipment that your listeners constantly struggle to find. Reaching out to a company that sells solar-energy phone chargers might be a good start, as your audience would be inclined towards that type of technology.
Knowing your podcast avatar is equally important because you will need to transfer your audience information onto any potential podcast sponsors you get in contact with. You don’t want to end up with sponsors that don’t resonate with your audience and vice versa.
Keep an eye on your rivals
Another good starting point would be to check out your “rival” podcasts. Look at other sponsored podcasts in your field, and see who their sponsors are. It could be worth connecting with them or trying to get in contact with similar companies
Rather than considering this as sponsor poaching, look at it like approaching a business that is already familiar with this line of marketing. A company that is already sponsoring a podcast in your niche will know what to expect and how to negotiate with you, which could ease up the process for you.
Use podcast marketplaces
Networks and marketplaces exist for podcasts to find sponsors. You have to compete directly with other podcasts, but it’s as easy as uploading information about your show and waiting for someone to contact you.
Spreaker, for example, has a strong live read program. All we ask from podcasters is that they should hit or surpass the 5,000 per episode downloads threshold within 30 days of posting. It can be really hard for new podcasters to get sponsorships. The upside in working with Spreaker, for example, is that our team has existing relationships with the big agencies. Our hosts have previously been sponsored by:
- Hello Fresh
- The Great Courses
- Third Love
Always be mindful that marketplaces often ask podcasters to split any revenue you earn with the marketplace you’re using. Sometimes they will collect a commission on any sponsored ads you picked up, which can sometimes be a decent percentage. However, the upside is that you’ll get direct exposure to potential podcast sponsors in a way that cold emailing might not.
After you’ve narrowed down some potential podcast sponsors, it’s time to get in touch.
Your email doesn’t need to be as complicated as you think it does. Introduce yourself, introduce your podcast, and include any relevant links. You need to prove your value to your potential sponsors. This is where any key statistics will come in handy. Anything with numbers will seem more trustworthy than just saying “I have a loyal audience”.
If you don’t have a huge audience yet, there’s still ways to reach out. Instead of boasting numbers, boast your niche. There will always be other podcasts with more engagement than you, but there will never be another podcast that is you. Give them reasons that their product will succeed in your specific niche as opposed to others. Tell them exactly who your podcast avatar is, and what will drive their interest to your podcast sponsor’s product.
Try to make your email as personal as possible. In order to establish a real relationship, you want to emphasize genuine interest in their company, and not look like you’re just trying to make money with your podcast. Say what interests you about them, what values you share in common, and how you think a relationship between the two of you would look like.
Creating a Media Kit
The easiest way to introduce yourself to potential podcast sponsors is to prepare a podcast media kit for them. A media kit is a bundle of information that gives the who, what, where, when, why, and how of your podcast. It should contain everything a sponsor would need to know about your podcast, including:
- An introduction to your podcast (including any titles or logos)
- Explain your podcasting niche
- Information about you, other hosts, any past special guests or interviewees
- Audience statistics (download numbers, demographics, engagement rates, social media following, etc)
- Audio samples (if possible)
- Ad pricing information and partnership ideas
- Contact information
As you are trying to build a relationship with your podcast sponsor, make sure you emphasize that you are open to ideas and working out something together. You don’t want to come off like you’re trying to dictate the entire relationship.
Ideally, you should gather all of this information into one easy-to-read document or slideshow to be emailed out, or you can make it readily available for download on your website. Within this document, you should have your contact information clear as day, so any interested podcast sponsors can get in touch with you directly. The prettier you can make this document the better while making sure it is still easy to read. Infographics and photos can go a long way here.
Knowing how to make money off your podcast might be exciting, but before you jump into the world of podcast sponsorship, you should fully understand the change your show will take. Right now you might be running on your own schedule and putting out content as you please, but with a podcast sponsor, you may need to stick to a regular schedule.
Being sponsored by a business, you’ll be obliged to them in terms of what they want you to offer to your audience. Your audience too will become another obligation, and you will need to keep a balance between appealing to them and your sponsor. By including ads in your show, you have to be careful to not lose the intimacy of your podcast, as you don’t want your audience to feel like they’re being used for money.
Honoring to Your Podcast’s Values
Another warning before accepting podcast sponsors is to make sure that your sponsor aligns with your podcast’s values and vision. For example, if you know that your audience values animal rights, it’s probably a good idea to steer away from any companies that do testing on animals. Your audience could see it as a breach of trust if you start advertising for companies that do not align with the platform you have established for yourself.
At the end of the day, it’s nice to make money with your podcast, but putting out quality content should still be your first priority. Podcasting is not a medium that’s going to be disappearing anytime soon, so we should see it only go up from here.
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