Podcast Seminar: Monetizing Your Podcast

This post continues the Podcast Seminar series. This week we discuss a popular topic, monetizing your podcast.

If you talk to 10 different podcasters and ask them how to monetize your podcast, you’ll get 10 different answers. A few of the popular models that I’ll discuss in this post are donations, “premium” subscription, promoting products, pay per episode, advertising, sponsorship, and affiliate links.

First off, let’s get this ugly fact out of the way; unless your podcast is a standout in the thousands of podcasts in iTunes, there’s a good chance you’re not going to make a dime on your podcast. If you’re getting into podcasting to make money, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. At least for right now. There are opportunities to make a few bucks, but basically the monetization model for podcasting is far from fleshed out. Even though that’s the case, let’s take a look at the models listed above.

Donations – The donation model of monetizing is very much like a PBS television station or NPR radio station. The hosts solicit money from listeners or viewers. There is usually a button on their website that says donation or tip jar. The donations can be one time or setup as monthly. Paypal is the usual suspect here in setting up a donation scheme. For an example of this model, check out any of the TWiT podcasts. Leo Laporte has a donation button on the twit.tv site where you can sign up to give a one time amount, or give monthly. You could also call this a benefactor model.

Premium Subscription – When you subscribe to a podcast, it’s not like subscribing to cable. No money changes hands. You simply add the podcaster’s RSS feed to your aggregator of choice. In the premium subscription model, you still subscribe to the podcaster’s feed, however this time you have a username and password and you pay the podcster to subscribe to the feed. This model is much like the premium channels like HBO. You pay an agreed upon amount each month. There are a few services that can provide this type of service, but the one that’s getting a lot of use is Premium Cast. Check out The Bitterest Pill for an example of this type of podcast monetization.

Product Promotion – If you sell a product as part of your business, then this is the monetization model for you. I made a reference to Gary Vaynerchuk of WinelibraryTV in a previous Podcast Seminar post. The Winelibrary is Gary V’s business. Each episode of the show he uses some of the product available in his store. He doesn’t push the product, but instead gives an honest review of the wines. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. I don’t doubt the the number of bottles flying out the Winelibrary has gone up by a large amount due to the show. Take a look at the show and see how to sell products without making each episode of your podcast an infomercial.

Pay Per Episode – The pay per episode model is very interesting, mostly because I don’t see it very much. In fact I can only think of one off the top of my head. French Maids is a pay per episode podcast that an advertiser pays to have produced. French Maids show you how to use the advertiser’s product during the course of the episode. Tim Street is the producer of French Maids and with this show has created quite a phenomena with it. With the pay per episode model, you may not produce a show very often, and that’s the case with French Maids.

Advertising – This is probably what you thought about when you saw the title of this post. Advertising has worked it’s way into so many parts of our lives that it seems strange when it’s not there. When a podcaster starts thinking about monetizing this is often the first stop, but maybe shouldn’t be. With advertising you put an advertisement into your show and the “deal” can often include putting banners on your web site. The reason that I say that maybe it shouldn’t be the way you monetize is for a couple reasons. The first is freedom to say anything you want to on your podcast about anybody, including the sponsor. The temptation to stay away from talking about the sponsor in all but the best light creates a disingenuous feeling to a show. The second is, who’s going to go out and find the advertiser? You, the podcaster? Are you going to join an advertising network and get a small sliver of the advertising dollar? This is something to think about. If you’re not a sales person, or don’t think that you can develop that in yourself, go with the advertising network. Something like a Podtrac or Blubrry can fit this bill. Just keep in mind that you’re being lumped in with a bunch of other podcasts to create larger numbers to attract the advertisers.

Sponsorship – Sponsorship is adertisings big brother. Somewhere inbetween pay per episode and advertiser, but not completely owning your show is where I would classify a Sponsorship. There is a fine line here between advertiser and sponsor. I’d classify the difference being that a sponsor would in essence pay for the production of the podcast, no other monetization techniques. The sponsor underwrites the costs of producing the show. I often think of old television shows that would be sponsored by one company.  Sponsor, rather than advertiser.

Affiliate Links – Driving traffic to your web site where they might click on a link and buy a product is what we’re talking about here. Affiliate programs like LinkShare, Commission Junction, and others provide you a way to create links back to the affiliate. If those clickers buy the affiliate’s products, you get paid. Another big affiliate program that I see a whole bunch is Amazon. A lot of podcasters find it easy to put up an Amazon affiliate link for either books they mention on their show, or products that their listeners may want to purchase based on the topic of the show. Here at The Podcast Studio, while I don’t produce a podcast too often, I do use affiliate links. If I go by my experience with affiliate links, you’re not going to get rich off this type of monetization model. But, you may pay for your own DVD or book habit by the generous listeners and readers that buy through those links.

That’s it for this topic. If I missed a monetization model that you use or are thinking about, please send me an e-mail at podcaststudio@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

Next time we’ll finish up on the Podcast Seminar series with the spreading the word about your podcast through social networks.


  1. AlJanuary 26, 2010

    Which model do you think works best?

  2. Russ TurleyJanuary 27, 2010

    Well, you’re already putting ads on your site; so you probably know that’s not going to make you rich.

    My favorite model is the Product Promotion, but it should be your product. I think that an insider’s guide, e-book, to Disney World, written by you or as an affiliate would be an easy sell. You also have a great site name. A t-shirt that integrates the domain name and doesn’t infringe on copyrighted images could be a good seller.

    Getting hooked up as an affiliate for a Disney travel agent would be the next step in that model as well. I think there would be much better return on that than travel ads delivered randomly.

    There are a lot of Disney related podcasts out there. I’d take a listen to them and see how they’re monetizing, if at all. See what types of advertisers are buying time in their shows. Before you sell advertising, you probably want to have more than 1 show. Same goes for sponsorship, pay per episode and premium podcasting. You need to have an audience first before trying any one of those.

  3. […] you’re looking for ways to monetize your podcast or other online venture, be sure to read my article on monetization or better yet, pick up my ebook, The Virtual Podcast Seminar, to learn about all […]

  4. Marc-Olivier SchwartzSeptember 4, 2012

    Great article ! For me podcasting is really a great way to get more audience and to develop my website.

    1. Russ TurleySeptember 4, 2012

      The more I do this podcasting thing, the more I believe it’s more about marketing a new or existing product. It’s a means to an end. Good luck on the blog.

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