The 3 Breakthrough Points of Podcasting Success #9

Improve Podcast School – episode 9

Imagine starting a new project, investing time into learning new skills, spending your hard-earned money, but actually not really knowing what to expect.

Imagine that no one really can tell you how to complete that project successfully, and everybody just keeps repeating, “be patient and consistent.”

Well, you don’t have to imagine that hard because that is basically podcasting.

On the one hand, you have big networks producing shows and a lot of independent, chart-dominating, top shows, with creators earning thousands of dollars. On the other, you have over 2 million small-time creators struggling for success, but only guessing which action will bring them results.

Luckily, this era is coming to an end. 

We have recently completed a study of 1,076 podcasters.

We asked people what they do with their podcasts in terms of research, preparation for recording, analyzing their audience, marketing their show, motivations, and finally, their monetization.

One of the crucial questions was how much income they are generating from their podcast, which allowed us to group them into higher-income and lower-income podcasters broadly. To be qualified as a higher-income podcaster, you had to make at least $50,000 per year from your show.

One of the most interesting things we discovered was that there are 3 breakthrough points in the data, which we call Podcasting Breakthrough Milestones.

Podcasters who manage to reach any of those milestones have a huge advantage over those who don’t and a much higher probability of earning $50,000 per year or more from their shows!

I found those 3 breakthrough points that are highly correlated with podcasting success.

It is extremely encouraging, especially if you are looking to achieve financial success with your show.

If you plan to have a podcast or are already podcasting, this will help you to understand when and in what circumstances you can start earning a full-time income from a podcast.

Here is the story behind the 3 Breakthrough Points in Podcasting 

1. 3 Podcasting Breakthrough Points will tell you how close you are to monetizing your podcast

Your podcasting chance for success rises dramatically when you meet those 3 breakthrough points:

1) you have published over 100 episodes

2) you have over 1,000 listeners per episode

3) you have been publishing for over 24 months

To reach any of these is actually harder than sounds. You need as much creativity and passion to do this as much as you need the strength to follow through and execute.

You can’t also escape the fact that those points, in many cases, are correlated.

Publishing 1 episode per week for 24 months means you will publish said 100 episodes.

Behind that simple correlation, however, hides the fact that you need to grow and improve your craft.

You need to learn new skills, but also you need to make a few mistakes in figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t.

That is the only way that you will get those 1,000 listeners per episode and get any good at podcasting.

And those 3 breakthrough points are not a winning formula. You could, in theory, speed run to 100 episodes, but that would be only to check that box, but publishing more episodes. You would skip, however, the learning and sell improvement experience.

That is why you need 24 months. You need that time required to get better.

But on its own, that is also not enough. You need an audience. And getting 1,000 show followers vastly improves your chances for successful monetization.

2. There is no winning formula in podcasting only a chance at increasing the probability of your success

If you hit all of the podcasting breakthrough points, you are extremely more likely to earn a full-time income and monetize your show successfully.

Looking through data on hundreds of shows, I found only a small fraction of shows that struggled with monetization when they had passed all of the 3 breakthrough points.

Having said that, the concept of those 3 breakthrough milestones presents a promise and not a guarantee.

You need to deliver quality and be consistent with it.

And as I spoke in the intro to this episode, we finally understand more about what consistency means what it leads to.

The consistency will result in you finally delivering 100 episodes and producing content for 24 months.

However, the quality part usually gets reflected in the number of your listeners.

If your number of listeners grows organically, you are doing a great job. 

Although you need to monitor if your organic growth is fast enough and how soon you need to add marketing channels and later monetization channels. 

It is because adding marketing channels also contribute to podcasting success.

Higher-income podcasters use on average 3.6 marketing channels. This is 157% more than lower-income podcasters.

Higher-income podcasters also use more monetization channels, and they use different ones due to the size of their audience. 

That Main Difference in Monetizing Large Show and a Niche Show is something I talked about more in the previous episode, so make sure you check it out as well.

If there is really no winning formula in podcasting, only a chance at increasing the probability of your success is the fate of podcasters really that terrible.

Is there a guarantee of success?

3. 200 episodes published and 5,000 listeners per episode guarantees success

Digging through data, we found that shows with over 200 episodes published and 5,000 or more listeners per episode see even greater chances for success.

In fact, we didn’t have a one survey response where someone has reached one of those milestones and didn’t have financial success with their show.

And if you want to help us get to that milestone of 5,000 followers and keep producing awesome content for you, then following or rating the show would be great!

So getting to 200 episodes and 5,000 listeners per episode is a huge achievement.

Those numbers are really impressive for everyone who gets there. While I’m sure there is someone in the world having those figures and not monetizing their podcast, this verges on certainty from a statistics point of view. 

Having surpassed those 2 milestones is practically a guarantee of a successful monetization.

If you manage to push yourself to record and publish 200 episodes, you are a person with a lot of focus and commitment.

And let’s be honest, publishing 200 episodes takes a lot of time.

If you spend it well, that time will again guarantee that your quality is next to none.

And with the quality and providing value to your listeners, the number of listeners will steadily grow.

With 200 episodes, you also play the game of chance. 

You significantly increase your chance of having published a hit episode. And you even have a chance of having more than one.

A hit episode will earn your extra audience and will accelerate your growth.

4. There are things you can do to reduce the time required for success

The data shows that there are many younger, less established shows that are well monetized 

Some key elements can help you to get results faster and be able to monetize your show in less than 24 months.

The 2 biggest things you should focus on if you want to grow faster is:

  • More marketing channels, and
  • High margin monetization offer.

With marketing channels, I don’t just mean any marketing channels.

There are a few that should be your top priority. 

And on the very top is a dedicated website, ideally boosted with episode transcripts, buttons allowing visitors to follow your show easily, and even with email collection.

And when it comes to high-margin monetization offers, there is no better solution than developing a great service related to the main content of your show and offering it to your listeners. That is something any podcast should be able to develop easily when they know their topic really well.

Adding strategic marketing and monetization channels is the best way to achieve your success faster.

And having all those plans is great and important, but once you are making plans regarding adding more marketing channels, you also need to make sure that each episode delivers on your show’s core promise.

Like this show, Improve Podcast School wants to deliver growth and marketing tips for podcasters. I work hard to make each episode meet this goal, going through a lot of data, picking the most relevant, and trying to connect the dots for you, so you can make a successful show more easily. 

In the next episode, we will talk about How Should You Prepare for Recording an Episode for Highest Impact, and go more in-depth, so make sure to check it out.

And preparation for every single episode is really crucial because it should embody how you execute your podcasting strategy and … 

5. Execution of your strategy is the most important to focus on

Podcasting is a game of skill and time.

And the 3 podcasting breakthrough points prove it.

You need the time to publish your 100 episodes and get 1,000 listeners.

In many cases, it will take around 24 months.

Just like Steve Jobs said, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

When thinking about your show, you shouldn’t be focused only on the podcasting breakthrough milestones.

They are there just as a beacon and an indicator that statistically you are getting closer and close to financial success.

Instead, focus on making a great show with lots of useful and rewarding episodes.

Make your listeners satisfied each time they have listened to your episode.

That is the approach you need to adapt to reach all of the podcasting breakthrough milestones finally.


You no longer have to imagine how your podcasting success will look like. We now know it.

The study of 1,076 podcasters finally gives all of us answers about what actually the whole “be patient and consistent” phrase means. We now know where patience should lead us and what benefits we should expect.

In summary, the 3 podcasting breakthrough milestones are a beacon on the horizon that will indicate how much closer you are to achieving financial success with your podcast.

There is a lot of work you need to do to reach them, but I’m confident that if you reach them, you will eventually find a way to make money from your show.

About the Author

Chris Land

I'm the owner and creator of, the site dedicated to providing actionable solutions for podcast creators. My goal is helping people to develop their podcasts into effective marketing and sales tools.

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