How Many Listeners You Need to Have a Successful Podcast? #7

Improve Podcast School – episode 7

I once knew a guy who had an idea for a podcast. That was back in the day, when the industry celebrated 200,000 podcasts. So basically in the simpler times.

Not so long after that, shows discussing exactly the same thing he wanted started appearing. A few of them are quite successful to this day.

Naturally, my friend regrets his decision about not starting a show, and blames his belief that you need a massive audience to have a successful show.

Needless to say, if he knew better, he would have acted differently back then, and probably had a dump truck of money by now. 

So I’m about to tell you now, what he should have been told all those years ago, in the hopes you will avoid similar mistakes.

The size of your show doesn’t matter. You can have a successful show at any audience size.

Although, of course, the bigger the show, the easier it is to monetize.

Higher-income podcasters are 8.1 times more likely to have more than 1,000 listeners per episode.

But if you have a smaller show, under 1,000 listeners, you also have a chance of making a good income from it.

You just need to adjust your expectations and your revenue model each step of the way.

The number of listeners per episode, of course, is highly correlated with podcasting success, meaning that if you have a higher number of listeners you are much more likely to be monetizing your show successfully.

But today we will break down how to break the reliance on the massive audience and monetize a show at each level of listenership.

03. What is your average number of listeners per episode? - podcasting statistics

Let’s review your chances of making money podcasting with a different number of listeners and the best approach to do it.

1. Small podcasts make money selling their own services

When looking from a perspective of monetization, a small show is a show with less than 1,000 listeners per episode.

Of course, the fewer listeners you have, the harder it will be to monetize.

But when you are nearing the mark of 1,000 listeners your opportunities start to open.

When comparing this number to numbers an average blog or a YouTube channel may get, these 1,000 listeners look tiny. And in blogging or with YouTube, monetization with only so few listeners is not possible in any significant way.

But actually, 25% of higher-income podcasters are monetizing successfully with less than 1,000 listeners per episode. This can be done within one year of starting a new show. I covered this with more details in the previous episode.

That is really impressive.

It also means those shows are financially successful despite being very niche shows.

This is possible with basically only 1 type of monetization method – selling your own services. Using the right set of online tools, this is relatively easy, simple to scale, has a predictable and low cost, and delivers high-profit margins.

This is easiest to achieve if you are a small business owner, a freelancer, or a marketer and can offer service quickly after launching your show.

Or you know your stuff really well and can develop and offer a service soon after your launch.

Having some previous experience helps a lot as you don’t have to learn the trade of podcasting, product development, and sales at the same time.

But to have an offer, and then achieve a good conversion rate among a small audience you need to understand your clients.

This leads to the next point:

2. Small podcasts make money if they understand their audience

Precise targeting and knowing your audience is the key when you have a small audience.

As I’ve already mentioned, you can monetize a small show pretty much exclusively if you can offer a service, or a product.

And that means you need to know who your listeners are, what they need, and what they are willing to pay for.

In fact, 90% of higher-income podcasters have spent time and analyzed the target audience of their shows.

Digging deeper into data, we found that having a detailed understanding of the target audience is one of the highest differentiating factors between podcasters with a great level of financial success and those who struggle with monetization. If you spend this time you are 4.7 times more likely to succeed financially with your show.

This is especially important if you are focused on monetizing your show quickly, with a small group of listeners. 

It’s like Gary V. said in “The Thank You Economy”: “Every interaction matters. Every relationship has value.”

And a great place to start figuring this out is by developing a client persona or in this case to be more precise: a listener persona.

You can get a free persona template with a short instruction on how to do it when you visit and sign up for my newsletter – I give there a lot of valuable tools and resources for free.

It is really easy to do. By precisely defining what your listeners are looking for, you can give them great value. And with podcasting, they get it from a trusted source – you.

And as you continue recording, your show will, at a point, reach the 5,000 listeners per episode mark.

And if you want ImprovePodcast School to also grow, then following and rating the show would be greatly appreciated. 

3. 5,000 listeners per episode almost guarantees a successful monetization

This is where a lot of interesting things start happening.

Having more than 5,000 listeners per episode makes a podcast over 29 times more likely to be monetized successfully. 

Only less than 2% of all podcasters, who have more than 5,000 listeners per episode, struggle with their shows’ monetization.

I see this as incredibly encouraging, and I hope you can recognize it too.

This again demonstrates how powerful podcasting is as opposed to blogging or YouTube.

5,000 listeners per month, with a weekly release schedule, will give you approximately 20,000 downloads per month. Most websites would make only c.a. $500 from display ads and on YouTube you could expect to be earning below $100 per month.

Granted, YouTube algorithms help you grow your audience, and you get very little help from algorithms in promoting your podcast. But with a bit of ingenuity, PR, cross-promotion, SEO, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. 

In podcasting, this also means that:

4. 5,000 listeners mark means you start acquiring a broader audience

As I said, here interesting things start to happen.

With over 5,000 listeners per episode, you can become an attractive publisher for advertisers. However, this is not a given. A lot of advertising networks prefer shows with 10,000 listeners per episode, although I expect this number to come down in the near future, as networks start competing for more for ads space.

But you definitely can start diversifying your revenue now.

In many cases offering services will be the right model for you.

But if you are not a small business or a freelancer, you may want to look into the direct contributions model. Patreon and Apple Podcasters Program are very popular, but there are also others.

At this point, you should have a website that is getting an organic reach, so affiliate marketing should also be a part of your revenue mix.

But this is a point where you should start thinking about potential sponsorships. 

Get your pitch deck ready, and add a section on your website with some audience data that advertisers might find interesting.

Big brands have big budgets, and if your show fits their niche, you might be given a chance.

Also, growing from 5,000 to 10,000 listeners per episode happens much faster than growing from 0 to 5,000.

And the next threshold I want to mention is the 10,000 listeners per episode mark.

5. 10,000 listeners per episode allow you to make money with podcasting ads

Finally, we have arrived at what by any standard is a massive show. We started from small shows, below 1,000 listeners, and arrived at giants with huge, 10,000 listeners audiences.

At this point, you should have no problems finding sponsors for your show.

[data] 60% of shows with over 10,000 listeners per episode monetize mainly with sponsorships and host read ads.

And ads are the number one monetization method for larger shows. 

But there is more to monetizing podcasts than just numbers of listeners. Your approach as a creator should also be different. I hinted at this at the beginning of the episode, talking about a detailed understanding of your audience. We go into more details, of what is the Main Difference in Monetizing Large Show and a Niche Show, in the next episode, so make sure you follow the show.

But now, let’s just focus on the listeners. A show with 10,000 listeners per episode is highly successful. 

You should have no problem finding sponsors at this point, and this can be added on top of other revenue streams, like selling services, direct contributions, or for example affiliate marketing.

10,000 listeners is also a very comfortable number of listeners to move that audience from one platform to another, launching another show, a YouTube channel, or even promoting some of your social media accounts.

All the revenue streams can grow together as the synergy from them starts working automatically. 


In summary, from the monetization perspective, you can have a successful show, almost at any level of listeners. It helps, and highly increases your chances if you have at least 1,000 listeners.

Monetizing at a level of 1,000 listeners, 5,000 listeners, or even 10,000 listeners per episode is all possible but requires a different approach at each level.

But it is extremely motivating and encouraging.

Blogs of YouTube channels need much higher numbers of readers of viewers. 

This demonstrates the power of podcasting, as you can’t duplicate this success elsewhere at this moment, even if you have to work harder to get to your first 1,000 listeners. 

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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