Improve Podcast School – episode 8
The data clearly shows us that small podcasts can be monetized successfully. Earnings of $50,000 per year from a show are possible if you have 1,000 listeners, 5,000 listeners, or even more.
Naturally, with hit shows above 20,000 listeners per episode the story, marketing, and monetization, are much different than with smaller shows. Shows like this have a lot of flexibility and way more options when it comes to making money, although in most cases producing a show
But you don’t have to grow a huge audience. You can nurture a smaller community of highly engaged and devoted listeners and still be very successful.
It all comes down to the business model you want to have.
Let’s explore those core differences.
It starts with the core distinction that big shows follow the creator/publisher model, while small shows in most cases operate indie or marketing-focused type shows.
That makes a huge impact. If you start your show as a publishing business, you will develop and grow it very differently vs. if your show would be more of a marketing-focused type.
1. Big podcasts are successful as they appeal to popular beliefs or emotions
Big shows target profile audiences based on a handful of core interests.
They gather listeners by creating a show around a few shared beliefs, or emotions their listeners want to experience with their shows.
That is the source of the successful approach behind all the True Crime, News, or Politics podcasts.
Those shows generally are not highly targeted. They make good use of knowledge of the aspects of the human psyche. The fact that we like to feel a bit afraid or a bit entertained, or generally informed about what is going on around us.
We don’t need to create a complex podcasting persona when making a show like that unless you are starting out and want to explore a niche within that broad category.
True Crime shows explore general fascination about violence, mystery, and suspense. The same fascination that draws people towards watching thrillers and horrors.
News shows satisfy the need for people to be informed about what is going on.
FOMO, the fear of missing out, also plays a role.
You have to listen to them or you may miss something important. If not today, then tomorrow.
On top there is a negative bias in the news, so we usually hear about bad things that happen around us, and who doesn’t want to know what threatens our peace of mind.
True Crime shows don’t really care about the political sympathies of their listeners.
But News shows and Politics shows might. Still in the U.S. political landscape, you are broadly targeting at least 50% of U.S. adults or a specific subsegment of that target audience. So audience targeting is pretty basic and you still end up with a huge potential market of listeners.
Having broad listeners groups allows those types of podcasts to constantly grow and find new listeners.
This is a very good model for broad advertising campaigns.
2. Awareness marketing campaigns work great on big shows
Big shows find advertisers that work with multiple brands that are focused on awareness campaigns.
Right now there is no precise targeting of listeners with ads on podcasts.
Listening to podcasts has always provided a decent level of anonymity.
Spotify is actually pushing to change this and enable more listener tracking and ad targeting, through their ad insertion technology. And they might be successful if the majority of listeners will choose Spotify as their main platform for listening to podcasts.
But for now, big brands with large advertising budgets need to pick an entire show and its entire audience as their marketing target.
Because of that, the awareness campaigns tend to work best on those types of shows.
I’m sure you are familiar with many brands that sponsor a bunch of shows, with the same ad. That is exactly their goal, to build awareness within a very wide audience.
Just remember that some traditional brands prefer less controversial shows, while modern brands are more liberal here, and they are comfortable advertising anywhere.
Big brands will choose safe messaging focusing on presenting their values and style. They don’t go directly into sales messages.
That approach can work actually both ways – if you have a show that talks about broad topics, and you want to promote your show, then you also will benefit from awareness campaigns.
And if you want to spread awareness about this podcast and help us grow the following and rating the show will be greatly appreciated!
And how do smaller podcasts solve advertising problems?
3. Small shows focus on presenting a small portfolio of high-ticket products and services
When your show is smaller, below 1 or 5 thousand listeners you can be sure that your target audience is much more focused.
Getting sponsors with ads for those smaller shows tends to be difficult, although that might change soon.
For now, big brands don’t work with small shows. The same goes for podcast networks that work as intermediaries between brands and shows.
You could find a brand focused on generating sales with podcast ads, and looking exactly for your listener profiles, but unless you will get lucky, that process can be very time-consuming.
Instead what you should do with a small show, and a highly focused audience is to promote a well-crafted offer.
As it will be difficult to find an advertiser with such a well-crafted offer, just do it yourself.
Your audience is most likely very uniform and with a little bit of research you can quickly find out what problems they have. And in return what kind of solutions they are looking for and might be willing to pay you.
That offer should be a medium to high ticket as your listeners are probably looking for precise solutions. And if they see one, they might buy it if it solves their problems.
So a precise thing, solving a specific problem can be worth a lot to them.
If you are not sure where to start, then try to solve one of three problems for them:
- Make them money,
- Help them save money, or
- Help them save time.
So, what kind of solutions an audience of a small show might be willing to purchase?
4. Small shows can be best monetized with their own services
Through listening to your show, your audience starts to trust you, and when the right time comes, when they are making a decision to purchase something, they should think about you and your offer.
Whatever your show is about there is always a service you can develop around it.
The simplest thing you can offer is consultations, either live or online.
There you can solve simple questions and give advice regarding non-complex issues.
And as you build your confidence, start offering more and more of the more advanced services and solving bigger issues.
You can even use scheduling apps like Calendly to make the whole process simple and automated. Apps like this are well integrated with mailing systems, calendars, and even can collect payments for you, so you can save a lot of time and effort.
Just remember, that there are always more complex training or seminars you can offer, where you have an option to deliver custom advice tailored to whatever your listeners need.
The alternative, if you don’t have an offer you can present is to partner with someone who has an offer.
That way you will find and send qualified leads in their direction and in return, you can count on a cost per lead commission.
All those differences between big and small shows, that result in offering big brand ads or focusing on offering professional services, influence what you do with your show.
5. Big shows have more broad topics for their episodes while small podcasts can get more precise
When a podcast grows large they become a bit of a prisoner of their audience.
Expectations get set, and if a show diverts from them to experiment it usually is not welcomed by the loyal fans.
A big show requires time to build, but over that period an important thing happens – you establish expectations. Later it is very often very difficult to break out of those expectations.
But also as your audience grows big, you are no longer allowed to cover niche topics that might have resonated well with a smaller audience.
There are always exceptions of course but there is a simple rule here.
Your show needs to be easily approachable if you want to have a big audience.
However, this can also lead us in another direction.
You might want to be purposefully specific and niche.
You might want to make an aware decision that this is the direction that you are going and that you are not fighting for a big audience. Instead, you might find that a smaller show, for a dedicated audience is something you want to have.
But this doesn’t mean your show will be automatically small. Probably your growth trajectory will be smaller as you are growing within a limited population.
Still, you can have financial success with such a show, something I’m going to cover more in-depth in the next episode when I’ll discuss The 3 Breakthrough Points of Podcasting Success.
But whether you are pursuing a wide market or a niche show, and you are choosing this consciously, all of this leads you to the monetization model you can choose for your show.
In summary, big shows create an easy to consume content for large audiences, knowing that the main monetization model they are aiming at is the advertising revenue, as more and more big brands with big budgets move into podcasting.
Small shows however may find themselves perfectly happy with a niche audience where there is an opportunity to offer high ticket margins. And with well-crafted offers and high conversion rates, those shows can also be very profitable.
What I want you to do is to make a conscious decision about what kind of show you are creating.