Like all forms of media and entertainment, podcasting is much more than just the sharing of stories, ideas, and creativity–it is also a major business. This business model of podcasting is a shared revenue stream between a podcast platform, advertisers, and the earnings of the podcaster. But there are many variables and categories of podcasting as a business that is important to grasp. So what is the business of podcasting?
The business of podcasting comprises both the platforms used for podcasts, which allow podcasters to be presented to potentially millions of listeners, as well as the earning potential of the creators. Podcasts become profitable based on the popularity of the podcast, and the ranking of the podcast on a platform.
Are you curious about one area of the podcasting business or the business of podcasting in general? If so, this comprehensive guide is a must-read. We will take a look at podcasting as a business model; how platforms and podcasters make money, and how this business model is represented in all areas of copyright and the legal system. Read on to find out more about the business of podcasting through multiple business-related topics.
Table of Contents
How Big Are Podcasts?
Podcasting is a major business within the sphere of media. This is true of both individual podcasters who happen upon the next popular and trending podcast, as well as previously established names in the entertainment and media industries who have created mega-successful audio shows.
Podcast listeners are expected to reach estimates of 160 million by 2023 alone. This number alone offers some insight into just how big the industry of podcasting has come, as well as how large it will continue to grow. Not bad for a form of media technology that isn’t even 20 years old yet.
The growth of the podcast industry is widespread in fields such as news, current events, politics, comedy, and popular culture. Millions upon millions of listeners or viewers are able to choose from a nearly endless range of podcasters on an infinite number of topics, and this is great news for both podcasters and podcast platforms.
As the capabilities of the internet continue to grow and evolve to surprising new heights, podcasts will continue to grow and flourish in the years ahead, and it is not outside the realm of possibility to see the podcast format become one of the most dominant sources of media in most of the world.
How Podcasts Make Money
Podcasts make money in ways that may surprise listeners. One of the most popular traits of a podcast for listeners is that nearly all podcasts, with very few exceptions, are 100% free to listen to or watch. All you will need is internet access to download or open a podcast platform, and the internet to listen to or watch a podcast if you choose not to download a podcast episode.
This is mostly because podcasters who grow subscribers, listeners, and views typically enter into a monetization agreement with a podcast platform. These agreements are based on advertisers who like to place their ads and promote products and services at specific, brief intervals during the running of a podcast episode.
This translates to revenue for both the podcast platform and the podcaster who runs the podcast. Listeners and viewers will have to listen to or watch these ads in a similar way to network, broadcast television, or traditional radio programs.
Many podcast platforms will also offer premium subscriptions to users on a monthly payment that allows listeners or viewers to listen to or watch podcasts with no advertisement interruptions.
How Are Podcasts Monetized?
Monetization on a podcast occurs when the podcast reaches a certain number of listeners or subscribers depending on the requirements set out by the podcast platform.
Now, you can make money off of your podcast before this threshold through donations. All you need to do is alert listeners to your PayPal or Patreon account in the description box of your series’ main page.
But the biggest revenue stream for podcasts is definitely sponsorships from interested advertisers. As a podcast grows with listeners and/or subscribers, various sponsors, and advertisers begin to take notice. This is also overseen by the podcast platform once you reach the requirements for monetization.
Reaching the listener/subscriber threshold required for monetization varies across different podcast platforms. You can expect the requirements to range from anywhere between 1,000 to 10,000 listeners across a monthly period.
How Much Do Podcasters Make?
Figuring out exactly how much a podcaster makes is very difficult. Part of this reason is that there are many ways in which podcasters can monetize their show. Private donations, Patreon, placing a podcast on multiple podcasting platforms, including YouTube; it is a wide-ranging revenue stream.
The revenue is typically decided based on the number of downloads and/or streams you receive in a weekly or monthly period. This is also cross-referenced and compared to all the advertising that listeners are exposed to throughout the episode.
Add to this the option of partaking in affiliate programs, crowdfunding, as well as a share of the profits that come from subscriptions through the hosted platform are also sources of revenue for the podcaster.
With advertising in place through a podcast platform affiliate program, the number of downloads or streams in a set period of time corresponding to the payment schedule is usually how the payments are calculated.
You can expect to earn anywhere from $100 to upwards of a few thousand dollars and even higher. It all depends on how many people download and listen.
Do Podcast Guests Get Paid?
In the typical course of the podcasting business, guests that appear on a podcast generally do not get paid for this appearance.
This is usually because there is a trade-off at work in this arrangement. Guests that appear now have increased exposure to their work or their own podcast that will send listeners over to their show. A podcaster will usually spend some time talking about a guest’s background, and will likely advertise any current work that the guest has worked on at the beginning and end of the episode.
This is an investment of sorts for the guest, and an incredible form of advertising who they are, what they do, or what it is they would like to advertise or sell.
Some podcasters may offer to pay a guest for their appearance, but usually not.
How Much Do Podcast Sponsors Get Paid?
Similar to guests on podcasts, sponsors (advertisers) are benefiting from the exposure of their products and services on a monetized podcast.
The exception is that sponsors are actually paying the podcaster or the podcast platform essentially. This process is known as CPM (cost per 1,000 downloads or streams). The rates that sponsors pay for the podcast can range anywhere from $18 to hundreds and even thousands of dollars depending on the number of downloads and streams.
The sponsors are receiving traffic from listeners who are interested in their products or services or, who click on and sign up for such through a link.
How Much Do Podcast Ads Cost?
Within the CPM model, ads are priced anywhere from $18 to $50 per CMP. What this means is that the podcaster sets a rate somewhere within this range, and for every 1,000 downloads or streams, this price is what a sponsor has to pay for the podcast.
Very popular podcasters may even be able to negotiate a flat fee with sponsors, but this usually only occurs for podcasts that receive hundreds of thousands or millions of listeners each month.
How Much Does It Cost To Make A Podcast?
In terms of cost for the podcaster, a podcast can and usually does cost money to operate, but this is not a large amount. Podcasters will need to ensure that their equipment is sound and up to par with listener standards, and video podcasters may or may not need to purchase quality recording equipment to increase the visual quality of the video playback.
Some platforms may charge podcasters a monthly or annual fee to unlock certain benefits for their podcast. To make a podcast, you can expect the start-up cost to be well under $100 on the low end, and no more than $500-$1,000 on the high end. This all depends on the type of equipment a podcaster wants to use.
How Much Do Big Podcasters Make?
For big podcasts that feature in excess of hundreds of thousands to millions of downloads and streams per month, the revenue generated can be very substantial.
For example, The Joe Rogan Experience made nearly 50 million dollars in the year 2019 alone. This was based entirely on the revenue model described above–CPM, subscriptions, affiliates, etc.
But even a podcast that only receives about 10,000 downloads or streams per episode can earn about $1,000 per episode in advertising alone. For a weekly show, this comes out to $4,000 per month. Then you can factor in all of the other revenue streams such as affiliate sales, private support through a platform like Patreon, and posting on multiple platforms, it is not unheard of for podcasters to make anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 per month.
But this of course comes with high popularity. But you can just scale the download and stream rates per episode lower to see how the revenue stacks up. Even 1,000 downloads per episode can make for a pretty lucrative hobby.
How Many Podcast Listeners Make Money?
As the listener of a podcast, you are the consumer when speaking in terms of business practices.
In terms of how many listeners are needed to monetize a podcast, this can range anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 listeners on a single episode to qualify for a podcast platform monetization program.
Is Podcasting Worth It?
Podcasting is definitely worth your time for a number of different reasons. If you are good at it, podcasting is a great way to earn extra income or, if you are really good at it, it can be a worthwhile career. Podcasts can be important if the individual podcast is popular enough to be a viable outlet or source in terms of communications as a whole. But the importance of a podcast is largely subjective, and what is important to some may not be seen as important to others.
What makes podcasting important in terms of communications is the enormous amount of choice and outreach that podcasts provide for individuals in every walk of life.
As mentioned, podcasts can be used as educational tools to allow students or those seeking knowledge to learn on their own time.
And yes, entertainment is a vitally important part of the human experience. Podcasts can make you laugh on days when life is sloping in a negative direction or offer you crucial advice if you are dealing with grief or disappointment, or even anger.
A podcast that is done well can be an important tool for listeners no matter what it is they are seeking to get out of a podcast. You may find that you end up liking a podcast or a point of view that you never knew was possible. You may gain some useful details about science or what some possible meanings of existence are. A podcast, no matter how serious or frivolous, is worth it, and chances are, your message or creativity will earn you fans.
Can Anyone Create A Podcast?
Yes, anybody can create a podcast and it really does seem like virtually everybody now has a podcast. Some podcasts are more successful than others, but podcasting doesn’t just have to mean success and popularity; many podcasters simply want to use the technology to record their thoughts on topics for future posterity.
Now, with the advent of podcasting and the endless capabilities of the internet thanks to high speed and Wi-Fi, anybody can sign up for a podcast platform and create their own podcast channel literally in their living room.
Never before has an entire population had the ability to broadcast their content creations all over the world–think about it, you could create a podcast that could be listened to by an unknown listener as far away as India or Japan.
Podcast platforms are designed solely for the purpose of allowing their users to create and distribute their very own podcasts talking about anything they wish, whenever they want.
Nobody’s voice or passion for formerly underrepresented topics is off-limits granted you comply with the platform’s rules and regulations.
How Old Do You Have To Be To Have A Podcast?
If you are a teenager or even if you are a kid, you will be pleased to know that there is no age requirement for creating a podcast.
The podcast format is open to any creator who wishes to create content that listeners will find valuable or entertaining.
In terms of monetization, a podcaster will need to have a bank account or a verified financial account in order to receive revenue. This could be a problem for podcasters or aspiring podcasters not yet old enough to have a financial account.
How Many Podcasts Fail?
A podcast only fails depending on what it is the podcaster wishes to get out of having their podcast. Although podcasting will certainly not come naturally to a large number of people, perseverance in the craft and honing in on podcasting skills go a long way in establishing a popular podcast.
In terms of the business of podcasting, you will need to put passion into your episodes to keep any listeners you have coming back and to slowly gain new listeners. But thousands of podcasts fail each year because many creators become disillusioned by this, and this is a clear indicator that perhaps podcasting is not for you. Podcasting should never be about money; it should always be about your interest and enthusiasm.
If you are bored, distracted, or disillusioned about your topic, you will lose listeners and fail to build an audience.
On a podcast platform, a podcast will typically be ranked in terms of the number of listens or downloads overall. The popularity of a podcast corresponds to this ranking in addition to the number of subscribers to the podcast.
Many of the main pages of a podcast platform will feature highly ranked podcasts.
If a podcast is new or not highly ranked due to these details, one of the best ways to get a podcast not to fail is to add keywords to the description box on the podcast. Apple allows up to 12 keywords to appear in search algorithms and selecting the right keywords based on the topic of the podcast is crucial to building rankings.
Many new podcasters will use SEO tools to find the perfect keywords corresponding to a podcast or the main attractive words that relate to the topics of the podcast. Advertise your podcast across social media, and consider placing your podcast on multiple platforms to pull in as many ears as possible.
Can a Podcast Be Profitable?
Podcasts certainly can and indeed are highly profitable. The more listeners you get, the higher you will go in the rankings on the podcast platform. Once you reach the CPM threshold, this is a great incentive to keep putting your passion all over your podcast to take your profitability to new and greater heights.
Can a Podcast Be a Business?
Yes, a podcast can be considered a business as soon as the podcast becomes monetized. This is then a legitimate business and you will be responsible for sharing information about your earnings with the IRS and your state.
The larger and more popular your podcast becomes the more business ventures that can open up to you based on this popularity. Many successful podcasters will then start to branch off into other media ventures based on the success of their podcast. Many podcasters will also start additional podcasts to explore other interests that are then easily listened to based on the popularity and attention the podcaster has received.
Can a Podcast Be an LLC?
At any point in time, it is a good idea to consider forming your podcast as an LLC (Licensed Limited Corporation). Most podcasters will consider doing this once their show has reached the monetization threshold, but you can do this at the very beginning as well.
Becoming an LLC will give you personal liability protection in terms of associated business risks and even losses should those circumstances arise. Becoming an LLC is a form of insurance and a safeguard for your business.
Do I Need a Business License for a Podcast?
As a business in and of itself, you do not need a business license for a podcast. However, this may be a requirement if you become monetized and decide to make your podcasting business an LLC. This would be a state requirement overseen by the business regulators within your state’s government.
Do I Need to Trademark My Podcast Name?
When it comes to the name of your podcast, it is common to think that getting a trademark is not necessary unless you become monetized, but this is a common mistake many new podcasters make.
If you are serious about building a podcasting business, get the name of your show trademarked at the very beginning.
When you start building your podcast, do a thorough and intensive check on Google to make sure no podcasts return to the search results with this name. If you are all clear, immediately file an application with the USPTO (the United States Patent and Trademark Office).
The USPTO will review your application, research the name, and then grant you the trademark if everything is cleared. This now protects the name of your podcast going forward.
Do I Need to Register My Podcast Name?
Technically, you do not have to register your podcast name immediately with USPTO, but this would be a good idea.
If the name of your podcast is completely unique and original, you can add the common “™” symbol in small print at the end of your podcast’s title. This alerts other podcasters that the name is taken, but you will need to get the name approved by the USPTO. It is best to go ahead and do this at the very beginning.
Do I Need to Copyright My Podcast?
Once you create a podcast and have your podcast trademarked, your content is already protected under copyright laws granted your show is 100% original. You do not necessarily have to file for copyright protection as your original work is protected for the duration of your lifetime.
But you can indeed file for copyright protection with the U.S. Copyright Office if you wish to receive the fullest amount of protection available from the government.
Do I Need an RSS Feed for a Podcast?
RSS feeds can be confusing for those who are not immediately familiar with what these feeds are. RSS (Rich Site Summary) is basically a URL that contains links that are sent out to search engines like Google once a new podcast episode is uploaded.
Basically, the RSS feed is an updating system for search engines and provides your podcast with immediate SEO information targeted at the new episode of content you have posted.
RSS feeds for your podcast are a great idea because the feeds can update any subscribers to your show that new content has been uploaded.
This is also a really great idea if you choose to operate your podcast solely from your own website.
How Do Podcast Subscriptions Work?
In terms of individual podcasts on a podcast platform, subscribing to a podcast is almost always free. But many platforms, such as Apple, will also offer subscription plans through the platform that largely prioritize benefits for the listeners or viewers of podcasts.
These subscriptions may sometimes be known as “premium plans” and the main feature of paying for these subscriptions is to remove ads that play during a podcast. Depending on the podcast platform, a subscription plan may also come with other perks and benefits.
These plans range in price and most platforms feature these plans on a monthly payment structure. For example, Apple offers a program that allows podcast listeners to prioritize certain podcasts of their liking for agreed-upon prices set by Apple and an individual podcaster.
In terms of video podcasting, YouTube is perhaps the largest platform, and a premium plan are offered for $11.99 per month that removes all ads from videos and comes with additional perks for the subscriber.
How Do Podcast Networks Work?
For many new or struggling podcasters, something like a podcast network can be a great idea in terms of increasing exposure and getting the attention of sponsors.
A podcast network works by submitting interest in joining a network of other podcasts that all work together to get sponsors and to increase their marketing and advertising. Audiboom and American Public Media Group are two of the largest podcast networks on the market.
What Are Good Podcast Stats?
When it comes to podcasts, the most important statistic to look at is the total number of listeners for each episode. If you are getting a few hundred listens per episode, this is an above-average statistic and places you within the successful category.
Thousands or even millions of listeners per episode are considered to be the top 1% of all podcasts, and this is the indication of a majorly successful podcast.
Other stats that you can look at are the number of listeners broken down by which platform they use to listen or download. This can help you start targeting the most popular platforms.
What Are Some Good Podcast Topics?
Typically, topics related to news and current events, personal commentary, comedy, and true crime tend to be the most popular types of podcast topics. But any topic that isn’t too niche or offensive is a good topic to choose from, granted you can utilize your creativity and enthusiasm to draw in listeners.
Can You Play Music On a Podcast?
You have to be careful playing music on a podcast that is not your very own composition or recording. The music of others is protected by copyright, and this can be bad news for your podcast if you frequently violate copyright laws.
If you wish to use other music, such as the music of popular artists or bands, you would need to reach out to the artist or the holder of the musician’s copyright directly to request permission.
The best thing to do, and the thing that nearly all podcasters do, is to use software that provides royalty-free and common license musical recordings that you can place on your podcast.
PremiumBeat offers free music selections that you use or, you can subscribe to their service platform to unlock an endless supply of other music choices to choose from.
Copyright is a complex and not always a clear-cut set of rules and regulations, and it is best to avoid using music that is protected by copyright.
Can a Podcast Be Live?
A podcast can be live if the presenter chooses to make the show live, however, most podcasters prefer to pre-record and edit their audio files for optimal quality. Going live may be of interest to the audience or, a podcaster may wish to take the risk and record the show as is due to time constraints. It is important to always alert your audience if you wish to go live, as streaming would be the only option that listeners could use to hear the live show.
How Long Should a Podcast Be?
Not all podcasts are considered long, and in fact, many podcasters prefer to keep their podcast in the 30-minute to 1-hour running time range. But sometimes, such as in a history podcast, for example, podcasters want to cover a lot of essential information about a topic if education and enrichment are the focus. These podcasts can run for hours.
Can a Podcast Be Short?
A podcast can be as long or as short as you wish to make it during the editing process. But if you go very short, this begins to defeat the purpose and even the business model of the podcasting sphere.
Podcast listeners want to be entertained or intrigued, mentally stimulated or enthralled by something. There are many podcasts that will only feature 15 or 20-minute episodes, and this can be an adequate amount of time to create engaging content, but this is largely subjective based on what the theme of your show is and how long it takes you to successfully complete your narrative or your presentation.
The wider statistics show that only certain niche topics, such as the medical field, tend to do well with episodes shorter than 15 minutes. The best way is to test this format out and see how your audience responds to it. Are you losing listeners? Are you gaining listeners? The statistics will let you know what listeners like.
What Is The Ideal Length For a Podcast?
30 to 45 minutes is typically the golden length of time for a podcast. Depending on the topic, always try to stay under an hour. A popular podcast structure will typically begin with an introduction to the program as designed by the podcaster. This will usually be a piece of music and a recording that reads off the name of the program and/or the topics that will be discussed in the episode.
A podcaster may choose to speak freely for a few minutes about personal topics or whatever is on their mind before launching into the topic of the episode. If the podcaster will be joined by guests, the guests will be introduced at a certain part of the show, otherwise, a traditional podcast episode will follow the usual structure of the podcaster about whatever it is they are speaking about.
A video podcast is the same as an audio podcast except you can see the podcaster and guests as they record the episode. Video podcasting also allows certain visuals or images to be presented that correspond to the topics being discussed.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does Podcast Editing Cost?
Editing a podcast can be time-consuming and often tedious work. This is why nearly all podcasters edit their podcasts with some sort of audio editing software.
The editing service Audacity is free and is great for minimal editing to ensure optimal sound quality. Paid editing software services typically charge a monthly fee that can range from $300 to $500.
How Much Does Podcast Production Cost?
If you have a proper recording studio, complete with a quality microphone, headphones, and audio editing software, the cost of producing a podcast can be very low, especially if you use a free editing service.
But there are also podcast production agencies that can ensure state-of-the-art studio-quality recording with a monthly premium fee. You can also use innovative editing software programs as well that charge by the month. A good estimate of the cost of producing a podcast episode is between $30 to $1,000 per episode.
Can I Change My Podcast Name?
Yes, you change the name of your podcast whenever you like. You will need to do a thorough search to ensure the new name you choose is original and not trademarked.
Can You Change Your Podcast Cover Art?
Yes, you can change the cover art for your podcast by simply adding the URL of the new piece of artwork or image you wish to use for your podcast RSS feed. The updated cover art can take up to 24 hours to show on your podcast.
Can You Change Your Podcast Host?
You are the host of your podcast and a central part of the podcast overall. If you wish to change your host, you certainly can and this will be based on whatever business arrangement you set with the new host. It is important to update your listeners on any such changes.
Can You Use Zoom To Record A Podcast?
Zoom is a popular video conferencing software, but yes, you can record audio with Zoom and the software will immediately save the audio file for you. This is a great way to feature interviews easily on your podcast.
Can You Use A Gopro For a Podcast?
Yes, you can certainly use something like GoPro for recording your podcast. This is one of the most popular video recording tools that podcasters use to record a video file of their show. By having a video file of your podcast, you can then upload the video version of an episode on something like YouTube for those who wish to watch a video over listening to an audio file. This is also double exposure and monetization for your podcast.
Can You Use an iPad To Record a Podcast?
Yes, you can use your iPad to record and even publish your podcast to a platform like iTunes or Google. The iPad has apps like Speaker and Anchor that allow you to even plug in a microphone to record your podcast 100% on an iPad.
Can You Use GarageBand for the Podcast?
Yes, GarageBand is free editing software that you can use to edit the audio file of a podcast episode. The free version will help with removing unwanted background noise and improving any mistakes you may have made when speaking.
How Hard Is It To Get a Podcast On iTunes?
In terms of recording a podcast, creating a page, and uploading a podcast to iTunes, this process is not hard at all. If you want to gain traffic to your podcast, you will need to advertise and ensure trending keywords are added to the description of your podcast to draw in interested listeners.
How Hard Is It To Have a Successful Podcast?
If you have a successful podcast, which is typically described as any podcast that becomes monetized, it can be a full-time job when you factor in everything that comes with building your success and ensuring your success doesn’t diminish. You will need to balance revenue streams, create popular content at a consistent rate to keep your listeners happy, and edit and produce your podcast at an accelerating rate.
How Hard Is It To Edit a Podcast?
Editing a podcast is mostly a time-consuming affair. You will need to listen to what you recorded at a slow and steady pace to ensure the sound and overall noise are crisp and perfect. Any imperfections will need to be removed or altered. You will need to listen very closely to the sound, and cut anything that sounds distracting out. Sometimes, this may include re-recording dialogue. The process can be a bit tedious.
How Hard Is It To Grow a Podcast?
Growing a podcast is hard work. If you are inside of a topic or niche that is oversaturated, the process becomes even harder to break through. Ultimately, people have to develop an interest in what you are talking about, they also have to find that “it” factor within you as a presenter.
When you add in trying to become visible in a podcast platform algorithm, compared to the work and effort to make podcast episodes, this is why so many people give up podcasting. You have to be dedicated and have patience.
How Hard Is It To Get Sponsors for a Podcast?
Once you reach the qualifications to monetize, a podcast platform will typically send sponsors to you. You can also join a podcast network to try and attract even more sponsors to your show. Typically, sponsors want to see large amounts of listeners or subscribers, and this is typically a recipe for increased sponsor interest in your podcast.