The Podcast Monetization Trap: Why New Podcasters Should Shift Focus Away from Immediate Monetization

The Podcast Monetization Trap: Why New Podcasters Should Shift Focus Away from Immediate Monetization cover

Last Updated on May 16, 2023

In today's digital world, podcasting offers a unique way to connect with audiences, build relationships, and establish a strong online presence. However, many new creators tend to focus too heavily on podcast monetization, which can be detrimental to their progress.

Drawing from a decade of experience in launching and producing podcasts for clients, it's evident to us that the growth and impact a podcast can achieve are primarily derived from concentrating on the fundamentals first – SEO, visibility, audience engagement, and building trust.

Keep reading to learn why monetization shouldn't be your priority and the strategies you should focus on to make your podcast successful.

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Podcast Monetization is Not For Everyone

Podcasts are often considered passion projects for indie creators, who immerse themselves in their favorite topics or share their unique perspectives with the world.

Interestingly, it is frequently these podcasters, versus podcasters with business goals, who are most eager to monetize their content quickly.

This eagerness could be attributed to the fact that when a podcast is integrated as part of an existing business, it offers a multitude of benefits beyond direct monetization.

The Multifaceted Benefits of Podcasting for Businesses

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Photographer: Andrej Lišakov | Source: Unsplash

Most of our clients at Polymash are businesses that leverage podcasting as a form of content strategy. Podcasts can enhance brand visibility and awareness, as they enable businesses to reach new audiences or deepen connections with existing customers. By sharing valuable content, businesses position themselves as thought leaders and experts within their niche, fostering trust and credibility with their target audience.

Podcasting can serve as an effective content marketing tool. By repurposing podcast material into blog posts, social media updates, or even visual content, businesses can maintain a consistent online presence and effectively engage with their audience across various platforms.

Additionally, podcasts provide an opportunity for networking and building partnerships. Through inviting guests, podcasters can forge relationships with industry influencers, potential clients, and other stakeholders. These connections can lead to mutually beneficial collaborations, such as joint ventures, product endorsements, or affiliate partnerships.

What About Indie Podcasters?

A few indie podcasters dream of instantly becoming the next "Joe Rogan". But most every passion podcaster realizes it takes some amount of patience. That said,

I think paying for the production costs and being able to pay for help with their podcasting projects is a worthy goal. After the first 20 episodes or so, many new podcasters come to realize the full extent of the work that goes into it.

So before we get into how to best achieve this goal, let’s look at some of the monetization approaches that may not be ideal for brand new podcasters.

Ten Podcast Monetization Approaches and Why They're a Bad Idea for New Podcasters:

  1. Sponsored content ads – Difficult to obtain without a sizable audience
  2. Affiliate marketing – Low conversion rates and potential for eroding trust
  3. Paywall – Can limit audience growth
  4. Merchandise sales – May not generate significant revenue without a large fan base
  5. Donations – Unreliable and unpredictable income stream
  6. Live events – Expensive to organize and may not attract enough attendees
  7. Workshops – Requires expertise and time commitment
  8. Branded content – Difficult to obtain without a sizable audience
  9. Premium subscription – May not offer enough value to justify the cost for listeners
  10. Crowdfunding – Can be time-consuming and may not reach funding goals

What New Indie Podcasters Should Do First

As an Indie podcaster, before you get distracted by the churn involved in podcast monetization, it's essential to lay the groundwork and create a strong foundation for your show. To help you on this journey, we've compiled a mini-checklist that covers essential strategies to increase podcast listenership and boost engagement before even considering monetization.

Checklist to Increase Podcast Listenership Before Monetizing:

  1. Own a podcast specific website and optimize for SEO
  2. Use social media to engage with listeners
  3. Build an email list
  4. Create shareable content
  5. Collaborate with other podcasters
  6. Leverage guest appearances
  7. Improve audio quality
  8. Focus on content quality and consistency
  9. Set a budget for promoting your show
  10. Gather feedback to ensure your show is popular and well-received

We've elaborated on all of these topics previously on our Blog, here are some links in case you are interested. The first one is a long read:

The second one is more of a quick summary:

Your Best Initial Podcast Monetization Move: Listener Support vs Sponsor Support

For indie podcasters, finding a niche sponsor can often be the best initial monetization move, as it allows them to secure financial support without burdening their growing audience. Turning to listener support too soon might deter potential listeners who are still discovering the show and could create an impression of being overly focused on monetary gains. By contrast, sponsor support enables podcasters to maintain a sense of authenticity and establish trust with their audience.

In the early stages of podcast growth, forging a connection with a niche sponsor who aligns with the show's values and subject matter can be a game-changer. Not only does this create a mutually beneficial partnership, but it also allows podcasters to maintain their creative freedom and focus on delivering quality content without worrying about listener support or donations. By opting for sponsor support, indie podcasters can continue to build their audience, strengthen their brand, and develop trust with listeners, paving the way for a more sustainable monetization strategy in the long run.

Our Take on Podcast Monetization For New Podcasters:

New podcasters should prioritize building a strong foundation for their show, focusing on audience growth, content quality, and trust-building before considering monetization. By investing time and effort into the fundamentals, you'll create a sustainable podcast that attracts sponsors and listeners alike.

Remember, the true value of your podcast lies in the relationships and trust you build with your audience and potential partners. Keep your priorities straight and watch your podcast flourish.

  • Odile from Ausha says:

    This is such an excellent read: increase listenership before monetization!

    • Thanks Odile! There is an old saying that says “What you focus on, grows” – but that works only for increasing listeners, NOT for monetization before you have a sizeable enough audience :)