page title icon Opinion: What Sort Of Podcasts Will People Pay For?

I’m going to be honest and say that I’m tired of hearing this question asked.

Not because new people are asking it as new podcasters crop up daily, rather because veteran podcasters are asking it and looking for a magic bullet. Newsflash: there isn’t one. The only correct answer to the question is the same today as it was yesterday, and as it will be in the future.

Listeners will pay for podcasts they can’t get enough of.

If they want more, and you provide more, and you price that “more” attractively, listeners will pay for it. But that hinges on two things:

  1. Your podcast being compelling enough for people to feel like they want more of it and
  2. Your “more” offering being affordable to the audience

Swag won’t do it, extra episodes (on their face) won’t do it, giveaways won’t do it, Slack channels won’t do it, Discord won’t do it. All these things are great things to offer, but none of them mean squat if you don’t check-off the first box: have a good podcast that forms a meaningful relationship with your listeners and leaves them wanting more.

Conversion rates are abysmally low for free-to-paid subscribers (1-3% on average) because the quality (sound, content, production) of the average podcast is abysmally low. Most podcasts don’t earn paid listenership (in the opinion of listeners, and this is more than obvious) because they just aren’t good enough. I would say, even though we don’t offer exclusive content, that OUR podcast isn’t good enough to compel listeners to pay us $5/mo for extra episodes.

Your podcast is basically your blog at this point, and your blog probably isn’t worth squat either.

You’re reading this article, but would you pay me $5 for it?

No, you wouldn’t.

This is why I teach people to use their podcast as content marketing for other business offerings, because that approach might not convert much better, but the conversion is much more valuable. You’re here reading this article, if my advice provides value to you over a few months and you purchase a course from me as a result, that’s a few hundred bucks. If you were a $5/mo subscriber, that’d be worth $15. Podcasts as content marketing work MUCH better for those trying to make a living.

But I digress.

If you want your podcast to be the product, you’ve got to turn it into a product worth paying for.

Using a laptop mic and a spare bedroom to record? No sound design? Not paying for an editor, or learning to edit yourself? No music? No post-production? No real production value? Well, you’d better be an A-list celebrity because the chances of you monetizing that podcast through listener support to any meaningful dollar amount is about 1M:1, and I’m being generous.

In my honest opinion, if you want a non-content-marketing podcast to be financially successful, you should be creating one of the following:

  1. An audio drama (The Magnus Archives)
  2. A true crime production (Morbid)
  3. A rich storytelling experience (Black Cowboys)
  4. Anything within the alternative media space (Anti-whatever or marginalized-population-serving)

I’m not saying you can’t monetize your comic book podcast about superheroes, you can, I mean if you want to monetize to a full-time living you’re going to have a much easier time with one of the four types I listed.

But no matter what type you create, your success in monetizing will always come down to how compelling and valuable the content is to your audience, and how much that audience likes you.

Podcast monetization probably has more to do with the relationship aspect than it does the content and, importance of quality not withstanding: they have to like you. You have to connect with them in a meaningful way through your content, you have to find your tribe and serve it genuinely for any of this to work. No one who doesn’t like you is going to give you money, unless you’re the IRS.

Make friends. Make quality content. Challenge yourself to make it better and to really earn the financial support of strangers. You’re in competition with 2M+ other podcasts… but the good news is, most of them are terrible. So, go stand out.

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