It used to be if you were a podcaster, you’d have to get five to ten thousand downloads per episode before you could make a little beer money for your show.
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After all, that’s the typical audience size many advertisers want as an entry point when choosing to advertise on a podcast. Even then, many podcasters lucky enough to gain that size of audience still found it hard to make a living on ads alone.
Now, however, there may be hope for those looking beyond becoming a GoToMeeting pitchman.
The first sign of some hope came a few years ago when podcasters like Roman Mars began to experiment with Kickstarter.
To produce his show, 99% Invisible, Mars had been paying contributors out of his own pocket. After nearly running out of money while waiting for reimbursement from his public radio station employer, Mars told me he took to Kickstarter as “an act of desperation”. He knew he had a large audience, many of which had written to him offering financial support for the show, so he figured Kickstarter would give him a way to tap this dedicated audience.
And boy did it. The results exceeded his expectations, with his first campaign raising $170 thousand in 2012, and a second campaign going over $375 thousand last year.
Mars isn’t the only one who’s found success with Kickstarter. Others, like the Comedy Button and Penny Arcade podcasts far exceeded their targets on the way to successful funding campaigns.
Patr(e)on Models Emerge
When Jack Conte started Patreon – a patron funding model for recurring content – he was thinking of folks like himself who created music videos for YouTube. But as it turns out, the YouTube creator model is similar in many ways to podcasting.
One-time crowdfunding efforts like Kickstarter has proven a great way for many podcasters to raise money, but the reality is that podcasting, like public radio, is an ongoing affair. Because of this, Patreon’s fundraising raising almost seem purpose-built for the medium, and folks like Tom Merritt have taken notice.
Merritt, who had been podcasting with Leo LaPorte’s TWiT until December, decided when he went out on his own to try Patreon as a way to fund his ongoing operation. His first campaign with Brian Bushwood, Cordkillers, found over 1200 people who offered to throw in a few bucks a month to the tune of $2,200 an episode, and his new show, The Daily Tech News Show, has garnered over $7000 in monthly support from patrons.
Roll Your Own
And of course, there are those out there who have decided to roll out their own monetization models, through paid apps like Marc Maron or subscriptions such as Tom Leykis and No Agenda Show. Leykis, well known radio personality, told me he pulled in $150 thousand from subscriptions in 2013, up from $100 thousand in 2012.
And of course, there’s always selling wine-liquor hybrids like Adam Carolla’s Mangria.
Either way, whether your charging subscriptions, selling booze or using some of the newer funding models, these are exciting times for podcasters who have long thought ads were the only way to make a buck.
Michael Wolf is a podcaster himself, talking to folks like Roman Mars, Adam Carolla and more. Subscribe to his podcast to listen to some of these conversations.