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7 Podcast Monetisation Strategies for Publishers

Admin | 1 July 2022 | Read time: 20 minutes
Topics | subscription model, revenue streams
  

In many ways, podcasting is the next frontier for publishers. Ever since the phenomenal success of award winning podcasts like The Radio Times Podcast and The FT Weekend podcast, publishers of all sizes have looked to move into audio content production. Digital publishers are fortunate enough to already have the high-quality content and resources needed to produce a podcast. For this reason, podcasting is a natural progression to make, ‘reusing existing journalistic talent whilst showcasing the expertise of newsrooms.’

Podcasting isn’t simply about creating extra content, it can also create a viable and lucrative revenue stream. In this article, we provide publishers with an in-depth guide to drawing the most value out of their audio content, delving into why employing more than one strategy is the most effective approach to making money from podcasting. 

 

Why should publishers consider podcasting? 

It’s estimated that 7.6 million people in the U.K. listen to a podcast every week. It’s no surprise, then, that according to What’s New In Publishing’s 2019 report, 75% of digital leaders expect audio news content such as podcasts to become an increasingly important part of their content and commercial strategies.

Podcasts bring hyper-engaged, attentive audiences, evidenced by the fact that most podcasts are listened to for at least 90% of their duration. They represent a superb opportunity to build brand awareness, audience loyalty, and expand publishers’ reach, especially capturing younger audiences

This is why podcasts can be such a lucrative revenue stream as they open the doors to a multi-dimensional approach. Long-term, publishers can look to convert listeners into paying podcast subscribers, expanding audiences in the process, and attracting listeners to the main site content where they can be upsold on other subscription packages later on.

 

How publishers can monetise podcasting 

According to the Reuter’s Institute, the main revenue driver for the majority of podcasts studied was advertising or sponsorship. However, these are just two of the ways that publishers can convert their podcasts into reliable revenue streams. First let’s look at advertising:

 

Advertising 

Compared to websites and videos, podcast CPMs (Cost per Thousand Listens) for advertisements are generally higher. This is because professional podcast content offers better brand safety, focused and engaged audiences, and low ad-density. 

Podcast advertising isn’t just reserved for larger enterprise businesses. Smaller publishers with a niche and engaged audience can also attract advertisers who have a similar target demographic. 

 

Ad-placement 

To make the most of podcast advertising whatever your audience size, you need to understand how it works. Podcast advertisements can be placed in three different places throughout the audio: 

 

  • Pre-roll - before the podcast starts 
  • Mid-roll - as an intermission during the podcast 
  • Post-roll - at the end of the podcast 

 

The CPM will vary depending on where the advertiser wants to place their ad. The most valuable placement is mid-roll because there is less chance of the listener skipping over the ad. The least valuable placement is post-roll, because a listener will likely stop paying attention once the show comes to an end. 

 

Host-read vs Pre-recorded ads 

There are also different types of podcast ads. They can either be host-read or pre-recorded by the advertiser, depending on the agreement reached. 

 

Host-read ads, as the name suggests, are read out by the podcast host themselves. This can be difficult to navigate, however, for publishers seeking to draw a clear line between editorial and sponsored content. Host-read ads typically cost up to £30 CPM

 

Pre-recorded ads are recorded by the advertiser themselves and provided as an audio file to the publisher. Alternatively, pre-recorded ads can automatically populate podcast ad-spaces through dynamic ad-insertion (more on this in the next section). Pre-recorded ads fetch around £9 CPM on average. 

 

Baked-in vs Dynamically Inserted Ads 

Podcast ads can be ‘baked-in’ or ‘dynamically inserted’. 

 

Baked-in ads are a permanent section of the episode’s audio file that has been inserted during post-production.  

 

Dynamically inserted ads are automatically placed within a podcast episode’s audio when a listener downloads it. 

 

Baked-in ads give publishers more control over the rates they charge, whilst dynamically inserted ads allow for continuous monetisation of the publisher’s back catalog, helping to maximise the value of their podcast. 

 

Some podcast hosting platforms offer access to an integrated ad-marketplace and proprietary dynamic ad insertion technology as part of their subscription packages. Making it easy for publishers to opt-in and start monetising their podcast. 

 

Publisher owned podcast networks

Launching an entire podcast network which bundles together a publisher’s whole portfolio of podcasts can be an effective way of attracting advertisers. 

Ownership of a network makes it easier for publishers to restrict access to their content, helps to build brand awareness and credibility, widens the scope for different sources of content, and increases content production capacity. 

One prominent example of a publisher podcast network is Vox Media’s Podcast Network, which brings together more than two-hundred shows. This doesn’t exclude niche or specialised publishers, however. Even smaller podcasts can be attractive to advertisers by virtue of their niche, loyal, and attentive audiences. 

Publishers can bring together multiple shows that are aimed at different niche audiences, forming a diverse package of different podcasts. This offers advertisers the chance to target specific (but different) audiences and reach larger numbers than individual podcasts. Publishers can also create bespoke bundles for specific advertisers, creating ‘a mix that will work just for them’. 

 

Sponsored series 

Publishers can opt to monetise through partnering with a sponsor and producing branded episodes, mini series, or entirely separate shows. It should be noted that balancing the need to preserve editorial integrity and delivering the advertiser’s objectives is a key consideration here. 

The Week is a great example of this. They now produce a branded spin off of their original The Week Unwrapped podcast called Business Unwrapped. Another example is the Mail Metro Media and Pukka Tea’s The Wellness Connection series, by joining forces their series far exceeded their initial 20,000 download target, reaching 50,000 downloads over the first 6 episodes. Not to mention, a third of the audience purchased Pukka tea bags or searched for more information on Pukka after listening. This underlines just how responsive a podcast audience can be to a message that aligns with their specific interests, demonstrating the lucrative opportunity podcasts present for publishers and advertising businesses alike. 

 

Podcast Subscriptions 

Some publishers, such as the Economist, choose to keep their audio content behind a paywall, only offering their podcast to paying subscribers (either exclusive to the podcast or to the rest of their content). This represents a marked shift to a ‘reader-supported model rather than an ad-supported’ model, guaranteeing that the podcast can cover its cost of production and secure a consistent stream of revenue. 

This is an obvious way to offer added value to existing subscribers, bolstering publisher’s customer retention strategy. As What’s New in Publishing points out, many publishers have moved to a distinctly ‘audio-first’ approach with success: Tortoise media accumulated an impressive 110-thousand paying members, whilst Zetland has achieved financial sustainability, with 80% of the consumption of their content via audio.

 

Exclusive Content

In the same vein, publishers can leverage podcasting as a method of creating exclusive content for their existing subscribers or for newer listeners willing to pay. The following are some ways in which publishers can generate exclusivity:

 

Live streams

This is where a podcast recording session becomes a live transmission with an audience. Giving either subscribers or paying ticket-holders an inside look at how the podcast is made, the opportunity to interact directly with the podcast hosts, and potentially even to participate and share thoughts in real-time. 

Livestreaming is incredibly popular. In November 2020, Twitch saw 1.7 billion hours of content watched, and 40% of those surveyed in early 2020 (pre-pandemic) said they wanted to see more live video content. For minimal  additional effort, publishers can capitalize on this highly popular, and sought after medium.  

 

Video version 

Publishers can repurpose their audio content by offering the video edition to their subscribers. This takes little additional effort but has a big pay off, whilst still maintaining the sense of added value for paying subscribers. 

 

Ad-free version 

Another easy way to build out exclusive content for paying listeners is to offer an ad-free podcast. This again, takes very little effort on behalf of the publisher, but offers subscribers a highly appealing incentive to subscribe. Spotify and Apple Podcasts have made it easy for podcasters to offer ad-free podcasts to paying subscribers, with an integrated feature on both platforms.  

 

Q&A or Exclusive Event with Podcast Guest 

Publishers with the resources to do so can consider organising exclusive, one-off events related to their podcasting output. Regular fans of a podcast show will often be happy to pay to see the speakers live. Pre-2020, this was a reliable way to monetise podcasts for shows with a sizeable listener base. With in-person events now making a comeback, running live and interactive podcast shows look to be a lucrative option again moving forward. 

Smaller publishers might struggle for numbers when it comes to in-person events, but if they garner a particularly loyal audience, this could still offer a viable way to generate revenue. 

 

Promoting other publisher revenue streams 

Podcasts can also create revenue indirectly for publishers. Following the Financial Times’ example, publishers can use free podcasts to transform listeners into paying subscribers for their web content.  With audio-based content becoming a key driver for traffic to main sites, they can be used as a means to ‘entice listeners into a publisher’s wider ecosystem.’ 

For many publishers, the main motivation for entering the podcasting world is not for short-term profit, but rather a long-term strategy to find new audiences for their core subscription businesses. However, there’s nothing to say that podcasts can ‘serve a dual purpose’: helping to attract subscribers and standing alone as a separate revenue stream. 

At its most basic level, a podcast is an effective way of extending a publisher’s brand and essentially acts as a ‘form of editorial that happens to be very effective marketing and also pays for itself.’ 

 

Podcast Merchandise

Though merchandise is unlikely to be a high-margin revenue stream for publishers, it’s certainly still worth exploring. This is especially relevant for publishers who are already established in the e-commerce space.

Merchandise isn’t just limited to physical products. For example, popular podcast host John Lee Dumas offers additional resources and downloadables that listeners can purchase for his ‘Entrepreneurs on fire’ podcast. 

 

Publishers turned Podcasters 

Beyond already having access to the key resources, namely journalistic expertise and a plethora of content, the numerous benefits for publishers to expand into the world of audio speak for themselves. Further, according to the 2018 Digital News report by the Reuters Institute, people now expect podcasts, no longer perceiving them as a ‘nice to have’. The untapped monetisation strategies presented here- both direct and indirect - represent substantial growth potential for publishers that are arguably not available through other mediums. 

 

As well as everything podcast related we’ve discussed in this article, publishers have a whole host of different revenue streams and resources available to them that can help boost company growth. Start off on the right track by ticking off the 10 things publishers need to do in the new year to hit revenue goals

 

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