How to Monetize Audio Podcasting – Ep 009

Do you have an online business that seems impossible to monetize? For instance, many amateurs feel this way about generating income from audio podcasting. If you can relate to these sentiments, then Episode 009 of Marketing Podcast Weekly is a must-listen.

In this episode your host Rob Booker talks with Jason Pyles about how to monetize his “hobby podcasts” about movies, Movie Podcast and Horror Movie Marketing Podcast Weekly brings you strategies for marketing and specializing in marketing for the retail trading industry. Join us!

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Episode Transcript:

Rob Booker: Mr. Pyles.
Jason Pyles: Good morning, sir. How are you, Rob?
Rob Booker: Happy early morning.
Jason Pyles: Yeah. I know. Right?
Rob Booker: It is happy. Have you ever wanted to grow your podcast business?
Jason Pyles: Yes. In fact, coincidentally, that’s true.
Rob Booker: We had a conversation this week by email, and you brought up some really interesting thoughts about your podcast business.
Jason Pyles: Yes, sir.
Rob Booker: Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Jason Pyles: Oh, please. By all means.
Rob Booker: All right. How many podcasts are you on specifically?
Jason Pyles: Let’s see. In terms of my movie related podcast business, I would say two. Yes.
Rob Booker: Okay. How many episodes of those shows exist?
Jason Pyles: Okay. Movie Podcast Weekly has 259 episodes, and then Horror Movie Podcast has about 129 episodes.
Rob Booker: Nice.
Jason Pyles: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rob Booker: Nice.
Jason Pyles: Yes.
Rob Booker: Lifetime downloads on those two podcasts?
Jason Pyles: Okay. Collectively, it is now over … It’s over a million collectively.
Rob Booker: Wow.
Jason Pyles: It’s like 1.3 million so far.
Rob Booker: What are some lessons that you’ve learned along the way in producing, distributing, doing a podcast? What kind of lessons have you learned?
Jason Pyles: Don’t start podcasting. That was one thing. No. I’m just kidding.
Rob Booker: That was like writing advice from Ernest Hemingway.
Jason Pyles: Exactly. Let’s see. I think one of the most important things is to continue to put on consistent content as consistently as possible. That was number one for me.
Rob Booker: Yeah. Keep uploading. Did you grow your audience almost purely organically?
Jason Pyles: Yes. That’s true.
Rob Booker: You ever spent any money on advertising or marketing?
Jason Pyles: No. No, I haven’t.
Rob Booker: I wonder what that would accomplish anyway. It’s truly amazing that in this day and age, someone with good content can upload consistently and grow an audience.
Jason Pyles: Yeah. It is. It’s remarkable.
Rob Booker: So, to what end originally did you start the podcasts about the movies? The Horror Movie Podcast and The Movie Podcast Weekly specifically.
Jason Pyles: I just wanted to become a film critic initially, because I used to work at a newspaper. And my film reviews, they ended up in print in the newspaper, and that was pretty exciting to me. It felt very fulfilling. And then those jobs disappeared after the great recession.
Rob Booker: Right.
Jason Pyles: And so I picked up podcasting for another outlet to review movies.
Rob Booker: Did you have any idea that it would grow to this level, or did you imagine that podcasting would lead then to more newspaper work? Did you ever imagine that podcasting would represent such a huge distribution network?
Jason Pyles: Wow. No. I had no idea, actually, to be honest with you. And it’s weird because I would say that at this point, I have enough of an audience where at least I’m getting at least as many listeners or readers as I did when I worked for the newspaper, so that part of the itch should be fulfilled, but it’s interesting.
Rob Booker: Do you have any sense of community amongst your listeners, meaning, do you know them and do they know you? And do they know each other?
Jason Pyles: Oh, yes. Yeah. All of the above.
Rob Booker: Okay. Where do they get to know each other and where does that happen?
Jason Pyles: That generally happens in our comments at the bottom of each episode, especially on The Horror Podcast.
Rob Booker: Interesting. Have you ever thought about monetizing your podcast? Not to make it crass, but have you ever thought about sort of … Okay. You’ve got two movie podcasts that have a lot of downloads, and now you have a movie podcast network, which we can talk about. But, have you ever thought about taking it to another level and then turning that into sort of a business?
Jason Pyles: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
Rob Booker: All right. We discussed this over email, but I guess it bears repeating. If you’re listening to this episode, and you’re wondering. Wait a minute. How does this apply to my business? Think about the fact that anybody who can produce content, which is you, if you’re listening, it is at some point and time going to have a body of work. You’re going to have a set of blog posts, or you’re going to have a set of Instagram posts, or you’re going to have a following on Twitter, or you’re going to have a following on a podcast. The question is going to become: Am I doing this for love, or am I doing this for money, or am I going to do this for money, so I can continue to do it because I love doing it?
There are a lot of hard questions that come at this point, and there’s a model for thinking about this. And the model is: What is it that I want most? Number two, then you ask: What is true? And we’ll get to that in a minute. And then the third question is: What am I going to do about it? And those three questions, I originally was introduced to those three questions when reading an early copy of Ray Dalio’s book, Principles, which is now out in book stores. That’s a subject for another podcast and another time, but we’ll just get to the heart of the issue. Now that you have a body of work, and you love it and you want to continue doing it and you would like that work to be self sustaining. Is that the answer to what do you want? You want this work to be self sustaining.
Jason Pyles: Yes. I think it is, honestly. And the secondary answer would be, I would also like to be efficient enough at it that I can enjoy more of life without it being quite so time consuming, so it would take less time, but it would make more money.
Rob Booker: Interesting. Yeah. Okay.
Jason Pyles: I call that the Rob Booker model. I feel like that’s …
Rob Booker: Yeah. Okay. I got it. I got it. I like it. All right. There’s a number of models for making money in the world of podcasting. One model is that, it’s the most obvious of them all, is that you advertise, you offer advertising on your podcasts. In order to do that, you either reach out to a company like Midroll that sells ads, or you know enough about the demographics of your audience that you can reach out directly to sponsors and offer to get those sponsors in front of the listeners of your show. I think that this is, initially most obviously, the way that someone like you first approaches the subject.
I think that there’s a huge opportunity for you in that arena, but at the same time, you’ve never really done any advertising on your shows. Is there any amount of concern that your listeners will be unsupportive of that stream of revenue?
Jason Pyles: No. I believe they would be okay with it, as long as, if I didn’t get too obnoxious with the advertising. I think they’d be fine with it.
Rob Booker: Okay. Yeah. Do you know much about your average listener, the demographic or the profile of your average listener?
Jason Pyles: Yeah. I think so. I mean, they’re generally male, and they’re usually from like age 30 to about 50.
Rob Booker: Right.
Jason Pyles: And they’re movie nuts. They love movies.
Rob Booker: They’re movie nuts.
Jason Pyles: Yeah.
Rob Booker: Do you know much about what they want in life? Do you know much about, besides more movies or more good movies?
Jason Pyles: Right. I think that varies. It seems like the connecting thread, besides movies, would be they all like audio entertainment. Many of them, apparently, can spend a lot of time listening to audio podcasts, so that must be important to them.
Rob Booker: All right. Okay. Now we’re naturally migrating into what is true. We’re saying, here is what is true about my listeners. They’re largely male. They’re probably in an age range of … What would you say if we were going to give an age range?
Jason Pyles: Like within a 20 year range, 30 to 50.
Rob Booker: Okay. 30 to 50. If we know they’re 30 to 50, and they’re men, and they mostly live in the United States, we know a lot about these people.
Jason Pyles: That’s true.
Rob Booker: We could generally and without, I think, getting into too much trouble, but we could back this up later if we really wanted to. We could say that they either generally want to spend more time with their family, or they want to travel more, or they want to make more money with less time, or they want to date more. I don’t want to get crass or anything. They want to have more relationships or whatever you want to call it.
Jason Pyles: Right.
Rob Booker: If you’re age 30 to 50 in the United States, and you have the amount of money necessary to have a phone on which you listen to podcasts, and the time to do it, you probably have a job and you probably have a disposable income. And you probably spend that disposable income on entertainment. You can sort of answer the question. What is true? That question naturally leads into: What kinds of things do these people buy? What is true about what these people buy? So, in addition to thinking about advertising, you can also move into the next area, which is: What kinds of products and services do people that are your listeners buy? In other words, what is it that you could bring to your listeners that you know that they would love? Or, you at least anticipate that they would love. If you don’t mind, we could brainstorm about that.
Jason Pyles: Okay. Yeah. Sure. That sounds really good.
Rob Booker: Without worrying about whether it’s practical, and without worrying about the source from which this content comes, let’s just lay it out. They probably consume or would be willing to consume content related to improving their relationships. My guess. I think that depending on who they are and where they live, they’d probably be willing to either strengthen their current relationships with someone that they’re in a relationship with, or they buy products and services, or are open to products and services related to dating, relationships, or whatever you want to call it. That’s my guess, anyway. I don’t know if I’m right about that, but I’m guessing that I’m right.
Jason Pyles: I would agree. They seem to be lovely people, Rob.
Rob Booker: All right. That’s awesome. I’m not sure that these are the types of people that want to buy a Casper Mattress. I’m not sure that these are the types of people that want to order and have a weekly subscription to Blue Apron. Although, it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case, but I think that’s possible. And I think that you’re advertising on Midroll or wherever else, I think that’s going to handle most of that. You’re going to see a bunch of ads for and Blue Apron and Casper Mattresses and, the stuff that you always hear about on podcasts. They ought to be hearing that from your podcasts as well.
Jason Pyles: Okay.
Rob Booker: But, I think it goes deeper than that, and I think that this is where true revenue opportunities to monetize a podcast. And I’m not crass about that, and I’m not trying to take away from the content. I’m trying to say, what do we do in order to make sure that … Content isn’t free. Newspapers aren’t free. Magazines aren’t free. But, you can’t operate in an environment where an artist is expected to distribute their content absolutely at no charge, just for the love of it. It just doesn’t work that way. People have to eat, and everybody gets paid for what they do.
Without being crass and without trying to say, hey, let’s exploit your listenership. That’s not what we’re talking about. Let’s say, what else is it that these people highly value? I think that it’s possible that dating and relationships is one of those areas. And I think that another area is financial success, financial freedom, improvement of financial circumstances. I think those are two really big areas where people have been known to spend money. Other areas where people have been known to spend money consistently are not appropriate, like alcohol, drugs, other types of vices. We’re not interested in those things, but we know that those things work.
Jason Pyles: Right.
Rob Booker: We’re not interested in that. That’s exploitation. We’re not interested in that at all. I’m going to say it is true, or most likely true, that your listeners consume or even purchase content in those categories.
Jason Pyles: I think you’re right, for sure.
Rob Booker: Okay. I think that the two major revenue opportunities exist in offering advertising that is acquired by, or sold by, or advertising inventory space that is managed by a third party, which does a really great job at that. And I think that’s a couple spots during the episodes to begin with is an obvious area for that. And then the next obvious area, which I want to come back around to, is offering content in dating relationships and access to increased financial freedom, which sounds sketchy, but I don’t know any other way to say it, so I’m just going to leave it at that.
We’ll come back to that, but the third area is this area that you have explored so far, which is subscriptions to the podcast, or subscriber, or patronage from your listeners. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Jason Pyles: Yeah. Absolutely. When we put the network together, which is now eight different podcasts, including my two, we decided to have a special features feed, which is kind of like the special features on DVDs, where you get their extras, basically. And so at least once a month, often more frequently than that, we will release an exclusive type of bonus episode into this special features feed. And those who subscribe on, which we’re using Patreon for that.
Rob Booker: Right.
Jason Pyles: Anyways, for those who subscribe to that for $2.50 a month, they get access to that exclusive content.
Rob Booker: Okay. How has that gone so far?
Jason Pyles: Well, to be honest with you, I really thought with our collective audience, I thought off the bat, especially since the first thing we released was pretty intriguing content, I thought we would get a huge number right upfront. But actually, it was remarkably slow in building. Not to sound ungrateful, but right now we’ve been doing this since May, and we have 48 patrons, which is great. I mean, we’re grateful for that, but I thought it would be at least 500 the first month or something.
Rob Booker: Yeah. Right. All right. That’s really helpful to me because what it shows me is, it’s all positive, is that your dedicated listeners are willing to spend money to support the podcast and the content. The recognize the value of what you’re doing. And if it’s 10, or it’s 48, or it’s 480, the message is, you’re doing a great job. And all revenue in business is built over time. There is no such thing as an overnight success, and there is no such thing as an instant 500 subscriber situation. You’re doing it the same way that every massively successful business was ever built. The iPhone didn’t sell very well when it was first released.
Jason Pyles: Oh, wow. I didn’t realize that.
Rob Booker: The Blackberry was the dominant device, and a lot of people looked at the iPhone and said, “That doesn’t really appear to me to be … I don’t even understand it. It’s outside the scope of what I imagined.” And also, the iPad didn’t sell very well when it was first released, and I even said, “What is this, a giant phone?” I have these pictures of myself at Best Buy, holding it up to my ear saying, “I don’t know how to make a call on this device,” so to a certain extent, educating your listeners about the subscription model is going to help grow that audience. Meaning, not just advertising the subscription, but educating your listeners about where that money goes. Like they do on NPR when they do a fundraiser, educating them about where the money is spend and how the money supports the show that they listen to, and giving them specific instructions and making it as easy as possible for them to not only subscribe themselves, but share it with others.
Or, incentivize them to share it with others. That is something that isn’t going to happen overnight, but it’s a process over time of: This month, what’s a way that we can educate our listeners about where the money goes and what it goes to? When you can tie a donation to a specific result that comes from that donation, you’re going to have more success. It allows the listener to visualize where that money is going, and that’s why Sally Struthers, or whatever her name was, on TV always showed you a starving child and said that if you give money, it goes to this starving child. On your podcast, you can think of some ways that you can explain. Your donation goes to help support the podcast.
Listen, it seems weird, and it seems like you’re begging for money, and if you don’t want to go that route, don’t go that route. But, what you’re doing is, you’re asking people to support the show that they love, and it works. It works. Public radio and public television would not still be doing it if it didn’t work. You wouldn’t see the commercials and you wouldn’t see the revenue drive if it didn’t work. Okay.
Jason Pyles: Excellent.
Rob Booker: I want to come back to the production of unique content that is possibly your listeners would love. All right. This is where I think that, I don’t know how many unique listeners you have, but let’s just say the number of unique listeners that you have, it measures in the 10s of thousands, maybe 10,000, maybe 20,000, maybe 30,000. Let’s just say that you have a group of people, largely male. Let’s say it’s 20,000 and let’s say that by the end of 2018, that number’s going to be 40,000. We’re going to specifically do some work to grow that audience, and maybe even do some marketing, and maybe even do some awareness about your podcasts. We’re going to get that number up to 30,000, 40,000, 50, 000 unique listeners.
But, even if it’s at 20,000, or whatever it is right now, we know that those people, or we’re guessing that those people are interested in something that’s going to help their dating and relationships, the quality of their dating and relationships, and their financial status/freedom/disposable income. I would recommend, if I were the consultant here, I would recommend … And this is weird. And this is not something that’s done traditionally, but I did it to a huge amount of success with our other podcast, The Traders Podcast, and I never went any of these other routes initially. We do have a sponsor of our other podcast, which is great. But, sometimes I don’t even invoice that sponsor because I’m a nut ball.
I went the route of saying, “I have a collection of listeners with unique, specific interests, and I know them, and they know me, and they trust me.” So, here’s what I would do as a business consultant. I would put up what is called a landing page, or an offer page. And that offer page would offer some kind of content related to, let’s just say, the quality of dating and relationships. Let’s just say it’s that, and let’s say it’s an eBook, but let’s even say more specifically, it’s a set of audio lessons, because we know that your listeners consume content in that form.
Jason Pyles: Yeah.
Rob Booker: And let’s say that is put onto a thumb drive, or even a portable MP3 player that they can plug in. And let’s say that it also includes a compact disc set, if people still even listen to that. Or, it includes just the digital downloads that they can throw onto their iPhones or their Android phones and listen in the car. Let’s just say it’s audio content. I’m going to say it even includes a guide book or a PDF eBook download, or even a physical book. But, that’s what it is. It’s content related to that. Let’s say that you don’t even have the content. Let’s say you don’t even have it, because you don’t know if it’s going to work.
Jason Pyles: Yes.
Rob Booker: Let’s say you just put up a page and it says, “If you’re interested in this, put your email address, your name and your email address in here,” and maybe even … Yeah. Let’s just do name and email address. And I’m going to let you know as soon as this is released, and there’s only going to be 50 of these made, because I don’t know if anybody wants it. I don’t know if this is right for you, which by the way, is a really powerful phrase in the world of marketing. I don’t know if this is right for you, but let me tell you about this. Then you take all the pressure off of somebody. And then you see how many people join that.
This is a really simple process. MailChimp and most of these services now make it really easy to create a list of people who might be interested in a product or whatever else. And now what you do is, you’re going to see if they’re interested in that. And then the second one, we could devise something related to … You and I could produce a series of lessons, content, or information about financial stuff, about having some exposure to the financial markets. Some kind of, once again, the same time, audio content accompanied by some kind of digital content, which solves a problem, which reduces anxiety, and it’s just a landing page. And it’s just an email list. And you’re just going to find out how many people would be interested in getting more information.
Because you are a trusted source of audio content, you can say, “I went out and I found an expert in this area. And I asked the questions that I would’ve wanted to know the answers to. And you know me as the person who can interview somebody and find this content. And in fact, if you put your name and your email address in here, when the first snippet it ready, when the first sample is ready, I’ll send it to you. And I don’t know if this is right for you, but if you think that you might want more help in X, Y, Z area, go to the page and put your name and your email address in and I’ll send you more information.”
And then you’re going to see if there’s a response. And if there isn’t a response, then you drop it. You just drop it and it’s no big deal, and it doesn’t matter. But, if there is a response, even a small response from your listener base, what you’re going to find is, all right. Now, there is in my opinion, my humble opinion as an online marketer, there’s your opportunity to provide additional content that is truly valuable, is off topic, so it’s appropriate for advertising and not appropriate for the actual show, and it expands the ways that you are helping your audience, that you specifically, you know your audience. They know you. They like and trust and know you.
And you’re going to say, “Let’s take this a step further. You know me as the person who could bring you information and I’m honest,” and whatever else. Let’s try this out. So, you’re going to provide something of value to them and they’re going to pay for it. And that revenue has the potential to be substantial and most podcasters don’t know how to assemble it, offer it, do it, and so they never get there. They might not have a listenership large enough for advertisers, and they might not have a listenership large enough for subscribers, and they might not know how to offer a subscription. And so they’re stuck.
Some people that have 2000 followers, for example, who love every download, who love the content, they don’t realize they’re sitting on top of what is potentially a very, very lucrative business providing valuable content to people they care about, because they just don’t ever imagine that the audience is big enough, and so we suspended our disbelief for a moment and we imagined that you could produce that content, and that’s the only way that goals are ever reached. You have to imagine that you can accomplish those goals. And so theoretically, you’re going to have to reach out and produce that content and find those experts, or whatever else, but it’s totally doable. It’s totally doable, and I think that’s a revenue stream that maybe could even be exciting for you.
Jason Pyles: Yeah. Absolutely.
Rob Booker: Let’s come back around full circle. You said at the beginning that you’d like to produce some revenue that helped make the shows self sustaining and spend less time. So, what talked about what is true. We said we know who our listeners are. It’s true that our listeners fit this profile and it’s true that listeners will listen to ads and will most likely buy products and services recommended by the hosts that help them move forward in life in certain areas.
Jason Pyles: Yes.
Rob Booker: Now, we ask: What are we going to do about it. The question is, if you accept these things as true, what are you going to do about it?
Jason Pyles: Well, I think follow your advice. Absolutely put up that landing page, the offer page, and do that, I don’t know if this is right for you thing, and see what the result is.
Rob Booker: Yeah, and just try it out.
Jason Pyles: Try it out.
Rob Booker: It’s important the first time around that you offer something like that, to spend a lot of time playing around with what the offers are. So, I would recommend maybe an in person brainstorming session with someone like me. I’m not offering myself as a paid service, I’m just saying someone like me, where you brainstorm all the different ways that you can make the offer. You make a bunch of different versions of this landing page, and you see what you like, and you do a lot of that. Because it’s all going to be brand new, and you’ll never have done it before, and it’s important to play around with it a lot.
That can be a really enjoyable process too. And then maybe you set a goal that on December 1st, you’re going to have that page ready and that you’ll spend a lot of time before then trying to put a bunch of different things together to see what sticks, and you’ll have a bunch of stuff ready. You’ll have as much fun putting together all that stuff as possible.
Jason Pyles: Yes. Sounds great.
Rob Booker: When you do this, when you’ve gone through that process of asking what you really want, what is true. And what are you going to do about it? If the end result is money, if the end result is money that makes the podcasts self sustaining and helps support you so you can even bring more valuable content to your listeners, then you have revenue that you can use to hire out some of the help that makes it easier, that makes it so it takes less time for you to accomplish it, which is one of the things that we talked about at the beginning. That’s the only way you get to that other goal, is having some revenue necessary to invest in either technology or humans to help you accomplish the things that you want to accomplish without spending so much time.
Jason Pyles: I like that. That’s amazing.
Rob Booker: Well, we’re always interested in feedback from our three and a half listeners. How can people reach the show?
Jason Pyles: That’s right. Well, they are welcome to email us, Rob, at and we’d love to get their questions or feedback there.
Rob Booker: Awesome. Thanks, Jason. I can’t wait to talk more about this.
Jason Pyles: Thank you, Rob. This is very exciting. I appreciate it.

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