In 2022, Spotify reportedly paid Joe Rogan a record-breaking $200 million to host his show The Joe Rogan Experience exclusively on their platform. That same year, Amazon paid a whopping $100 million for the rights to host episodes of the true crime comedy podcast My Favorite Murder a week before they were pushed to other platforms.
All of this is to say, there’s money in podcasting. Big money.
But the harsh truth of the matter is that most podcasts don’t make any money at all. It’s not because they can’t—it’s often because those hosts and producers don’t realize that they can leverage even modest audience sizes to turn a profit on their hard work.
Your podcast is a powerful medium that can make money, whether your show is a side-hustle or full-time commitment. To make money podcasting, you’ll need to explore every avenue, and that means sponsored ads, affiliate sales, merch, donations and beyond.
So, how do podcasts make money? Keep reading, and we’ll show you how.
It all depends on the size of your audience, the quality of your content and the revenue strategies you pursue. Most podcasts don’t make more than $100 per month, but some podcasts rake in thousands.
Make no mistake, earning an income from your podcast takes work. It can take months—even years—to build a following and develop strategies that stick. Nevertheless, if you’re committed and passionate about your podcast, making money is only a matter of time.
Inserting sponsored ads in your episodes is an excellent way to generate revenue. According to the Internet Advertising Bureau, podcasting ad revenue is projected to reach $2 billion by the end of 2023. While the exact amount of money you can make from podcast ads depends on your niche and audience size, Geektime estimates that most podcasters can expect $500–900 in ad revenue for every 10,000 podcast downloads or streams.
The original and most common way to get sponsors is pretty straightforward—just ask! Brands are always on the lookout for creative ways to reach wider audiences, and you can pitch your podcast as an affordable, low-risk way to build name recognition.
However, it’s important to set yourself up for success by pitching to the right brands. Consider which sponsors would get the most value from reaching your podcast audience. Does their product relate directly to the topic of your podcast? Is there overlap between their demographic and your audience? If so, check the brand’s website for any information about how to make a submission. Then, it’s time to put together a strong pitch.
Your pitch should quickly and clearly show why advertising on your podcast would be worthwhile and add real value to their brand. That means leveraging the performance of your show.
Here are some metrics to include in your pitch:
The size of your audience: How many people follow you across all channels?
Listeners per episode: On average, how many downloads or streams does an episode of your podcast get?
Social media stats: In addition to number of followers, what kind of engagement do you typically see?
Reviews and rankings: Do you have a lot of positive reviews on Apple Podcasts? Does your podcast appear in any ranking lists for your show’s niche?
Website traffic: Do you have a dedicated website, and does it see a fair share of monthly visitors?
Landing a podcast sponsorship isn’t just about the numbers. Even if you have a small following, a sponsor may still want to work with you based on your content quality, audience demographic or specific area of expertise. For example, a podcast about weekly events in Cincinnati, Ohio might not have a huge reach outside of The Queen City, but if it’s fairly popular in the area, you’ll probably find plenty of local companies interested in advertising.
That being said, don’t be afraid of pitching to potential podcast sponsors—even big ones that you think might be out of reach. Remember, the worst you’ll hear is “No, thank you.”
Traditionally, when you place an ad in your podcast, you record it alongside your show or manually insert it afterwards. Thus, the ad and the podcast dialogue become a part of the same audio file. When ads are “baked in” like this, subscribers will always hear the same ad whenever they play the episode.
Dynamic ads can be swapped out or added to episodes at any time. Platforms like Transistor offer podcasters an intuitive way to place dynamic ads into their episodes and show notes. Just upload your episodes and choose where to place each ad. Keep in mind, sponsors don’t always provide pre-recorded clips, meaning you’ll sometimes need to record yourself reading the ads and upload the audio file to your publishing platform.
Make an ad spot for ad spots—it works. Your podcast is a great marketing tool to land sponsorship deals. Just place a quick shoutout in your show that advertises that you’re looking for sponsors. If you don’t get any bites at first, no worries. It might take a while to attract advertisers, especially if your audience is relatively small.
Affiliate programs offer a way to monetize your podcast without placing ads. Rather than earning money upfront or per thousand downloads (CPM) from ad placements, you’ll get paid after a subscriber makes a purchase through a unique link that leads to the product or service you’re promoting. Drop the sales link in the show notes, and tell your audience that it’s an affiliate link for legal purposes.
You have the option of choosing between affiliate networks (like Amazon Associates) or specific brands that manage their own affiliate programs. Just be sure to promote products that your audience will be excited about. Promoting relevant products will increase your chances of earning bigger payouts because your audience is more likely to make a purchase.
All affiliates have different payout rates, and there's usually a tradeoff between the popularity of the retailer and the payout. Generally, you can expect between 1–10% shared sale for affiliate programs. It’s up to you to decide which affiliate program works best for your podcast.
You can also make money without an official affiliate program. Sometimes brands offer a discount code that podcasts can advertise on the air. In return, the brand will split a portion of the sale with you. This sort of arrangement is popular among small brands without an affiliate program, but many large companies do it, too, including Hello Fresh, Casper and Article.
It used to be that if you wanted to sell merchandise, you had to guess how many shirts your audience might want to buy, and in which sizes. This left a lot of people with garages full of the shirts that were too big or too small for their fanbase. Thankfully, selling podcast merch has never been easier.
If you’re just starting out, you can’t go wrong with drop-shipping your merch. Drop-shipping is a popular alternative to supplying and maintaining an inventory on your own. Instead, inventory is purchased, printed and shipped from a wholesaler as orders come in. So you can easily start selling a wide range of products without committing to a large inventory—the wholesaler handles the “nitty-gritty.”
There’s a limitless range of merchandise to sell, including custom items that will make subscribers feel like members of your “tribe.” No matter what you decide to sell, make sure it’s unique to your podcast.
Don’t be afraid to ask your audience for donations—and reward them for it. Patreon is the most popular way to turn listeners into financial backers, but many podcast hosting services like Spotify for Podcasters offer similar programs. Here are some tips on accepting donations and giving your audience exclusive perks in return.
Patreon and the like allow your podcast listeners to make recurring donations. These memberships recur on a monthly or annual billing cadence. You can set different tiers of support from as little as $1 a month. Most programs offer different rewards for different amounts, but if you’re just starting out we recommend keeping it simple.
By using a service like Patreon, you can offer your members multiple tiers of premium content based on how much they donate monthly or annually.
Some content ideas include:
Exclusive supporter-only bonus episodes
Special annual merch
Video versions of your podcast
Using Patreon expands what your podcast can offer. It’s also a great way to combine monetization methods. For example, you could offer Patreon members a discount code for a product you’re promoting for an affiliate. This strategy would allow you to earn income from Patreon and an affiliate program.
In addition to generating income, eBooks can drive traffic back to your podcast and complement other monetization strategies, such as affiliate sales or sponsored ads.
The best part? You don’t have to write eBooks from scratch. If you have a backlog of old episodes, you can repurpose them into eBooks. Transcription services, like Descript, make the process even easier by converting the audio from your episodes into text. Then you can edit and organize your content as you see fit.
eBooks are better suited to podcasts that educate an audience about a particular industry or topic as well as serialized content, like a true crime podcast about a specific case. If your podcast features unscripted banter or ever-changing topics, converting it into an eBook may not make as much sense.
In recent years, podcasts like You’re Wrong About have hosted ticketed live events to supplement their income and build their community. But you don’t need to be a big podcast to host a live show. If you have a decent local or regional listener base, you can record live in front of a paid audience. To boost sales, consider taking a variety show approach—break up recording segments with musical performances, stand-up comedy, DJ sets and more. Give your audience an evening packed with curated entertainment.
If you’re struggling to book a local venue, try live streaming. You can host your special event from your own podcast studio—or anywhere, really—without worrying about finding a venue or selling tickets. With a virtual tip jar, you can still make money and connect with your fans in a unique way.
Podcast networks connect your show with brands who want to advertise products or services. Every network operates differently. Some allow you to make connections on your own, while others do all of the negotiating on your behalf. Joining a network is easier for experienced podcasters who have large followings, positive reviews and an exceptional ranking.
Some podcast networks include Spotify, iHeartRadio, NPR, The New York Times and This American Life. Due to the nature of the business, most of these networks are invite-only, meaning you’ll need top-notch content with promising growth potential.
With the right strategy, you can start making money from your podcast. Some of the best ways include sponsored ads, affiliate marketing, merch sales, eBooks and advertising networks. But before you start applying these strategies, you need listeners. Learn how to promote your podcast like a pro to make it easier to make money podcasting.