Podcasting attracts all kinds of individuals: purists, hobbyists, marketers, traditional broadcasters, wannabe entrepreneurs, and more. Some get into podcasting specifically to make money, some hope just to cover expenses, and some have no plans to monetize and may even believe the art should remain free of cost and advertising. Thus, we raise the question, should we even try monetizing a podcast?
What could you do with podcast income?
Making money is rarely about just making money; it's usually about earning in order to do something. Podcast income could be anything from a few bucks to a wealthy paycheck. If you're ever asking, “How would I spend this money,” here are some ways that you can put that money to use.
- Upgrade your equipment for more quality or features.
- Upgrade your software for better workflow.
- Add premium functionality to your website.
- Upgrade your hosting.
- Pay for people, education, or services that make your podcasting easier.
- Host giveaways.
- Support another podcaster.
- Sponsor a cause.
- Enjoy some extra cash.
- Try paid advertising to grow your audience.
Your audience will be more likely to support your monetization when they know there's a purpose behind it.
Why you should NOT monetize your podcast
Aside from skeptics who believe podcasting should be completely free, here are some good reasons you may not want to monetize.
- Money can complicate relationships. If you have a cohost, how is the money divided? Many relationships have fallen apart over money.
- Money can distract from the message. It's often too easy to get focused on making “just a little more” money all the time. This can decrease the quality of your message and interaction.
- Monetizing usually creates interruptions. Almost any form of monetization will create a little interruption in your podcast content, website, or some other aspect of your podcast experience. Listeners may learn to skip or ignore these interruptions.
- Earning income (of any level) could complicate taxes. I'm not a tax profession and you should seek professional advice. The safe assumption is that any extra income should be reported in your tax returns. This could be easy with small amounts and complicated with large sums.
- Making a profit can cause distrust. Some people promote things simply because there's a high-paying affiliate program, and your audience might suspect you as being such. You may be questioned on your ethics for promoting one resource over another, especially if you're using affiliate links.
- Monetizing means you must follow a higher standard. FCC and other regulations are cracking down on disclosures when money is involved. When you start making money from your podcast, you often have to disclose that more on your website and how you promote things benefit you.
- No one owes you anything. Allowing the possibility of making money may cause you to feel entitled to earn something. Entitlement is always a dangerous feeling that helps no one.
- You podcast as a hobby. Most people wouldn't expect their relaxation activities to pay for themselves, anyway.
- You may not need the money. Maybe you podcast as a passion project and have few or no expenses. There's no rule that you must earn money podcasting; you're fine to continue however you wish.
Why you SHOULD monetize your podcast
Monetizing means more than just getting podcast sponsors. You could make money podcasting by creating products or services, promoting affiliates, selling premium content, accepting donations or crowdfunding, promoting your business, or anything else. Here are some reasons to pursue profit in podcasting.
- Podcasting costs. Whether you do this for hobby or business, you probably had one-time expenses or have ongoing costs. If you can't afford these regular expenses (average $20–$30 per month), then it may be better to monetize than to quit.
- It costs to improve. Whether it be equipment, education, or extra help, improving almost any aspect of your podcast will cost in time or money—but usually money. You may need a better microphone, a mixer, lighting, faster computer, better software, website plugins, and more.
- Generating revenue makes your podcast more sustainable. Having your podcasting expenses covered helps alleviate some stress. This allows you to focus more on creating consistent, quality content.
- Your quality content is valuable. In the Bible, it says, “The laborer deserves his wages” (1 Timothy [5:18] and other places). No reasonable person should expect an expert to work for free. When you create something of high quality, your time is worth something.
- Your podcast may be part of your business. If podcasting is any part of how your business survives, then you essentially must make it profitable. Just remember that the return on investment (ROI) is not always directly measurable. Thus, you podcast doesn't always have to directly sell something, but its consistent quality could be advertisement enough.
- Your audience may be eager to give back. People often develop a feeling of reciprocity when they get great stuff for free. Don't be surprised if people are actually eager to support you financially. Look at the huge success many shows are having on crowdfunding platforms, such as Patreon!
The decision to monetize is yours
Don't make this decision based on just the number of reasons for one or the other. Like many aspects of podcasting, there is no definitive answer that can apply to every podcaster. You should do what's right for you, your show, and your audience. Just remember that nearly all change will be met with opposition.
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This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.