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It's a Great Time Make Money With a Podcast. Industry Experts Tell You How. A panel of podcast experts outlines the most effective strategies for growing your audience and your revenue.

By Robert Tuchman

In a world inundated with content, the allure of podcasting has steadily risen to prominence, captivating listeners with its unique blend of convenience and intimacy. As this audio medium continues to evolve, the podcast industry has become a thriving ecosystem, offering a diverse array of content and revenue opportunities. To shed light on the intricacies of this dynamic landscape, I reached out to a panel of experts from the podcast industry and asked them to share their insights and experiences to offer you a comprehensive understanding of podcasting's present and future. (Answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

Panelists:

Why is now a good time to start a podcast?

Ben Richardson: Podcasting's popularity amongst audiences continues to grow, and has become an established part of consumers' media diets — the days of having to explain to potential listeners what a podcast is are long gone. With this familiarity, the audience has grown more sophisticated and is looking to try new shows and hear new perspectives. Zooming out, media companies continue to grapple with the shockwaves when platforms or distributors make changes to content across media types, whether it's changes to what's prioritized on Meta or Google or the collapsing of the theatrical window for movies. Podcasting is one of the only remaining forms of content, other than perhaps email newsletters, where publishers truly own their audience via an RSS feed, putting us fully in control of how our content is distributed and monetized.

Fatima Zaidi: People are listening to podcasts during times not traditionally available to advertisers. 94% of the time they're multitasking, and because of this, companies/hosts can reach people during times previously thought to be difficult to reach — when they're running errands, doing household chores, exercising, and working. And surprisingly, they're still retaining the content. Being actively engaged in another activity at the same time as listening seems to increase engagement rather than hinder it. This is truly unique to audio consumption formats only and thus audio is much more impactful than video if you are trying to capture a consumer's undivided attention for more than 20 minutes. A recent study from the BBC found metrics for podcasting favorable across the board — with an 89% uplift in brand awareness, 57% in brand consideration, 24% in favorability, and 14% in purchase intent.

Brett Sklar: I feel anytime is a good time to start a podcast as podcasting is all about thought leadership and learning and there is never a bad time for those things to happen.

Related: Listen to the best podcasts for entrepreneurs

How do podcast creators effectively target and reach new audiences?

Jonathan Barshop: Fish where the fish are. It's dramatically easier to convert someone who's already listening to podcasts, so find podcasts with your ideal listeners (use a tool like Rephonic) and get in front of them (more on this below).

Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson: Adalyst Media's tagline is "We Reach Women's Ears." To reach those listeners and grow our podcasts' audiences, we target the female demographic not only among current podcast listeners but also on social media platforms. We have distinct content strategies for each of the platforms we target, producing different versions of short-form video content for Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, and longer-form video content for YouTube, which has opened up new audiences for podcasts across our network.

Ben Richardson: Understanding your audience is essential to understanding how to reach them. Finding the other places they're consuming similar content, whether in audio or beyond, is key to unlocking growth outside of your own channels.

Related: Hear great inspiring talks with the founders on How Success Happens

How do listener demographics and preferences impact audience growth in the podcast industry?

Fatima Zaidi: For me, good data is anything that helps me evaluate your podcast's return on investment (ROI) and in turn helps you grow your show. Although still very much a new category compared to print and television advertising, podcast marketing is undeniably cost-effective and by far the best option for high conversion rates, reaching 34% compared to digital display at 1.1%, print at 2.4%, and TV at 3.1%. Moreover, podcast listeners represent a highly loyal, engaged, and captive audience, especially in today's increasingly isolated, digitized landscape. Our agency, Quill, and the product we built called CoHost place a big emphasis on data that helps you measure these captive audiences and engagement rates. Metrics that matter the most include average consumption rate for your series and your episodes, loyal listeners, and ensuring you're reaching the right audiences through audience demographic information such as age, location data, gender, and household income.

Jonathan Barshop: There's no doubt that younger demographics are consuming short-form video. And while Shortform is great for top-of-funnel awareness, it's expensive (i.e. $2k+ / mo for solid clips) and I'm not convinced it has a meaningful impact on downloads. This is why I recommend fishing where the fish are.

Ben Richardson: Understanding your audience is essential to understanding how to reach them. Finding the other places they're consuming similar content, whether in audio or beyond, is key to unlocking growth outside of your own channels.

Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson: Adalyst Media is demographics-driven. While our podcasts vary in their content and points of view, they all have dedicated audiences that are mostly women and mostly moms. Studies show that women control or influence 85% of consumer spending, and our podcasts directly connect brands with that purchasing power. Brands appreciate that our agency offers many options for reaching a specific audience. We considered creating a podcast network with shows reaching a larger variety of demographics, but sometimes niches really work.

Are there specific strategies or techniques that have proven to be successful in increasing podcast audience size?

Brett Sklar: I think there are two effective strategies to increase podcast audience size. The first is the social sharing of clips and the content you are creating. The second is paid media specifically products such as Trailergram that help you find your audience, get subscribers and communicate with those subscribers about upcoming episodes.

Jonathan Barshop: The most cost-effective options are guesting, cross-promos, feed swaps and collaborative episodes with shows of a similar size. What makes these 10x more effective is when the podcaster you're collaborating with has a loyal audience + genuinely endorses your show. That said, the only way you'll get a genuine endorsement is by building a genuine relationship with the podcasters. Play the long game. If you're going the paid route, buying ads and feed drops can work, but it's expensive and a lot of luck's involved.

Fatima Zaidi: Podcast hosts want listeners' two most valuable resources: time and attention. In exchange, podcasters need to offer listeners something in return: entertainment, information, companionship, etc. This is why when done effectively, podcasts generate up to 4.4x better brand recall than widely-used forms of digital advertising. Understand listener motivations and key drivers of appeal, then offer your listeners a show that adds value to their lives by leveling up editorially. From there focus on building a community of loyal listeners around your podcast. For example, the podcast "Teenager Therapy" does an excellent job of speaking to their community of other young people with similar experiences, challenges, and questions. On their social channels, they post audio and video format clips from their recording sessions and then ask their followers how they feel about different episode topics and to contribute feedback which is a great tactic for word-of-mouth audience growth – how 32% of listners are finding new podcasts.

Ben Richardson: I personally believe in reaching consumers wherever your brand has a footprint. Condé has seen social video — particularly Instagram Reels — be key to driving growth for our brands. Email also is a great way to reach some of our most loyal audiences (who are used to clicking on links — something many of the social platforms discourage) to discover new content from our brands. Finally, one surprise for us has been print magazines with QR codes. It's why a framework of testing new ideas, measuring the results, and then optimizing across our brands has been a key way we've grown audiences across our 7 active brands in audio.

Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson: A recent study of women podcast listeners by SXM found that 73% of those listeners found the podcasts they listen to through recommendations from family and friends. The most effective growth strategy for us has been to really engage with our shows' listeners; when they feel invested in our podcasts and their hosts, that sets the stage for word-of-mouth growth. Most of Adalyst Media's shows have active Facebook groups where listeners can connect not just with the shows' hosts but with one another. This engenders a great deal of show loyalty. One last tip: reinvest a percentage of your podcast revenue each year into advertising your podcast, on podcast ads, in-app podcast player promotions, and social media advertising.

Related: Learn the most powerful marketing strategies

What are other revenue opportunities for podcasts outside of in-show advertising?

Jonathan Barshop: A private podcast feed, paid community, creating a digital or physical product, live events, public speaking, consulting — I stop there, but there are a ton of avenues depending on the type of audience.

Fatima Zaidi: According to the Podcast Consumer Report 2021, 54% of podcast consumers say they are more likely to consider brands they hear advertised on podcasts. I think this can be achieved not just through buying a 30-second ad slot on a podcast, but also through effectively positioning your brand in your own show. Outside of in-show advertising, there are many revenue streams podcasters can explore including merchandise, crowdfunding, affiliate marketing, live events/workshops, repurposing content into e-books and guides, and my favorite tactic — series sponsorships!

Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson: Several of Adalyst Media's podcasts (including our flagship podcast What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood) employ a subscription model. Fans pay a small monthly fee to receive special perks; in What Fresh Hell's case, that includes ad-free access to our entire catalog plus monthly bonus episodes. Some of Adalyst's podcast hosts use a portion of their advertising inventory to promote their own products—courses, books, or special events—using their own podcasts' advertising reach to increase their revenue across their adjacent businesses.

What are the different styles of podcasts and do you have a preference for your favorite format?

Jonathan Barshop: I mostly listen to interview-style podcasts (i.e. Modern Wisdom), but love narrative/documentary styles when I find the time (i.e. Missing Richard Simmons) and lower-budget narrative styles (i.e. How To Take Over The World)

Fatima Zaidi: Just because the interviews are the most popular podcast format doesn't mean it'll be best for your show. The beauty of podcasting is that there is no ceiling for creativity, different structures, concepts, and formats. Each is unique to the story you are trying to tell and the listener you are trying to target.

Ben Richardson: My podcast taste is incredibly eclectic – it really depends on my mood on a given day. And I think after years of working in audio, I've become familiar with so many different types of podcasts and the purposes they can fill for me as a listener. I'm a big home cook, so one of my favorite shows at Condé Nast is Bon Appétit's Dinner SOS.

Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson: All of Adalyst Media's podcasts are conversational, and while they're all entertaining to listen to, they also offer useful takeaways. That balance is important to us as a network. Our podcasts are insightful but still conversational. They're enjoyable but thought-out. As podcast listeners ourselves, our favorite shows make us laugh and teach us something. We want our audiences to come away with something useful and actionable from every episode.

Robert Tuchman

Entrepreneur Staff

Host of How Success Happens

Robert Tuchman is the host of Entrepreneur's How Success Happens podcast and founder of Amaze Media Labs the largest business creating podcasts for companies and brands. He built and sold two Inc. 500 companies: TSE Sports and Entertainment and Goviva acquired by Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

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