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I'm not so sure that bonus content for podcasters is the best thing. Sure, some podcasters make good money offering bonus content, merch, and other “more” items to their listeners. So some listeners clearly want those “more” items. But most don’t want them, as is evident by the dismally-low conversion rates on fee-based bonus feeds or other paid options podcasters provide.
I don’t think all of this can be accounted for by a general reluctance people have to pay for… anything. It’s also due to problems on both sides of the supply-and-demand equation.
Most People Have No Room To Listen To More Podcasts
As uncovered in this year’s Infinite Dial 2021 report from Edison Research and Triton Digital, people who self-report as weekly podcast consumers—the “hungriest” of them all—on average listen to only eight episodes per week. Only eight episodes per week! And that’s spread across only five shows.
But an average of eight means half of weekly listen to less than eight episodes. Conversely, the other half listen to more than eight. But only 19% said they listened to more than 11 episodes the week before the survey. I’m in the #morethan11 club. You may be too.
But most listeners are not. So offering to give them additional episodes to consume when their listening cup already runneth over seems like a bad idea.
Most Podcasters Have No Room To Produce More Podcasts
I don’t have a nifty report to point to that backs up that heading, so I’m relying on anecdotes. But those anecdotes are strong. For many podcasters I know personally, the thought of making an additional episode spikes their anxiety. Contemplating writing a weekly newsletter when they already struggle to fill out more than the most basic of episode details, either in-app or on-page, sends them into a near panic attack.
And what about your friendly neighborhood podcaster who already puts out a daily show? Are they supposed to put out episodes on the weekend as well? Should they start publishing episodes timed to drop around all three mealtimes every day?
Of course not. Though, yeah… a handful of the show’s most loyal fans would love that.
More Monetization Options For Podcasters On The Horizon
It’s widely anticipated that Apple will soon roll out ways for podcasters to get paid by their audience, directly in the Apple Podcasts app. Probably via paid subscriptions. Probably by selling one-off episodes for $0.99 the way iTunes sells songs. Probably some other clever way to collect 15-30% of the take.
When that happens, it’s going to work great for some podcasts. Just like other pay-to-get-more- or pay-to-get-different-content works great for some podcasts right now. Those models work. But those models require more.
[Side note: you probably don't have nearly as many people listening to your podcast’s episodes on Apple Podcasts as you think. But that's a topic for a future episode.]
Twitter is also exploring ways to funnel direct payments to creators. One of them is called Super Follows, a “paid perk” that establishes a more direct connection between payers and the creators they choose to follow. I like the way Twitter is thinking about monetization and the challenges therein.
And that got me thinking about ways podcasters could provide something worth paying for that doesn’t require making another episode or locking up their previously-free content behind a firewall. I’m just spitballing here, but I came up with:
Priority access / fast lane to you
This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s an easy and accessible way for listeners to bump their questions, comments, or ideas to the top of your queue. I don’t know if that’s a new email program, a new social account, or what shape looks like.
Maybe this is a way to monetize the “Can I pick your brain for a moment?” requests (which I love, by the way, so please don’t stop) that are difficult to package and sell. Podcasting journalists could use this, but so could hobbyist podcasters. Because there are at least some listeners of yours who’d like to have you on speed-dial. And while that’s not a good idea, a semblance of that could be created that’s mutually beneficial to both parties.
Inner circle exclusives
When I say “exclusives”, I don’t mean additional podcast episodes. I’m thinking more of exclusive chances to connect with you, the podcaster.
Maybe they’re special events, like a Clubhouse room, Twitter Spaces, a Discord server, an “ask-me-anything”, or something else. It’ll still require time on the part of the podcaster, but not time spent building yet another podcast episode.
You could opt to give your inner circle behind-the-scenes access. Much like many TV shows are taped before a live studio audience (always much, much smaller than the broadcast audience), you could give your paying inner circle the ability to watch you at your craft, being “inside” for all the things that don’t make the cut.
Or maybe something akin to “friendstagram” accounts works here, where you provide your inner circle with text, photos, and such. You probably already do this on free social channels. But if you’re more private, something like this could be a better option for you, as access would be more controlled.
Less content as a proxy for more
Especially if you’re already producing more content than most of your audience can keep up with (hi!), you could make a “director’s cut” where the word “cut” is taken literally, and you curate a “best of” or highlight reel. Maybe a quick recap of all the things that you previously published, with links back to the full content for those who want more.
Or a version of your existing episodes that, for example, only feature a single aspect of your show. If you do interviews, you could cut out not-interview segments of your show and provide that cut to people who want to pay for it.
Or the opposite may be true, and a portion of your fans want all of the “you” bits, but none of the “them” bits. I’ve had people ask me for that in a previous life when I did interviews. And it’s why I stopped doing interviews, frankly. If this were an option, you wouldn’t have to make that hard choice.
How Can you Get Paid For Your Podcast Without Podcasting More?
While I don’t believe there’s a definitive answer to that question, I do know you should not ask your fans what they want. If you ask your fans, the ones that respond are likely to all say the same thing: more. And this is about not doing more. At least not more podcast episodes.
Instead, ask your podcasting peer group. Ask your friends in the podcasting space which of these ideas resonates with them, or which ideas they can build off of and make something that works for them. I’m confident that good ideas will bubble to the surface, and I’d love to hear what you wind up implementing.
And if you loved this article and you do not want even more articles from me because you already struggle to get through the deluge of articles I produce every week, go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and slide a virtual coffee my way.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.