How Much Money Can You Make at Podcasting?

By Tee Morris, Chuck Tomasi

Most podcasters fall into one of three categories in terms of their audience size: small, medium, and large (well, yeah). Because of the very low barrier-to-entry — in effect, almost anyone can create a podcast — the smaller variety of podcaster will likely make up the bulk of the community for the foreseeable future.

Here’s a closer look at the moneymaking opportunities for these three podcast categories:

  • Small: Roughly, a small podcast has under 1,000 listeners. Having a small audience size doesn’t exclude you from drawing a revenue stream from your podcast. It likely limits the size of your potential revenues, but it doesn’t mean you can’t bring in at least some income.

    Small is a relative term, and we’re not about to start tossing out audience-size statistics to draw a clear demarcation between small and medium. Small is also not a derogatory term; many podcasters enjoy the idea of keeping their community intimate. There’s a certain comfort in the small podcasts, a charm that some would say is diminished as the size of the podcast’s audience increases. Small can be an asset — some podcasts are so niche that they draw a small, but extremely loyal following. To a potential advertiser, you have a target audience.

  • Medium: When you have more than a handful of dedicated listeners (in the four-digit bracket with over 1,000 listeners), you find yourself in the medium category. This category affords you additional opportunities. For instance, corporations and advertisers may be more willing to consider placing ads or providing sponsorships.

However, you also find yourself in a more competitive marketplace, as other podcasters start fishing for monies to help offset their costs. Stepping upward in the ranks also means stepping up your game, and you may find yourself in an unfamiliar place — trying to develop a media kit that boosts your podcast above the din raised by all the other podcasts chasing the very same advertisers.

Creating an effective media kit, especially for a newly discovered marketplace such as podcasting, is a pretty important task. Try Paul Cooligan’s The Podcast Report if you’re looking for ideas and ways to make your podcast into a money-making venture along with making your podcast more visible through SEO and promotional strategies.

  • Large: Breaking the barrier at the far end of the size spectrum is an elite set of podcasters who occupy the large category and are in the five-digit bracket with over 10,000 listeners. When it comes to making money with your podcast, size really does matter. With a huge audience base, you’ll likely find advertisers a lot easier to approach; you can present listener numbers that are more like what the advertisers are used to seeing in their more traditional media buys.

Outside the mainstream media (like NPR, CNN, and ESPN), there aren’t that many large podcasts out there — yet — so thus far the playing field is still fairly open. Still, it’s no picnic for large podcasters; after all, they’re still targeting a very narrow audience on typically one topic (or show), and they probably won’t rake in as much as a nationally syndicated radio program. Don’t be surprised, however, if you see that paradigm change. Podcasters have much more flexibility than broadcasters and arguably a closer relationship with the audience.