Are you ready to level up your podcasting game and join the pros, who get paid to do what they love full-time? After all, landing that sweet sponsorship is every podcaster’s dream.
If that sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place! In this post, we’ll explain the different ways you can monetize your podcast, how to find potential sponsors, and how to land your first podcast sponsorship deal.
How Do I Start a Podcast and Get Paid?
When you’ve got a podcast (or you’re thinking about starting one), getting paid to do what you love is an exciting prospect. But you’re probably wondering: how can you get money simply from publishing audio content?
New podcasters commonly ask whether podcast platforms themselves (like Spotify or Apple Podcasts) pay you for podcasts. Unfortunately, no they do not. If you want to get paid for your podcast content, it’ll need to come from either:
- Your audience (direct monetization)
- Third-party companies (sponsors) who pay you to help market their brands.
Let’s take a look at each monetization model below.
Possibly the simplest method of monetizing your podcast is to ask your listeners to pay you. When you use direct monetization, you either ask your audience for donations or charge money through a membership model.
You can ask for money in several ways, including:
- Starting a GoFundMe campaign
- Adding a PayPal button to your website
- Setting up a Stripe donation form on your site
- Creating paid membership tiers using a Patreon or Supercast account
- Selling physical products and merchandise
- Organizing mastermind groups or premium membership areas in a Facebook group or Slack workspace where your dedicated fans can support each other toward a common goal
- Offering an e-course
It may feel a bit icky to openly ask for money while recording a podcast episode. But many audience members would be perfectly willing to pay a few dollars to hear you and ensure your great content keeps coming their way (especially if them paying you means they don’t have to listen to advertisements).
Direct monetization doesn’t work for everyone, but if you have a willing subscriber base, this method can be a simple and straightforward way to earn money from your work.
Most podcast hosts opt for the sponsorship model instead, because it’s usually easier than creating or selling additional products. All that it requires is agreeing to a deal with a third party to sponsor you in exchange for promoting their brand on your show.
If you’ve ever listened to a podcast, you’ve probably heard a sponsored ad. They typically take place before the show starts (called a “pre-roll” ad), in the middle of the content (“mid-roll”), or at the very end of the episode (“post-roll”). Many podcast hosts take 15-60 seconds to read a script given to them by their sponsor company advertising whatever product or service is on offer.
Sponsorships pay you based on the number of listeners you have, so it can be difficult to land a sponsorship deal if you don’t have a large audience yet. But once you build up a significant enough following, landing paid sponsors is an excellent way to make money doing what you love.
How do Podcast Sponsorships Work?
More and more brands are realizing that ads are extremely effective on podcasts. In fact, a poll of highly engaged podcast listeners conducted by Edison Research found that not only do these listeners not mind hearing ads in their podcasts, but:
- 70% have considered a new product or service as a result of hearing a podcast ad
- 44% think more positively about companies that advertise on the podcasts they regularly listen to
- 37% say podcasts are the best way for an advertiser to reach them
- 44% agree that they pay more attention to advertising on podcasts than other media
So it makes sense that podcast advertising would be attractive for many brands. This puts you and your podcast in a great position; if you can prove that you have a wide enough reach, brands are likely to see your show as a valuable investment.
When determining how much sponsors pay for podcasts, there are three types of podcast sponsorship models to consider: affiliate, cost per mille (CPM), and value-based sponsorship. We’ll take a look at each payment model below.
Affiliate Podcast Sponsorship
In an affiliate model, you are paid based on the number of new customers you create for that brand. You earn a portion of each sale made by one of your listeners. Usually, brands will give you a promo code or a special URL to include with your ad so that the brand can track which purchasers were sent to the brand by your show.
Because the podcast host is only paid after generating a profit for the company, affiliate commissions are generally higher than the CPM model. Also, you’re not tied to a certain ad schedule or number of mentions per episode. Since you can decide how and when to promote the product, you can talk about it however often it makes sense for your style and audience.
One thing to look out for in affiliate programs is whether they pay your commissions in cash or in “store credit.” The affiliate program may also require a certain number of subscribers, website traffic, or social media followers in order to accept you as an affiliate. Before you go to the trouble of pitching these programs, be sure to do your research to find out whether the program’s payout structure and requirements will be a good fit.
The affiliate strategy is best for podcast hosts who have an audience with high engagement, or one who will take your purchasing advice.
In the cost per mille (CPM) model, companies pay you based on the number of downloads your podcast episode receives. “Mille” means “thousand” in Latin. Because it pays per thousand of downloads, it makes sense that the CPM model is best for podcasts with at least a few thousand regular subscribers.
The industry-standard rate of pay for the CPM model is anywhere from $18-25 per thousand downloads. For example, if your episode is downloaded 15,000 times and your podcast sponsorship deal is for $20 CPM, you’d be paid a total of $300 for that episode.
Your initial CPM rate will probably be based on your previous episodes’ download numbers, and the price can always be re-negotiated later whenever your advertising contract is up for renewal. Generally, the more subscribers you have, the more likely it is that you can get a higher rate.
If you want to maximize your revenue, you can also promote more than one product in each episode, or give multiple ad spots for the same product in one episode of your show.
Some small to midsize shows can occasionally negotiate a value-based sponsorship instead, which is similar to the CPM model, except that you are paid at a flat rate rather than based on the number of downloads. This type of podcast sponsorship emphasizes the value the podcast creates for the sponsor, regardless of download metrics.
So instead of being paid $20 per thousand downloads as in the above example, you would negotiate a flat rate of $300 for the episode—and if the sponsor believes that your audience’s trust in you will result in a high ROI for the sponsor, they’ll likely agree to the flat rate regardless of your audience size.
Types of Podcast Advertisements
When you sign a podcast sponsorship deal, the brand is likely to prefer that you read a scripted ad and insert it into the audio of your podcast episode. This type of host-read ad is most common. Some sponsors will want you to read the script verbatim, while others give you an outline and don’t mind if you add your own twist.
Another kind of advertisement, the dynamically inserted ad, is growing in popularity. These kinds of ads are inserted through an ad server from your podcasting network or media host. They aren’t a baked-in part of your audio file, meaning they can be switched out based on the listener’s geographic location or if they download and listen to the podcast episode months after its release.
Regardless of whether the ads are host-read or dynamically inserted, they can be placed in three portions of your episode:
- Pre-roll ad: Played at the beginning of the episode, usually lasting about 15 seconds. The industry-standard rate for a pre-roll ad is $18 CPM
- Mid-roll ad: A longer ad (usually about 60 seconds) played in the middle of your episode, usually in a break between segments. The industry-standard rate is $25 CPM.
- Post-roll ad: Played at the end of the podcast episode, usually lasting 15-30 seconds. Because the likelihood of the audience skipping the ad is highest at the end of the episode, the industry-standard rate is lower, at $10 CPM.
How Do I Get Sponsors for My Podcast?
Once you’ve established your podcast and gained a decent following, you may feel ready to start looking for ways to get sponsorships for your podcast. The methods listed below are the most reliable ways to find paid sponsors for your show.
1. Join a Podcast Network
If you’re just getting started, it always helps to have a support system. That’s why one way to find sponsorship deals is to join podcast networks, which are middlemen that connect your podcast with sponsors more easily than if you were on your own.
If you’re a part of a network, more companies will be exposed to your content and will be likely to approach you with partnership opportunities. Here are a few podcast networks and advertising agencies where you can find podcast sponsorship deals:
The only downside to this option is that most networks take a cut of your podcast sponsorship revenue. The standard split is 70/30 using a CPM revenue model, where you take home 70% of the earnings and the network gets 30%. This means that you’ll need a larger audience to make up for the loss of revenue to network commissions.
2. Pitch Directly to Brands
Unless you’ve got tens of thousands of downloads per episode, it’s likely that brands won’t be crowding at your door begging to advertise on your show. But that’s okay! All you need to do is a bit of research and pitching.
First, check up on other podcasts in your niche. What kinds of brands are already advertising on those shows? Think about your audience as well, and consider what kinds of products or services they’re likely to be interested in. Make a list of the brands you find, and search out similar brands that you think may also benefit from advertising to your audience.
Once you have a list of leads, find the contact information for the person at each company who you think has the purchasing power at each company (a great place to start is the marketing or PR department). Then start writing your sponsorship proposal!
In your proposal, you’ll need to demonstrate the value your show could bring to the company. Show the brand that investing in your podcast will bring them a higher return. You can use stats from your podcast’s downloads and follower count, analytics of your audience’s demographics, and any other hard numbers that are relevant to back up your claims.
Your podcast sponsorship proposal doesn’t need to be too long to start with; in fact, it’s often best to be concise and to the point, if you want the recipient to read your cold email. Then, you can always include a slide deck in an attachment to the email with more detailed data.
If you need a good example to get you started with your email proposal, check out our free pitch template below:
Use this email to reach out to a potential sponsor. Please remember that for this pitch to be successful, you’ll need to insert the appropriate information into the template below. DO NOT copy and paste this template into an email and send it as-is.
Hello [CONTACT NAME],
I’m reaching out to you to inquire about a possible partnership between [COMPANY] and [PODCAST TITLE].
[PODCAST TITLE] is a top-ranked political news podcast focusing on progressive topics and interviews with some of the nation’s top political figures and noteworthy activists. It’s a conversational, down-to-earth approach to real-world issues. Our show currently sees more than [NUMBER] monthly listeners of diverse ages and backgrounds from [NUMBER] countries around the globe.
I’m confident that if you choose to sponsor [PODCAST TITLE], your brand will see a great deal of exposure to our diverse and expansive audience. Do you have time this week to set up a
quick call about this potential collaboration opportunity?
Remember that pitching is a numbers game. You’re likely to get rejected a lot, and that’s normal. All you need is to find that first sponsor, and the rest will come in time.
It may feel scary to reach out to a company and ask them to pay you. But remember: they’re likely to earn much more revenue out of the deal than you will. You’ll be doing them a service, too—it’s a business partnership. So remember that you’re offering a way to help them, not just asking them for a handout. That mindset helps boost your confidence and keeps things on even footing.
3. Be Approached By a Brand
Naturally, it’s not likely that beginner podcasters with a midsize audience will be sought out by brands looking to buy ad spots on their show. But if you build a strong enough listener base and start ranking on podcast directories as one of the top shows in your niche, you may begin to be approached by advertisers without having to pitch at all.
That’s the dream, right?
Of course, this method relies on others to seek you out; there are no guarantees. The only way to make this happen is to create a compelling, high-quality podcast that builds a strong following.
The popular podcasts will be the ones that motivate companies to approach them for sponsorship deals because the brand knows they’ll see a high return on their investment. And don’t forget to list your contact information on your podcast website for when your show gets big enough that a prospective brand does feel inclined to reach out.
How Many Followers Do You Need for a Podcast Sponsorship, and When is the Right Time to Monetize?
It’s the eternal question: do you need to wait until you’re in the tens of thousands of followers range before seeking an income?
Thankfully, not necessarily. The point where you’ve reached 500 or more downloads per episode is a logical time to start trying to monetize—and your chances of earning money only increase from there.
After you’ve hit the benchmark that feels right, start exploring your options by reaching out to podcast networks and seeing what their minimum download requirements are. Do you meet those requirements? You can also start pitching brands on your own—just make sure to collect hard data to help sell your pitch, such as download metrics and demographic analytics.
One word of warning, however: there is no universal right time to begin seeking sponsorship. You’ll need to decide when the time is right for you. If you try to monetize your podcast before you’ve created a consistently high-quality show or built a relationship of trust with your audience, your advertising attempts can quickly go south. Put your listeners first, and the ad revenue will follow.