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Podcast Subscriptions: A Full Guide to Paid Podcasts

Dive into the world of podcast subscriptions with our full guide. Explore the ins and outs of paid podcasts and unlock new possibilities for your content.
Abel Grunfeld
Head of Marketing
Published:
November 6, 2023
Last Updated:
December 26, 2023
8
min
Reviewed by
Ortal Hadad

If you’re a podcaster, you probably already know there are multiple ways to earn money from your content.

Most podcasters earn money from inserting paid ads into their episodes. But what if you want to diversify your income stream? Or maybe you want to rely on your loyal listeners (instead of brands) to support you.

The answer: paid podcast subscriptions.

In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to start offering paid content to your most dedicated fans.

What are podcast subscriptions?

Most podcasts are free; listeners just subscribe to new episodes on their favorite podcast-listening apps like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. But, some podcasters offer exclusive podcast content only paid subscribers can access. 

As their name suggests, paid podcasts (also known as private podcasts) are only available to people who pay for them. These paying subscribers can usually access the show using a private, unique RSS feed linked to their email. Some major podcast apps—including Apple Podcasts and Spotify—now offer in-app subscriptions, which makes it even easier for your listeners to pay for exclusive content. 

Some podcast subscriptions are for bonus content, while the main podcast episodes are still free to the general public. Other podcasters choose to put a paywall around all of their content, requiring subscribers to pay a regular fee to access the show at all. 

Why should you consider using paid subscriptions for your podcast?

As podcasting becomes an increasingly crowded market, it can be difficult to land enough advertising deals to meet your income goals. And you need a relatively huge podcast audience to even start attracting brands as podcast sponsors.

Paid subscriptions can be an attractive alternative.

According to one Improve Podcast study, Patreon provides a high monetization potential. By focusing on creating high-quality content and marketing it well, it’s extremely feasible for active creators to earn around $4,000 per month from 1,000 subscribers.

Paid podcasts are also a great way to build a community. Paid subscribers are often more invested in your show and incentivized to listen regularly. Many paid podcast creators use bonus perks to motivate people to subscribe, such as a private Facebook group, bonus content, or merch. The subscriber model of podcasting creates a feeling of exclusivity, excitement, and community in your listeners—creating a more loyal and engaged fanbase.

How to come up with a podcast subscription strategy: 4 Ideas

Paid podcasts come in a few different flavors. The podcast subscription strategy you choose depends on your goals, how much more work you can take on, and whether you want a portion of your income to be from traditional ad sponsorships.

Ad-free podcasts

Many of your listeners would be willing to pay a few dollars a month to hear your episodes without ads. If you want to keep your ad revenue but want to explore paid podcasts, you might want to offer an ad-free option to your most devoted fans.

This option is great for podcasters who want to experiment with paid podcasts without changing their recording schedule or the amount of work they put in. 

Bonus content

If you’re willing to record more podcast content, you might consider putting bonus episodes or other content behind a paywall. Some listeners are more willing to pay for new, exclusive content than simply to cut out ads. And for your most engaged listeners, access to subscriber-only content is a powerful motivator.

Remember, bonus content doesn’t need to be full episodes. It can be outtakes, longer interviews, and short listener mailbag episodes.

Early episode access

Another way to offer paid benefits without spending more time in the recording studio is to offer paid subscribers early access to episodes. If your show is on a regular release schedule (and episodes are ready at least a few days before they’re published), it should be easy to offer early access to your paying listeners.

Access to your archives

If you have a long-running show with years of back content, consider putting older episodes behind a paywall. This strategy helps you monetize old episodes that no longer earn you advertising dollars. More engaged fans and loyal listeners will likely be willing to pay for long-term access to all your old episodes.

How to set up your own podcast subscription

How to set up podcast subscriptions on Apple Podcasts

The Apple Podcasters Program lets users create a subscription channel to offer exclusive benefits like ad-free listening, early access, and bonus episodes. 

For ad-free episodes:

If you haven’t done so already, submit your RSS feed(s) to Apple Podcasts

Step 1: Create a new episode in Apple Podcasts Connect

Step 2: Click Add Subscriber Audio and choose the audio file that matches the ad-free episode

Step 3: Publish the ad-supported version in your RSS feed

Step 4: After you publish your ad-supported episode, you can link the ad-free version in your Apple Podcasts Connect account by inserting one of the following into your public RSS episode: 

Your Apple Podcasts Episode ID (<guide>)

The episode number (<itunes:episode>), season (<itunes:season>), and episode type (<itunes:episodeType>) from Apple Podcasts Connect

Once Apple crawls your RSS feed, it’ll ask you to confirm that both audio files are linked

For a subscriber-only show:

Step 1: Create a new show in Apple Podcasts Connect

Step 2: Create a new episode

Step 3: Select to make the episode paid-only 

Step 4: Upload your audio

For bonus episodes:

Step 1: Choose an existing RSS-based show or submit a new RSS feed

Step 2: Create a new episode in Apple Podcasts Connect

Step 3: Choose the episode type (Bonus or Full) and restrict it to paid listeners

For early access content:

Step 1: Choose an existing RSS-based show or submit a new RSS feed

Step 2: Create a new episode in Apple Podcasts Connect 

Step 3: Select an early access episode release date and restrict it to paid listeners.

Step 4: Publish the free version of the episode in your RSS feed later. Link the ad-free and ad-supported episodes by inserting one of the following into your public RSS episode: 

Your Apple Podcasts Episode ID (<guid>)

The episode number (<itunes:episode>), season (<itunes:season>), and episode type (<itunes:episodeType>) from Apple Podcasts Connect

Once Apple crawls your RSS feed, it’ll ask you to confirm that both audio files are linked

For archive access:

Step 1: Choose an existing RSS-based show or submit a new RSS feed

Step 2: Create a new episode in Apple Podcasts Connect 

Step 3: Restrict the episode to paid subscribers

Step 4: Publish the free version of the episode in your RSS feed later. Link the ad-free and ad-supported episodes by inserting one of the following into your public RSS episode: 

Your Apple Podcasts Episode ID (<guid>)

The episode number (<itunes:episode>), season (<itunes:season>), and episode type (<itunes:episodeType>) from Apple Podcasts Connect

Once Apple crawls your RSS feed, it’ll ask you to confirm that both audio files are linked

Step 5: When it’s time to add newer episodes to the subscriber-only archive, remove them from your RSS feed. They’ll remain in Apple Podcasts Connect as subscriber-only content.

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How to set up podcast subscriptions on Spotify

If Spotify is your podcast hosting platform, you can set up paid podcast subscriptions through Spotify. You’ll need to have at least two published episodes and at least 100 subscribers within the last two months to get started. Podcast subscriptions via Spotify are also only available in select markets:

To set up your podcast subscriptions in your Spotify account, follow these steps: 

Step 1: Navigate to Spotify for Podcasters in your web browser. Go to your Monetize tab

Step 2: Scroll to “Subscriptions” and select “Get Started”.

Step 3: If you haven’t done so already, set up and connect your Stripe account.

Step 4: Choose a monthly price for subscriptions. 

Step 5: Select the episodes you want to make paid-only, then click Update episodes.

These episodes will now be available only to paid subscribers. When creating new episodes, simply toggle Subscription only on the Episode options page before you hit publish.

How much should you charge for podcast subscriptions?

Most podcasters charge between $3-$20 monthly for paid content. But don’t price your subscriptions just based on the average. Your pricing should reflect things like:

  • The value you offer. Your audience might see ad-free episodes as worth less than completely new content.
  • The amount of extra work you’ll be putting in to make the bonus content
  • What your subscribers are willing to pay

Decide what pricing model would make it worth it to you based on the work you’ll be putting in. And don’t be afraid to ask your audience directly what they’d be willing to pay! Put out polls on social media, ask for feedback on your public podcast episodes, and survey your email list.

FAQs on Podcast Subscription

How much can you earn from podcast subscriptions?

Your potential income depends on the size of your audience, how many listeners are willing to pay for your content, and your plan pricing. If you have 10,000 listeners on average and 3% of them subscribe to paid content at $10 per month, you’d make $3,000 per month

How do Apple podcast subscriptions work?

Apple Podcasts lets users subscribe to individual paid podcast shows. Users can also pay to subscribe to a curated channel of multiple podcasts and view premium podcasts from their Apple News and Apple Music subscriptions in one place.

What is the difference between following and subscribing to a podcast?

Now that Apple Podcasts offers paid podcast subscriptions, the platform uses “follow” and “subscribe” differently. You’ll follow a free podcast, and subscribe to a paid or premium podcast.

Final thoughts

Podcast subscriptions can be a great way to earn extra income from your podcast content. With the right strategy, recording setup, and creative spirit, it’s possible to build a loyal—and paying—fanbase that’ll last for years to come. 

Want to learn more about monetizing your podcast? Check out these related articles from our blog:

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