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Reporting on the business of podcasts

October 19, 2017

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Recent data show an estimated 112 million Americans have ever listened to a podcast. (“Woman wearing headphones” image via Pexels user breakingpic CC0 License)

Podcasts on everything from personal finance to picture books continue to gain listers. Americans spend an average of four hours a day listening to audio content and an estimated 112 million Americans have listened to podcasts, according to a 2017 report released by Edison Research and Triton Digital. One podcast directory lists over 150,000 podcasts worldwide with over 10 million podcast episodes.

As the podcast market has grown, so has the opportunity for business reporters to examine the finances of this burgeoning medium. Media research firm Bridge Ratings predicts that total ad spending on podcasts could approach $250 million this year.

How podcasters cash in

Podcasters make money from their audio content in a variety of ways. Some small businesses use it as a lead generation tool. For instance, Brian Preston and Bo Hanson of The Money Guy Show (a biweekly podcast) have attracted clients for their financial advisory firm in Franklin, Tennessee.

Papasan Properties Group in Austin, Texas sponsors a podcast called Inside ATX to showcase intriguing people and places in the area, positioning their real estate company as a local authority. DIY and interior design podcast Young House Love Has a Podcast, hosted by a Richmond, Virginia couple, has sponsors that are promoted during the program. This Atlantic article explores why podcast sponsorship is attractive to certain businesses.

Other podcasts have multiple income streams. For instance, weekly pop culture and feminism podcast Call Your Girlfriend has sponsorships, sells merchandise and hosts live events. (This Digiday article explains why live podcast events are gaining traction).

Finding the local angle

Podcasts that originate in your area will be of particular interest to readers. Podcast meetups across the country, where podcasters get together to discuss marketing and monetization strategies, might be a way to identify podcasters in your area. The Audacity to Podcast blog offers a few more tips for finding local podcasters. Satchel Player also lets you search for podcasts in your region.

Data from local radio stations contrasted to podcast data might show if locals are still tuning into the radio or are favoring other forms of audio content. Remember that many radio stations stream online, so fans living elsewhere in the country can tune in too, and local podcasters often have a reach outside of their immediate geographic area.

Questions to ask podcasters

• How big of an investment in money and time does your podcast require? What monetization strategies do you use and how much revenue does each generate? If your subject won’t reveal hard numbers, ask for a ballpark or see if they’ll share what percentage of overall revenue each one generates.

• At what point did your podcast go from a hobby to a business? How many subscribers, downloads or episodes did you have before it became feasible to monetize your podcast? How do you get ratings in the iTunes store or elsewhere?

• Do you handle the business side of podcasting yourself or have you signed up with a podcast network to help with marketing and sponsorships? Alternatively, have you outsourced certain aspects of your podcast such as show notes, transcription or editing? Is this a side project for you or a full-time venture?


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