How Do I Get Paid For My Podcast?
August 11, 2009 7:02 AM   Subscribe

How should I go about monetizing my podcast in a legitimate and professional manner?

I've been operating my podcast for over three years now. In that three years, I've made a lot of new friends, met and interviewed some of my personal heroes, and just generally had a good time. We've since gone from just one main podcast to a soft launch of a network of podcasts on various topics, which I am pretty excited about.

Unfortunately, I've never really gotten anything in terms of financial compensation, which means I've been running it at a loss for three years. Now, it is not a gigantic expense and I am otherwise employed, but I'd like to make the podcast make at least a little money. I'm not looking to get rich, but if I could cover server and domain costs, give my co-hosts a little something, and maybe cover a few other bills I'd be ecstatic.

I've got some experience with radio sales but podcasts are a whole different beast, especially because it seems like I pretty much have to set up my own operation. I don't mind going hat-in-hand to potential sponsors but I also don't want to look like some shady character who's just going to take the money and run.

I plan on offering recorded ad messages and on-air mentions of the product/website/whatever, as well as banner and link space on the front page of the actual website. I'm mostly looking for cash, but trades of products or services for giveaways/reviews/whatever are also welcome.

So I guess I have a couple questions.

1. How do I go about making everything nice and legal and official? I want to make sure there's a paper trail and documents for sponsors to follow, also I want to be sure how to file taxes for this sort of thing. Plus, I don't want to look schlubby.

2. What would be a fair ballpark rate to charge for podcast advertising? We aren't a huge podcast but we get a large number of downloads for each episode, and we've been having a lot of luck with landing relatively big-name guests lately. I'm thinking of offering a tiered structure - sort of a Bronze/Silver/Gold/Platinum-type thing.

3. Would I instead be better off just accepting donations?

Thanks for your help, hive mind.
posted by HostBryan to Work & Money (4 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I'm favoriting this thread now in case there's some wisdom as I'm facing a very similar situation. But let me also give you some advice that I've already done.

1) Get thee to an accountant! I did, and it worked wonders. I now run Venganza Media Inc, a S-corp. This handles all tax situations. All monies made by the podcast go to Venganza Media, and all expenses are paid by Venganza Media.

An accountant to do this doesn't cost as much as you might think, I believe we paid $300 total just a couple years ago, and then you have to spend a bit more every year on taxes, however it makes you more professional looking and covers your butt on tax issues.

More, all money spent out of pocket on the business (above and beyond your income) then becomes a deduction on your personal taxes.

2) The research I've done give me sites like showing rates of between 2.5 cents and 5 cents per download for 30 seconds of ad time(and the chaos behind "what is a download" gets in there too). Premiums are charged for "before the show starts" ads (because everyone hears them no matter how much they listen to of the show), professional production of ads, etc.

But in this economy, I'm interested in who's paying that much... Even a few years ago when spending was much higher, many companies balked at 5 cents per download as it's a relatively high rate for internet advertising, and without click-throughs to measure for effectiveness it becomes a problem.

3) I say leave no money on the table. Take donations. Get advertisers. Do whatever you can to monetize so long as it doesn't threaten the integrity of your show(s).
posted by arniec at 7:16 AM on August 11, 2009

Mod note: removed link - please put it in your profile if you want people to look at it
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:26 AM on August 11, 2009

Ask Brian Ibbot of Coverville. His model seems to be various sponsorships, including the blog and the podcast, as well as a premium paid feed.

In my outsider experience, relying on donations alone will not be enough to cover your costs.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 7:51 AM on August 11, 2009

Dan Carlin seems to make a living by doing three things -- he spends about 1 minute per hour or so of podcast shilling his work ("please review us on & iTunes") & begging for money ("please donate") in a humorous way, he does a spot for, who has a deal with him were you can enter a coupon code for a free download on yr. first visit, and he has a limited back-catalog available for free, and sells the older podcasts on his website for 99 cents.

I have no idea how big his audience is, be he purports to be earning a full-time living from it. you might listen to a couple of his episodes to get a feel for how he pushes these things. It's not too terribly intrusive, which I think is key to not driving your audience off, and it's opt-in, so you're not firewalling them with paid-only content.

(No association other than HH fan-ship)
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:31 AM on August 11, 2009

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