“Right now Google is really good at giving you text and video related to your search query. With all the amazing work podcasters are publishing each day, there’s no good reason why audio isn’t a first-class citizen in the same way.”
Zach Reneau-Wedeen – Google’s Podcast Team
Audio Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is in it’s infancy, just like regular SEO was in 2000. Audio SEO is a set of optimization best practices that help audio files (podcasts) rank higher in search engines and podcast listening platforms.
In order to master audio SEO, you must first understand what it is so that you can incorporate these specific optimization techniques into your podcasting strategy. By implementing these techniques, working hard, and creating high quality audio content, you will be in a good position to have your audio be displayed higher in search engines and podcast listening apps.
The future of marketing and search engine rankings will not solely be tied to website content, link building, and the never ending competitiveness of traditional SEO. The future of SEO will primarily be tied to how well you rank on search engines and audio platforms for your audio content – Also known as Audio Search Engine Optimization.
This guide and future posts will walk you through all aspects of getting your audio ranked higher within search engines which will lead to an increase in audience, traffic, and podcast monetization.
The Basics of Audio Search Engine Optimization
In the early days of web SEO, the variables and ranking factors didn’t necessarily change as frequently as they do today. As Google and other search engines became smarter, it became harder to rank for specific and competitive keywords. Today, Audio Search Engine Optimization is like web SEO in 2000. If you focus your efforts on it now, it will pay dividends in the future.
To simplify this concept, we have broken the structure up into 5 Tenets.
The 5 Tenets of Audio SEO
As you can see, the foundation of good SEO for Audio starts with ensuring your podcast is available for search engines and podcast platforms to crawl and index your audio content. From there, additional SEO techniques move up the ladder.
In future posts, we will dive deeper into each of these these five tenets to successful audio search engine optimization.
Optimize Your RSS Feed
Produce Quality Content
What is Audio SEO?
First off, what is SEO? SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” It is the practice of specific website optimization techniques that can lead to higher search engine rankings. These non paid search engine rankings are called “Organic” search results.
To better understand audio SEO or search engine optimization, we must first have a foundational knowledge of what traditional SEO has become. Today, search engine optimization is primarily built on top of high-quality content, well-structured content, and the links pointing to that content from other credible sources.
We could dive much deeper into the intricacies of search engine optimization. There are tons of questions that could be asked like; what’s the most optimal title tags you should have on a website or on a blog post? How often do you mention your focus keyword? Who is linking in and who are you linking out to? Do you have alt tags within your images that are relevant to your focus keyword? How valuable is the content that you are producing that benefits users to find what they’re looking for when searching on Google, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, or others.
There are currently over 200 ranking factors that Google uses to rank websites. Some of these rankings include:
As it relates to Audio SEO, most of these rankings become obsolete since the way audio is created, consumed. recommended, and found, differs significantly compared to the web.
When spoken word audio is transcribed from voice to text and applied to new audio SEO strategies, there is an endless amount of growth potential for podcast creators to get discovered.
Audio SEO is going to be a major factor for podcasters looking to grow their listener based and to cut through the noise of the ever growing audio content. In the near future, search engines and podcast apps will be leveraging data, text, quality of audio, location, social signals. drop-off, and other signals to make the discovery of audio content much more relevant and better than it is today.
To use a baseball metaphor, audio and audio SEO is really in the first inning of a long double header.
Dan Daugherty – Co-founder of Sounder.fm
Why is Audio SEO Important?
The SEO industry has grown from $0 less than 25 years ago to now over $79B in 2020. The audio market is actually growing faster as it relates to the amount of new audio content being created today compared to total websites on the web in 2001. The below graph compares total website growth from 2001 to 2006 and compares that to the total number of podcast episodes active in 2020 and foretasted out to 2025.
The opportunity is very large. However, with this exponential growth comes new challenges for podcast creators. First, there are now nearly 100 new podcasts launched every hour. In 2020, there will be over 750,000 new podcasts added to the podcast ecosystem. This explosion in growth makes it very difficult for creators to attract, engage, and retain new listeners.
The importance of focusing on audio SEO today will mean you will be steps ahead of your competition when the inevitability of reaching many millions of active podcasts is just around the corner.
Remember when reading was fun? When you tucked away in your bedroom and got lost in a story? Or maybe you got to witness your mother’s bookclubs, where womxn would discuss characters and plots well into the evening. Lauren Popish, founder of The Wave Podcasting, started her podcast, Book (Wine) Club, back in 2018. Her concept takes a contemporary twist on traditional bookclubs—where one might serve tea, Lauren decided to pair her reads with wine. But the road to building a successful and fulfilling podcast came with its challenges.
Two year ago, when Popish started her podcast, she ran into tons of questions. In looking for answers, she only found tech-heavy, masculine videos and help-guides that were frankly pretty intimidating. As a result, she founded The Wave, an inclusive place where womxn can learn how to build successful podcasts so they can grow their audience, share their message, and get paid.
When she’s not running The Wave, reading, or recording Book (Wine) Club, she’s taking care of her new adorable puppy, Ruthie, (named in honor of RGB—RIP, sister), and remembering to refer to her partner as ‘fiancee’ instead of ‘boyfriend’.
Today in our SoundHer interview you will learn:
Why Podcasting Is The Superior Marketing Medium
Popish’s Podcast Journey
How Confidence And Influence Are Related
What The Wave Can Offer Womxn Podcasters
The Secret Timeline To Topping Podcast Charts
Pro Tips For New And Existing Podcasters
Gender In The Podcast Industry Today
What The “X” In Womxn Means
Why Podcasting Is The Superior Marketing Medium
Larell Scardelli: Happy to finally sit down with you Lauren! So tell us: Why podcasting? What inspired you?
Lauren Popish: It was my experience as a podcaster that made me appreciate why the medium is unique.
The way the world is today, if you have an idea, a personal brand, or a company, you have to build an audience to get out your message. It’s a fundamental truth, whether you like it or not. Audience-building is the only way to distribute an idea out into the world. And I feel all the traditional mediums of marketing, like social media and especially blogging, are just inaccessible because they’re so saturated.
The podcast industry is still authentic.
Podcasting is incredibly unique because of where it’s at in its popularity journey. There are only 1.4 million podcasts on Apple podcasts. That’s nothing compared to the number of blogs online today. Starting a podcast in 2020 is like starting a blog in 2008.
And the podcast industry is still authentic. You can hire someone to write a blog post for you, but you can’t hire someone to speak on your behalf. There’s a level of connection that happens between host and listener that’s so much deeper and more authentic, and, really, the kind of connection people are looking for from brands and companies and people.
So the opportunity plus authenticity-factor makes it the best way to build an audience for whatever your thing is. That’s why I love it.
LS: That really speaks to what big companies are doing today—publishing audio content that’s tangentially related to their brand.
LP: Totally. Because the “what” of your company doesn’t always speak to the brand or mission, which is probably so much more. When you sell a product, it can be hard to communicate the intent, or mission, or key driving values.
Frankly, static marketing makes it hard to communicate that too. You can say that you’re about sustainability or womxn-led brands. At the end of the day, if you’re not exhibiting that, or showing through the things you do, it can be hard to get it across.
Podcasting offers a unique opportunity to communicate the “why” in the brand. And that’s what people care about. I don’t shop at DAME (a womxn’s pleasure product company) because they sell superior products to Amazon, I do it because they support gender equality and have a sex positive-mission. It’s the “why” I care about. Podcasting helps you get to the “why” faster.
LS: And it feels like because podcasting is so personal, once a customer or shopper is invested in a brand’s podcast, the brand has won?
LP: Absolutely. The average time spent on a YouTube video is 10 minutes. The average time spent on an Instagram post is three seconds. And the average time spent on a podcast is 30 minutes!
So as a brand, being able to speak directly to your target customer for an uninterrupted 30 minutes? WHAT? When you see a brand capture someone’s attention through a podcast, winning is the only way to describe it. You’ve converted a life-long customer.
Popish’s Podcast Journey
LS: Can you tell us more about how and why you started Book (Wine) Club?
LP: I bought the equipment before I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I was really chewing on what to speak about. Like I said, I thought there was potential in the medium even before I knew how to utilize it.
In coming up with my concept, the question that I asked myself was, “what can I speak about endlessly and stay happy, content, and inspired by that topic?” I’m an avid reader, and felt like the conversations I was having with friends and co-workers made me realize people really love talking about books!
I realized: you read and love books as a young person, and then you go to high school and college where you’re forced to read, and it’s so lame, and then you become an adult and you learn to read for pleasure again. It re-ignites this magical thing about books. I hit a point in my 20s where all my friends were reading or wanted to be reading. So, through Book (Wine) Club, I wanted to mimic a book club and recreate that as an audio experience.
The pairing of the wine was a fun aspect, because I don’t know anything about wine. So the idea of pairing it based on the topic of the book rather than anything about the wine was a fun way to make wine accessible. I’m even more obsessed with books and wine now from doing this podcast.
LS: Did you learn any big lessons from your first few episodes?
LP: In the early days, because of nerves, both me and my guests hit the wine pretty hard, which made the first and second half of the show starkly different. Like, the first 30 minutes could not be more different from the last 30 minutes because we’d get too drunk and just babble about books. So the biggest lesson I took away from those early days was not too hit the wine hard for nerves.
On a more serious note, it is the role of the host to prepare guests and calm their nerves. This was a big takeaway for me too. I was having guests— who were just friends that shared book interests, and I was shocked at how anxious and nervous they were to come on the show even though it’s edited, and we know each other!
I learned it’s my role to make all guests feel informed and calm, and there’s a lot of ways to do that. I put a lot of that comfort into the recording studio for womxn we built. Comfort has a lot to do with confidence in podcasting.
LS: No way, did you publish the episode where you got too wavy at the end?
LP: Too boozed? Yes, I definitely did. Definitely got some feedback, from my mom, like, “you can really notice a difference between the beginning and the end.” I mean, in the early days, the only person listening is your mom. But, yeah. Bottle of wine later. Tune back to the first episode, if you want to hear it.
We’ve put out two seasons so far. I’ve read more good books and bad books, and drank more good wine and terrible wine, than I have in my life. It’s done everything I wanted it to do for me. And soon, I’m starting a new podcast related to The Wave!
How Confidence And Influence Are Related
LS: How did your podcast motivate the creation of The Wave?
LP: This podcast really opened the door for me to start The Wave. It was the thing that showed me just how powerful podcasting can be and how good it is at helping encourage confidence. I think podcasting is a confidence-building tool, especially around speaking.
At the time I started the podcast, I was going through a personal period of developing anxiety around public speaking and using my voice. I was losing influence in my life, in my job, and in personal relationships.
I was losing influence in my life, in my job, and in personal relationships.
As I was podcasting, it felt like a safe way to build confidence around speaking. And I wanted to build a company that was useful and mission-driven. (I’ve always been kind of a side-hustle queen.) I really started to put two and two together.
When podcasting emerged as this tool for me, all I could think was, “What if I could help more womxn increase their influence and get their idea out there in a safe way that felt comfortable and was actually confidence-building in the process?” That’s a mission I can get behind. That’s really what started the company.
LS: Wanting to help womxn take up more space in this world is a common mission, but I love how you drilled down even further. What’s the connection between confidence and influence?
LP: It’s one of those things that if you don’t speak up, it’s not like that opportunity just disappears. Someone else steps up in your place. When I wasn’t raising my hand at work, one of my co-workers was, and THEIR influence was growing. Their name, their brand, their mission. So it’s not like it had a neutral effect on my career. It was actually having a negative, inverse impact. So much of having an idea is telling people about it.
What The Wave Offers Womxn Podcasters Of All Sizes
LS: What does The Wave offer to help foster this mission?
LP: The original concept—the “what,” was safe, comfortable podcast studio space. We always wanted to be a physical space.
I started in Brooklyn and rented out a studio. When I moved to LA and opened a studio here, COVID happened, so I had to close it down and pivot. I asked myself “if I can’t provide the physical space, how can I help womxn build podcasts with the mission of helping them share their ideas?” And the answer was through digital resources and community.
I have had more inquiries for studio space recently. So, if you’re not in LA, we can provide you all the digital resources you need. In your ARE in LA, we can provide you a comfortable and affordable space for womxn to come in to spread their build, mission, and brand.
LS: What are some of the digital offerings?
LP: We offer podcast consulting. So we can sit down with you one-on-one, and there are three ways that we structure that. One is a Crafting package for people who are just starting. Together we’re going to ideate, we’re going to come up with a name, we’re going to make your listener persona. We’re going to do that beginning competitive research — all those things that are going to foundationally set up your podcast for success.
There is a Production consulting package that is all about the technical stuff. We’re getting you the right equipment, we’re looking at how to edit, we’re looking at proper mic technique, interview technique, vocal warmup technique, all of those types of things.
The last section is Growing. These are people who’ve had a podcast for a while and they’re looking to take it to the next level. They want more listeners and want to start monetizing. We look at how to build an email list and how to make sure that you’re marketing towards the right platforms. And then we also look at monetization techniques like advertising, affiliate, user donations, and all the traditional ones. Together we really find the right fit for your podcast.
We also offer guides that follow the same three chunks. You can buy a complete one or purchase them in three sections. Our big thing that we’re launching by the end of the year is a growth course, because what we’ve learned from the womxn in our community is that there a a lot of online resources about how to start a podcast, and much fewer resources about how to get your podcast there.
It’s a big hump to get over to start a podcast, but then the long game is what happens one to two to three years after the start, and it takes a lot to get there. So for existing podcasters, whether you’ve done it for two months or two years, it’ll be relevant to that group. That will be launching at the end of 2020.
LS: You mentioned community. Where does that come in?
LP: We have a small but mighty Slack group. This is a place for female podcasters to learn and support each other. After interviewing dozens of womxn, one of the major barriers we discovered is confidence.
A community helps normalize imposter syndrome.
There is serious imposter syndrome that occurs for womxn specifically when starting and growing a podcast. There’s just this feeling of “I can’t do it” or “I’m not doing it correctly”. A community helps normalize some of those feelings.
There’s some cute stuff happening in there. The biggest thing we do is a weekly challenge. This is a way to push each other to do the things we know will be good for our podcast, help us grow, and help us implement best practices, that we might not be doing because of time or motivation.
This week’s challenge is all about building a media kit so you can go out there and ask high-profile guests to come on your show, or ask a publication to write about your podcast. We have our own little weekly newsletter. It’s a tiny group, but it’s strong.
You can sign up via a form on the website. It’s the VIP (and totally free) version of The Wave for womxn who are wanting to dive one level deeper.
The Secret Timeline To Topping Podcast Charts
LS: It’s refreshing to see someone serving not just the beginner but the existing podcasters. What’s so important about this group?
LP: The womxn in our Slack group are largely the latter. There are a million blog posts on which microphone you should use. There are much fewer articles on, you know, how to approach a publication to feature your podcast so you can get new listeners. I’ve done a lot of user-research interviews and data collection, and it all skews towards a need for building the strategy and finding stamina to keep going.
The course that we’re working on has a section on habit-building because longevity isn’t about your technical skills it’s about your discipline, which is the hardest thing to cultivate in some ways. So we use things like psychology and habit-building science to help you actually build systems that can get you to that two year mark.
LS: What’s so important about the two year mark?
LP: There is a clear correlation between time and rankings. Because podcasting is so new, if you can get to two years, you can pretty much ensure success. There’s so few podcasts out there, like it’s kind of just a waiting game. But it’s hard to get to two years or about 50 episodes.
50 to 100 episodes is where people start seeing success. I find it hard for people to put out a weekly podcast successfully for two years, but a lot of people can do every other week. If you just do the math, fifty episodes every other week is about two years.
If you can get there, you can be successful. But getting there is really freaking hard.
When we see people hit that ten thousand downloads mark, we see people start moving into more a professional level with monetization and things like that. So if you can get there, you can be successful. But getting there is really freaking hard. We have so many people in our community who are in that two month to six month mark, and it’s just painful. We serve everyone, but that’s what I see as an underserved user demographic.
LS: How do the womxn in your community react to this not-so-secret timeline to success?
LP: Knowing that is inspiration enough to stick it out. You can be in the hustle and think, “what’s it worth?” But if you have this timeline in your head of like, let me hit fifty episodes, let me hit that to year mark — it can be a driving motivating factor in itself.
The most popular podcasts have been there for a long time, right, and they’re majority male-hosted because the industry was really predicated on these tech-y guys who could make their own RSS feeds.
So when you look at the rankings, they’re super skewed because the oldest podcasts are majority male-hosted. We want more female hosted podcasts in the top fifty ranked podcasteds!
Pro Tips For New And Existing Podcasters
LS: What advice do you have for womxn who are stuck at the starting gates?
LP: Any opportunity to learn about yourself is a good one. If you’re wondering ‘am I good enough?’ ‘do I have a topic worth sharing?’ or ‘can I take this podcast to the top?’ it’s not really about that if in the end you learn something new about yourself or formalize that idea you’ve been marinating on for a long time.
Doing is a better teacher than thinking.
There are numbers as high as 75% of the podcasts on Apple Podcasts have podfaded (not actively being produced). That’s a ton! So a lot of people went through that journey, is my point.
Doing is a better teacher than thinking. The doing of making the podcast will teach you more than the thinking about making a podcast. Even if all you get out of it is understanding the nature of audio equipment! To understand that on every single Zoom call you should have an external mic and headphones will make you more useful and helpful in every office setting. The world is becoming more audio and visual.
Like I said, you have to build an audience to get an idea out. So the practice of building an audience in any medium is a beneficial one over the long-term. Knowing how to engage your audience and create compelling content is useful.
LS: It kind of takes the pressure off of starting a podcast when you think about it as a learning experience rather than a long-term commitment.
LP: Exactly. It’s almost like a trial run. And it’s such a low-risk experiment. I talk about this a lot, especially with career changes. Applying to business school and spending $100k to test a theory—that’s very high-risk. Starting a podcast or taking an internship? Those are very low-risk ways to test a theory.
I think humans in general need to become more comfortable with low-risk experimentation. There is so much evidence that low-risk, quick-learning iteration and experimentation gets you to the answer faster!
For people just starting out with podcasting, how lean do you want to be? You can record a podcast on your phone. You can get free hosting through Sounder. It’s about what you’re willing to commit.
LS: What is your biggest tips for existing women podcasters?
LP: Create an email list for your podcast! It is, hands down, the best way to increase your listenership and to convert more people. Take your existing listener’s emails and email them new episodes. I promise you will see better numbers than social media. Social is not the best way to build a podcast audience! It’s a platform where you need to exit to listen. Get off Instagram. Build email list.
Gender In The Podcast Industry Today
LS: Can you describe the core message of The Wave?
LP: We help womxn start and grow podcasts, so they can leave their mark on the world. I think podcasting can be an ignition switch, it can also be the additional fuel you need to grow something that is already started.
LS: What do you wish to solve in the podcast industry?
LP: I think podcasting has a number of barriers to entry that impact marginalized demographics more than others. Meaning, the things that make it hard: cost, technical expertise, and the confidence that they have something of importance to share. All three of these barriers impact womxn and marginalized demographics more than they do others.
That means the perspectives we get to hear in our media (through radio and podcasts) are skewed towards a perspective where those things aren’t a barrier, which is skewed towards men.
I wish to make the information we get through podcasts as diverse as the people who listen to them.
The thing I wish to solve is just to make the information we get through podcasts as diverse as the people who listen to them. The data shows that people who listen to podcasts is almost a 50/50 split male and female. That’s remarkable alone. But the production stats are less diverse. Fewer womxn are producing podcasts than men.
Your own perspective is normalized when you hear someone else who has the same perspective as you. That’s what’s missing today for me. I hear all the time that womxn can’t find themselves in the media. Even in the resources to learn about podcasting.
LS: I never thought about the tone of resources before. They are very shiny and masculine. Can you expand?
LP: You cannot find a resource that isn’t written by someone who doesn’t feel tech-savvy. Even the graphics are like shiny, tech, black, *ZING,* sleek. Why are all the visuals we see that explain podcasting so intimidating and technical? Because they are not written from people who are intimidated by tech.
I’m not stereotyping women as being less technical, but if you look at the tech industry, data shows there are fewer women than men in the tech industry. So from that we can glean that women are generally not as interested or knowledgable about tech. And podcasting is a technical medium. At The Wave, we’re trying to produce more content that makes it all feel less intimidating.
What The “X” In Womxn Means
LS: What does the “X” in womxn mean to you?
LP: It means female-identifying. The “X” is for anybody that feels like they’re not represented in anything outside of women. It’s people who aren’t identifying with male perspective and gender. You don’t have to call yourself a female to identify with womxn and “X.” It’s a mindset.
LS: Who do you listen to? Do any female podcasters/shows inspire you?
We love and serve indie podcasts too. One of my favorites is Of Music and Men. It’s an audio drama produced by a single womxn who wrote this podcast concept for television but turned it into a podcast. She does all the different voices. It’s got the background noise, it’s self produced, and it is so cool.
It’s a ton of work to make an audio drama, and it’s so impressive when you do that by yourself. I think it just opens the door to a different format. You don’t have to start an interview podcast! It’s a great technique, but there are other options.
LS: What’s your five year plan for The Wave?
LP: I’d love to have an East and West coast podcast studio for womxn, though that’s contingent on COVID not changing the way we interact in the world. And then I want to have a suite of digital resources for womxn at every phase of their journey and at every price point. Accessibility is a corner-stone value for us.
LS: Where can people find you on social media? Anything exciting coming up at The Wave?
LP: We are on all social channels @thewavepodcasting!
We’re starting our own educational podcast about podcasting soon. What’s cool is that we’re filming the whole journey of starting the podcast. It’s a very behind the scenes look at what that process actually looks like.
We’re producing a growth course by the end of the year. Like I said, there are a lot of online resources about how to start a podcast. The long-game for existing podcasters is where we need more content. Longevity is about the discipline.
Thank you for joining this month’s edition of #soundHER! If you have any questions for Lauren Popish or would like to be featured as Sounder’s next female voice, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us on social using #soundHER.
Starting your own podcast is one of the most enjoyable ways to make money online. Not only are you in complete control of how you work, but you’ll also get to bring in revenue from creating content that you’re actually interested in.
This is particularly useful due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in more people than ever working from home.
But, not everyone understands the best way to monetize their audio content.
Not quite sure how to begin? We’ve got all the info you need. Let’s explore everything you should keep in mind about how to monetize podcasts.
1. Dynamic Audio Ad Insertion
Historically, it has been very difficult, if not impossible to monetize your podcast if you had less than 20,000 streams a month. Today, with technology like Sounder’s dynamic ad insertion, you can simply select a check box to begin monetizing your podcast even if you have 10 streams a month or 10 million.
Dynamic ad insertion is the process of dynamically and automatically inserting audio ads within your podcast, regardless of what podcast platform the listener is listening on.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it involves providing links to certain products on online stores with the goal of having users make a purchase. The Amazon Affiliate Program is one of the most popular forms of affiliate marketing and is likely something you’ve seen in the past.
It’s important to know, though, that you can still make money through affiliate marketing even if your audience doesn’t purchase the products that you link to.
For example, let’s say you host a podcast centered around becoming a freelance photographer. You could link to the equipment that you use on Amazon, such as your lights, camera, etc.
Although users would click your affiliate link and be taken directly to one of these products, you still make a commission if they end up buying something else. So, a user may check out the camera link that you’ve provided but end up buying a completely different product instead.
Since they made their way to the online store through your link, you still get a commission payment.
As your audience grows, the amount of money that you make from affiliate marketing will increase exponentially. In some scenarios, it’s not uncommon to make thousands of dollars each month simply from affiliate marketing commission.
With all that said, you would have to add the affiliate links to your show notes or episode descriptions in order for listeners to click on your links. As your audience grows, it is better to drive traffic to your owned and operated podcast website or blog than it is to depend on listeners clicking on links when listening on Apple Podcasts for example.
3. Host-Read Audio Ads
After your audience has reached a notable size, (usually over 25,000 streams a month) you will begin to attract the attention of certain brands related to your niche.
These companies may then want to capitalize on the amount of reach that your podcast has and approach you with a sponsorship offer. This is one of the most straightforward ways to make extra money through your podcast, as a sponsorship agreement often involves you simply reading a short script about the company.
For example, someone who creates sports podcast content may have one of their episodes sponsored by a local athletic clothing brand. The host would typically say something like:
“Today’s podcast is sponsored by Ridge Athletics, your premier solution for staying fit and comfortable. Ridge Athletics uses high-quality…”
As with affiliate marketing, host-read audio advertising become far more lucrative as your audience grows. Where you place your sponsorship is also something that you need to take into consideration, as some placements pay more than others.
In general, pre-roll ads pay the second-highest, mid-roll ads pay the most, and post-roll ads pay the least. This is directly related to how likely it is your audience will continue to watch or listen to your episode after they experience the ad.
If your podcast has over 25,000 streams a month, reach out to us at Sounder and we can help provide host-read monetization opportunities with some of the top brands in the world.
4. Product Reviews
Reviews are far more in-depth than typical host-read ads. They involve you thoroughly explaining what a particular product or service has to offer, your experience with it, and whether or not you would recommend using it.
As you may expect, it’s not in your best interest to convey only negative information. As opposed to saying something like “I wouldn’t recommend this” you should instead say “this product is best for people who…”
Depending on the size of your audience and the brand that you work with, you can make a sizable amount of passive income through product or service reviews. Additionally, you don’t have to devote an entire episode to reviewing something.
More often than not, you can dedicate a small portion of your podcast to a review. This comes with another important responsibility, however.
In order to maintain the trust of your audience and not make them feel like you’re simply pushing products onto them because you’re getting paid to do so, you should only review products that you actually use.
This allows you to give objective feedback and also offer insight into what it can and cannot do. Additionally, you need to be transparent about whether or not you receive something for free or if you’re getting paid to review a product or service.
No matter what your niche, there’s a high chance that you can benefit from creating and selling merch.
When people buy clothing or other merchandise, they often aren’t buying it for its utility. To elaborate, somebody who simply needs a shirt would most likely buy the cheapest one that they can.
Instead, people are buying the brand behind the product. those with particularly large podcast audiences have only gotten to that point due to strong branding and quality content. As a result, merchandise they create becomes something that their listeners are proud to show off.
Take Nike versus an independent athletic brand, for example. Assuming that the quality and price between two different products are identical, it’s highly likely that more people would buy Nike simply because of the branding. Common merch ideas include:
There’s a crucial aspect of selling merchandise that many entrepreneurs seem to overlook— you don’t want to have an online store that looks extremely ‘salesy’ or corporate if your podcast does not also convey this atmosphere.
For example, someone who posts a podcast about skating or rock music wouldn’t want to send their audience to a website that looks like it follows a cookie-cutter template for an online store. Additionally, you want to stay away from generic sales language like “buy now!” or “order yours today!”
This will only serve to create a disconnect between your brand and your store and make your audience feel as if it’s some sort of cash grab as opposed to you offering a product that has value.
6. User Donations
If there’s a particular financial goal that you need to reach, there’s always a possibility to ask your audience for one-time donations. In some cases, you may find that you meet your goal within hours.
This is a bit of a gray area when it comes to ethics, though, as some content creators ask for donations that they don’t necessarily need. Others ask for donations to help pay for something that will have nothing to do with creating future content.
In order for you to retain your brand’s integrity while asking for donations, you’ll need to satisfy two criteria:
Additionally, you need to show your audience that their money went toward what you said it would. So, if you’re raising money for a new audio setup, you need to showcase how this purchase improves the quality of your podcast.
A common scenario involves a new podcast raising money to buy a new microphone. As soon as they begin using that microphone, their audience will immediately hear the difference in quality, therefore justifying the purchase.
Asking for money to pay for expenses that don’t benefit your audience will only serve to erode the trust they have in your brand.
7. Premium Access
Creating different tiers of listening for your audience is a great way to establish an additional revenue stream. This only works, though, if the free content that you provide is already of high-value.
When someone enjoys listening to a podcast for free, they will more than likely assume that the premium content is even better. Of course, paid content should always be far more entertaining or useful to your audience in order to justify the cost.
One of the most common types of premium access is establishing some sort of membership between your audience and your brand. When they are subscribed, it’s commonplace for them to be able to view episodes early, view exclusive content, and receive other benefits as time goes on.
For instance, someone who has paid for six months’ total of premium access could get a box full of exclusive merch as a sort of thank-you for their contribution to your brand. As long as premium access provides notably increased value to your audience, you shouldn’t have any issue acquiring subscriptions.
8. Online Guide/Course
Those who create podcasts are often experts in their particular niche. After all, it’s relatively difficult to speak extensively on a topic without having a strong understanding of it.
Due to having this knowledge, podcast creators are often able to provide information to their audience that can help them in their own endeavors. As such, it’s commonplace for those with successful podcasts to offer online guides or courses that their listeners can take advantage of.
These typically range anywhere from a brief introduction to getting involved in an industry or niche to a comprehensive guide on excelling in the space.
Let’s take a podcast on entrepreneurship and use it as an example.
The content creator could offer a short guide about different ways you can make money on your own as opposed to working a traditional job. They might also provide a more in-depth course that details all of the nuances associated with starting and running a successful business.
The price of your content should directly reflect how much value it has. Simply packaging a handful of tips and presenting them in a consumable format isn’t something that you should be charging thousands of dollars for.
But, under the right circumstances, even a few course sales per month could prove to be a significant revenue stream that you generate directly through your podcast.
This is relatively similar to offering a course or guide, but it involves performing a service for your audience after they pay for it.
One of the most valuable services that you can offer is coaching. Regardless of your niche, It’s highly likely that your audience can benefit from one-on-one interaction with an expert. This is especially true for processes that are notably difficult to perform with zero knowledge, such as creating your first online store.
As with offering a course or guide, your coaching results need to be stellar in order to justify the cost that your audience pays. This is also a great opportunity to convey your personality and connect with your listeners on a more intimate level.
If all goes well, there’s a strong chance that your past clients will tell people they know about your services. Not only will this facilitate increased revenue in the future, but it will also expand your podcast overall audience.
It Can Seem Complicated to Monetize Podcasts Optimally
But the above information will make the process far smoother. From here, you’ll be able to make the decisions that are best for the growth of your brand and allow you to monetize podcasts you create to the fullest extent.
Have questions or comments? Feel free to submit them down below and let us know what you think!
There are currently three major ways to monetize a podcast. In our most recent Whiteboard Wednesday, we talk about how creators of all sizes can easily make money off of their audio via audio advertising, subscription, and services.
Three Ways to Monetize Your Podcast
On today’s Whiteboard Wednesday, I wanted to talk about the various ways that you could potentially monetize your podcast. The three most popular ways that we see creators monetizing their podcast today, really fall into three categories. The first is advertising. The second is monetizing your podcast through subscriptions. And then the third is leveraging your audience in more of a marketing capacity to sell additional services, whether that’s books or white papers or products that you own and sell.
How to Monetize Your Podcast Via Advertising
I’m going to first dive into how to monetize your podcast via advertising. Now, you’ve probably listened to a lot of podcasts where maybe you started to hear a 30 second, or a 60 second audio ad before the episode even started, and that’s called a pre-roll ad. Now, maybe you’re listening to an episode and halfway through you hear another 30 or 60 second audio ad. That would be called a mid-roll ad spot. And then finally, let’s say you finish the episode and at the end, you hear another audio ad, again, 30 seconds or 60 seconds, it varies. That would be called a post-roll advertising opportunity. So pre, mid, and post, those are common terms that you will hear if you’re looking to monetize your podcast or advertising.
Now if we break that down even more, there are really two ways that you can currently leverage audio ads within your podcast, and the first is through something that’s called host-read ad opportunities. Host read ads are exactly what it sounds like. You or your host actually reads the audio advertisement and it’s part of the episode.
So you see this a lot with Tim Ferris, where he is actually reading the ad within his podcast. That’s called host read ads. Now, there are positives and negatives for both host-read ads and then something else that I’ll talk about, which is called dynamic ad insertion. But for host-read ads, there’s limitations as it relates to who will work with particular creators and at what size. So really, the bare minimum is about 20,000 downloads or streams per month. So your podcast needs to be pretty large, and this would fall into really the top 5% of all podcasts out there that really can generate 20,000 downloads a month. And for those, they can actually leverage host-read ads through agencies or through Sounder or through other ways where you can actually work with big brands. Positives with host-read is you can get more revenue per thousand impressions and within the advertising industry that’s called CPM, so cost per thousand impressions and we’re seeing anywhere from $11 to $75 CPM that publishers can receive or creators can receive, based upon their content, the amount of downloads they have, the advertiser demand, there’s a lot of different variables there, but this tends to generate higher revenue for creators.
Podcast Monetization (Dynamic Ad Insertion)
Now the second way that you can monetize your podcast is through something that’s called DAI. And DAI stands for Dynamic Ad Insertion and Dynamic Ad Insertion is exactly how it sounds, ads are dynamically inserted into your podcast, whether it be pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll, as I discussed previously, and instead of you spending the time reading the ad, or your host reading the ad, this uses programmatic technology that will programmatically and dynamically insert audio ads to a specific listener, based upon different types of demographics or location, or other targeting capabilities. Dynamic Ad Insertion is really for both small and large creators. Historically, only host-read ads was an opportunity for podcast creators, which limited the amount of revenue, if not all, that the smaller podcast creators could generate. And one of the things that Sounder.fm is doing, is we want to democratize audio advertising and offer both host-read ad opportunities, as well as Dynamic Ad Insertion based upon how large or how small your podcast is. So if you only had 10 downloads, you can still monetize your podcast through Sounder by allowing Sounder to dynamically insert audio ads into your content, pre-roll, mid-roll or post-roll.
If you’re on Sounder and you have over 20,000 downloads a month, we can also work with you in two ways. One is host-read ad opportunities, and two is through Dynamic Ad Insertion or a combination of the two.
So as it exists today, we are starting to see audio monetization become much bigger than it ever was before, because the market is expanding as it relates to new advertisers, new publishers, more listeners, and then technology like Sounder’s to make it easy for anyone regardless of size, to monetize their podcast.
Monetize a Podcast Through Transcriptions
Now, let’s go over to subscriptions. Let’s say you do not want to monetize your podcast through audio ads, you actually want to develop and continue to develop high quality content, but maybe some of that content you want your listeners to pay for, or maybe all of the content you want your listeners to pay for. So this would be more of a subscription base, where you don’t serve audio ads, but you make money through having your listeners upgrade to get access to your premium content.
There are really a couple ways to do this. today. There are a lot more software providers out there that will make it easy for you to monetize your podcast through subscriptions. I think the largest right now is really Patreon and patreon.com allows not just podcast creators, but all creators to monetize through subscription based services. So that’s one that we recommend.
The second that is more specific to podcasts is a company called glow.fm. and glow.fm also makes it easy for a podcast creator to monetize their podcast through monthly subscriptions. So this is pretty straightforward. In the United States, we are seeing less podcasts being monetized through subscriptions, and more through audio advertising. But in China, on the other hand, that’s a $7 billion a year industry where culturally they don’t want to see audio ads, they would rather pay 2, 3, 4 dollars a month to have access to content that does not have audio ads. So it really depends on where you are within the world.
As it relates to Sounder, we see a much larger opportunity in democratizing audio advertising, which will expand the market and specifically within the US and Europe, you’re going to see more audio advertising and less subscription monetization.
Monetize a Podcast Through Services
And then finally, there is a third way to monetize your podcast, where maybe you don’t want to have audio ads, you don’t want to have a subscription based platform, or opportunity. The third is offering your content for free, but use this as more of a marketing tool to increase x. So x could be selling more products, selling more books, filling the top of your lead funnel, whatever it might be. We’re seeing a lot of b2b and even b2c companies start to use podcasts as a way to sell more x. So that would be really on the services side, you could actually do a combination of all three, if you wanted to. Maybe you wanted to have a pre-roll of audio advertising, and then maybe for some content, you want to have subscriptions, and then maybe all the time you want it to just increase your top of the lead funnel and sell additional services.
Hopefully this was helpful as a how to monetize your podcast 101. Again, this will be posted on our blog and please feel free to comment or ask any questions.
Welcome to the first edition of Sounder’s Coaching Series, where we invite experts from around the podcasting industry to offer advice and answer common questions. Together we can podcast smarter! Today we welcome Travis Brown from PodDecks to debunk several common interview and hosting myths.
Podcasts have become one of the world’s favorite forms of entertainment, with the number of listeners and podcasts growing every day.
With more than 30 million podcast episodes available for streaming and millions of fans hungry for more content worldwide, it’s never been a better time for creators to enter the podcasting space. It’s shamelessly my favorite medium too, which is why I love my job at Podcast Buddy. For the last seven years, I’ve coached new podcasters through planning, launching, editing, and growing their new show. I’ve also talked with countless creators who dream of finally starting a podcast but are hesitant to even try. Why? Myths about hosting that lead to a lack of confidence.
There are tons of podcasting falsehoods about what it means to be a “good” podcast host. After launching over 100 shows and editing over 2,000 episodes, it’s become clear to me that these myths need to be addressed. Most of them are nonsense, but they hold perfectly capable people back from fulfilling their podcast dreams. We don’t want that. In this guide, I’m going to debunk seven popular myths about what it means to be a “good” podcast host and interviewer. There’s room for everyone in podcasting because it’s not a one-size-fits-all medium. Style and personality are celebrated!
1. Only extraverts make good hosts
If you’ve ever thought about creating a podcast, but are concerned that you aren’t extraverted enough to be a compelling host, I’ve got news for ya! While an extravert can certainly be a good podcast host, you don’t have to be massively outgoing to be a fantastic interviewer. There’s a myth out there saying that extraverts are the best and most successful hosts and interviewers, likely because they are branded as socially adept members of society.
The truth? Introverts have a built-in superpower when it comes to interviewing: listening. See, the key to a good interview is to ask your question, then shush up and listen to what your guest has to say! As a host, you should never be dominating the conversation, since interviewing is less about having a back-and-forth conversation and more about setting up your guests to be able to share their stories. To be fair, extraverts may have the advantage when it comes to a conversation-style show between two or more hosts. But extraverts, introverts, and everyone in between can be great podcast hosts, as long as they are willing to listen!
2. Finding interesting guests every week is impossible
First-time podcasters typically have a handful of guests in mind when they start. Once the list is exhausted in the first few episodes, they find themselves at a loss for new ideas and slowly peter out. While it’s true that finding interesting and relevant guests is an essential piece of the podcasting puzzle, the process is often much easier than people think. Here are a few simple tricks to help you find exciting podcast guests.
Join communities of podcasters on social media (try Facebook and Reddit groups). Communities like Podcasting Mastermind Group and Podcast Guest Connection are easy to join and friendly! You can connect with other podcasters, find guests, and trade interviews.
Reach out to podcast hosts in the same niche. Interviewing other podcasters who focus on similar topics is a great way to get more exposure and to establish yourself within a given community.
Write to your favorite creators, innovators, business owners, etc. If you have a favorite author, why shouldn’t you shoot them an email to let them know you are a fan and would love to interview them? Once you start reaching out, you’ll be surprised by how many people show interest.
Don’t sweat the rejections. Often a “no” is simply due to limited scheduling bandwidth and has nothing to do with the size or reach of your show. Simply offer to follow up in a couple of weeks. Make a great impression and leave the door open for future collaborations.
3. No one will want to be a guest on a small show
Many creators hold off developing their podcasts because they believe they will not be able to book prominent guests without thousands of listeners. It’s a little like the chicken and the egg. The truth is, it’s not about the size of your show, it’s about the quality of your pitch! No matter who you are asking to appear on your show, the most crucial step is to present it as an opportunity.
Start by demonstrating how their unique perspective or expertise fits with the topic of your podcast. Then describe your audience’s demographic and interests. Remember, you are giving your guests the opportunity to engage with a niche audience (no matter the size). Guesting on podcasts is also a great way to get a free piece of content and publicity, which people rarely say no to!
4. You need a broadcast background to succeed at podcasting
Podcasting has become more accessible than ever before, with free programs, hosting providers, tools, and consulting companies. Despite being a relatively easy medium to enter into, many still believe that podcasting is reserved for broadcast professionals with expensive equipment, technical background, or years of experience in radio.
While a background in broadcasting may help with creating a podcast, it certainly isn’t necessary to become a successful podcast host. More important than experience is the willingness to start small, learn, ask questions, network, and keep a consistent schedule. Starting a podcast is fun but growing a podcast takes time and passion.
5. Preparing for an interview takes hours
Inviting guests to be on your podcast can be intimidating, especially if you are interviewing someone you look up to or someone influential in your industry. Lots of novice podcasters find themselves trapped doing hours of research prior to their interviews, worried that they might miss important information or critical questions.
While it is true that you should know a handful of facts about your guest, like how they can educate or entertain your audience, you don’t need to know their full life story. I advise my clients to search for their guest’s other interviews and check out some of the questions they have been asked before to see the topics they generally discuss. Then I recommend hosts prepare unique questions accordingly. By listening to how guests answered in the past, you can uniquely approach topics that will serve your audience. This tactic also helps your guests sound well-rounded and offers them the space to expand their insight.
6. Every interview has to follow the same format
One common myth novice podcasters fall prey to is that you should be asking the same questions to each one of your guests. I’ve found this idea comes from the theory that having guests answer the same questions can help create better brand consistency, giving listeners something to grab onto when they first encounter your podcast.
There is no reason to ask every guest the same question, and doing so can actually drive away listeners rather than draw them in. Tailor your questions to the individual, and leave room for a unique flow to take place. Each guest has an interesting background and perspective, so try to create a handful of talking points that highlight their knowledge, passion, or expertise. Some podcasters ask the same questions to kick things off or end the conversation as more of a hook or gimmick. This is fine as long as the rest of your interview is unique to each guest.
7. I’m not creative enough
Another common misconception holding people back from becoming podcast creators is that it is challenging to come up with interesting topics and questions. Sometimes it seems like they’ve all been covered before. Lots of creators fear their interview questions won’t be good enough to make a compelling podcast, forgetting that the juice is in the answers.
As you prepare for each interview, it is only necessary to create a few open-ended, leading questions that can help to get your guest started. Once the interview is on a roll, simply asking “why” can be a great way to enter deeper into the mind of your guest, one layer at a time.
Still feeling at a loss for decent interview questions? There are lots of ways to develop interesting questions. Jot down your favorite questions from interview-based shows you enjoy, carry a notebook during the day to write down ideas, or use tools like Pod Decks, so you always have interesting questions right in the palm of your hand.
Feeling inspired to create your own podcast? Check out Podcast Buddy to learn how we can help you create professional-sounding podcasts without having any professional experience. And get to know Sounder.fm, a free hosting platform that provides all the tools you need to grow an audience.
Welcome back to our Sounder Coaching Series, where we invite experts from around the podcasting industry to help you podcast smarter! Today, Andrew Santiago and Marvin Perdomo, co-founders of Bravery Studios, are here to explain to growing podcasters when it’s time to invest in their show. From sound engineering, to branding, to consulting, this duo has helped countless podcasters level up to their full potential.
You’re probably producing a podcast by yourself — planning episodes, booking guests, recording, editing, making graphics, running your social media, engaging with fans, tracking promotion opportunities, and everything else that comes along with scaling a successful podcast.
If not, you’re working with a freelancer here and there to help alleviate the workload but managing that sometimes feels like another task added to your plate. What’s the solution? You may ask yourself.
We started Bravery Studios four years ago for this reason: to help growing podcasters take their recording, editing, and show to the next level. It’s a similar goal for podcast recording studios everywhere. Because we know there’s a point in a podcaster’s career where momentum picks up, and quality becomes essential to growth.
But it’s not always so apparent to podcasters when to start investing in themselves, so we put together a list of 7 ways to tell when it’s time to pack up your closet recording studio and invest in a professional recording studio and team.
1. When you get higher profile guests
You’re not interviewing your friends from college anymore! When your audience and brand grow to the point of attracting high-profile guests and influencers, it’s time to invest in professional studio time.
Environment plays an important role when recording and working with guests. You want to give your guests the impression that you take their time seriously. If a guest has to walk over wires or watch you run back and forth from set up to recording, it can take away from the conversation. Bringing clients into a professional recording studio also shows them that you take your podcast and career seriously.
Prominent guests mean big audiences, so audio quality is critical. If you can hear cars in the background or people shouting, it may turn off your audience no matter how big-name the guest. Quality audio will also continue to attract your dream guests.
Transitioning your podcast from a basement set-up to a professional studio shows that you believe in your content, message, brand, and growth. It often separates the hobbyist from the professionals.
2. When your following is growing
If your audience and social media fans are asking for more, give them more. At a podcast recording studio, you have the opportunity to record live segments, video, and audio, so you can deliver new and exciting content in a variety of formats.
Here at Bravery Studios, most of our podcasters record their episodes with the cameras rolling. It allows their podcast to be different and engaging by capturing expressions and behind-the-scenes moments audio alone doesn’t. Your audience is your audience because they can relate to you. The more you, the better!
If your following is growing and engaged, it also means there’s an opportunity to monetize via a membership service, like Patreon or Glow.fm. Whatever you put behind a paywall needs to be high quality to keep paying members happy and growing.
3. When you want to level up your audio experience
Bare-bones editing was great when it was just your mom and friends listening, but now you have thousands of downloads per month, and it’s time to enhance your show.
We believe in the old saying: be careful of becoming a jack of all trades and master of none. Editing takes time and is vital when it comes to creation. But if your sound levels are off, you can lose a listener before you even start talking.
There’s no need to learn new editing skills or add on another few hours of editing. Working with a professional podcast studio allows you to collaborate with editing pros to add special effects to make your audio more immersive.
After editing thousands of podcasts, studio editors know simple tricks like adding a delay for a part of your show can make a topic sound larger than life or set a tone. They also handle uploading and managing vis hosting platforms like Sounder and pushing new episodes to listener platforms. Fictional podcasts, for example, tell stories that rely on feeding the audience’s imagination to be successful.
4. When you start to feel overwhelmed
We see so many podcasters start their show as a side hustle or hobby and get overwhelmed when it starts to grow. Producing the episode, editing both audio and photos, uploading, ideating new topics and themes — it’s a lot of work. Doing it all can become exhausting and take away the fun of creating content.
For a mid-size podcaster, streamlining your time is essential. Our podcasters record with us because it allows them to focus on content creation and outsource the technical stuff. We edit, upload, make social media clips, and help with improvements along the way.
If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, ask for help from audio professionals. Having a team by your side will help to improve your brand and quality of life.
5. When you start generating revenue
As a new sound engineer, I was once told, once you get paid, you’re a professional. Think about it. If someone sponsors you, it’s because they believe in what you’re doing. Don’t take that lightly; take it as a confirmation.
When you start making money from sponsorships, ads, or memberships, it’s time to consider investing it back into your podcast. Some people go for higher quality tech or new cover art. Both are good ideas! But if you’re looking to run your podcast business more efficiently, you’d do well to outsource the things that take the longest.
After all, most podcasters get into the game to be creative, talk to interesting people, and create something beautiful. So use that fan money to keep doing what YOU really want to do (i.e., creating bomb content), and leave the boring stuff up to professionals who will make your life easier.
I often ask people, “How much does your dream cost? $50? $1000? Are you willing to invest?” If podcasting is just a hobby, that’s ok, but if it’s something you want to take seriously, then you should be investing in yourself.
6. When you want to build a team
We get it: Podcasting can be a lonely pursuit. While the online community is brimming with conversations and help, the act of sitting behind a mic and recording, editing, and promoting is a solo job.
Working alongside professionals allows you to ask questions in real-time. When working with a podcast studio, like Bravery Studios, you’re not only purchasing recording time, you’re purchasing consulting time and a built-in team who wants the best for you and your podcast.
Typically after each episode, our podcasters ask, “So what did you think?” and we are honest. We’re not just hitting record and saying good luck. There’s a reason you came down and wanted to record today, a purpose, and I’m pretty sure it’s not to be humored.
Consultation helps set a direction, get ideas out, review analytics, and point you toward a goal. Sometimes you may have a topic, but you’re not sure the right way to word it. Having a team with you helps strategize. It keeps you motivated each week to remain focused and consistent.
7. When you want to become part of a community
Podcast studios work with lots of different podcasters and audio creators. We’ve always enjoyed working with creative people. Being part of a community means something. You’re not alone. You’re with people who care about what they’re doing and what you’re doing.
Another benefit of working in a studio is cross-promotion. Crossover episodes are epic. It benefits both podcasters because it cross-pollinates listeners. We love introducing like-minded podcasters to each other.
As we begin to open back up, we look forward to hosting networking events, Q&A’s, or even gaming events. It’s not just business with us at Bravery Studios. It’s about growing the family!
It’s true. Sometimes we click on a new podcast because the cover art catches our eye. When there are thousands of new shows to choose from, it’s not a bad strategy.
Color, font, graphics — it can all be so exciting for a new listener on the hunt for their next favorite show. Does she pick a bold, bright cover? Dark and mysterious? What vibe is the art giving off? What mood is she in?
For new podcasters, though, we’ve heard graphic design can feel overwhelming. What font? What colors? What size?! So we called in an expert— Sounder’s graphic designer, Janko Pocuca. He creates the cover and episode art for Sounder’s podcast, The Big Exit as well as allllll the graphics that represent our brand. We love him and his creativity very much!
How to Create Podcast Cover Art
Truth is, your cover art is the beginning of your visual brand. It’s what helps a podcast stand out from the crowd and defines your place in the market (think Apple Podcasts and Spotify). It’s what inspires perusing listeners like us to tune in! And we’re here to infuse a little more fun into the creative process. Read on for seven helpful tips to create eye-catching cover art.
1. Define The Essence Of Your Podcast
Okay, so you’ve carved out some time to create cover art for your new podcast. You have a hot cup of tea and the playlist of your dreams singing in the background. Not sure where to begin? No problem. There are a few ways to go about distilling visual representation from your audio creation.
“For initial inspiration, focus on keywords in your title that best describe a particular subject,” says Janko. In other words, use the name of your podcast to define what concepts are at the heart of your show. This way, new listeners will immediately understand what your show is about.
Have a little brainstorm session. Is your podcast titled If Wicks Could Talk, or The Lost Heart of Candle Making, or Fire in The Jar? Keywords might be wax, scent, aromatherapy, natural. Janko explains, “After defining the main elements from the title, it’s much easier to create the whole image.”
Browse your niche’s art
Another handy tactic: check out what others in your niche are doing. Go to your podcast category on large listener platforms and browse the cover art. After all, this is where your podcast will live and spark new listeners. What’s appealing? Is there a dominant color or style? What’s working? Take note of what can be improved and use that to define your differences.
Scroll for inspiration
Janko also recommends browsing free image websites like Graphic Burger, Icon Finder, and Freepik for inspiration. Collect a few graphics that you feel drawn to. Free images can give you a jumping-off point to start playing with color and placement.
2. Know Your Dimensions
Cover art dimensions matter because not all popular listener platforms display at the same size. Every platform, and every screen-size on every platform, has a unique size requirement. Not ideal.
Read the fine print
When building a digital archive of your cover art, it’s essential to have a collection of graphics based on each platform’s requirements. As an example, this is one collection required to host your podcast on the Apple and iTunes Store platform.
Apple: minimum 1400 x 1400 pixels and maximum 3000 x 3000 px
iTunes Store Podcast Page: 220 x 220 pixels
iTunes Store New and Noteworthy: 125 x 125 pixels
Apple Podcasts Mobile: 55 x 55 pixels
To save yourself time and headache, Janko recommends starting with the largest size, which has a lot of buffer space to trim to various sizes. Another tip: stay organized. Keep a labeled folder of cover art for each platform so you can edit and upload with ease.
Testing is Essential
Because your show’s cover art will display on every possible screen, size, app, and hot air balloon (just want to make sure you’re still with us) do your best to test each image. How? Get critical. Before uploading, ensure your design looks good large and small, on desktop and mobile. Ask friends to view it on their phones. Send it via email. Mail a photo to great Aunt May.
3. Use Contrasting Colors
Color is undeniably vital for your podcast cover art. It shows the personality, mood, even the energy level of your podcast with a single glance. There are many attractive potential color choices, “as long as you have good color contrast,” says Janko.
Think back to high school art class. Remember the color wheel? “Play around with light and dark colors and see which colors go well together,” advises Janko. “Mixing only bright or dark ones should be avoided.” Contrasting makes more powerful imagery and simplifies your color choices.
Take our The Big Exit cover art for example. Janko chose a light background to contrast the bright pops of color from his graphic. And the colors found in the graphic are used to make all other marketing materials (like newsletters, social media posts, and our website).
4. Choose A Font With Personality
A little bit goes a long way in a small space. Stick to one or two fonts for all the text content of your podcast cover art. You will likely want to print your name, production company, and possibly a subtitle or teaser depending on how you arrange design elements. In some cases, the title lends itself to a separate artistic font.
Choose a font or two based on your podcast’s personality and the mood of your branding. You might choose a more playful font for a comedy show or a serious font for politics. Your font style is another simple indicator of what listeners can expect from the show.
5. Keep It Simple
It can be tempting to fill your podcast cover art with content. After all, you have a title, a logo or graphic, a photo, and color to play with. But Janko warns not to overdo it with elements and details. Don’t forget, most of the time, your cover art will be seen as a thumbnail, not a full-size rendering. “Finding a balanced composition can help to create an eye-catching cover image at any size.” It’s best to keep your design simple, clean, and well-spaced.
6. Scale Your Cover Art Into Marketing Material
Finally, you can put all of your hard design work to work! Make a simple text document that lists out all the colors, fonts, graphics, and rules of your cover art. Vavoom! You have yourself a brand style-guide. A style-guide is your touchpoint for all brand visuals, like newsletter headers, social media graphics, even swag for your listeners.
The more unified your imagery, the more recognizable your podcast will become across multiple broadcasting platforms. When you create your cover art, you are creating the template for your podcast’s brand. So take your time, think it through, and HAVE FUN.
We’re going to try something new, and we are calling this Whiteboard Wednesdays. And every Wednesday, we want to add educational content within the podcast industry to really help our community learn more about podcasting, podcasting tips, and so forth. So for our first Whiteboard Wednesday, we want to talk answer the questions, how fast is the podcast market Growing. We’re going to break this up into three separate whiteboards. But the first question that we have to ask ourselves is,
How many new podcasts are being added each year to the ecosystem?
We used Listen Notes data to calculate all of this, they do a great job. They say today, as of October 2020, there’s 1.7 million podcasts worldwide, and that’s already up from September of roughly six and a half percent from the previous month. So if you look at how many new podcasts have been added each year, let’s go ahead and look at that data.
So in 2015, there was approximately 58,000 new podcasts that were added in the entire year of 2015. If you look at 2016, that then jumped up to roughly 93,000 new podcasts being added. In 2017, again, that jumped to 125,000 new podcasts. Let’s look at 2018, jumped up to 193,000, 2019 was 309,000. Alright, and then so far in 2020, through October, there’s already 715,000 new podcasts being added in 2020.
If you look at the compounded annual growth rate since ’15, that’s 131% growth. So for 2015, there was 58,000 new podcasts being added every single year and that has jumped to so far in 2020, to 715,000 new podcasts, and this is accelerating rapidly.
If we ask another question,
What is the podcast revenue by year?
So we could say, well, that’s great. We’re adding new podcasts every single month and every single year, but how is that translating to podcast revenue when serving ads, host read ads, dynamically inserted ads, or programmatic ads into this audio content?
Let’s go ahead and look at the data for the same time period, 2015 through 2020. And in 2015, there was roughly $105 million in podcast revenue, according to Statista, and IAB. In 2016 that jumped up to $165 million. In ’17 it started to accelerate a little bit more, and it was $313 million. In 2018 that jumped up to $479 million. And then in 2019, that again jumped up to roughly $708 million in total revenue for podcasts. And in 2020, it’s anticipated to be greater than $1 billion in annual revenue coming from ad monetization within audio.
If we look at the compounded annual growth rate from 2015 to 2020, as it relates to revenue, that was a CAGR of 46% compounded annual growth rate. So clearly the amount of new podcasts that are being added is accelerating faster, but we’re also seeing a very healthy increase in the amount of revenue that podcasts, in general, can actually make. And that’s just because a lot more brands are getting into the space, we’re seeing new technological advances as it relates to audio technology and even with what Sounder is doing – working to democratize audio advertising, where regardless of size, if you have 10 downloads or 10 million downloads a month, you should have the tools to reach advertisers and monetize your audio content.
And then finally, let’s ask the question, well, that’s great, we have lots of podcasts, it’s generating revenue, but –
How many monthly podcast listeners are there?
And specifically in the US, because right now, it’s the largest percent of population over the age of 12. What’s the percentage of every single year? Well, if we look at that, we can see that in 2015, it was roughly 17% of the US population over the age of 12 who listened to podcasts on a monthly basis.
That jumped up to 21% in 2016. That then jumped up to 24%, and then 26%, and then 32%.
And now in 2020, so far, it’s roughly 37%. 37% of the US population over the age of 12 listens to a podcast on a monthly basis. And if you factor that in, that’s roughly 104 million Americans within the US listening to a podcast on a monthly basis.
Now, we could actually break this up into the European Union and so forth. In fact, outside of the US, podcasting is actually accelerating faster in some countries, than even the US. But the ability to reach 37% of the US population, and that’s growing every single year, is pretty extraordinary.
Hopefully, this first How Fast is The Podcast Market Growing Whiteboard Wednesday was useful. Please give us your feedback in the blog comments below. We’ll see you next week.
Think of a website for your podcast like a Welcome Home sign for new fans and potential collaborators. It shows your style, your voice, and your story. It provides your community with a hub of free content and a direct line of communication. It gives you the ability to present your podcast to the world exactly how you’d like fans to receive it. What may seem like an extra step in setting up your show is actually something that can make or break your growth.
Since social media changes on a dime, a website allows you to establish your brand, build authority, and grow over time. Just imagine if you funneled all of your fans to your MySpace page back in 2005! Owning your brand is one way a website will help you grow an engaged listenership. Here are six more reasons why creating a website for your podcast can increase listenership.
1. Tell your origin story to attract like-minded fans
An “About” section goes a long way with fans. It’s a story they don’t fully get from your show page on Spotify or social media accounts. A juicy, on-brand origin story bridges the gap between host, show, and listener. It’s a chance to show your credibility on a topic in a friendly, non-threatening way.
Did you work in retail for eight years and now teach people how to find the best seasonal deals? Have you played Yahtzee for the last decade with your family on summer nights and started a show about board game strategy? Give them the details and soundbites so they can feel part of your show and talk about it with friends.
A juicy, on-brand origin story bridges the gap between host, show, and listener.
When preparing an “About” page, put yourself in the listeners’ shoes. They may be wondering: Who are these hosts? What made them want to start this show? What are they passionate about? Can I see myself being friends with them? What are their quarks? Opinions? Values? It’s almost like getting coffee with a new friend. All of this information will help build a listener-base that is in alignment with you and your show—meaning life-long stans.
2. Build a newsletter list to talk directly with fans
As much as we love social media, the tides (cough cough, algorithms) are always turning. Building a marketing strategy solely on social media is a little like building your house on a tiny island. You never know when the weather is going to wipe you out. Enter: email marketing.
Now, let’s take a step back before you scroll your way out of this “marketing talk.” You’re not about to turn into some used-card salesperson by collecting your fan’s emails. Instead, you’re securing a line of communication if they decide to take a break from social media or simply don’t have it. They’ll love seeing a regular email in their inbox from their favorite host because it brings a level of closeness. Don’t forget, they’re listening to you for hours throughout their week. Having another point of contact with you makes your relationship more dynamic.
Don’t forget, they’re listening to you for hours throughout their week. Having another point of contact makes your relationship more dynamic.
How can you collect emails? When listeners visit your website, encourage them to sign up for your mailing list by offering an unreleased episode or behind-the-scenes audio. They get more free content from a host they love, and you get their email to send them even MORE free content straight to their inbox. Plus, an email marketing list will allow you to immediately notify subscribers when a new episode, blog, update, or rambling is released—all things they genuinely want more of.
Due to email marketing regulations, you’ll want to ensure that your listeners are actively signing up and know what to expect. If you’re operating in Europe, you’ll want to make sure you’re up to speed on GDPR regulations, but the rules are mostly just disclosure-related.
3. Embed each episode to maximize your content
Sure, lots of people listen to podcasts via Apple Podcasts or Spotify, but embedding your show on your website has quite a few advantages. For starters, it allows you to produce more content. Instead of just pushing your new episode out to listener platforms, embed it in a blog post and include a short introduction or show notes. This helps listeners choose what to listen to AND helps you rank higher in SEO. (Google can’t crawl audio just yet. More on this below.)
If people find your podcast through a tweet, it’s awkward for them to keep that twitter window open just to listen to it. And if they’re on mobile, forget it. Embedding your podcast on your website allows listeners to easily stream it via an efficient plugin that doesn’t require keeping an unrelated page open. It also cuts down the noise for listeners. Plus, by directing fans to listen on your website, you don’t have to worry about sending them to a platform with competing podcasts.
With Sounder, your podcast can be easily embedded in your website so fans can listen while browsing your archives. All you need to do is click “Share” from the episode page and then “Copy the Embeddable Code.” The plugin will easily fit into your page’s HTML, and many website building services will integrate it automatically.
4. Host transcriptions and blogs to boost visibility
If you have a podcast, you have an archive of content, much like a library, thanks to something called a transcript. This word-for-word archive of each episode can quickly be turned into text content, like blogs, that Google can crawl.
Whether your podcast focuses on money management or orcs and goblins, you want it to come up in search results when people look for those terms. But, as we mentioned earlier, search engines are only starting to figure out how to crawl audio files. Text content created from each episode will factor heavily into SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, increasing your page rank and the visibility of your show.
Search engines sort their results based on how common and relevant phrases are, the structure of the post (if it’s broken down into easy-to-read headings), and if it provides a full answer to the search query. More and more podcasters are opting for transcription to widen their listener base, and it’s easier than ever to get started.
Another fun fact: Google dislikes showing social media in its results. Try searching for a keyword! Tweets and Instagram posts are often nowhere to be found. That’s because long-form content provides a more complete answer to a searcher’s question. Websites are weighted much more highly than tweets or posts when it comes to SEO.
5. Look professional to land potential advertisers and guests
Anyone who listens to a popular podcast is aware of popular advertisements. Mattresses, stamps, undergarments — the list goes on. If you’ve grown enough to begin conversations with advertisers (rock on!), you’ll need a website. First, it looks professional. It gives off the impression that you’re in this for the long haul and don’t half-ass projects. Hosting a website with your contact information, about section, and episode archive will provide an opportunity for advertisers to see what you’re about.
It gives off the impression that you’re in this for the long haul and don’t half-ass projects.
When advertisers look for potential podcast spots, they’re trying to make a connection with a unique segment of the listening population. If you make listener stats available on your website and have data (revenue, listeners, spec sheets, etc.) ready for potential advertisers, you’ll be way ahead of the curve. You don’t have to publish everything publicly on your site, but ensure that advertisers know it’s available upon request. The same goes for potential guests and collaborators.
6. Keep a running list of tour dates, live events, and merchandise
Not everyone’s podcasting goal is to be famous, and that’s a-okay! But for some, it’s a big part of what fuels their late-night editing sessions. Whether it’s intentional or not, when your show starts picking up steam, fans are going to want to interact with you via live shows or events. According to data from Vivid Seats, the live podcast industry will be worth over $55 million in 2020.
That means stepping out from your recording studio (closet?) and interacting with fans. Introverts, put down the brown paper bag. Live events can be small can intimate or large and loud, depending on your audience, niche, and marketing. Let your fans know all the details via your website, where you can also pre-sell tickets.
Another fun website perk? Merchandise. Putting your loved-logo on totes, hats, and shirts is an easy way to give fans access to your brand, passively promote your show, and recoup some of your podcast investment. The best option is to create a merch link on your homepage.
Building a website is pretty drag-and-drop these days, thanks to sites like Wix and Squarespace. If you’re on a tight budget, try Weebly or WordPress.com, which are totally free. Once everything is up and running, maintenance is easy. Your show is a platform for others to connect with each other and with you. Building out a website early on will help you grow that community-base. Even if it’s bare-bones, kind of like a starter home, you can always improve the quality later.
All podcast hosting platforms offer analytics measuring how listeners interact with your podcast. You can see what episodes get the most listens and what time of day listeners tune in.
The challenge becomes finding insightful data that can help you grow your podcast audience. Here at Sounder, we noticed that most audio creators are confused about how to put their podcast analytics into action to continually grow their streams.
To help explain, I analyzed the metrics of my new podcast, The Big Exit, using Sounder’s analytics dashboard and tracked the changes I made to create a simple growth strategy. With just a few adjustments, my audience grew by 48% in one month! Crazy, right?
Like most podcasts, The Big Exit is a passion project, which grew from my fascination with entrepreneurship and startups. On the show, I discuss startup acquisitions with the founders who lived it. From Brett Jurgens, founder of Notion, to Lori Torres of Parcel Pending, I interview startup founders who have built their businesses from an idea and sold for many millions of dollars.
I learned a lot from this exercise and recorded my thinking, changes, and analytics to show you how you can get similar results with very little effort. It’s all about podcasting smarter, not harder. Here’s exactly how I turned my podcast analytics into a growth strategy that is now on pace to double my streams month over month.
Before we dig in, let’s go over some general audio analytics terminology.
A stream is counted when any one of your episodes is played within a 45-minute period. At the podcast-level, streams are counted across all of your episodes. At the episode-level, streams are counted for a specific episode. Streams give you an understanding of how popular your podcast (or a specific episode) is becoming.
A listener is counted when a unique person listens to any of your episodes within 24 hours. We’re always aiming to grow this number! Ideally, your streams and listeners grow together — that means your podcast is reaching a larger audience and is making an impact.
Overall Podcast Performance
This may be called something different on each hosting platform, but it’s the performance of your podcast over the past week, month, or another increment of time. Stepping back from episode-level performance helps you see what days of the week listeners are tuning in to your podcast and more.
On Sounder’s analytics dashboard, we provide a list of your top-performing episodes to help you understand what your audience enjoys.
Okay, let’s dig into my growth strategy over this past month.
1. Grow Podcast Audience With Demographics
Audience demographics helps you understand where in the world your audience is streaming and downloading your episodes so you can better target your content.
Insight: Checking my analytics for the last seven days, I noticed my listens were primarily coming from the US, but I was surprised to see the second highest listener demographic was Canada.
Grow podcast audience strategy: Looks like Canadians are listening. I used this information to begin researching entrepreneurs in Canada who would be great guests. It helped me build out my guest pipe-line for the rest of the year.
Something incredibly cool about Sounder’s analytics is keywords. Using our Sounder Player and podcast web pages, listeners can search your podcast catalog for a word or phrase and find its exact location within your episodes. Our analytics dashboard gives you a list of the top keywords searched.
Insight: Checking my keywords, I noticed listeners were searching for “business” which is great engagement. I also saw listeners searching for the keyword “bootstrapping.” (In business, bootstrapping is when someone builds a company with very little resources, usually only with their personal savings — no venture capital)
Grow podcast audience strategy: I needed to find a guest to speak to who bootstrapped and sold their business for big bucks. And that’s exactly what I did. I booked Josh Dorkin, founder of Bigger Pockets—a one-stop-shop for real estate investing, to talk about starting out of his living room with only $12 bucks. Give it a listen.
There’s a lot of data out there that suggests the best time of day to publish a new episode, but there’s nothing like understanding your specific audience’s listening habits. A time-of-day distribution chart can inform your new episode launch strategy.
Insight: Looking at these analytics, I see that people are primarily starting to listen in the morning and then consistently listen throughout the day.
Grow podcast audience strategy: What does this mean for me? Most people listen at the beginning of their workday. And since they are listening, they are likely an entrepreneur or thinking about starting a business. The Big Exit is all about inspiring entrepreneurs, so in addition to posting new episodes at these precise times in the morning, I also pull out inspiring quotes from my guests and add them to the beginning of each episode.
4. Publishing Cadence
It’s always a good idea to back up from episode-specific analytics and look at a month or three of your overall podcast performance to get a big picture of what’s working well.
Insight: Before this case study, I published bi-weekly but looking at the analytics, I noticed I was losing momentum in the off-weeks and overall audience growth.
Grow podcast audience strategy: I hunkered down and changed to a weekly publishing cadence. Weekly episodes helped tremendously in my stream growth, which you can see above (I quickly made this with Excel using my tracked metrics). Now my current listeners know exactly when I’m publishing, and new listeners have more chances to find The Big Exit.
5. Devices, Applications, and Browsers
Depending on the data, understanding what devices, apps, and browsers your listeners are using to stream or download your episodes can inform your podcast content. Some questions to ask yourself: how does this information impact the length of my episodes? How does it impact the content itself?
Insight: This month, I focused on devices. In the last 7 days, I noticed that 70% of my listeners were tuning in via their mobile phone, 27% on their PC, and 3% on their tablet and smart watch.
Grow podcast audience strategy: As we are starting to see more and more people drive back to work, the amount of mobile listens (as a percentage) has been increasing compared to COVID lock-down where these numbers were reversed coming more from the PC than Mobile. Looks to me like my audience is listening while driving, multitasking, or doing work on their mobile phone and computer. Going forward, I might experiment with how I edit my podcast. For example, it could be useful to add a bell or ding to alert listeners to relevant tips and information.
6. Social Media Promotion
While social media is not measured on our analytics dashboard, it is still part of your podcast’s analytics. And over time, you will be able to tell if your efforts are paying off by tracking where your referrals are coming from.
Insight: It takes me about 2–3 hours to record and edit an episode. Turning that hard work into social quick moments is crucial for growth (and sanity).
Grow podcast audience strategy: I went from posting once per episode to three times, using Soundbites and the Sounder Player. Each subsequent post generated unique listens. Since my guests have large followings, I asked them to share to their network and made it easy by giving them a link to the full episode along with two specific quotes via a Soundbite URL with written social media snippets.
Where are people finding my podcast? How can I target my effort there? Unique to Sounder’s analytics, a referral is counted any time a stream is played on a podcast platform or the Sounder Player. So if I blast out my new episode via the Sounder Player to all social networks, friends, and blogs, Sounder records what platform gets the most interactions.
Insight: Publishing weekly is no joke, so I really wanted to track where my audience was coming from to better target my marketing efforts.
Grow podcast audience strategy: I did a few things to boost the visibility of my Sounder Player and understand where my audience is coming from.
I also turned each episode into a blog. What’s great about the Sounder Platform is that it also helps generate a transcript of each episode. I began editing my transcript and turning them into blog posts. On the top of each blog post, I embedded the Sounder Player.
Bonus: Leveraging Transcriptions
Once you have your transcription generated from Sounder or another service, you can leverage these transcriptions in a variety of ways to increase traffic and listens to your podcast and web pages. Below are a few steps you can take to get the most out of your podcast transcriptions. You can view an example of what the transcripts look like on a blog post here.
Time needed: 30 minutes.
How to Use Transcriptions for Your Podcast
Leverage Sounder’s Free Transcription Service
Every episode on Sounder is automatically transcribed. You can use our free transcription service or upgrade to our plus plan to get even better quality transcriptions.
Export Transcription into a Word Doc
If using Sounder or another service, you can copy and paste the automated transcription and add it into a new word document.
Break out the Transcription into Speakers and Update Transcription
No automated transcription service is 100% accurate. To save on time, I had someone from Fivrr help fix the errors and break out the speakers. They are able to do 30 minutes of audio for about $15. You can also do it for free if you have the time.
Add Transcription to Each Episode’s Blog Post
By adding these transcriptions to your episode pages on your website, search engines will index this quality content which will help with organic Audio SEO.
Update Episode Description with Best Episode Moments
Most podcast apps like Apple Podcasts allows up to 4,000 characters for the episode description. However, the median amount of characters podcast creators write is 163. This means there is much more real estate to add additional content to help with rankings when people search on these apps. You can use portions of your transcription to add to your existing episode descriptions.
Use Episode Moments to Create Catchy Social Media Posts
With Sounder, you are able to link to specific parts of your episodes. Once you know the precise episode moments you would like to share, you can find that exact location within your Sounder Player and share that Soundbite Snippet on social media. Having these transcriptions, will help you find the best marketing moments to share to your network.
Doing this case study helped me understand a few things.
Podcasting takes time, so working smart is the only way to grow.
Episodes are not a one-and-done deal. If you produce great content, they keep growing well after the week you publish them. Once you have great content, it keeps growing. You can have on-going interaction for maybe ever.
There are many ways to interpret analytics, and it’s part of the creative process of podcasting.
A good, clean analytics dashboard is key to taking control of purposeful marketing growth. If you haven’t already, check out Sounder