Six Ideas for the Future of Podcast Monetization

“Podcasting” is merely a modern term for what humans have been doing for millennia: telling stories. And for millennia, mankind has asked the question: How do I monetize my stories?

This is why William Shakespeare, a famous playwright, opened The Globe Theatre in London, England. For a small fee, people could enter the theater and see podcasts performed live.

Of course, podcasting has become so popular, and technology so convenient, that we can’t expect every potential listener to travel to The Globe Theatre. This is an absurd notion, and I don’t know why anyone would entertain it.

The question is: Now that podcasts are portable, how will we monetize them?

IDEA NUMBER ONE: Blackmail

New podcast apps enable listeners to “skip” stories they’re not interested in hearing. It is a simple matter to construct an algorithm that senses when a listener is skipping too many stories about an important topic, and then delivers that listener an ultimatum, such as:

“Hey, we noticed you’ve been skipping a lot of stories about Syria. Maybe give us some money, or we’ll e-mail everyone in your contacts list and let them know that you’re a terrible person.”

IDEA NUMBER TWO: Boutique podcasts for one

Podcasts are personal and intimate — but they still don’t hold a candle to a real-life, one-on-one conversation in a private room at a restaurant with some flowers in a vase and a guy playing violin in the background.

Surely, a market exists for consumers with the financial means and desire to acquire “one-on-one” podcast services. Imagine your favorite podcast host sitting directly across from you, in person, trying to remember how the Nerdlucks in Space Jam turned into Monstars. (It was a magic basketball.) The live conversation is then recorded and given to you on encrypted media that only you can enjoy forever.

IDEA NUMBER THREE: Counterfeit money

One of the great things about America is that we have “fair use” laws that allow creatives to use images and other content that otherwise would be subject to intellectual property protections. The key is, it must be part of a transformative work. What could be more transformative than taking the image of a $100 bill, printing it on many pieces of paper, using that paper to pay for podcasting equipment and talent, and TRANSFORMING that into a podcast?

IDEA NUMBER FOUR: T-Shirts

IDEA NUMBER FIVE: A big jar with a piece of paper taped to it that says “Podcast Tip$”

The geographic location of this jar will be given at the beginning and end of every podcast. Listeners can physically travel to the tip jar and “pay what they want” for the content. We could even have two jars, one labeled “puppies” and the other labeled “kittens,” as a way to foster conversation and encourage listeners to pay more to vote for their favorite animal.

IDEA NUMBER SIX: Selling the movie rights to your podcast

This is a real no-brainer. Audience research has shown, time and time again, that the movie-going public loves watching films about podcasting. Think of the memorable and dramatic scenes: A devil-may-care producer hits “record” on his Marantz even though there’s only one battery bar remaining. An editor goes back in Google Docs’ history to retrieve a bit of copy that was accidentally excised from the script. Pro Tools crashes just as a producer finally nails a crossfade. And, uh-oh — when the team uploads the podcast, something gets messed up with iTunes and there’s no way to fix it! OSCAR BAIT.


These are just some ideas. I mean, they’re great ideas, and they’re the future of the industry, and you can ignore them if you want to fail.

As I said at the outset, podcasts are stories. And my sincere hope is, someday, someone tells the podcast of how you became incredibly rich off of podcasts. And when that happens, I hope you figure out a way to monetize that podcast about your podcasts.

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