Takeaways on how to build a creative, profitable, and impactful podcast business

Nicola Korzenko
Aug 27 · 4 min read

The Podfunding panel at Podcast Movement 2019 was a great opportunity to get real-time insights on building a podcast business. We’re looking forward to expanding the conversation at the upcoming Werk It and She Podcasts gatherings in October.

In Orlando, panelists Nicola Korzenko, Erica Mandy, Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, and Jake Shapiro (left to right in the photo below) shared their takeaways:

You are core to your business

Just as Podfund invests in creators, Juleyka Lantigua-Williams encouraged us to invest in yourself SMARTLY. Attending a conference is one way to invest in yourself, as is incorporating your business. Juleyka said she did both: attending events helps her grow and connect with others, and in the case of starting Lantigua Williams & Co., she protects herself and her business as she continues to progress.

Your network and your past work also is key to how you build your business. Erica Mandy echoed this: use your skills and credibility from past experiences and be resourceful. That includes making decisions about what you work on first as you develop your podcast. In the case of Erica’s podcast, she focused on research, reporting, and delivery first based on her past experience as a TV reporter. She also noted the importance of not wasting precious energy beating yourself up or discounting your strengths — even if you’re new to podcasting, you undoubtedly are bringing other strategic skills to the table (whether creative or business oriented) that will come in handy as you chart your path.

Jake Shapiro also noted that part of centering yourself in your business is to be intentional about controlling your brand, services, and data, and to put a very high price on ceding that control to others. Question the benefits and drawbacks — financial and otherwise — of what it means to have others in charge of your work.

Plan for gradual growth

Building a business is an ongoing process. Erica said that proving the concept through audience growth and regular feedback along with building a game plan with milestones helped pace the growth of The NewsWorthy. The healthy, growing audience for her show was key to unlocking capital in the form of revenue and funding. Generally speaking, audience comes first, and revenue comes second. There may be a period of time where more money is going into the podcast than money coming in, so be prepared. In the near term, focus on making great content and finding listeners who love it. Once you’ve built a loyal audience, you’ll have more options when it comes to monetization.

Juleyka noted that she made a plan, but started small. This, along with Jake’s advice to be a lean startup, maps a realistic approach for a podcaster looking to grow their podcast into a business: prototype, iterate, learn, refine. Think of your business as a perpetual experiment where you are continually testing hypotheses and adjusting your strategy based on the results.

Maintain focus

With any creative endeavor, setting a goal and keeping your eye on the prize helps you move forward. Erica suggests that focusing on the right things for sustainability and scale (including when to decide to hire a team) helped her maintain focus. She has found it helpful to time-box each activity to avoid context-switching: historically, she spent her mornings and early afternoons on marketing and business development efforts, and from 4pm onward would read and revise scripts and record her daily show.

Another place to stay focused is to consider what you’re optimizing for when it comes to financing. Are you looking to increase cashflow? Retain ownership and independence? Revenue-based financing like Podfund’s PodREV is a lightweight agreement that enables creators to preserve ownership over their IP, but involves quarterly revenue share payments. Equity investments typically mean the creator never pays a dime to investors unless the company is acquired, but the creator no longer owns 100% of the business. Grants can be an excellent source of funding if your podcast project qualifies (check out Juleyka’s tips here!), otherwise revenue may be sufficient to fund the business. We’ve seen a proliferation of hybrid business models, where original work is subsidized through branded shows, or production work-for-hire.

Speaking of which — diversifying your revenue streams (without spreading yourself too thin) can allow you to increase your income while reducing your dependence on one particular source. If you’re not yet ready for CPM-based advertising, don’t despair! Some models, like listener support and paid memberships, can even help create deeper relationships with your fans. At Podfund we’re not prescriptive about how to earn revenue, and we love to hear stories of persistence and hustle in the early days.

Lastly, Jake reiterated Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 true fans concept: focusing on this die-hard follower approach is a great way to ensure you’re making something people want, you’re listening to the feedback from your strongest supporters, and you’re on your way to building a sustainable business.

Thanks to everyone who came to the panel and contributed questions!

Podfund

We support emerging podcast creators.

Nicola Korzenko

Written by

Brooklyn, board games, bocce, and Pod.fund.

Podfund

Podfund

We support emerging podcast creators.

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