How to Build a Podcast Membership that WORKS

Setting up a membership site can be a great way for content creators to tap into the subscription-based economy, monetize some of the content you create, and build a community of like-minded fans. But before you start inviting members, it’s crucial to understand what you’re offering and how you’ll deliver it.

Read on to learn:

How to create compelling membership rewards for your website (and why you don’t want to offer too many options)
How to create exclusive membership content that is low-effort and high-reward (For example, pre- and post-show conversations make for a great member benefit.)
The software stack I use to power the Build Something Club and how to evaluate which tools you’ll need for your own community

I began cultivating the seeds of my podcast membership community — the Build Something Club — all the way back in 2017 when after only nine months of podcasting, How I Built It reached 50,000 downloads.

Back then it seemed like everyone in the podcasting world was turning to Patreon to make money from their communities, and so I started a Patreon membership too. To make a long story short, it was not a good fit. (If you want to hear more, listen to Episode 205: My Failed Patreon Experiment.)

After many months of learning what not to do, it was time to build the membership I actually wanted — one that could provide meaningful benefits for my members in a way that was sustainable for me, too.

Creating the Build Something Club required consideration of both the members-only content I was offering and the tech stack I would use to deliver it. 

Here’s a look at everything that went into it, based on what I’ve learned along the way:

How I chose it: Member rewards

The rewards for the Build Something Club are robust for the $5/month price tag, and I was very deliberate in choosing them based on what would allow me to deliver.

Did you know sponsorship isn’t the only way to make money?

In-fact, it might not even be the best way for you. This free guide will help you learn about 4 ways besides sponsorship to make money, as well as figure out which way is best for you and your show.

    There are three things to keep in mind when you’re deciding what goes into your membership program:

    1. Keep it simple

    Provide an easy option for people who want to support your show and access bonus content.

    When I launched my Patreon community, I had five different pledge levels ranging from $1 to $100 per month — and it was way too much. It was confusing for members, and I didn’t have a clear idea of how I would differentiate the rewards at each level.

    By contrast, the Build Something Club has only one set of rewards that are accessible to all members.

    2. Look for the low-hanging fruit

    The name of the game when you’re starting a membership offer is low-effort and high-reward.

    What can you offer your members that is compelling and helps to address their problems but does not add a lot more work to your plate as a creator?

    A lot of what goes into the Build Something Club is a natural extension of the work I already do to create and publish the podcast, such as:Ad-free episodes: The sponsored content on How I Built It is already recorded separately and edited in later, so it’s no extra trouble to publish an ad-free feed.
    Pre- and post-show conversations: If the guest says something intriguing during the interview, I keep the recording going and ask them to expand on that. For solo episodes, I can go deeper into a particular topic or provide behind-the-scenes content or resources.
    An advanced look at the schedule: I use Airtable for keeping track of my podcast schedule. I created a custom view of the schedule that I published to the membership site along with a simple form for members to submit questions to upcoming guests.Member interview: These conversations with members about what they are building require a little extra effort — about 20 minutes of my time per conversation — but they are mutually beneficial in building our community and helping me to understand what my audience is up to.

    3. Adjust accordingly

    As you’re choosing member benefits, be clear on how they may affect your current efforts — especially existing revenue streams.

    Each person who accesses ad-free podcast episodes through the Build Something Club is one less person who hears the ads my sponsors pay for. And since those sponsors are paying for a certain number of podcast downloads, I needed to adjust my sponsorship agreements appropriately.

    How I deliver it: Tools & tech stack

    One thing that became very clear during my Patreon experiment was the need to build something that met the needs of the membership I wanted to create. 

    I wanted more control than a one-size-fits-all product could offer, and I got there by assembling my own collection of tools, beginning with a robust WordPress plugin for memberships.

    Why choose a WordPress plugin?

    As a developer with more than 16 years of experience with WordPress, the technical aspect of building a membership site using a WordPress plugin was not an obstacle for me. 

    Depending on your technical skills, you may also consider platforms such as Memberful that make it easy to set up members-only content areas.

    Important aspects to evaluate when looking at membership platforms:

    • Private podcast feeds: This is probably the #1 thing to consider for a podcast membership.
    • Integrations: How will it work within your existing site, and how can you connect with the other tools you will need to deliver member rewards?
    • Fee structure: Are the available features worth the price tag? Consider payment fees as well as any subscription costs.
    • Ease of configuration: If you plan to have both public and private content on your site, you’ll want an easy way to indicate which is which.

    In the end, I chose to set up my membership site with Restrict Content Pro because it offers many of the features I need, as well as tons of add-ons and integrations.

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