The Profitable Podcaster

Making Money Through Podcast Memberships

Sponsorship is one of the many ways to make money podcasting. It’s maybe the most well known way, but it’s not necessarily the best way. In a previous episode of this podcast, I walked through my SMASH framework,- five ways that you can make money with your podcast. The M in SMASH is membership, and that’s what I want to talk to you about.

What are memberships, why and when should you do them? What you should consider, and a couple of ideas for actually implementing the membership.

Show Notes

Get the Podcast Booster Blueprint and learn how to:

  • Attract (and keep) your ideal listeners to grow your trusted audience
  • Skyrocket your downloads in the first 30 days
  • Start making money today

Get it for free at makemoneypod.com/blueprint

Support the show

Want to accelerate your ability to generate income with your podcast? Check out my 1-on-1 Coaching

Intro: Real quick before we get started. I wanna tell you about a new free resource I have called the Podcast Booster Blueprint. Turn your podcast into $10,000 of income by getting free – an instant access to my Podcast Booster Blueprint. I’ll walk you through five changes you can make in minutes to put your podcast on the 10K path. You’ll learn how to attract and keep your ideal listeners to grow your trusted audience. You’ll learn how to skyrocket your downloads in the first 30 days, and you’ll learn how to start making money, today. 

Use the same strategies and tactics I use for my own podcasts with the Podcast Booster Blueprint. Head on over to [makemoneypod.com/blueprint] right now to get your free Podcast Booster Blueprint. That’s [makemoneypod.com/blueprint].

Sponsorship is one of the many ways to make money podcasting. It’s maybe the most well-known way, but it’s not necessarily the best way.

In a previous episode of this podcast, I walked through my SMASH Framework. Five Ways That You Can Make Money with your Podcast. The M in smash is Membership. And that’s what I want to talk to you about. What are memberships? Why and when should you do one? What you should consider, and a couple of ideas for actually implementing the membership. That’s what we are going to talk about today on Make Money Podcasting. So let’s get into it.

Joe Casabona: Hello, and welcome to Make Money Podcasting where I teach you how to make your first $10,000 with your podcast. On this show, you’ll learn tried and true methods to increase your revenue and turn your podcast from a money pit into a moneymaker. 

Hi. I’m your host, Joe Casabona. And my podcasts have been making money from Day 1 without a lot of downloads. I’ll share everything I know with you here on Make Money Podcasting. 

All right. So first, what is a membership? I think I wanna talk about membership and subscriptions because people generally conflate the two and they’re very closely related, but they’re not the same thing. 

Membership is access to something that not everybody has access to. This could be free or paid. So for example, I am a member of a Cigar Club. As a member, I have access to the lounge after hours. I have access to events that are for members only. And I get some special financial benefits, like a discount.

A subscription is paying at regular intervals for something. So it could be monthly. It could be weekly. It could be yearly. For my Cigar Club membership, I pay an annual fee. And so that is the subscription part of the membership. But they don’t need to be the same, right? You can become a member of the YMCA for free, maybe. Or you could become a member of some other organization for free. You don’t necessarily need to pay for that. 

Similarly, subscriptions aren’t always memberships, right? So Netflix is a subscription, but it’s not a membership. You’re paying to get access to Netflix’s library of content. That’s not really a benefit. You’re just paying for access to that. So that’s the importance of a subscription box for example, right? That’s not a membership box. You’re paying for the box on a monthly basis, and that’s the only benefit. So it’s not really a subscription. 

So I wanted to just lay those two terms out for you. Most people use them interchangeably. I’m going to use them interchangeably in the rest of this episode. But, they could be… you don’t necessarily need to pay money for a membership, and paying for a subscription isn’t necessarily a membership.

So the benefits of offering membership for your podcast or you’re going direct to consumer. So you’re not necessarily at the whim of an advertising budget, for example. So if you have one or two major sponsors, right? This is like a big mistake that a lot of freelancers make. They have one client maybe that accounts for 70% of their income. And if that client decides tomorrow, “Hey, we don’t wanna pay you anymore for your services. We’ve hired somebody in-house.” 70% of your income is lost. 

The same thing could happen to podcasting. And actually, it happened to me very recently, right? Where my sponsorships were running out and I started reaching out to people. And the people who normally support my show didn’t want to renew it. And if that was my only source of income, I would’ve been in trouble. 

Now, quick sidebar, I changed my process a little bit. I updated, or I reached out to some new companies. And I do have sponsors now for How I Built It through April. So I’m very fortunate in that regard. But the point is that I, as a podcaster don’t wanna have this one source of income that could be as capricious as the economy, right? Everybody’s talking about a recession as I record this that could be fewer advertising dollars. 

So a membership allows you to go direct to consumers where you have a core set of listeners and they wanna pay you to keep making your show. Or usually for benefits, extra benefits on top of the main show. That’s why you would have a membership.

But If you’re wondering if you should launch a membership, that’s a little bit of a different question. And it’s not about the number of downloads, right? If you have a million downloads, but 10 people who are engaged with your show, no, you shouldn’t launch a membership, right? But if you have like a thousand downloads and a hundred of those listeners are engaged, that’s a good time to launch a show probably.

So how do you measure engagement? There are a couple of ways. You could see who’s interacting with you on Twitter or via email. You could have a community via Discord or Slack or Facebook or whatever you want to have that community on. But this is one of the reasons that I tell you your call to action should be joined my mailing list, right? Because when someone joins your mailing list, they are opting in for more engagement. They’re saying, “Yes. I wanna hear from you more often than just weekly on your podcast. You are allowed to send me emails because what you are doing is valuable.” 

So if you have a lot of people joining your mailing list, that is engagement. And it gives you an avenue for marketing your membership to them. And if they are engaged, then you understand what your membership benefits should be because this is the other big mistake I think a lot of podcasters make. 

A lot of creators make it…when they’re trying to figure out what their Patreon benefits should be or what their membership benefits should be, they go too big because they worry they’re not delivering enough value.

So when I first launched my Patreon way back nine months into my podcast (because I hit a hundred thousand downloads) and I thought the number of downloads is the way to measure. If people will buy my membership, I threw a bunch, I stole a bunch of other people’s benefits. And they didn’t work for me for a bunch of reasons, right? They weren’t things I wanted to do, but they also were very time-consuming and I only had three paying members. So for like less than $10  a month, I had to create all of this additional content. And that just didn’t work. 

So, if you’re ready to offer a membership or you’re wondering if you should, see how engaged your listeners are. And then come up with benefits at least at first that are low energy or low effort, and high reward for your listeners. Low effort for you, high reward for your listeners.

One example, a common example is ad-free extended episodes of your podcast. For me, that’s low effort because I don’t have the ad reads embedded into the show. So, I just create a version, or my editor creates a version where the ads aren’t included. And then he chops off the extended version, and we ship that as the free version. And then for the members, or they, and then we chop off the end. We add the ads and that’s what the free listeners get. The members get no ads in the extended version. That is a low effort for me, and a high reward for my members who a number of them never want to hear podcast ads, right?

So like the $5  a month, they’re paying is worth it to never hear an ad in the middle of an interview especially if we’re like a midpoint. My editor’s usually good about not cutting off sentences. But still if like, if we’re in…I don’t structure the questions perfectly so that like at the halfway mark we can have an ad break, right? So that is a low effort for you, a high value for my listeners. 

Another thing I was doing for a while is the Live Streams. I would do live streams for free on my YouTube channel. And then I would make them private and available only to my members. And that was a really good driver of the membership for a while. It was content I was already making. But the replay had value for my members. So, if you are considering your membership benefits, I would encourage you to think about what is low effort for you and high value for your listeners. 

To figure out what’s high value for your listeners, email them. They’ve opted into your mailing list, right? “Hey, do you listen to my podcast? You probably do cuz you’re on this mailing list. If I were to roll out a monthly or annual membership, what kind of benefits/which of these benefits would you like to see?” or leave it more open-ended and say, “If I offer a premium version of this podcast, what do you wanna see from it? Or, if you don’t care for that, then let me know that as well.” And try to extract value from that.

So, I know that you don’t really want to lead, right? You don’t wanna say, like would you pay $5 a month for ad-free extended episodes, right? Would I? Maybe, right? Would you pay is not actually paying? So you want to ask your potential members, your listeners, how can you get more value from this? How can I deliver more value to you? Whatever that is. If you’re a fiction podcast, maybe it’s behind-the-scenes stuff. Here’s how we put together this episode, right?  if you are like a business analysis podcast, leave the best analysis for your members. If you’re a tech news podcast, maybe leave some of the hot takes for the members only, right? Some of the more controversial stuff. So it really depends on how you deliver value for your free show, and how you could deliver more value for your members.

So we’ve covered the what, the why, and most of the how. I wanna show you if you’re watching the video on YouTube, otherwise, I can talk through this so you don’t need to watch the video. But if you wanna check the show notes, there’s a link to the YouTube video.

I wanna show you a couple of examples of Membership Offerings for podcasts. The first is mine. I’m about to roast my own membership offering cuz it’s not good. My offerings up until May were very confusing and this is a remnant of that. 

So if you go to [joincreatorcrew.com],  or [creatorcourses.com], like that’s the first problem, then you’ll see what is essentially now my premium podcast offering. This was something else. And so the first lesson you can extract here is to make your offer as clear as possible for your listeners. Give them the value proposition upfront. 

The only way somebody visiting this page might know that this is bonus content for How I Built It is the single artwork square that they see. Otherwise, I just have a button. The rest of the page is pretty good, right? I’ve got great testimonials. I have sample content, but then the benefits are a little bit unclear, right?

As a member, you’ll get ad-free episodes. Okay, that’s good. Bonus, Weekly and monthly episodes, and then like lots of other great benefits like a community, live streams, automation, library. And then some more small text here. 

So first of all, there’s a lot, right? I’m offering maybe too much. And it’s not like a very clear list. I have some more testimonials and then join now. So this is unclear. It’s not even really clear that it’s for How I Built It. As I build out this page again and relaunch it for the new year, it’s going to be over at [howibuilt.it/pro]. Probably just gonna call it pro. I’ve spent too much time coming up with a cheeky name for it. But it’s gonna be scaled back and really clear what my members get.  Now, I was trying to appeal to too many people. 

If we contrast that with Relay.fm’s membership over at [relay.fm/membership], the value proposition is really clear. And they do this well. I think because they’re a podcast network. They’re not a single podcast. 

So first, some copy. A bulleted list of a small number of perks. Okay, this is tangible. I can see myself enjoying these perks. And then they basically have buy buttons for if you want members-only versions of select podcasts. So if I sign up for more power users, I get a member’s only version of that podcast and all of the relay.fm perks. And their page makes this clear. 

So it’s not that my offering is too complicated. I made it too complicated and convoluted, whereas relay.fm lays out the benefits very nicely here. 

Now, let’s talk about how you can implement this yourself. We’ll do a separate episode evaluating membership tools. But if you wanna get started today, there are a couple of ways to do it, I think.

Buy Me a Coffee is probably the fastest way for you to start taking money from people. I set up a Buy Me a Coffee. That’s [buymeacoffee.com]. I set that up in minutes, right? And they made it as easy as possible. And they have Zapier integration so you can…when someone buys you a coffee or subscribes, you can integrate with a premium feed. 

The premium feed is really the hard part though, right? So, for premium feeds, I use Castos. Castos is my audio host for How I Built It. And one of the reasons I went with them is because of the private podcast feeds. And they have Zapier integration as well.

If you don’t want to use Castos like if you don’t wanna sign up for like a whole separate service just for, or if you don’t wanna sign up for a new audio host (I guess is the way to put it) just for the private feed because they limit their plans based on the number of private feeds, so like for $19  a month, you can have up to a hundred private subscribers.  And that makes sense for them because they have a bunch of other stuff included. 

You could check out helloaudio.fm. This basically is special. I just recently heard about this. I want to test this, but it’s basically they’re specializing in a private feed. So you have unlimited episodes and unlimited listeners for $14  a month. And they also have Zapier integration. So either Castos or Hello Audio is a good path for you to offer private feeds. 

And then as far as payment goes, the way I’m going to do it is through ConvertKit. I use ConvertKit for free. Or I’m sorry, I’m a paid ConvertKit member or a subscriber. But you can start using it for free. I’ll have an affiliate link in the show notes at [makemoneypod.com/220. And they have a feature called ConvertKit Commerce where you can start selling digital products really quickly. 

And so they have a few use cases on their site for like eBooks and paid newsletters, music and presets, and coaching. But something that you could do is offer a private podcast, right? So you set up a subscription, somebody signs up, and they become tagged as a member in ConvertKit. And then you could use Zapier to set up either a HelloAudio or Castos feed. And then you can revoke those if somebody churns out. 

So that’s probably how I’m going to set it up moving forward using Convert Kit Commerce with Castos or Hello Audio. Probably Castos cuz I already have Castos. And I think that’s a pretty quick way to get things set up. 

Now, probably the fastest way is Patreon. The thing I don’t like about Patreon though is their pricing. Maybe they’ve clear…it looks like they’ve clarified this a little bit. But their pricing for like light, which it’s very unclear if this offers like the podcast feeds or private RSS feeds, which is the thing you’re looking for. But their pricing is pretty high like 5% of your monthly income plus payment processing. So that’s close to 8%. Pro is 8% of your monthly income. So like you’re kind of getting published for being more successful, whereas Hello Audio and Castos, you know, it’s a little bit more work to set it up. But it is a flat fee. 

So, I think my recommended workflow is either Buy Me a Coffee or ConvertKit. And then connect using Zapier. Connect that to your private feed using Hello Audio or Castos. Not the easiest in the world. And maybe Hello Audio has like a…they probably don’t have like a way for you to pay like a payment gateway. But I think that it’s a good first step. 

So, if you’re thinking about starting a membership, again, you wanna look at what benefits you’re gonna offer. How engaged your audience is, and how you’re gonna implement this. 

In the Podcast Liftoff Playbook, I have a lot of resources on starting a membership and tutorials. So, if you’re interested in that, check that out over at [podcastliftoff.com/playbook]. I’ll go in-depth into everything I talk about on this podcast. There are guided videos that show you how to do things and you’ll get more direct access to me.

So that’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it. 

Let me know. Are you thinking about starting a membership? You can reach out and get all of the show notes over at [makemoneypod.com/220]. 

Thanks so much for listening. And until next time. I can’t wait to see what you make.

Podcast Booster Blueprint

Use my 10-year podcasting journey to put your podcast on the right track. 

Get my free Podcast Booster Blueprint now. I’ll walk you through 5 changes you can make in minutes to:

  • Attract and keep your ideal listeners
  • Skyrocket your downloads
  • Start making money (now) 

No hacks. Only Real actionable tips I test for you.