Podcast Sponsors: You Don’t Need Them

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Podcasters are obsessed about finding podcast sponsors. We wonder if 50 downloads per month is enough. We wonder if having put out 100 episodes is enough. We wonder if our show is good enough. Or, we think we’ve absolutely checked all the minimum number of boxes one must check to start landing podcast sponsors.

But maybe the better question to ask yourself is: Do I really need a sponsor? Maybe it’s the wrong path to consider entirely. Maybe you don’t need sponsors. You need more creativity.

Finding Podcast Sponsors Seems Logical

Podcast Sponsorships | HelloCast

Having a sponsor for your podcast seems logical because that’s how it works on television and radio. Show starts, ads roll, show continues, ads break in, show ends.

Landing sponsors seems like the logical step once you’ve reached an adequate number of downloads, too, whatever ‘adequate’ means. Maybe you reach 10,000 downloads per episode and you feel like the time is now. You’ve been putting it off because you love your listeners but you also put your heart and soul and time into producing a great show, and you’re ready for it to turn into money.

It’s logical because you’re already sitting down to record your podcast now. Recording an ad is easy. You’re already editing — or paying someone to edit — your show. Dropping in a .wav file at Points X and Y is also easy. See? Logical.

It’s logical because everyone is talking about it. Podcast hosts are encouraging you to land sponsors. John Lee Dumas has a massive guide about it. And other internet marketing gurus are optimizing blog posts to nudge you to do it.

But if you’re really trying to connect with an audience, and add value to their lives, while standing out from the crowd with your viewpoints, you should consider some alternatives to monetizing your podcast.

But Sponsors Add Complexity

Podcast Sponsorship Decisions | HelloCast

Landing sponsors means decisions. What type of companies will you allow, and which will you exclude? What kind of input will you allow them to have on the show? Can their CEO come on? How about one of their customers, who might mention them? If you don’t bring guests onto your show, they may still want to have a little influence over the show’s length, where their ads are placed…

You can make these decision in a 10-minute conversation with yourself. But it’s something to think about that can happen and complicate your #podcastlife. What if a sponsor isn’t sure they’re getting as much for their money as they used to, so they want to reconsider your past agreements for the upcoming run of episodes they sponsor?

What if the’ve paid their 50% deposit for their sponsorship run but are now four weeks behind in paying the remaining amount due?

Sponsors add complexity. You may not see it that way in the near term, but there may come a time. It’s not something to fear, it’s just something to consider.

You'll never want to manage your podcast any other way

Podcast Monetization Doesn’t Stop (Shouldn’t Start?) with Sponsorships

Podcast Monetization | HelloCast

There are so many additional ways you could monetize your show. Many that wouldn’t simply put a little $$$ in your pocket while interrupting the show itself, but also generate loyalty from your listeners, build your brand, deliver value, and build anticipation for the next episode.

This wasn’t supposed to be a roundup of monetization ideas, but here’s a quick brainstorm of possibilities that can help accomplish the aims of that last paragraph and avoid a reliance upon sponsors.

  • Offer a paid course (or courses) that summarizes lessons learned from past guests
  • Charge for bonus audio episodes made available in a dedicated app (Libsyn users) or using a service like Glow.fm, Sidecast.fm, Supporting Cast, or Acast Access
  • Publish a printed or e-book that passes on the wisdom you’ve gained and the tools you’ve learned about from guests (look at what Tim Ferriss did with Tribe of Mentors)
  • Produce a written companion to your podcast that provide access to through your website or a service like Substack

Look, the point of this article isn’t to make you fear sponsorships, nor do I want to exaggerate the effort involved in making money from your listeners through them paying you for add-on content. But if you just think more creatively about what your already-interested listeners may want more from you, it may set your mind free from sponsorships.

You can deliver more of what your listeners want within your show, for free, or you can do it in the form of premium content. And I’d argue that premium content is exactly where your mind should go first so you never need sponsors.

You don’t need sponsors.

You need more ways of connecting with your audience. You need to give them channels to get more from you. Sponsors are a distraction from that. The better your show, the more people will crave your personality and/or your content and/or your interaction. Focus on that.

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