Premium Podcast Subscriptions 101

Last updated on November 1st, 2019

While advertising is the most common way to monetize your podcast, it’s certainly not your only option. Financially successful podcasters squeeze every little bit of revenue out of their show by using multiple monetization techniques (without disrupting the listeners’ experience, of course).

One of the simplest ways to monetize a podcast is to sell what you’re good at: podcast content. By selling premium podcast subscriptions, you can earn reliable money every month from devoted listeners who love your show. 

In this article, we’ll explain premium podcast subscriptions, lay out their benefits, list the types of premium content you can produce, and show you the tools to get started. 

What are Premium Podcast Subscriptions?

Premium podcast subscriptions refer to podcast content you sell on a recurring basis. Listeners subscribe to your service and receive special content that’s only available to paying customers. They might receive special episodes, or access to groups, other forms of content, or even you. (More on this in a minute.)

Comedy Bang! Bang! Is a great example of premium podcast content. You can purchase a subscription that lets you access their special episodes and live episodes. You can also buy them one at a time, which is a great way to maximize your revenue.

premium podcast subscriptions comedy bang bang

Now Playing is another good example of the free + paid model. For $10/month (or more, depending on the subscription package you buy), you get a bonus episode that’s only available to paying customers. 

premium podcast subscriptions now playing

The American System is unique. They charge $8/month to access any of their content. Nothing is free. You need a special username and password to access their content.

premium podcast subscriptions The American System

What are the Benefits of Premium Podcast Subscriptions?

Think premium podcast subscriptions might be right for your show? If so, you aren’t alone. Countless podcasts sell some kind of premium content. Check out these benefits to understand why.

You Get to Sell to Your Audience

You spend a lot of time creating content for your listeners, but when it comes time to monetize with ads, you have to sell to a completely different group of people: advertisers. Selling your show to advertisers can be quite a challenge unless you have experience with that specific group.

Wouldn’t it be easier to sell your show to the people you already know? You know what your listeners want to hear. You know their problems and hopes. You’re immersed in their world, so you’ll have a much easier time talking to them and selling them a product (your paid content).

No Disruptive Ads in Premium Content

No matter how relevant your ads are to your listeners, they’ll always feel like an interruption. Even master podcasters fail to integrate their ads in a perfectly natural way. 

In a premium podcast episode, however, you shouldn’t include any ads. Your listeners won’t appreciate paying for your episodes and having to sit through ads. But this means you can great a truly seamless experience that never interrupts itself with a commercial break. 

Reliable Revenue Stream

You may have some idea how many people will download your podcast episodes, but you won’t  know for sure until after you release it. It’s impossible to know how much money you’ll make for an episode until long after it’s published.

Your premium podcast subscription, however, is far more reliable. You we’ll know exactly how many people will pay for your episode before you create it. This will help you determine how much you can spend on the episodes production. For example, you might be willing to hire someone to edit your episodes because you know you’ll earn enough to pay them. 

Furthermore, paid podcast subscriptions help you make plans for your own life. If you know you’ll receive $X/month from your podcast, you might choose to leave your full-time job to focus on the show. It’s hard to make those kinds of decisions based on variable ad revenue. 

Focus on What You’re Good At

Are you good at setting up Patreon pages and managing donors? Are you good at building e-commerce stores and selling merchandise? Are you good at pitching advertisers in negotiating contracts? Probably not.

But you are good at making podcast episodes. Instead of trying to master a dozen different skills, focus on your content and let your fans reward you for it. Everything else you do with your time is inefficient. 

Maximize Your Revenue

This benefit is obvious, but it’s worth saying. If you want to turn your podcast into a financial success, and if you want to support yourself and your family through your show, you need to take advantage of every possible revenue opportunity. 

Some listeners won’t be willing to buy merchandise or donate to your Patreon, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to spend some money at all. A premium podcast subscription may be the perfect way to monetize a segment of your listenership. 

What Kinds of Premium Podcast Subscriptions Can You Offer Your Listener?

Once you decide to sell premium podcast subscriptions, you still have some decisions to make. You’ll need to choose a type of premium podcast subscription to sell. Here are some options. 

1. Early Access

If you want to sell premium podcast subscriptions, but don’t want to hide all of your content behind a paywall, consider charging listeners for early access. Make your episodes available to paid listeners a week or two before you make it available to everyone for free.

2. Bonus Episodes

Bonus episodes are one of the most popular ways to sell premium podcast subscriptions. Essentially, you create one or two episodes every month that are only available to paying customers. But the majority of your episodes are still free. 

3. Subscriber Only

In this model, you charge every subscriber for every episode. No one listens for free. This is a bold way to monetize your podcast that usually only works if you already have a successful brand with its own following. It’s hard to build a cold audience for premium podcast episodes unless you already have a track record of producing great content.

4. Live Chats / AMAs

Podcast episodes aren’t the only way you can deliver premium content. Your fans might like a little interaction with you or your guests. You could charge a monthly fee to give your listeners access to a live chat or AMA (ask me anything) with you or your guests. This is a great way to make your listeners feel engaged and have powerful one-on-one discussions with your fans. 

5. Premium Facebook Group

Social media content is another kind of content you could sell. Set up a private Facebook group for paying members. Stay active in the group by answering their questions and commenting on their content. Most importantly, encourage them to help one another. 

6. Newsletter Subscription

Want to deliver content to your fans in their inboxes too? Offer a paid newsletter subscription where you send poignant content they’ll love. This is also a great way to notify them about your new episodes. Just make sure the content isn’t a rehash of your podcast episodes. 

7. Downloadable Resources

If it makes sense for your show, you could charge a subscription to receive downloadable resources you create for each episode. For instance, a digital design podcast might give out downloadable templates. A marketing podcast might offer downloadable checklists and worksheets.

Tools for Premium Podcast Subscriptions

If your podcast is small or you don’t think you’ll have many paid subscribers yet, a simple way to sell premium podcast subscriptions is to do it manually. You could use Patreon to accept “donations” or set up subscription plans in a payment processing tool like Stripe, Square, or PayPal. 

Once you start collecting money, set up a new RSS feed for your premium content and password protect it. This is easy if you use a podcasting plugin like Seriously Simple Podcasting. Once someone pays, simply send them an email with the RSS feed’s password. 

If you prefer a bit more automation, we recommend a membership tool like Memberpress, LearnDash, Teachable, or Restrict Content Pro. You could also set up a WooCommerce installation with their Subscriptions or Memberships plugins. These systems will all handle payment and give your customers access to their paid content.

Thoughtful Podcast Monetization

Premium podcast subscriptions are powerful tools to drive revenue with your podcast, but like we said, there are other options. There are plenty of hyper successful podcasts who never charge for a single episode or piece of premium content. In the end, choose the podcast monetization methods that are right for your audience and your business. 

What’s your experience? Have you ever produced and sold a premium podcast subscription? Let us know in the comments.

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