How To Create A Podcast Network That Actually Provides Value & Makes Money

 

Feeling bombarded by “join our network” offers? Hold off on hitting accept! This episode equips you to navigate the world of podcast networks, helping you to create one that actually provides value and makes money. Tom Hazzard exposes red flags to watch out for, like networks charging YOU to join or taking control of your show’s ownership. But it’s not all bad news! He also reveals what a good network should offer, including features that benefit listeners (like a curated network feed) and podcasters (like targeted advertising with higher payouts). Discover the “win-win-win” approach, where listeners get a variety of shows, podcasters gain valuable resources, and the network thrives. This episode is packed with insights to help you make an informed decision about your show’s future – tune in and become a network pro!

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How To Create A Podcast Network That Actually Provides Value & Makes Money

In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to create a podcast network that provides value and makes money. When I’m talking about value, at Podetize, we’re here for the podcasters first. As podcasters, we want to make sure you’re well aware that if you’re considering joining a podcast network, you’re being courted by one and pitched to join one that you know what you’re getting into. We see a lot of podcast networks that, unfortunately, take advantage of podcasters. There are a lot more benefits for the network getting you to join them than there are benefits for you, the podcaster, by joining the network.
There are certainly some very good and appropriate podcast networks out there. I’m not trying to bash all podcast networks. It’s just that we’ve seen a lot that are not acting in the podcaster’s best interest. This episode will be a little bit of a cautionary tale of what to watch out for. For those of you podcast network owners or organizers out there, this is going to be valuable for you, too. You can understand more about what is going to motivate a podcaster to join the network and what is going to keep them in the network long-term. You need to be providing value.

 

Feed Your Brand | Social Media Engagement

 

Win-Win-Win

Let’s talk about that. To me, and in our experience here at Podetize, a podcast network has three different parties involved. A good podcast network needs to be providing value to all three. It needs to be a win-win-win. If we were to create a diagram of three circles and they cross in the very middle, all three of them, there is a space there where the network can provide value to the listeners out there.

Ultimately, we need listeners. We’re trying to reach more of them. What value are you providing to the listeners? As a network, you need to be providing value to the podcaster. What’s in it for them? Why should they join your network? In order for it to work and be sustainable, the network has to get value out of it, too. You’ve got to find the space where all three are benefiting.

 

 

I’m going to start with a few examples of things that are out of alignment with the win-win-win scenario that I described. One of those is, are you, the podcaster, required to pay the network in order to be a part of the network? That should be a big red flag. If that’s the case, in my opinion, the majority of the time, when the podcaster is required to pay to be a part of a network, that means that the network is looking at you, the podcaster, as a profit center. There’s no reason to do that if they’re operating their network properly and going to monetize it in different ways.

That’s one thing. Why do you need to pay? Make sure that you get full disclosure on what fee you’re paying, what that money is used for and how it will ultimately help you. What’s the return you’re going to get for that investment? Is it worth it? I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of what some networks charge money for and what some of those expenses might be. In any case, that’s a red flag.

Is the network requiring you to move your podcast hosting to a different hosting platform? Some do and there are some good reasons why they might do that. 1) It might be for monetization. Are they using the ad insertion system of that platform to monetize all the shows? Are you sharing in that in an appropriate proportional way? That could be a good reason to change podcast hosts.

Make sure you are very clear that you still have control of your own show. Far too many networks get you involved, get you signed up, they move your show and then they technically own it in the eyes of the podcast ecosystem. They have your listing with Apple, Spotify and all the other apps. The worst part is they control your show and you’re not even able to log in to see your own download analytics for your show. That is another big red flag.

Feed Your Brand | Podcast Network
Podcast Network: Many networks get you involved and get you signed up. They move your show and then they technically own it in the eyes ofRemove featured image the podcast ecosystem.

 

Certainly, a network would need access to your show in order to perhaps put ads within it. I agree to that, but if they say, “It’s in our account and I can’t give you access to that because there’s all these other shows in the account too and I can’t let you see other people’s shows,” that’s another big red flag. A proper podcast host and a proper network can have a way for you to have login access to see your own show and they can access your show among all the others that they have.

It’s something to be concerned about. I’ve seen too many podcast networks or people have been on them and podcasters have no idea how many downloads they’re getting and how big their audience is. Is it growing, shrinking, or flat? They don’t have control of their show at the podcast host level. That’s another thing.

Also, is the network going to take credit for your show from a branding perspective? Very often, you’ll find the network will put their own network name as the author name of the podcast, because remember, they have access and control over your show. If this is Feed Your Brand joining a network and Tom and Tracy Hazzard are the hosts of it, our names are in the author field. However, we see all the time these networks remove the hosts of the show, their names from the author field and put in the network name as the author.

There are also other features of some of the apps, in particular, Apple, where a larger owner, a company or a network can be designated as the network and your show’s a part of that. Those are things to be aware of. Look at the network. If this is an existing network, you’ve got to go and do some homework and look at how they’re doing this with other shows. Are they putting their logo on your cover art? Some of them do that. Are they putting the network name as the author’s name? That’s not always in your best interest. There might be a scenario where that would be okay, but generally not recommended and not a good idea.

Here’s another thing that I often find is that networks will pitch you to join them and say, “Part of the value we’re going to provide you is we’re going to get you great guests.” They’re going to do that work for you. I hear that a lot. Unfortunately, even though I hear it a lot, I don’t see it happen in practice. I hear all too often from the podcaster, “They didn’t get me many guests that were worth much.” That value was never fully realized. Be clear about what’s in it for you, the podcaster, for joining the network.

Another thing is you need to think about what’s in it for you. A lot of times, the podcast network will say, “We’ll monetize your show right away.” They’re like, “That’s great.” What they’re looking to do is get as many podcasts into the network as possible and then run programmatic ads on them, ads you have no control over who the sponsor is. You are getting an even further reduced fraction of the revenue from that because, usually programmatic ads, the podcast hosting platform is taking a cut. Now your network is taking a cut and then you get a smaller piece of that pie. It’s usually a very small advertising dollars, to begin with.

Getting more and more shows, including yours, into the network is in the network’s best interest because the more shows they have, the more downloads there are, and the more money they are going to make. For you, the podcaster, is the amount of money you’re going to make worth the distraction that’s going to occur for your listeners to be forced to hear ads, usually at the very beginning of the episode, that are not relevant at all to what you talk about your subject matter? Those are some of the cautionary things that you need to be careful of.

Providing Value As A Network

Now, I want to flip this and talk about the network itself. What can you, the network or the network manager, organizer owner or those of you out there reading this, to make a network that truly provides that win-win-win value? I decided to shift now to that perspective because one of the first things I’m going to talk about is just not value for the network but also provides value for the listeners. I don’t see this happening enough with most networks.

Basically, the network will co-brand your show with their network and then they’re hoping people recognize their brand more, start searching on it if they like some of the shows, “I might want to see more shows from that network.” That’s some of the concept. When it comes to listeners, they’re searching for what’s in it for them. They’re searching for their needs, interests, desires and challenges when searching a podcast app, looking for content or even searching in Google for similar content.

When you have a network that is out to promote itself more than the podcaster, the listener can be subscribed to one of their shows and it takes a lot of work for the podcaster to go and try to find other shows on that network. There may be website links in the description of the episode that may take people to the network page. This is another thing you need to be aware of if they’re going to do that because many of you podcasters have your own website.

Tracy and I have talked about this for years. We highly recommend every podcast have their own website, and that’s great. When you get into a network, are they going to replace all those episode webpage links with pages that go to the network page? That’s probably what they want to do. Is that in your best interest? Probably not. That’s something you need to make sure you understand going in. Is that a requirement or is it an option? Can you still have those links go back to your webpage?

I’m sorry for that momentary tangent, but coming back to listeners, a network that is providing value to listeners, trying to attract more of them, will not only have your show with its own listing that people can subscribe to separately. It will also put out a network feed, a whole actual show listeners can subscribe to that contains every episode that is published of every show in the network. There could be 2, 3, 4 or 5 episodes published every day depending on how many are in the network.

An ideal network would have a small number of shows and there may maybe 2 or 3 episodes of different shows published every day of the week. The advantage for the listener is they can subscribe to 1 network, 1 show feed and get your show and get others as well. One of the best examples of this I’ve seen is a network of podcasts that are about veterans and for veterans, people who have served in our military or armed forces here in the United States. A small network of five shows, each one publishes a different day of the week. The listener gets a different episode pushed to them every day on their device.

Maybe they’ll listen to all of them or the 2 or 3 of the 5, but they’re aware of all of them. That makes it easy for listeners to listen to multiple shows in the network and expands your show’s listening audience beyond what you get yourself. I see that is a real win-win for everyone. The listener gets an advantage, the network gets an advantage, gets additional downloads and they can monetize through that group feed, but you still have your own independent feed, your independent show with its own listeners and its own subscribers. It’s a potentially good thing that serves everyone.

The difference of monetization that is going to provide value to the network and the podcast, and there’s nothing wrong with monetizing and having ads in your show and in the other shows on the network. A very large percentage or over 65%, in the last data I have seen, is that podcast listeners don’t mind hearing ads when the ads are relevant to the content they’re listening to.

When it’s in alignment, they’ll listen to the ads. They don’t mind it. In fact, when the ads are in alignment with what the content is, they’re listening for the value they’re there to get by listening to the podcast, they will convert at a very large percentage and click on a call to action, especially when the host of the show is inviting them to do so and is endorsing whatever the ad is about.

When the ads are in alignment with what the content is, a very large percentage of the listeners will convert. Share on X

Rather than programmatic ads, there’s a lot more to be achieved being a part of a network with ads that are within each of the shows cross-promoting different shows within the network. Also, monetization that is at a higher dollar value per impression or maybe it’s more affiliate based, based on people that click through. It’s based on conversion, but advertisers will pay more when it’s not a basic national brand running an ad at the beginning of an episode.

You have an ad that the host may read and it’s within the episode and each podcast in the network has to do that every month or they have other ways of running ads within the episodes not distracting people in the very beginning of the episode, but running them more in the middle. Into the last 25% of an episode, we see all kinds of data and experience that ads that run in the latter part of an episode get listened to more genuinely.

People listen through your whole episode. They’re engaged. They like the content. When you have an ad there, they’re going to listen to it. Whereas when it’s in the very beginning, they’re not paying attention, “This isn’t the show yet. I got to wait for these ads then I’m going to get to the good content.” We’re finding conversion to ads in post-roll spots, which to us at Podetize means anywhere in about the last 20% to 25% of the episode are getting a lot higher conversion.

A wise network that’s monetizing with different kinds of sponsors is not just easier for them with programmatic ads but is doing it intentionally getting sponsors uniquely for that network like the veterans network I was talking about. There are lots of companies like, let’s say, USAA Insurance. That is an insurance company whose ideal customer profile is either people in the military or their families. Theirs is a very targeted advertising that the network can charge more for the podcasters can make more for than normal programmatic advertising.

My point in this is, is the network doing that engagement of getting sponsors for the entire network? If you’re now considering joining the network, they’re monetizing it, you already have some amount of audience that you’ve grown that’s valuable to them to help grow the total number of listeners of all their shows, then that’s their value. They continue to get more listens for the network and they’re going to help monetize it, that’s value for you and monetize it to a higher dollar amount per play than the typical programmatic.

These are the questions you want to ask, but if you are a network organizer, a network manager or a network owner, if you’re not already doing this and providing that value to the podcaster, why should they join your network? When it comes back to what I talked about earlier, if a network is requiring you, the podcaster, to pay to join the network, you want to ask, “Why is that? What am I getting for that money? There’s a lot of value my podcast is bringing to your network and you’re going to make more money out through monetization. Why should I have to pay?”

I suppose there is a reality of if it’s a brand new show and it doesn’t have an audience yet and the audience is going to grow faster because you’re part of a network that has a lot of other established shows. That could be value for you and maybe you do have to pay something to get set up into that program, but is there a sunset to that payment once it’s monetized and the network’s making more money on your show? You shouldn’t have to pay anymore.

These are some of the kinds of things including the website presence is important. Ask the network, “Let’s be honest with each other,” and for you, the network organizer, you should be honest with the podcaster, “Here’s the value we’re providing you. Here are the good reasons why you should join our network. We’re going to monetize the show. You’re not going to have to pay for hosting anymore. We’re not only going to monetize the audio show, but we’re also going to organize the videos of everybody involved. There’s a shared YouTube channel that’s going to make money and that’s being shared amongst all the people.”

There are many potential advantages and maybe they’re going to put dollars into marketing the network outside of the podcast ecosystem to get everybody more listeners. There’s value there, too, but what is the value? You’ve got to know what you’re getting into from the start. Make sure it is that win-win-win between the listeners, the podcaster, you, or the network organizer. If it’s out of alignment with a real harmony between those three parties, I would run in the other direction very fast and not join a network.

Internet Radio Networks

I’ll come back to cautionary tales to provide a little more value before I end this episode. There are a lot of internet radio networks out there that are, in my opinion, preying on podcasters because they’re generating new content and they want new content to keep their internet radio network fresh. They often will offer to, “We’ll turn it into a podcast.”

I see a lot of people start a podcast this way and they don’t realize how very little value they’re going to get out of that because while the internet radio network will put your show out as a podcast, they generally don’t do a very good job at it. They’re not experts in it. You’re not going to grow your podcast effectively because you’re not in control of it and it’s not their primary interest. Their primary interest is to provide more content that people are going to go to their website, their internet radio site, and that’s what they want people to do. Consume your content there. In the real world of podcasting, that’s not how podcasters listen. Not how most of them do.

Most podcasters want to listen on their mobile device, mobile phone, mobile watch, or through those when they’re driving or at the gym. We’re seeing a lot of listenership these days on smartwatches. It’s been an increasing trend in the last couple of years. They’re old school, even though the world of radio. Internet radio is decidedly more modern than old-school terrestrial radio, but they’re different animals and you definitely need to know what you’re getting into, especially in those radio contracts.

Some of them, you don’t own your show. I have more people who have no idea how many listeners they have. The radio network will always say, “We have millions of listeners.” They probably have millions of people who have listened at one time or another, but what do they have on a monthly recurring basis and what is each show getting in terms of listenership?

They usually don’t provide that kind of information because the numbers are not setting the world on fire. They’re looking for more content to help make their network more valuable. They want to use your content to help them rather than be truly mutually beneficial in a collaborative and cooperative way, bringing shows together with common or complementary subject matters and topics for the benefit of the listener is also an inherent benefit for the sponsor because all those get sponsors that are in alignment with all those shows. You’re not advertising Dawn Dish Soap on the front of your podcast and I guess it’s a podcast about washing dishes, which I don’t think there are any, quite honestly. I don’t know how that’s in alignment with what you talk about. Those kinds of large national brand campaigns are paying very little for programmatic ads only.

Feed Your Brand | Podcast Network
Podcast Network: Internet Radio Networks are looking for more content to help make their network more valuable. They want to use your content to help them rather than be truly mutually beneficial.

 

More targeted advertisers to more targeted topics means higher rates the advertisers pay, then there’s more money in it for everybody and you get some mutually beneficial reality. The tricky part of the website is that you can monetize web traffic, but there will be tension between your website for your brand and your show and the website for the network. If you can strike a way that you treated beneficial, that’s great, it can probably help you get more exposure, but it’s all about win-win-win. You’ve got to go with your eyes open.

Recommendations

My recommendation for the podcast networks out there is to continue to find ways to move the value you’re providing in the direction of being in that sweet spot of you need value. Otherwise, you can’t run your network providing value for the listeners so that there’s a good reason why they’re going to listen to the network shows, more of the network shows, or have an easier way to be aware of all the episodes publishing of all shows on the network.

There has got to be some good reasons why the podcaster would join it and you better have good reasons why the podcaster needs to pay to be a part of your network if that’s part of the deal. I feel the networks with more integrity don’t do that and they’re seeking podcasts to join that are fit and providing them value for coming on and being part of it.

The networks with more integrity are seeking podcasts that are a fit to join and providing them value for coming on and being part of it. Share on X

That’s my thoughts about podcast networks that provide value. When you think about it, it’s pretty much common sense if you ask the question, “What’s in it for me as a podcaster and how is it also benefiting my listeners?” For the network, if you ask yourselves, “How am I providing value to the podcaster to give them real value and get them to join? How am I making money too?”

We all have to keep the listeners in mind. If you keep all of them in mind, and figure out the harmony there that will work, then that’s a network worth being a part of and worth existing in our industry here. That’s podcast network value, according to Feed Your Brand. As usual, reach out to us anywhere on social media and/or at Podetize.com if you have any questions. We will be back next episode, hopefully with Tracy back from her jury duty experience. Until then, everybody, have a good one and we’ll see you next time.

 

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Tom Hazzard

As a top influence strategist for speakers, authors & experts, Tom Hazzard and helps major publications, sports stars, and entrepreneurial influencers ‘Brandcast’ their original messages via podcasting and videocasting. Tom is a real inventor and successful product designer with over 40 US patents issued and pending. He has been rethinking brand innovation for 30 years. His latest SaaS (Software-as-aService) and MaaS (Marketing-as-a-Service) innovation, Podetize, reinvents podcast hosting, advertising, and brand marketing with an obsessive podcaster-centric focus on solutions to get hosts seen, heard, found, and rewarded in our noisy digital world.
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