5 Big Takeaways From ‘The Economics Of Podcasting: Monetization Within A Bull Market’

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Written by Dana Sanchez
podcasting monetization
“The Economics Of Podcasting: Monetization Within A Bull Market,” was held at Miami’s Space Called Tribe Co-Work and Urban Innovation Lab on Thursday, June 6, 2019. Photo: Leela Sanikop

Media entrepreneurs in search of podcast monetization got a chance to pick the brains of podcasting pioneers and industry leaders from around the country on Thursday at a series of panel discussions on the economics of podcasting.

The event, titled “The Economics Of Podcasting: Monetization Within A Bull Market,” was held at Miami’s Space Called Tribe Co-Work and Urban Innovation Lab.

Jamarlin Martin, host of the GHOGH podcast show and CEO of Nubai Ventures, sponsored the event and led the discussion.

Panelists included:

podcast monetization
Jamarlin Martin (third from left) led a panel discussion on “The Economics Of Podcasting: Monetization Within A Bull Market.” Panelists included, from left, Akinwole “Aki” Garrett, Danny Peña, and Deborah Gray-Young. The event was held at Miami’s Space Called Tribe Co-Work and Urban Innovation Lab on Thursday, June 6, 2019. Photo: Isheka Harrison
  • Jamarlin Martin, a digital media entrepreneur with expertise in scaling new ideas to millions of users. Jamarlin built multiple brands to total revenue of $60 million without equity investors, selling some of them to a Nasdaq-listed company.
  • Akinwole “Aki” Garrett, a deal-closer with a track record of prospecting and developing new revenue opportunities in investment banking and media. Aki is a founder, CEO, angel investor, film producer, and managing director of Accelerate Consulting.
  • Deborah Gray-Young, an award-winning advertising professional who has led strategy and investment teams on Fortune 500 brands. Deborah is the former VP and director of a leading multicultural marketing communications firm.

  • Danny Peña, pioneering founder and co-host of the gaming podcast Gamertag Radio. The first Latino inducted into the Podcast Hall of Fame, he started his podcast in 2005 before there was iTunes, Twitter, or Spotify. If you think it’s hard building an audience for podcasts today, imagine doing it with dial-up internet. GTR has grown into one of the largest, most respected gaming information sites.

Here are five takeaways from the “The Economics Of Podcasting: Monetization Within A Bull Market” with Jamarlin Martin.

1. Low barrier to entry, but the field is crowded and uneven

It’s relatively easy and inexpensive to produce a podcast, but massive number of podcasts coming online is one of the challenges in the market.

In 2018, Apple said there were 525,000 active podcasts. In 2019, there are around 2 million podcasts indexed by Google, according to Google Podcasts product manager Zach Reneau-Weeden.

When it comes to ranking, “there’s people doing shady things to game the algorithms,” Jamarlin said. “The market is not even. It’s not fair.”

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 21: Devin Johnson

Jamarlin talks to Devin Johnson, the president of Uninterrupted. They discuss his career path and working with Lebron James, changes in the media industry, and whether Spotify targeted Black artists with policy changes.

2. You don’t need a huge audience to be successful

.. but you do need to identify your brand’s core audience, Gray-Young said. For example, people who are into extreme sports might not have as much aversion to explicit content as others. “Pay attention to the speificic environment and who’s in it,” she said. “That will give you some indication of what their temperature is. That may not be a long list, but they are out there.”

Peña gave an example of a podcast about horses. The podcast owner doesn’t have a large audience, “but when he promotes a product, he may only have 500 listeners but all of them will buy the product,” Peña said. “If we promote a product, our listeners will buy it just to support us.” 

Peña has been in podcasting for 14 years. He talked about how he found his audience in the gaming community. “When I started, I wasn’t thinking about a business,” he said. “I wasn’t waiting for my listeners to find me. I went to local Miami, spreading the word, finding my community, traveled to LA. to an event called E3 (the biggest gaming expo).”

In podcasting, scale is very misleading, Jamarlin said. “It could be misleading for the advertiser. You could have 50,000 listeners that could outperform a million. The quality is going to outperform the numbers. Those are real people connecting to your voice, your brand.”

3. Black media establishment hasn’t gotten behind podcasts as a medium

African Americans come out at 1 percent of daily podcast listeners, Jamarlin said. “This is a very white market. What we want to do is start here in South Florida and take this message across the country.”

The medium is ripe for opportunity, Aki said. “Black tech is humming. People are thirsty for knowledge, experience, tips in that sphere.”

One of the issues for Black media is concern for brand safety, Gray-Young said. “You don’t have the content regulation from the government. These businesses stewarded by African Americans are held to a much higher standard. Brand safety is the overarching reason, but so is audience. They do use podcast but on a limited basis. A lot of podcasts, while they may be good, there’s that issue with safety — not being able to peel back the analytics on who the audience is.” 

4. Advertising fatigue works for you: the rise of subscriptions in podcasting

Ad fatigue is where podcasting comes home to roost. People are sick of ads and not only that — “they don’t trust the messaging,” Gray-Young said.
People often over-rely on the ad model. Finding alternative models to monetize is really important.

The TV networks have all launched their own subscription streaming platforms. “Relying on advertising strictly is not the best idea,” Gray-Young added. “Marketers tend to be fickle. The subscription model gives you more control.”

Ad blockers and apps — some created in China — allow device owners to look at the mobile web in an ad-free environment. That’s working for you, Aki said. With podcast, you can make a sustainable environment without having to rely on ads.

Patreon is probably the best-known service for that, Aki said. It’s a crowdfunding membership platform that lets creators run a subscription content service.

“The rise of Patreon has been huge,” Aki said. “They give you an audience that is really passionate for your content and they’re opting in and signing up and paying you a fee each month.

“Subscriptions and micropayments have their issues,” Aki added. “You’ve got to go out there and market it, tweak your content, have a cliffhanger, and people will keep coming back. You’ve gotta offer value.”

Twitch, a live streaming video platform for gamers, has helped build subscribers and donations for Pena’s Gamertag Radio. “We still have a big audience with podcast,” he said, “but I know a lot of other streaming services like YouTube — if you get zero advertising, at least you can get the audience to donate and support you. ” Amazon bought Twitch — formerly Justin.tv, in 2014 for $970 million.

Expect to see more mixed media with video, like Twitch offers, Jamarlin said. “I’ve heard people say, ‘Podcast doesn’t belong on YouTube.’ If you can push your podcast out to YouTube, you can generate revenue. It can be part of your monetization.”

5. Podcast could be an effective marketing strategy: sell something to your audience

Hollywood talent agencies are looking to partner with podcasters, Jamarlin said. Expect more brands to partner with a talent to launch a unique podcast that they own. “Thinking out the box, this is an experimental platform. You need to be experimental. The people who love Angelica Nwandu‘s content (The Shade Room) are business folks. They’re reaching out to her to do the transaction directly. The advertisers come from the audience.”

Uninterrupted, a digital media company founded by LeBron James, partnered with Chase bank to do a podcast. On the Kneading Dough podcast, athletes talk about how they manage life-changing amounts of money throughout their careers. Devin Johnson, president and COO of Uninterrupted, talked about how he came to work with LeBron on the GHOGH podcast.

“The voice is real, what the people are talking about is real — that’s what attracts people to podcast,” Jamarlin said. “With Patreon, people have already innovated going direct with the audience. A lot of folks are bringing in money with their audience.”

Jamarlin encourages podcasters to not be overly vested in the advertising market. “Don’t disrupt your core message — your core authenticity, but instead … sell something to your audience,” he said. “If you want to keep it authentic, you’re probably going to have a bias toward monetizing it.”