How to Monetize Podcasting

Adam Carolla, the funny star of radio and television, got 50 million iTunes downloads the first year he became a podcaster.

And he still isn't making money.

That's 50 million downloads -- and chump change for his efforts.

Do you think we broadcasting types need to go back to school to learn media sociology and technology?

Taking nothing away from Carolla or any other podcaster that can attract a following, making money in new media requires breaking away from an unhealthy dependence on spots.

And getting away from the radio model.

With podcasting, you no longer need to follow radio formatics because your fans choose you every day and invite you into their ear canal. That's damn personal.

Carolla is talking about starting a podcast network and that's kind of scary when he's not making money on his first venture.

Most of my readers are familiar with my view that podcasting is one of the new media tools that shows great promise as a revenue producer. To reiterate, podcasting should not sound like radio and should not be sold like radio.

Podcasters are never going to make a lot of money selling commercials in 30-minutes of content and advertisers will probably jawbone the rates down to nothing if you can get them to buy.

Still, podcasting is a winner because it cooperates with the inevitable which is it can be consumed on-demand.

It can be video or audio or both.

It can include text through companion web or iPad pages.

Plus, social networking.

I've been suggesting to radio groups that they should investigate operating new media platforms separate and apart from their broadcast operations.

They don't like it.

So, if you're an ex-broadcaster or an entrepreneur, here's your opportunity to do what they are resisting because radio broadcasters only want podcasting that is somehow connected to terrestrial content. And that's a mistake in my opinion.

Terrestrial broadcasters are still talking about filling up their HD channels when consumers have voted HD out of their lives (not that it was ever in their lives). The radio broadcasters who are with me on this know that they are tying their hands behind their backs when they limit or link new media revenue to terrestrial content.

So, say you take my advice.

What will happen?

On another day we'll talk formatics, acquisition of audience through social networking and assuring in-demand content, but for now, look at how podcasting can make money.

There are three ways:

1. In-content Commercials

Obviously, not my favorite. But if you go this route, make them live-reads. Un-commercials. Refreshingly frank and real. There are ways to get into commercial content without abruptly doing it. NPR-style sponsorships will also work.

2. Subscription Models

Even my true believers don't believe me on subscriptions. The consumer is telling you they are willing to buy things (downloads, apps by the ton and entertainment-related Internet content). If -- and I emphasize if -- podcasting is compelling and addictive, they may pay for it. The right price is the price that is affordable. Trade content can be priced higher than consumer content, but there is a price and there is a motivation if the content is compelling.

3. Event Marketing

I've saved the best for last.

Build an audience and continue to provide excellent content.

Then, build a series of events -- once a quarter or every month if you can (and radio companies can!) -- where you direct your fans to the event.

If you have an AC station and have developed a following, you offer a podcast separate and apart from on-air content that is compelling and addictive. Then, in January the 2011 version of a bridal fair would work. You market to sponsors. Get a venue. Add entertainment. Drive fans to the event through your podcast (but not by doing promos). Ring the cash register.

There are events possible for sports events, outdoor, travel, employment, back to school, auto and just about every category that has eager companies dying to get into new media.

Not commercials on a podcast.

Sponsorship of events.

The Wango Tango of just about every good category that has willing sponsors ready to spend on local events.

I even have one for Lew Dickey.

When I talked with Lew at the NAB Radio Convention he passionately convinced me that radio should be seeking health care dollars. That's great. Well, then -- a health fair. Health clinic.

Of course, most broadcasters would use their terrestrial stations to drive listeners to these events and most companies don't want the expense of ground crews they would need to organize event selling. They like orders that get phoned in to the last salesperson left standing.

But you ....

Well, thanks for the opportunity.

If you have a podcast for humor, you can do a "Laugh Off" and have fans attend and participate. Sell to sponsors.

If you can do a travel podcast and get a loyal following, think of the help the travel industry will need getting back on its feet.

Podcasting is not broadcasting.

It's not even really narrowcasting.

Podcasting is appointment selling.

You have their interest and now you channel fans -- direct them, if you will -- to events they might like that you just happen to own.

When a psychiatrist or psychologist can attract a podcasting audience through appointment selling, the most interested fans will likely choose to attend forums (that can be sponsored by medical companies) or fairs.

Start with one.

Then do another.

Then eventually do one every month of the year if possible.

I use this concept with my media labs.

I talk to my readers every day (in this blog) then attract the people most likely to want to attend one of my conferences (which reminds me, the next Media Solutions Lab is January 27, 2011 at the Phoenician in Phoenix -- save the date).

Then I can do other events on varying topics such as "iPad for Radio" and the best prospects (my readers) opt in.

It's no different than running ads in trade papers but it is also very different.

We are having a "conversation" here and podcasting is also a conversation between interested parties.

I get hundreds of emails a day on specific topics I write about and I answer every one that is directed to me. I have come to know many of you personally through this site and have made friends from the 200,000 plus visitors we get every month.

So, think outside the radio.

Radio talent, content providers, marketers and managers are future podcasting entrepreneurs.

If I ran a major group, I'd hire back the people that were fired and give them entrepreneurial deals where they keep a fair percentage of the earnings and the company owns the podcast.

The WPA of Radio but instead of building dams to harness electrical power, do deals with the talented people you let go to give you juice in new media.

If they can grow the event part of it, they get additional money.

You see, it doesn't have to cost a tightfisted radio company a penny.

The only investment is in time and learning about the exciting and profitable world of new media.

A radio brand is most valuable when it can give birth to content that can be marketed in the digital mobile space.

That's why companies should do the best terrestrial radio they can -- local and live and full of local personalities.

The way it is right now with radio groups spending next to nothing on new media, they are squandering their opportunity to use their local brands to spin-off independent and profitable new media ventures.

(Here's a great Fast Company piece on the king of podcasting downloads -- Adam Carolla).

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