Podcast networks can help you monetise your podcast without having to put in loads of extra time yourself. You can let the network worry about promotions and landing sponsorship deals for you. Leaving you more time to do what you do best - produce great episodes.
But what are podcast networks? How do they work? And how do you know whether joining one is right for your podcast?
What is a Podcast Network?
A podcast network is a group of podcasts that work together on things like getting sponsorship deals and marketing their shows.
If you join one, you can let the network managers deal with getting advertisers interested in your show. They’ll also help market your podcast, so you should also see your audience increase. Basically, you can leave some of the marketing and monetising legwork to them, leaving you with more time to create great content.
For some podcast hosts, joining a network is definitely worth the effort. Patrick Wyman, host of Tides of History, said that joining the podcast network Wondery was brilliant for his career:
Thanks to their support, the audience has more than doubled, and that growth has driven the ad sales. That has allowed me to quit my day job as a journalist to pursue my passion for history full-time… Getting on board with Wondery is one of the best professional decisions I've ever made.
So joining a podcast network could be beneficial for your podcast. But how do networks work? And who gets what from this kind of arrangement? Because after all, there’s still no such thing as a free lunch!
How do Podcast Networks Work?
At this point, it’s important to distinguish between two different types of network, because they operate in very different ways.
1. Podcast Networks that Sell Ads
When people use the word “podcast network” this is what they are usually referring to.
The point of joining a network that sells ads is to make it easier for you to monetise your show. Collectively pooling download numbers as part of a larger group gives you more bargaining power, so you can land sponsorship deals you wouldn’t be able to get on your own.
Podcast networks make things easier for advertisers too. Instead of negotiating with shows individually, advertisers can make a single deal with the network to run ads across multiple podcasts.
But what’s in it for the network? Well, they benefit from doing all the sales admin work by taking a cut of the ad revenue (usually around 30% of the money made).
Most podcast networks use a CPM payment model for its podcasters. So if you join a network, you’ll be paid a flat rate per 1000 impressions. The actual amount of money you make for the network will depend on the CPM rate and on how many ads the advertisers choose to buy from the network. Generally, brands tend to buy three ad slots placed at different points during the episode:
- Pre-roll (during the intro, 20-30 seconds) - $6-20 CPM
- Mid-roll (in the middle, 60 seconds) - $11-25 CPM
- Post-roll (during the outro, 10 seconds) - $4-15 CPM
Taken together, that equates to around $20-$60 per 1000 downloads per episode. But that’s before the network takes their 30% cut though. So in total, for a brand that buys all three slots, you would take home $14-42 per 1000 downloads per episode.
At this point it’s probably clear that you need to be hitting seriously impressive monthly download figures to even consider joining a network. Recent data show that 50% of podcasts out there today get less than 140 downloads per episode in the first 30 days.
So the reality is the vast majority of podcasters will never reach the kind of downloads required to join a widely-recognised network like Wondery. That said, if your show continues to grow steadily month over month, you may hit the minimum threshold given a few years.
If each new episode you publish gets 1000 downloads within the first 30 days of publishing, then you’re in a position to consider joining a network.
2. Ad-Free Podcast Networks
Advertising isn’t the only thing a podcast network can help you with though. While most major networks are based around ad sales, not all networks are about that. Some ad-free networks are instead designed to give their members networking and marketing advantages.
For example the Health Podcast Network is essentially a playlist of the best shows out there within the Health & Wellness genre. It exists solely to connect and spread reliable sources of information on that topic.
These kinds of networks are much easier to join than advertising networks, as they often don’t have minimum download requirements to join. They’re also less likely to put creative controls on what you can do with your podcast. That said though, these types of networks are much rarer than those based on ad sales, so the remainder of this article will focus specifically on ad-based podcast networks.
Requirements for Joining a Podcast Network
Most podcast networks have requirements you’ve got to meet before they’ll consider you. Here are the typical minimum requirements for joining an ad-based podcast network:
- At least 1000 downloads per episode (or 5,000 downloads per month)
- Release at least 1 episode per week
- You will have to give up 30% of ad revenue you make to the network
- Be open to cross-promoting other network podcasts on your show
Keep in mind the biggest podcast networks may have even higher requirements than that. They generally only accept podcasts in the top 1% in terms of downloads. But there are increasing numbers of networks for mid-tier podcasts as well. So if you’re a smaller growing podcast, there are likely still network options out there for you.
Pros of Joining a Podcast Network
If you’re in a position to join a network, here are the biggest benefits you can expect to get:
- Monetisation - As part of a network, you’ll be able to get sponsorship deals that you wouldn’t get by yourself. Many advertisers don’t bother with approaching individual podcasts because it’s easier dealing with networks. This means you’ve got a greater chance of getting interest from large advertisers.
- Marketing and cross-promotion - Many networks use cross-promotion to help their shows grow. That means you’ll advertise the other podcasts in the network on your show, and they’ll advertise yours in return. This will help lots of new dedicated podcast listeners find you. Some networks also help with other kinds of marketing too - check in with the network to find out what marketing services they provide.
- Give credibility to your podcast - Being part of a network a listener already likes will make them trust your podcast as worthy of their time. You benefit from the positive connotations people already have about the network’s brand.
- Networking - Being part of a network means you’ve got access to a whole bunch of other highly successful podcasters at your fingertips. Depending on how the specific network works, this could mean you can get tips and tricks from fellow podcasting veterans.
- More time to work on your podcast - If monetisation and marketing is taken care of by your network, you no longer have to worry about it as much. Instead of faffing about with advertisers, you’ll be able to focus on the parts of making a podcast you actually enjoy.
Cons of Joining a Podcast Network
Joining a network usually does put a few constraints on your show. Here are some potential drawbacks to consider before you start approaching networks:
- Losing creative control - You won’t get a choice in which sponsorship deals to accept and which to reject. So you might end up advertising for a brand you’re not too fond of. You also might have controls on what you can actually do with your podcast. Depending on your contract, you might have limits like not being able to talk about certain topics. This is because some advertisers are wary about the kinds of content their ads are placed on.
- The podcast network takes a cut - Podcast networks will take a share of the ad revenue you make (usually about 30%). This might be worth it if being part of a network means you get better sponsorship deals overall. Or if you just want all that monetisation work taken care of for you, you might be willing to give up that cut. But have a think about whether you’d be able (and willing) to get the same kind of revenue by going it alone.
- You might have to switch hosting services - Most podcast networks require all their shows to use the same podcast hosting service. Switching services might mean you lose your show’s analytics, and you might end up with a hosting service you don’t like. So make sure to do some research on the hosting service the network you want to join uses.
- You have to end your current sponsorships - In most cases you’ll have to end any previous ad deals you had on your podcast.
- You have to stick to your contract - Once you’ve agreed to a contract, you’ve got to stick it out till the end. It might hold you to commitments like publishing an episode every week, or producing regular reports about your podcast. So make sure you read your small print before signing.
Deciding Which Network is Best for Your Show
There are so many podcast networks out there, it can feel pretty overwhelming trying to figure out which ones to approach. So here are some things to consider and questions to ask the network when deciding:
- Size of podcast network - The biggest podcast networks will only accept the top 1% of podcasts. So unless your audience is already very big, you’ll want to skip over the major big-name ones and aim for mid-tier networks.
- Genre or theme of the network - Some podcast networks have shows that are all in the same genre. For example, Gimlet Media focuses on digital audio journalism and entertainment. Make sure your podcast is right for the network if you’re looking at one that focuses on a specific genre.
- Other services the network provides - Some bigger networks offer services like marketing, editing, and coaching. Depending on what you want, and whether your podcast is big enough to join these networks, they could be great perks from joining.
- How much ad revenue the network takes - Usually podcast networks take a cut of around 30%, but this will vary from network to network. You might struggle to get a good deal if you’re a smaller podcast looking to join a bigger network as well. In that situation, you might not have enough bargaining power to get what you want.
- Creative restrictions on podcasters - Some networks need your podcast to be a certain length, or put controls on what you can talk about. Make sure you know what obligations you’re signing up to by joining the network.
Setting Up Your Own Podcast Network
If you’re still quite a small podcast, you might struggle to find a podcast network that will accept your show. Or you may not like the terms and conditions of any offered contracts.
But that doesn’t have to mean the end of your podcast network journey. If you’re in contact with a few other like minded podcast hosts, getting together to set up your own network could be an option for you. Even if each show on your network isn’t quite big enough to land sponsorship deals, there is still value in working together for the purposes of marketing and cross-promotion.
For example, if you were the host of a podcast about rock climbing, and you knew several other hosts in your niche, you could band together and form the ‘Rock Climbing Podcast Network’ for the purposes of cross-promotion and mutual growth. Over time, as the network grows, you may reach a point where you can start approaching advertisers.
You can use Podcast.co to create a network like this. Our Enterprise hosting plan allows you to add unlimited podcasts, unlimited episodes, and up to 50 users with no extra costs or hidden charges. Once the network is created you can manage, track, and grow all your podcasts from an easy-to-use dashboard. As the owner of the network you can invite team members, set permissions, and assign dedicated teams to work on different podcasts. Check out this page for more details on our network hosting plans.
Joining a podcast network can help you monetise your podcast without having to divert all your attention into sorting out sponsorship deals yourself. It could be the perfect next step for your show.
But podcast networks aren’t for everyone. You’ve got to meet certain requirements to join them, and once you’re in, there are obligations you have to meet as part of your contract. This could include giving up some of your creative control.
So if you’re thinking about joining a podcast network, make sure you properly read your contract so you know what you’re signing up for. Joining a podcast network could be the best thing you can do for your podcast - but only if the network is right for you and what you want to gain from it.