From the beginning, podcasts have leveraged their direct audience relationships by asking for listener support via donations or pledges. Taking a cue from public radio, the Maximum Fun network does yearly pledge drives and has a tiered membership model, for example.
Jake Shapiro foresees direct support happening in innovative ways in the future, as PRX (and podcasts in general) seeks to convert “passionate fan support into a more sustained way of long-term contributing.”75 Patreon, a site that allows consumers to regularly support creators, has become a popular option for many podcasters. Although not meant for listener donations per se, the StartUp Hearken provides media outlets with listener support modules that allow listeners to engage with the creation process from inception to publication (which could potentially make listeners more amenable to contributing financially). Kickstarter has been used to fund specific goals around launching new podcasts or funding new seasons, as well. Radio Ambulante was one of the first to have success with Kickstarter; in early 2012, about a year into the project, it raised 46,032 dollars (just over its 40,000-dollar goal).76
PRX has also seen marked success with Kickstarter campaigns. In August of 2012, Roman Mars hoped to earn 42,000 dollars for the third season of his popular show 99% Invisible, distributed by PRX. He used both challenge grants and stretch goals to incentivize donors. In the end, he raised over 170,000 dollars.77 In November of 2014, PRX and Mars turned again to Kickstarter to fund their podcast collective/network Radiotopia, hoping to raise 250,000 dollars. They raised 620,412 dollars and became the most-funded radio/podcast project in Kickstarter history.78
However, while Kickstarter is a tremendous opportunity to raise both funds and media attention, it’s by no means a sure bet. A brief glance at the Kickstarter audio and radio/podcast pages shows dozens of Kickstarter ventures that failed to attain their goals. A successful Kickstarter campaign requires strategic and time-intensive marketing initiatives.