Live Events and Other Streams
Many podcasts are now experimenting with live events as a way to generate revenue. However, even though shows often sell out, the costs of event production can nullify revenue. Mitra Kaboli, a producer for The Heart, has been helping to produce live events for the podcast for the last three years:
We always sell out. [...] Do we make money? Not enough to consider it a revenue stream. The goal is to break even. It’s more about audience engagement and ramping up excitement about X. Maybe it’s a new season; maybe it’s an episode that we think is exceptionally good.81
Slate similarly hosts live events to reinforce audience engagement, especially for Slate Plus members, who get early access to tickets and opportunities to meet the hosts.82
For shows that are more than conversation-based, and thus take more time to create and produce, tours offer greater opportunities for revenue generation than singular events, as the same show can serve for multiple ticket sales (although obviously, they require greater time commitments and logistical planning). Spaces are often donated, and sponsors can help offset costs, either in the form of money or food/drinks/decorations, etc.83 Of course, for shows within networks, sponsorship must be coordinated through the network, which can sometimes limit shows’ options. All in all, live events are a great way to engage audiences but a difficult way to consistently generate revenue unless you are willing to seek out sponsorship and perform multiple iterations.
A word of caution. For many podcasts, live events preceded the podcasts themselves (in the case of the live storytelling organization The Moth, it was the podcast, which resulted in listener donations and advertising revenue, that made the organization financially viable for the first time.)84
Less common, although potentially interesting sources of revenue are classes and workshops in which podcasters leverage their positions as experts in certain subject matters or their knowledge as audio content creators. For example, Gimlet’s Alex Blumberg offers a class on audio storytelling for purchase on creativelive.com.
Another, albeit indirect, method of earning revenue is partnering with outlets that can distribute to their audiences (increasing impressions and advertising revenue) and/or support reporting/production costs. Radio Ambulante has proven adept at this strategy, partnering with organizations across the United States and Latin America to reach audiences across the globe.85
And, although none of my interviewees cited these as major revenue makers, many podcasts also sell merchandise on their websites and earn money from Amazon’s Associates program (which gives podcasts kickbacks for referring listeners to amazon).