Podcast Monetization: Many options none easy

mobile phone with money Podcast Monetization options but not easy on Breadfruit media

Monetize my podcast

Monetizing is something a lot of podcasters discuss…ok almost every podcaster discusses this at some point. There are two main types of monetization, direct and indirect.

  1. Direct – needs the podcast to generate revenue. Examples include: ads, donations, merch (podcast branded).
  2. Indirect – may be complementary to the podcast but can stand on its own to generate revenue. Examples include: lifestyle merch (not podcast branded), services.

So yes, it is true that when it comes to monetization in podcasting there are many paths, but easy is a myth.  This article outlines some of my experiences with direct and indirect monetization. 

1st attempt

I’ve tried different things to monetize Carry On Friends, my blog and podcast. So when I decided to try monetization my first attempt was at the lowest hanging fruit – affiliate marketing. Affiliate Marketing is a type of advertising model where a company compensates third party publishers for generating traffic or leads for their brand’s products or services. The traffic is tracked using specific affiliate links. I followed the prominent advice and promoted products that I care about and use. By doing this, it’s said to build trust with the audience because it’s more believable.

I decided to promote Lynda.com now LinkedIn Learning and Audible, 2 products I used a lot back then and still  use a lot to this day.  If you go back to some early episodes of the podcast, you can hear me promoting my affiliate links for Lynda.com in episode 31 or Audible in episode 30

I didn’t get any commissions from promoting those links. And while I included the links in the show notes or blog posts, I had stopped doing the “on air” mentions. 

2nd attempt

I’ve also spent time sending pitches to potential sponsors. I’ll admit that in the 7 year life span of Carry On Friends. I haven’t sent a ton of pitches, it’s definitely less than 30. To date, I’ve only had 2 sponsors and only 1 of those were from the pitches I sent. 

When I first started selling merch on COF in 2015 I thought it was gonna be easier or better than affiliate ads. I started with a journal and expanded to t-shirts. I got a few sales but not anywhere I expected to get between December 2015 to June 2017. 

Then 2 unrelated things changed the trajectory of the merch I sold. Early 2017, I had a guest on my podcast who launched a t-shirt business while she was in college. Then a few months later, I did a podcast series with a guest on developing, cultivating and launching your idea/products. It was during that interview series that I realized why the merch was not doing well. So I reached out to the guest I had previously on the podcast and partnered with them to sell my merch. They handled the shipping, customer service and marketing. I would also focus on marketing, promotion and the designs or creation of new products.  Within months my sales increased and surpassed what I tried to do on my own and I’ve never looked back. 

Lessons learnt

I learned that because I am a podcaster and wasn’t in the t-shirt selling business or the merch business at the time; I didn’t have the expertise or bandwidth needed to market and sell the volume of merchandise that would generate revenue. By partnering with an expert and focusing on what I could do well (continuing to podcast and promote the merch) – I found success.  And over the years my skills and expertise on the merch side has grown.

My experience with monetizing the merch taught me a few things. These lessons learnt from my first attempt at selling merch on my own is applicable to other areas of monetizing in podcast. 

There’s a myth or assumption that making money from podcasts is passive. People will come to you or you can be offered ads or want to sponsor your show, or whatever other expectation exists. The truth is monetizing is an active process. The mindset shift is that if you want to monetize your podcast, you must sell, you must become a sales person. 

  1. You must become a sales person, whether you like it or not. 
  2. To generate revenue from ads, affiliate links, merch etc. you must sell/promote and do it regularly. I mean Repeatedly. It cannot be occasional. Even asking for donation it is a repeated ask. To get ads you have to sell ads. Even for platforms like Podcorn, where you can browse the ad opportunities you still have to actively pitch.
  3. Be prepared for a lot of “No’s” or silence. 
  4. Even for merch you need to promote and sell.
  5. Experiment starting small or with one thing. Too many options create inertia and the audience/buyer doesn’t buy. 


Most podcasters don’t like to sell and don’t want to become sales people. This is one of the main reasons podcasters join podcast networks. Podcast networks find ads for shows and podcasters get paid. A potential trade off for being part of a network is a lack of ownership of your show. 

Monetizing your podcast requires commitment, effort and putting yourself out there to ask/sell. It requires trying different things. If you’re looking out in the podcast landscape and seeing others’ success, just know you’re looking at many variables. Some people have the networks that help them to connect with sponsors. Others have the business/sales experience to sell. Some shows are in a niche where sponsors really want to get to the audience, and so forth and so forth. 

The key is testing what works best for you and your audience. 

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