Create and Monetize Podcasts on Any Budget

By Mark Underhill

Integrating audio and video content alongside standard text and graphics was once solely the realm of major media outlets and technically sophisticated webmasters. Now, rich media engagement is possible for owners of any size website on any budget. And it's remarkably simple.

The word "podcast" is used frequently to refer to audio content available on a website that is organized in some fashion. An actual podcast is much narrower in definition. A podcast is a feed to which iPod owners can subscribe and automatically downloads newly added pieces of audio content. Subscribers can then access and listen to the podcast at their convenience.

When the podcast model works best
It's important to realize that once an iPod owner subscribes to your feed, there is absolutely nothing that will automatically alert them to the presence of a new podcast waiting to be heard. That presents a problem for producers, in making sure their audience is aware of the availability of new content.
One solution is to regularly produce new material on a predictable schedule and promote it as heavily as possible. Users then know to regularly check for the latest podcast. There are a number of ways to promote your podcasts online, including social networks, which can be done on a shoestring budget. Those with access to a marketing budget may choose to promote their podcasts through targeted advertising as well. Either way, listeners must expect to find new, meaningful content at regular intervals. For example, a podcast providing travel tips could promote heavily toward the end of each week in preparation for weekend travel. Consistency is the key - you must offer content each and every time a user thinks to update their podcasts.

How to build a loyal audience
Make sure your audio content doesn't waste your visitor's time by following these simple rules:

1. Come to the microphone with at least a rough script of what you intend to say. While it might not create Emmy-worthy broadcasts, you do want to sound informed and coherent. Also remember to avoid long pauses.

2. No one wants to listen to long-winded or choppy audio. Keep it brief and upbeat. You might also consider breaking up your podcast into segments (if applicable) to avoid losing your audience. Include smooth transitions between topics.

3. Unless the content is intended to be a true stream of consciousness and you are fluid in your verbal delivery, try a few takes. Digital storage is cheap and easy, and listening to yourself can help improve your style.

4. Spend some time editing the final version to remove awkward silences, excessive "um's," and other miscues. This doesn't need to be overdone but can go miles to enhance the overall fluency of your content.

Monetize your podcast
There are a couple of ways you can leverage your podcast to generate revenue. Audio has a benefit similar to video in that the listener can be presented with advertising messages prior to, during or after the delivery of the main content. Tacking on a 10 or 15 second ad at the beginning of the segment almost guarantees an impression, as long as the content is at least a few minutes long and holds meaning to the listener. The closer in scope the marketing message is to the content, the higher quality the impression will be. For example, if your website focuses on outdoor adventure, and you podcast a weekly show highlighting specific hiking trails, target an outdoor store to sponsor the podcast. The advertising message should include a call-to-action and some element of value to the listener, such as "mention this podcast for 20 percent off hiking boots," so results can be measured.

If your content piece is longer, consider adding more commercials throughout the clip. If you can prove audience numbers and consistent broadcast intervals to relevant advertisers, you could possibly subsidize your hosting costs or generate even greater revenue.

Other revenue streams are less straightforward but if you operate a site that actually sells products as well as offers informational content, you may want to consider mentioning that various items are available for purchase on your website, and make sure to mention your URL. Remember, users may not be looking at your website while they are listening to the podcast.

The most challenging part of podcasting is not actually the technology but creating compelling content. Hopefully, if you are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about your site content that it isn't an issue. Create quality material, be consistent with your updates and promote your podcast to the right audience.

Jump in and start podcasting today to engage your audience and possibly generate new revenue streams.

About the Author: Mark Underhill is the lead architect of Platformic's online Web development environment and content management platform that allows businesses to easily build and update websites in real-time, as well as including podcasts. He brings to Platformic over 12 years of experience in building Web platforms for large media companies including Clear Channel Communications.