How to Grow Your Podcast’s Paid Membership

May 26, 2020
Aidan Hornsby

Once you have a paid membership, your podcast’s audience and profit go hand-in-hand.

Once you’ve launched your podcast’s paid membership, there are three things you can do to increase how much money it makes:

  • Attract new listeners (i.e. grow your audience).
  • Convince more listeners to become paid supporters (i.e. increase conversion).
  • Increase how long paid supporters keep their membership (i.e. reduce churn).

Each of these things contributes to one another:

  1. The more listeners you have, the more potential paid supporters you have.
  2. The more valuable your audience finds your paid membership, the bigger percentage of your listeners that become paid supporters. 
  3. The longer someone is a paid supporter, the more money they generate.

From a potential listener to a paid supporter, you need to foster your audience everywhere they engage with you. By employing a few best practices for both would-be listeners and long-time supporters, you grow both your audience and podcast’s paid membership. 

Your followers progress through the audience’s journey as they engage with your show. The more engaged an audience member is, the further along the audience journey they are.

Your broader audience’s journey starts with them being aware of your show and ends with them being a listener.

  1. Aware of your podcast (via word-of-mouth, ads, social, etc.).
  2. Considering listening (based on topic relevance, reviews, recommendations, etc.).
  3. Desire to listen (i.e. they listen to your show).

If an audience member listens to your show, they become a listener. This showcases why a broader audience is so valuable for bringing in new listeners. It’s easier to make your existing followers consider listening to your podcast than it is to try and convince a complete stranger to listen. Same goes for selling them your paid membership.

The listener journey ends with an individual becoming a paid supporter.

  1. Listener (i.e., subscribes to your show via a podcast app)
  2. Fan (i.e., advocates for your show by leaving a review or recommending it to friends)
  3. Paid supporter (i.e., pays to support your podcast via merch, paid membership, etc.)

A listener progresses through each step of this journey by going through the “Awareness → Consideration → Desire to Act” cycle to engage with the next step.

It’s important to remember that where the audience journey ends varies by listener. Individuals may stop listening. A big fan may never become a paid supporter. That’s okay! What matters is that you make it as easy as possible for a member to engage with your show and progress along the audience journey. 

Anywhere you and your podcast lives should “funnel” listeners towards your paid membership. Think of it this way: if your audience engages with your show, they should be able to act and can progress to the next of the audience journey. If they can’t, you have a leaky funnel.

For example, let’s say someone heard about your show on Twitter. Here’s what their journey should look like:

A simple landing page for your podcast and its paid membership is easy to manage and maintain. It’s also easier to build on top of. Combined with an email or a social media handle, it’s all most paid memberships need. The more social channels and platforms your show uses, the more potential for leaks in your funnel.

If all your podcast’s content always empower an audience member to take the next step in their journey, you can focus on growing:

  • Your listening audience.
  • Your paying supporters.
  • The length of a paid supporter’s membership.

You should always try to attract new listeners to your podcast. The more listeners you have, the more potential customers your paid membership has.

If you have an audience outside of your podcast listeners, make them aware of your show and your paid membership. Folks who already follow you are the people most likely to engage with you further.

Here are a few more tactics for attracting new listeners to your show.

  • Interviews.
  • Host-swaps.
  • Ads.
Do an interview to attract new listeners to your podcast.

Doing a cross-show interview is a great way to incentivize another podcast audience to check out your show, but this tactic works if you’re interviewing anyone with an audience. Anecdotally, this is the single-best tactic for growing a listener base that Supercast and DoubleUp teams have seen.

  • Interviewing someone with an audience brings both the subject’s credibility and their audience to your show.
  • Having your subject promote their interview increases how many new people will find out about your show, so let them know when it’s going to be published and send them a reminder the day it goes out. Whenever you promote your guests on social, make sure to include their (correct) handles so they can help promote the episode too.
  • Re-promoting your most popular guest interviews let you use your most popular episodes to introduce new audiences to your show, again and again.
Do a host-swap to attract new listeners to your podcast

Interacting with another host or creator is a great way to introduce yourself to their audience. For example:

  • Having a guest host for an episode brings the guest host’s audience to your podcast.
  • Guest hosting someone else’s podcast introduces you and your show to another show’s audience. 
Using ads to attract new listeners to your podcast

Once you have a paid podcast, you should have a dedicated “ad spot” on each episode of your podcast to promote it to your listeners. 

Digital and podcast ads are both ways to help grow your audience, but you need to know what you’re doing to have ads work for your show. In general:

  • Invest in ads that you know will work. If a social media post proves to be a hit (and links back to your show), paying to boost its reach can help bring in new listeners.
  • Target your existing audience. Retargeting your website visitors is a cheap way to reach folks who already started your audience journey. One degree of separation is where you’ll find a similar-but-new audience.  
  • Make your ads timely to make them relevant. Time ads around launches can make them exponentially more successful by building awareness or convincing new audiences to learn more.

Your conversion rate measures the percentage of your listeners that become paid supporters. The higher your conversion rate, the bigger the portion of your listeners that will take action and become paid supporters.

To increase your paid membership’s conversion rate, you need to promote your paid membership to your target audience: your podcast’s listeners. The audience journey shows how audiences need to be aware of something before they consider it and then take action. That includes your paid membership and the premium content that supports it.

Audiences find premium content valuable if it provides one of these things:

  • Access (to a podcast community, its creators, or privileged content).
  • Insight (into how a podcast is made or content that appears on the show).
  • Recognition (from the podcast or the wider world).
  • Exclusive “Bonuses” aligned with the podcasts core offering, like uncut or unreleased episodes.

By making audiences aware of your paid membership and its value, you make it more likely that they’ll convert into paid members. Here’s how to promote your paid membership to your listeners so that they’ll become paid supporters.

Promote your paid membership to turn listeners into paying supporters

Once you have a paid podcast, you should have a dedicated “ad spot” on each episode of your podcast to promote it to your listeners. This is an opportunity to make your listeners aware of the paid membership and its value. 

When promoting your paid membership, showcase it in terms of what makes it valuable to your audience(access, insight, recognition, and exclusive bonuses). 

  • “Members get access to a longer version of this episode in their private feed…”
  • “Members get insights into upcoming episodes first…”
  • “Let’s recognize the newest members that made this week’s episode possible…”
  • “Members get bonus episodes every second week…”

By consistently promoting your paid membership on your podcast, you are making your audience journey smoother with each new episode. The benefits are cumulative: as both your show and your audience grow, these promos will continue to grow your paid membership at the same time.

Preview your premium content to turn listeners into paying supporters

Occasionally previewing your paid membership’s premium content is a great way to showcase its value to your listeners. 

  • Release one of your paid membership’s bonus episodes to your podcast’s free feed each quarter.
  • Release a portion of a bonus episode to the beginning or end of a typical episode.
  • Release some of your premium content to the public via social.
  • Make some of your premium content free for a limited time to drive interest.

You don’t want to make all your premium content free, but you shouldn’t be stingy about sharing it. You are getting more value from your premium content each time you share it. 

There’s a lot of room for experimentation with this tactic too:

  • You can test new kinds of premium content with your wider audience.
  • You can see if there are kinds of premium content your paying audience likes that your free audience doesn’t.

How and when you preview your premium content should be shaped by how your audience reacts to it. 

Celebrate your members to turn listeners into paying supporters

Recognizing your paying supporters with a literal callout is always a good idea. It provides social proof for the value of your paid membership while making your paid supporters feel special. 

  • Encourage and retweet comments about your show on social media.
  • Preview and share member reactions to premium content.
  • Name and celebrate your newest paid supporters each podcast episode.
Offer discounts to turn listeners into paying supporters

Offering discounts or incentives is like pouring gas on a fire. You probably can’t do it all the time, but it’s a great way to grow your audience fast. 

  • If you keep an email list, give your most engaged members a free preview of your paid membership.
  • Make a time-based discount code to drive paid membership signups over a specific time period.
  • Offer limited-time benefits if listeners become paid supporters within a specific time period.

Discounts and incentives work best when they’re time-boxed and targeted at listeners considering the next step in the audience journey (i.e., your most engaged listeners). 

By reducing how often a paid supporter leaves their membership—or increasing how long a paid member keeps one—you engage your most valuable audience members while bolstering your bottom line. This is called churn. The better your churn, the more your paid membership earns over time. 

You can reduce your paid membership’s churn by:

  • Reaching out and asking members why they left (and then making changes based on their feedback)
  • Analyze when members typically leave to identify issues and put in preventative measures (e.g. A podcast was wondering why so many members left after a single month. It turns out they weren’t delivering about half of their membership’s premium content.) 
  • Showing members you care before they leave (by regularly recognizing them and asking for feedback on ways to improve). 

You can never eliminate churn, nor should you try. A 2-4% churn is a typical and healthy rate for growing your podcast business.