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This is Chapter 8 in our 9-part Subscription Guide. (If you missed it, our previous chapter was Chapter 7: Preparing an Epic Podcast Subscription Launch.)
Asking for money is hard. But if you want to be successful with subscription podcasting, it’s something you’ll need to learn how to do, and do well.
Radiolab co-founder Mikel Ellcessor says most pleas for support “really suck” because they’re “extremely self-centered and needy and not very audience-centric.” The trick to making listener support work, he says, is bringing people in.
The best subscription pitches answer these 4 questions
Building on the idea of bringing people in, we’ve found that the best subscription pitches answer four questions very clearly.
1. Why does your show exist?
No messing around—we’re diving straight into the existential questions here. What exactly is your show’s mission? The most successful podcasts and subscription programs have the clearest descriptions of why they do what they do.
A great mission statement can be the difference between a podcast and a podcast people want to listen to, says veteran radio and podcast producer Matty Staudt. Equally, a clear mission makes the difference between a subscription program and a subscription program that people sign up to.
2. Why are you asking for listener support?
What will income from subscribers help you do? The answer might be about you, your show, or your listeners and is often closely tied to your show mission.
For example, support could allow you to:
- Produce more content
- Go deeper on research
- Keep the show going by quitting your full-time job and focusing on it 100%
- Upgrade your production quality
- Give a platform to more guests with an important message
Be as specific as possible. What do you mean by upgrading production quality, for instance, and what will that ultimately make possible? Hiring a professional audio engineer would certainly improve the sound quality but it might also help you get episodes out faster. If you’re no longer editing your own audio, it might also mean you’ll have more time to answer listener questions.
3. What do subscribers get for their money?
Share the price of your subscription and details of what’s included with the plan. Put yourself in the shoes of your listener and describe the perks in terms they’ll care about.
For example, if they’ll get ad-free episodes maybe this will create a more relaxed listening experience. Or maybe it’s about helping listeners be more efficient with their time. Understanding why they’ll care about the perk goes back to understanding the value your podcast creates in your listeners’ lives.
4. How do people sign up?
In marketing lingo, this last piece of your pitch is called the CTA—the call to action. It’s what you want people to do next, and it’s really, really important. After all, you can convince listeners of the value of a subscription all you want but if they don’t know how to sign up, you’re not going to get any business.
The CTA for your podcast is pretty simple: You want people to subscribe to your show by going to the signup page. That means you want to include the link to your signup page everywhere you mention your premium program.
Occasionally, it might also make sense to describe the actual subscription process to reinforce how easy it is for a listener to complete, especially on a platform like Supercast.
Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti of Breaking Points are the masters of subscription pitches.
The co-hosts have a crystal clear mission that they bring into every subscription mention, from their sales page to their podcast spots to their YouTube channel. With shorter and longer ways of saying it, they’ve got handy phrasing for every media.
- Beat corporate media
- Say “screw you” to CNN, Fox, and MSNBC
- Make everyone hate each other less and the corrupt ruling class more
They share openly about why they’re looking for support.
- We took a big risk going independent (ie. we quit our media jobs and we can’t continue making the show without your support)
- We don’t have soulless billionaires or corporations backing our high-end TV production
- Help us fulfill our mission
They do a great job of highlighting the perks of subscription, and always include the call to action in everything.
Listen to how Saagar brings all the pieces together in under a minute on their free podcast.
On YouTube, Krystal and Saagar end every episode in a 20-second spiel that effectively covers the mission, perks, and how to subscribe.
Canadian journalist Jesse Brown is also an expert at making funding pitches to the audience of his flagship news podcast, Canadaland, and the set of related shows.
Like Breaking Points, the mission for the Canadaland network is unmistakably clear. Jesse also does a wonderful job of explaining what the audience’s money supports. Yes, there are perks to being a Canadaland subscriber, but for this journalism-focused network, one of the biggest listener perks is knowing they’re supporting an important cause.
Jesse also runs his subscription program in a different way than many podcasters. Each year, he designates a crowdfunding month where he drives his audience to subscribe or increase their subscription. For that whole month, you hear in detail about why Canadaland needs listener support. We’re talking 20 minutes worth of detail at the start of an episode.
It really works.
Listen to how Jesse goes deep on the mission of his network. He introduces his team members to put a name and a voice to the salaries that the subscriptions pay for. He talks about all of the great ways Canadaland has been able to fulfill its mission in the past year, and looks ahead to what further funding will unlock. Throughout the 20 minutes, he sprinkles in the website address for people to go to.
Demetri Kofinas of Hidden Forces is great at playing on his audience’s FOMO (fear of missing out) and working a subscription pitch seamlessly into every episode. Listen to this intro on one of his free podcast episodes.
The podcast description at the top is the Hidden Forces mission. Demetri then sets up that week’s interview with an enticing peek into what you’ll hear. Excited to hear it? He then drops that you could have heard this interview last week if you were a subscriber, and goes on to explain all the in-depth material that subscribers have access to but you don’t.
These types of pitches, coupled with clever social media posts that also tap into his audience’s FOMO, have helped Demetri quickly grow his subscriber base.
Here he makes the call to action, not for audience members to subscribe, but for his paid subscribers to log in to access their goodies. For the rest of his audience, it’s kind of like watching business class members get called to board the plane first. You want that too!
Doctor Peter Attia funds his health science podcast entirely from subscriptions. He starts each free episode with a super-quick review of his mission (provide the best content in health and wellness) and a quick call to action, coupled with a promise to tell you more later in the show.
At the end of the episode, he fulfills the promise, once again reviewing his mission and why he’s asking for support (allows us to bring in more in-depth, exclusive content without relying on paid ads), along with a full list of all the member perks.
The subscription pitch on Peter’s website is a textbook example of answering the four questions.
- Mission: Translate the science of longevity into something accessible, digestible, and actionable for everyone
- Why support? Provide all the content without relying on paid advertising
- Perks: 6 highlighted boxes
- CTA: Start your subscription
What’s your subscription pitch?
Set aside some time to really think about your answers to the four pitch questions.
- Why does your show exist?
- Why are you asking for listener support?
- What do subscribers get for their money?
- How do people sign up?
Brainstorm all the possibilities. If you’ve got feedback or surveys from your audience, dig into those for potential insights.
Once you’ve got the bullet points or key ideas in place, the next step is to start crafting the actual language you’ll use.
Start with a longer version that includes everything you’ve thought of. Then condense that down to a few lines. See how tightly you can distill it while still hitting all the key points.
You may find that the condensed version helps you see what’s most important. You can take that perspective back to the longer version to help clean it up.
Once you’re happy with the story your pitch tells, you’re ready to take it public.
Ready to promote? Read what’s next in our Subscription Guide with Chapter 9: 7 Places to Promote Your Paid Podcast to Reach the Biggest Audience.