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Welcome to Chapter 4 in our 9-part Subscription Guide. (If you missed it, our previous chapter was Chapter 3: How to Know What Your Podcast Audience Really Wants.)
Many people believe that running a podcast subscription program is time-consuming and onerous. The truth is, it can be—but it doesn’t have to be.
Does creating all-new bonus content for your program take time? Sure. But there’s nothing that says you have to create new content!
There are almost two dozen subscriber extras outlined in this post alone. Many of them are low-cost, low-lift options that still add tons of value for a supporter.
It’s all about being smart with what you offer, and finding a balance between what your listeners want and what you can reasonably produce.
One bonus to rule them all. … Nope.
There’s a lot of info out there about what audio creators most commonly offer as subscriber bonuses. The trouble is, a lot of podcasters default to the same handful of obvious choices. And many subscription programs aren’t all that successful.
So telling you what all those people are doing doesn’t really help you weigh what you should offer. Knowing your audience is critical.
Tim Ferriss once experimented with offering his subscribers an ad-free version of his public show. It flopped!
That’s because Tim’s listeners really appreciate the customized and well-crafted ads that he reads. They look to those ads for guidance on new products and services to try. So taking them out wasn’t of value to them—it took away value.
The point is that no single bonus is going to be the thing that works for every show and every audience.
Here are 23 ideas for bonus content and subscriber perks to expand your thinking around what’s possible with a podcast subscription program.
1. Extended episodes
Extended episodes leverage your existing workflows to create bonus content for subscribers without a lot of extra effort on your part.
For example, if you normally air 45-minute guest interviews, cut the public interviews back to 30 minutes and reserve the last 15 minutes for your paid subscribers.
Or, extend your interviews with each guest to one hour, keep the public version at 45 minutes and still have 15 minutes for your paid subscribers.
Hear it in action: We’ve found great success with the extended episode bonus on the Supercasters podcast. Hear how we do it by becoming a free Supercasters subscriber here. For a great sample episode, try the public and private versions of SC008, featuring our interview with radio personality turned podcast producer Matt Staudt.
2. Early access to regular episodes
Early access to regular content can be incredibly appealing to your most passionate listeners.
Breaking Points drops episodes to subscribers of their popular news show one hour early. Their fans are so eager for their content that the hour lead time is exciting.
Other shows have success releasing episodes anywhere from one day to one week early, depending on the frequency of their regular publishing schedule.
3. Unfiltered episodes
Subscribers want to hear more from you—so why not indulge them with unfiltered episodes?
More indulgent content, such as longer, less focused, more controversial or expletive-laden material, can be riskier with a broad audience. There may be good reasons to keep that content out of your free feed, but the (metaphorical) lack of polish can be incredibly appealing to folks who want to feel like they’re part of your inner circle.
Just make sure you don’t release anything to your private feed that you wouldn’t want to be known out in the world. Just because it’s your private feed doesn’t mean someone can’t talk about it. If there are guests involved, you may also want to get their permission to release their unfiltered content.
4. Unreleased episodes
If you have full episodes tucked away on a hard drive somewhere that didn’t quite make the publishing cut, but you know your diehard fans would love to hear them anyway, release them as bonus episodes. This can be a particularly great option for very early or experimental episodes that you decided to shelve for various reasons.
If overall quality is a concern or there’s problematic content, chop the episodes down into their best parts. It’s not about releasing perfect content—it’s about giving your biggest fans something they won’t get anywhere else.
5. Outtakes, bloopers, and “off the mic” chatter
Did it take you 20 takes to nail that ad read? Did you flub that interview question in a funny way? Release the outtakes! If you have a co-host, you can also record the chit-chat between the two of you in the moments before and after the “real” recording.
Raw content offers a humanizing glimpse into you and your show that people love—it helps them feel like they’re part of a secret, eavesdropping on the “real” you that not everyone gets to hear.
Outtake clips don’t have to be long to be a bonus content hit.
6. Supporter shoutouts
Acknowledging your paid supporters publicly is one of the easiest, least expensive things you can do—and yet it pays crazy dividends. People love to feel “seen.”
Recognition can be as simple as a shoutout in an episode of your show. Or it can be as involved as engraving a fan’s name on a plaque on the show set, as Saagar Enjeti and Krystal Ball of Breaking Points do for their lifetime subscribers.
7. Show input or participation
Many of your fans will get a thrill from feeling like they’re involved in the show in some way. You have lots of options here so think about what might work for you. For example, you could allow subscribers to:
- Suggest guests or topics for future episodes
- Contribute questions for the guests ahead of recording
- Participate in the interview recording and ask their question live (reserve this for high-level supporters)
- Vote on merchandise designs
- Vote on where to donate a portion of your show revenue
- Vote on story or character development (for fiction podcasts)
8. An ad-free version of your show
If your public show has ads, offering subscribers an ad-free experience is an obvious choice. Just don’t assume this has to be your #1 offering.
When US podcast listeners were polled about what would most influence them to pay for their favorite podcast, an ad-free feed was the second choice, ranking well behind exclusive content.
9. Higher quality audio
Most MP3 podcast files are published at a 96 kbps (kilobytes per second) bitrate. It’s a good balance between sound quality and file size.
But if your listeners are audiophiles and really care about sound quality, you could bump up the bitrate for your paying subscribers.
10. Back catalog or archive access
If your show has been running for a while and you’ve got an extensive archive of past episodes, an easy offer for your paying subscribers is access to all that older content.
Make sure to always keep a generous selection of episodes available on your public feed so that your locked archive doesn’t prevent your show from growing. If there are particularly popular episodes in your archive that continue to drive lots of traffic to your show, consider keeping them public too.
When Gina Ryan of The Anxiety Coaches Podcast set up her subscriber program, she brought an archive of over 600 episodes with her. She remastered each one and took out the ads. It was quite a project to get all those episodes edited but now that ad-free back catalog is a massive subscriber draw.
11. Downloadable music and artwork from your show
One of Alie Ward’s Ologies listeners had Alie’s signature and a shark that she drew tattooed on their arm. Now that’s a fan!
Your subscribers may not go as far as permanently inking their body with your brand (or would they?!), but many of them would appreciate branded assets like desktop or mobile wallpaper, your show music or stingers for making ringtones, or your logo or podcast artwork.
Tip: Make sure you’re within your usage guidelines for any purchased music or sound effects before sharing.
12. Ask Me Anythings (AMAs)
Your audience is probably already asking you questions on social media, through fan mail, and in real life. Answer the best ones on air and you’ve got fresh content that you know is aligned to your audience’s interests.
Producing a regular Q&A episode is a fairly easy way to produce bonus content for your subscribers.
Tip: The Supercast AMA feature lets you collect questions on your podcast page and subscribers can vote up their favorite ones. When you answer a question in an episode, you can link to the timestamp of the answer on the question page.
13. Branded merchandise
Everybody loves merch! Socks, mugs, t-shirts, stickers, tote bags, and hoodies are always popular but also consider items thematically related to your show. Throw them in as bonuses at the higher tiers to incent plan upgrades or offer discounts on purchases.
Add a form to your member page or welcome email to collect shipping addresses.
Tip: Use a print-on-demand shop to fulfill orders as they come in so you don’t have to hold stock.
The Daily Beans includes a branded mug with the $10/month plan, a tote bag at $15, a t-shirt at $20, and a hoodie with the $50/month plan. Sweet!
14. Private community access
Offering paid subscribers access to a community space where they can talk to each other can be a very appealing bonus.
It’s a way to extend the experience of your podcast way beyond the content you create. Channels for discussing episodes and sharing resources or fan content can be run entirely by listeners, and collecting all your biggest fans in one place gives you a valuable source of feedback.
Your community might be something fairly simple like a private Facebook group, a Discord, or Slack channel. Or it could be more elaborate, like a membership on Circle.
A little effort helps this tactic flourish. Greet new fans when they join the community, host office hours in premium channels, or solicit thoughts on the latest episode to keep the community active and growing.
15. Live streams
Recording podcasts in your office, bedroom, or closet studio can be a lonely experience—which is why a live audience can be so energizing. You can get immediate feedback and another potential channel for building an audience.
Live stream your recording sessions or indulge in some experimental or offbeat content. It doesn’t have to be every episode. The live streams might be once a month or on another cadence you decide.
There are a bunch of ways to approach video extras for your podcast, from inexpensive to deluxe. If you’re just dipping your toes into video, start small.
If you record your interviews with something like Zoom, Riverside, or Zencaster, turn on the video option. Now you’ve got some video material to work with.
Also think outside the episode box. You can record short monologue videos for your fans using your phone. Tell them about your day, give them a sneak peek into upcoming content, share quick thoughts and tips—the sky’s the limit.
The production on these monologues doesn’t have to be super-polished. In fact, an unedited, low-fi video creates a great feeling of intimacy and authenticity that your fans will likely appreciate.
Tip: Supercast gives you an easy way to upload unlisted YouTube and Vimeo videos for your subscribers to watch.
17. Show notes and production diaries
Regardless of your show’s format, you probably keep track of the work you do in some way. Maybe you draft scripts, keep a production diary, compile research documents, or jot down interview notes. All that material can be released to premium subscribers as a deeper look into your content and the making of your show.
Peter Attia’s The Drive is a great example. Peter’s podcast features deep-dive interviews that touch on dozens of topics, studies, and products. Paid subscribers get access to exhaustively detailed notes to help guide them through each episode.
Podcast transcripts are a nice extra that give your listeners flexibility for consuming or referencing your content.
What’s more, with AI advances in the last couple of years, transcripts are fairly quick and easy to produce. If your podcast audio was recorded with decent equipment, automated transcription services like Descript, Otter, Rev.ai, and Trint can usually get you 90% of the way there.
Then, with a little bit of editing and cleanup, you’re ready to go.
19. Subscriber-only episodes
Subscriber-only content is the bonus that most people have in mind when they think of podcast subscription. And it’s why they assume offering subscriptions is a big time suck.
Yes, subscriber-only content can be a lot of extra work to produce. It’s also insanely valuable to your audience. So if you choose to offer this bonus, make sure you reserve it for your higher tiers and charge accordingly.
Tip: Creating content that’s just for paid supporters can be a low-risk way to experiment with your show. Try a new format, a new character, or a new segment. How do fans react?
If the feedback is positive, you might have hit on something to take out to your free audience.
20. Host or cast access
For non-fiction podcasts, direct access to you (the host) can take many forms. Consider:
- A 1:1 consulting or coaching call if that’s relevant to your podcast
- An exclusive group webinar where subscribers can ask you questions live
- A chance to ask a question by email and get a personal response from you
FoundMyFitness offers subscription plans at a range of price points, but only the top plan at $250/month gets access to a monthly live hangout with host Dr. Rhonda Patrick.
Tip: Limit 1:1 calls or personal responses to what you feel you can reasonably manage for the plan price. For example, your 1:1 call might be a one-time 15-minute session.
Alie Ward of Ologies found out the hard way that certain bonuses just don’t scale sustainably. Hear more about the mistake she made in Supercasters episode SC012.
Fiction podcasts can get creative with cast access. You can offer group chats too, but what about short personalized recordings in character voices, a la Cameo, at certain tiers? Autographed photos might also be popular. Have fun brainstorming different options.
21. Readings of your blog posts or newsletter
Your listeners are clearly fans of audio. And in many cases, they may prefer audio over text content. For example, they might like listening while on the move or completing other tasks. They might like the option of listening at 1.5x or 2x speed to get through content faster. Or maybe they’re audio learners instead of reading learners.
Whatever the reason, many listeners will appreciate a reading of the text content you might also produce, such as blog posts or newsletters.
Bryan Barletta of the Sounds Profitable podcast also regularly writes in-depth blog posts. We’re talking 2,000-word deep dives on meaty topics. Knowing that not everyone has the time to read that much, Bryan also offers his blog posts as podcast recordings to his subscribers.
22. Resource curation
Instead of providing value with extra stuff, what about saving subscribers time and effort? Curated content provides a resource focused on something your audience finds valuable.
Your curated content could be a regular production, like a monthly roundup of websites, books, other podcasts, tweets, and interesting things you’ve found.
It might also be a standing list or directory that you update as you come across new information.
At certain tiers, you might allow your subscribers to contribute to the resource list. You get help building content, your listeners feel like they’re participating, and everyone enjoys the crowdsourced resources. Win-win-win!
23. Spinoff or sister podcast
A spinoff podcast can be one of the most valuable things a paid subscriber can access, and can help you significantly boost what you charge for certain plans.
Of course, there’s a cost to you as well, as a separate podcast can add significant workload. A smart way to tackle this is to make your spinoff podcast a curated selection or edit of all your other content.
This is how Dr. Peter Attia produces his subscriber-only podcast, The Qualys. Peter’s main episodes are detailed and in-depth interviews often running to two hours each, while the Qualys episodes are “typically less than ten minutes, and highlight the best questions, topics, and tactics discussed on the [main show].”
By selecting short snippets from existing content, Peter saves production time. At the same time, he’s delivering tremendous value to subscribers by providing a quick digest of his best stuff.
What did we miss? Are you having success with offering something else to your podcast subscribers? If you have ideas for bonus content or extras, tweet us @supercast.
But how much would my listeners be willing to pay? Read what’s next in our Subscription Guide with Chapter 5: How to Price Your Podcast Subscription for Maximum Sales.