Create a Paid Membership for Your Podcast

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3

A complete list of benefits for your podcast’s paid membership

It takes surprisingly little effort to produce a paid membership that your show’s biggest fans will love.

You need premium content to support your paid membership before you can expect listeners to pay for it. Premium content can come in many forms, all of which are listed below.

Depending on your approach and what your audience finds valuable, it can take a few minutes or several hours a week to regularly produce premium content.

The benefits of premium content

Creating content for a paid membership takes a little time, but the benefits are huge.

  • More listeners pay for your paid membership (because it becomes more valuable with each piece of premium content you add to it). 
  • More listeners advocate for your show and its paid membership (because your premium members are increasingly engaged).
  • Your show’s audience grows in size and engagement (because your show’s core offering remains focused).

What kind of premium content should you make?

There are two things the premium content needs to accomplish:

  • Your audience needs to value it.
  • You need to get more out of it (e.g., paid membership revenue) than you put into it (i.e., time and effort).

You can create a diverse breadth of premium content to support your paid membership, but start simple. Once you have something your audience likes, you need to consistently and repeatedly deliver it at a price that makes sense. As long as you're doing that, your paid membership becomes more valuable with each piece of premium content you create.

Remember, the paid membership with the highest revenue on Patreon creates only one kind of premium content: an otherwise-typical episode of their show that only paid supporters can access. Creating a premium episode at the same rate as a free one isn't effortless, but those two-or-so episodes a month now generate over six-figures in monthly revenue.

How to create content podcast audiences will pay for

When you create content for your podcast, it’s crucial that its impact outweighs the effort you put in. Content with these characteristics is usually impactful:

  • 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.

Access rewards your biggest fans with special privileges. To provide access to paid supporters, you can offer:

  • Regular “Ask Me Anything” sessions.
  • Membership in the community Discord or Slack.
  • Access to archived or upcoming episodes.

Insights reward your biggest fans with special understanding into your show or creative process. To provide insight to paid supporters, you can offer:

  • Behind-the-scenes footage of how an episode is made.
  • Outtakes.
  • Show notes and production diaries.

Recognition rewards your biggest fans with personalized appreciation. To provide recognition to paid supporters , you can:

  • Give shoutouts to paid supporters in your podcast.
  • Allow paid supporters to vote on decisions.
  • Solicit questions or topics from paid supporters.

Exclusive bonuses reward your biggest fans with content that only they can enjoy. To provide bonuses to paid supporters , you can offer:

  • Special episodes only open to paid supporters. 
  • Digital art tied to the show.
  • Downloadable music or insights from your show.

A complete list of premium content you can create for paid supporters

Below is a comprehensive and actively updated list of content your podcast can offer with a premium subscription. From repackaging existing content to creating something entirely new, both effort and impact tend to increase the further down this list that you go.

An ad-free version of your show

A paid, ad-free RSS feed is easy to set up, doesn’t require any additional content, and it pleases both your paid subscribers and your advertisers (who still get to reach about ~95% of your audience).

An ad-free version of a show works for podcasts of all shapes and sizes, from independent podcasts like Twenty Thousand Hertz ($3/month to remove ads and access the show’s archive) to more comprehensive subscriptions like Slate’s Plus membership ($59/year for ad-free versions of Slate’s shows, bonus content, and other member benefits).

Back catalogue or archive access

If you’ve already established a catalogue of podcast episodes, one of the easiest and most sustainable ways to create a premium membership is to gate your old episodes.

Make sure to always keep a selection of episodes available for free on your public feed and that your paywall doesn’t prevent your show from growing. If there are popular past episodes in your archive that continue to drive lots of traffic to your show, consider keeping them public too.

New episodes

If putting most of your back catalogue behind the paywall isn’t an option, why not try the reverse and put just the most recent episodes back there?

The biggest challenge with gating your newest episodes is that your free feed isn’t as empowered to grow your wider audience. If your audience is still small, you should be focused on growing it and should probably pursue other premium content tactics.

Early access to regular episodes

Paid early access won’t affect your non-paying listeners, but it can be incredibly appealing to your most passionate listeners. As a bonus, those superfans can build hype and help promote your upcoming episodes.

Premium-only episodes

Instead of putting your newest or oldest episodes behind a paywall, you can release a premium-only episode in between your free, regularly-scheduled episodes. This offers a great balance of growing and engaging your free audience while offering a clear and growing incentive to becoming a premium member.

Extended or uncut episodes

Premium listeners want to hear more from you—why not indulge them with your extended or uncut episodes?

Riskier or more indulgent (i.e., longer, less focused) material is riskier in public. There can be a lot of reasons extra content like this doesn’t make it to 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 public!

Unreleased episodes

Do you have episodes that didn’t quite make the cut, but you know your diehard fans would love to hear? Release them as bonus episodes!

If the overall quality is a concern or there’s content that’s problematic, chop these episodes down into their best parts. It’s not about releasing a perfect episode—it’s about giving your biggest fans something they won’t get anywhere else.

Outtakes and interview chatter

Did it take you twenty takes to nail that ad read? Release the outtakes!

Record you and your teams pre- and post-show chatter. This raw content offers a genuine glimpse into your show, humanizing you and your cast while making your premium members feel like they’re part of the crew.

Community access

If you have an audience already, why not give them a shared space to connect and talk about your podcast?

Offering paid subscribers access to a community space is as simple as starting a community Discord or Slack. 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.

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.

Show notes and production diaries

Regardless of your show’s format (e.g. fiction, journalism, talking heads, etc.) you’re probably keeping track of the work you do for your show in some way, whether it’s in the form of a production diary, research documents, or interview notes. Why not clean those notes up a bit and release them to your subscribers?

Transcripts

Transcribing things can be a lot of work, but if your podcast audio was recorded with decent equipment and minimal background noise, automated transcription services like Descript and Temi can usually get you 90% of the way there.

Transcripts are great not just from a product perspective, but also because they can give your podcast an SEO boost (because web crawlers can’t listen to podcasts, but they can read text).

Q&As or Ask Me Anythings (AMAs)

Your audience is probably already asking you questions on social media, through fan mail and in real life. Why not answer the best ones on the air and make an event out of it?

You should already be seeking feedback like this from your audience. Productizing it takes it one step further, encouraging more engagement while creating more value for your premium membership.

Videos and live broadcasts

Videos and broadcasts are a lot of effort. But if you’ve got the budget and it aligns with the focus of your podcast, this kind of content can be the crown jewel of your premium offering.

If you’re already recording audio from in-person interviews, it’s never been quicker and easier to set up a camera and capture a quality video. Wistia has excellent tips for how to use an iPhone and a few accessories to produce high-quality video content, and live streaming platforms like Crowdcast have drastically simplified the process of setting up a live video stream.

Livestreams

A live and engaged audience is an incredibly valuable thing. You can livestream your recording sessions, or you can indulge in some experimental or offbeat content. You’ll get immediate feedback and another potential channel to build an audience on.

Exclusive episodes

Do you want to create an episode that doesn’t follow your show’s typical format? 

Creating an episode of your show that’s exclusive to paid supporters is also an opportunity to experiment with your show’s cast or format. This niche content can become a future formula for premium content, or it could be a one-off episode that epitomizes the exclusivity of your paid membership.

Spinoff or sister podcast

If you have a podcast with a highly engaged audience, a spinoff podcast could be one of the most valuable things a paid member can access.

Creating an entirely new podcast is not an effortless task. Depending on how much it aligns with your original show, you may have resources that reduce how much time and effort it takes to produce. Still, you should test an episode of your spinoff podcast before you effectively double your workload.

A spinoff podcast is an excellent way to pilot a new podcast with your audience while making your paid membership more valuable.

Fan recognition

Listeners recommending your podcast is your podcast’s main form of marketing. Why not encourage that behaviour by recognizing your biggest fans?

Listeners supporting and celebrating your show are proving the value of your podcast. Showcasing this support encourages more of it. Quote and retweet positive comments from listeners. Thank fans who leave reviews. Appreciate your paid supporters at every available opportunity, from a private thank you email to a public declaration of your appreciation on the show.

Fan participation

Engaging your audience is always a good idea. Give your audience the chance to participate in a fun or timely event loosely tied to your show. Ideally, the access or recognition you provide should peak with your most valuable paid members.

Fan-driven decisions

The best way to engage your audience is to take and implement their feedback. If you’re struggling for a topic or a decision tied to your show, why not ask your listeners what they think is best?

Have fans vote on merch designs, character choices, or new topics.

Personalized services

The most premium offering is one that’s personalized. Why not reward your biggest fans with a reward that’s special to them?

Personalized services can be difficult to scale. You either need to make a process that reduces how many resources you invest into creating this content, or you'll want to save it for your most valuable paid listeners.

Host or cast access

The bigger the fan, the more they’ll value access to your show’s cast.

Open up your process to paying supporters

Let your paying supporters see your process and project inner-workings as they’re being built. It’s work you’re already doing—why not package it up and sell it to someone who finds it valuable?

  • Livestream a podcast episode being recorded from end-to-end.
  • Share all the research, ideation, and emails that go into creating a podcast episode.
Audio essays

Depth and a niche focus create premium content. Turn your more specialized or atypical topics into audio essays for your paying subscribers. They’ll probably require a bit more effort than a typical episode, but they can be the ground jewel of a premium membership subscription too.

Premium curation i.e. links, resources

Instead of providing value with more stuff your paying supporters like, what about saving them time and effort?

Curated content provides provide a niche resource focused on something your audience finds valuable. You share your expertise and experience with listeners, they save time and energy by having it curated by you. Win, win!

“Director” Commentaries

People listen to your comments. Would your biggest fans be interested in your commentary outside of your show?

How you create and provide commentary depends on you and the content of your show. You can approach like a serious, craft-focused director’s commentary. You can approach it like humorous rifftrax. The tone and subject of your commentary are up to you.

Set up your private podcast feed

Once you’ve decided what kind of premium content you want to offer your paid supporters, you’ll need to set up a private RSS feed with a payment gateway so that you can deliver it to them.

Here are a few ways to setup a premium podcast feed that supports payments:

  • Use Supercast.
  • Use a third-party platform.
    • Create an account on a platform like Patreon.
    • Have listeners create third-party accounts to become paid supporters.
    • Have paying members copy and paste private feed links between their apps to access your premium content.
  • Use a combination of tools to create your own solution.
    • Create a website like a WordPress blog.
    • Use plugins to enable private feed distribution and any other paid membership features.
    • Use platforms like PayPal to facilitate payments.
    • Have listeners use your custom solution to become paid supporters.

Your paid membership’s conversion rate increases the easier it is for a listener to access your paid membership. Every extra step you require listeners to take reduces the number of people who will end up becoming customers.

We built Supercast to remove all of the friction associated with creating and selling a paid membership for your podcast. The less friction a listener accounts to become a paid supporter, the more listener’s that’ll make that transition. You don’t need to use multiple tools or platforms to create your own solutions. Listeners don’t need to download extra apps or go through extra steps to pay you or access their premium content.

If you aren’t a Supercast customer already, it takes mere minutes to set up an account and process your podcast’s first paid member. You get in-depth analytics and features that support your podcast’s paid products. More listeners become paid supporters, and paying supporters get a better experience.