How to Build a Business from Podcasting

“I spent the better part of last year trying to envision a business built on podcasting, and didn’t come up with anything that I believed in.” – Dave Winer

Like Dave and so many others, I’ve done the same thing and ended up with the same conclusion. Recently on the PodcastMN mailing list the conversation of making money from podcasting came up. Though there’s a big difference between making money and building a business, these are the half dozen off-the-top-of-my-head strategies that make sense to me.

  1. Build better tools and sell them – making podcasting easier.
    This is what software companies like Rogue Amoeba, Odeo, and are doing.
  2. Sell implementation of the free, open source tools you build.
    Take a look at the BetDirCaster, it ties together a bunch of open source tools, you can download it and install it yourself for free or you can pay Working Pathways (or your geeky nephew) to do it.
  3. Sell training helping people become podcasters.
    These are classes, tutorials, and other one-on-one interactions helping people use the tools they’re most comfortable with to publish a podcast. This is what we did with
  4. Sell production services to companies with more money than time.
    Think professional services podcasts – I’m also a big fan of this one. Anyone that’s been podcasting for more than 9 months is an expert enough to produce other podcasts.
  5. Sell filtering services
    Help people find the most relevant podcasts for them. This is huge and yet unanswered. I’ve talked about this before in A Business Model for Abundance. I’ve heard of a couple projects in the works that acknowledge this problem, but I haven’t seen anything that addresses it in a useful way.
  6. Sell other stuff through your show like the CDs from the bands on your podcast where a couple bucks goes to your podcast.
    I’ve praised Dave Slusher for going down this road, also Kris Smith is now offering the Best of the Croncast CD & DVD. I expect more of this.

As you can tell from this list, I prefer the ‘because of…not with’ models, as in “it’s far more important (and interesting) to make money because of our blogs, rather than with them” – Doc Searls.

Advertising might work as product placement, on a one-off basis. Ad networks won’t work for two reasons:

  1. The larger the network, the more generic the ad message, the more inappropriate the ad message
  2. Any commonality across a podcast can be skipped or re-edited programmatically. If listeners know an ad message will last 10 seconds at the beginning of a podcast, a script could be written to splice out that bit upon download. Though, you could probably charge for that splicing app.

Charging to access mp3 podcasts will work once. Customer #1 will buy them, then redistribute them for free. Anything other than an mp3 (m4p, mov, etc) artificially limits reception. And if you want to limit when and where people listen to a podcast – just stream it.