Two More Cents on Longevity for Religious Podcasts

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

From my post about my favorite religious podcasts over a year ago:

I worry that these podcasts aren’t sponsored enough. Everything I listen to in the tech world is sponsored and a good business for those who host the podcast. It ensures it’s worth their time to keep making a great podcast. Luke Norsworthy has had a monthly sponsor most months this year. The Liturgists have just launched a Patreon campaign to fund more episodes like the one they put together on LGBTQ. Of all the episodes I’ve listened to of Nomad, they’ve never hinted at trying to make some money, except joking about raising money to interview Christian thinkers and practitioners in US America.

I hope that some of these folks can find a sponsorship model that works for them and is sustainable, so they can continue to produce great content. It takes a lot of work to produce a really good show. Their work deserves to be compensated.

Not much has changed. Of all the podcasts in the Religion and Spirituality category I listen to, Luke Norsworthy’s is still the only one I ever hear ads on. The Liturgists have a hugely successful Patreon (bringing in almost $16,000/month). Nomad has also gone that route, and are bringing in enough to pay some of the bills (though I don’t think they’re anywhere near the scale of The Liturgists). Following this trend, Peter Enns and Jared Byas have have just kicked off their Patreon campaign for the Bible for Normal People, as have the DeConstructionists.

My question is: why won’t more podcasts do advertising? The medium is proven to work well for ads. Is the scale not there yet? Are advertisers not interested in this demographic? Not likely—advertisers are interested in everyone with a pulse and a wallet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that guys like Tim and Dave (we’ll miss you on the show every other week, Dave!) of Nomad are finally getting some compensation for the incredible product they’ve shipped consistently for 8+ years. I’d just like to see the Patreon campaigns alongside some simple ad reads, so that those who can’t or don’t want to pay $12-60/year to listen to podcasts can, in some way, support the creators. The Talk Show, ATP, and Hello Internet know how to do ads—really well. Their podcasts are a significant part of their income, and I don’t have to pay anything to enjoy it or to feel like I’m supporting them. I suspect the hosts of these religious podcasts have rarely listened to shows outside of their genre. They may not know that independent podcasters can advertise, that there is a classy way to advertise on podcasts, and that Squarespace, Hover, and Audible will sponsor just about anyone with a big enough audience.

Back to this emerging Patreon phenomenon. $1/month isn’t a lot, but $5/month for one podcast is. To compare, Netflix gives you access to a tremendous catalog of entertainment for only $8/month. Apple Music gives you access to almost all of the music, ever, in the history of the universe, for $10/month. $5/month for one show—even the best show—is pricey in comparison. I realize that people who pay that much do so to support the creators of the podcast directly, or to access bonus content that isn’t otherwise available. I just worry, again, that it’s not sustainable, given that these podcasters are now having to do even more work to make their Patreon more appealing to their patrons.

And while we’re talking about leaving money on the table, what about Amazon affiliate links? With all of these interview shows with authors, surely some percentage of listeners buys the book. As far as I can tell, Nomad, Newsworthy with Norsworthy, the DeConstructionists—whose whole format depends on interviews—aren’t using affiliate links to the books that they link to. It may not have a big impact on their bottom line, but why not get a small kickback, especially since they’re doing free advertising by interviewing the book’s author. Even The Bible for Normal People, who aren’t just interviewing people coming out with new books, speak with authors and link to a book or two of theirs in the show notes. Let your audience know that buying the book through your link will give you a small kickback. We’re thrilled to help.

I’m interested in longevity because I love these shows and want them to be sustainable. They’re a tremendous resource and should be compensated. Direct listener support through sites like Patreon is an important piece of the puzzle. But the vast majority of listeners will never pay to listen to podcasts. I bet they would listen to a 60-second ad read though, and maybe even benefit from it.

Who is going to connect these podcasters to companies wanting to advertise to new audiences? If I had the time, I’d give it a go.

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