How Much Are Podcasts Worth?

Or crowdfunded content in general?

April 06, 2018

It’s “Fund Drive” season on almost all of my favorite podcasts. As a listener of NPR, it makes sense that podcasts would share the same listener supported business model. I listen to a lot of podcasts, so karma is nudging me saying I should support good content that I enjoy.

A five dollar bill

The going rate seems to be $5/month. That’s fair. For the price of a cup of fancy coffee, you get to support an independent content creator who produces something you truly enjoy. Fair enough.

But then my cynical homo economicus brain takes over and says.. “Wait, $5!?! That’s like half a Netflix! For only one show!” Suddenly, $5 seems astronomically high. And 5 dollars times the 30 podcasts in my queue, that would bankrupt me! And I bet those dirty podcast hosts still run ads! Those greedy bastards are just in it for the money.

Sometimes I’ll hear a podcaster/streamer/YouTuber pitch their Patreon and I’m “Psshaw. What are you? Some kind of Content Missionary? You go to foreign countries and preach the good news of Relevant Content?”

Twitch is actually the platform I understand the least. People will fork over monthly subscriptions for… custom emotes?! THEN subscribers will tip hundreds of dollars mid-stream just to hear the streamer say, “Thanks, dude” and go back to playing video games. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, I’m just saying I don’t get it.

I did however realize recently that one Twitch streamer I put on some mornings as background noise is basically my Ellen, if Ellen played first-person shooters. Everyday he’s 10,000 other people’s Ellen too. It’s content I enjoy. Why not pay for it?

Under that lens, I do begin to understand it. The democratization of content and the crowdfunding economy means you pay what you want for the content you want. Content just the way I like it. And if the show gets too popular or starts running too many ads, I can cut back. Or embrace it because goshdarnit I really do wish these people success.

So back to the original question, how much are podcasts worth? I like the $5/month number. For a weekly podcast, that’s ~$1/episode. Just doing some napkin math, if Shop Talk got $5/month from every listener, we could certainly quit doing ads. Heck, we could retire on gold-plated space yachts and edit out the “ummmms”. But it’s more likely that only a fraction of a percent of our audience would ever support us financially.

This has me thinking. I make a few bucks on ads with Shop Talk and this blog. My plan is funnel my “Shop Talk Bucks” into a handful of creators. I like this because it will turn me from a passive freeloader into an active consumer. I want to be apart of the economy that supports good people. Maybe I’ll start with five things. Hopefully grow it to a dozen. Then maybe a couple dozen. We’ll see.

If we all chucked $20/month at content creators or open source developers we like, that’d form a pretty neat micro-economy.

To keep myself accountable, I invite you to ask me about it whenever you want and I’ll let you know what I’m funding. I’ll also keep track of it here. I’ve got a few more on my “Soon to Fund” list. If you know of any sweet indie content creators I should follow and check out, please leave a comment.

Currently Funding

Maximum Fun
I listen to a lot of McElroy Brothers content. Lots.
$5
Game Maker’s Toolkit
Mark Brown’s videos teach me so much not just about video games, but about what makes products engaging.
$3
Incredible Doom by Matthew Bogart
A coming of age story set during the dawn of the Internet. I love it.
$4