Four Ways to Monetize your Podcast By Zach Baliva When Webster’s selected “P odcast” as the word of the year in 2005, it was becaus e the fledgling medium burst onto the scene and found itself accepted by mainstream computer users in an unprecedent ed and short amount of time. Today, countless providers carry thousands of podcasts ranging from those produced by Fortune 500 companies to those recorded by kids in their parents’ basements. If your internet radio show is closer to that basement than the Fortune 500, you’ve probably found it difficult to turn your hobby into a profitable venture. Here’s how to do just that. 1) Exploit Social Net working Outlets. Podcasts are produced and enjoyed online. E ven if your users obtain your show to their portable mp3 play er, they still have to interface online to receive your download. Your homepage should have a prominent graphic linking to your MySpace, Facebook and Twitter pages. These pages need not be fancy, they just need to be. Use these websites to make friends and attract a larger audience to your show. The bigger your audience, the more attractive you become to any potential advertisers. You should be keeping track of your audience, too. Not just download numbers, but page views as well. Ad buyers will want to k now both. 2) Maximize Your Revenue Vehicles. It sounds simple, but the more places you can eventually put a company’s logo, the more ways you can make money. If you don’t have a newsletter, add a sign-up function to your website and start a monthly one (this should be an “opt -in” newsletter; spamming will drive traffic away). Your website should be designed with future ads in mind. Leave room for advertising on the header, the footer, and along one of the side columns. An attractive and subtle link for potential advertisers to click will help notify anyone who sees your site that you are looking for sponsors hip. Don’t be afraid to find a casual way to mention this on the air as well; you might have listeners who are small or large business owners looking to advertise. 3) Know Your Target Buyers and Know What to Say. Is your show city-specific? Then seek out real estate agents, restaurants, entertainment hotspots, car dealers, and other local companies. They’ll be more interested if you can prove that the majority of your listeners are in their area, so you should think about implementing a listener survey on your website. If you’re not city-specific you, like most podcasts, probably have a niche audience. Niche audienc es include sports fans, comic book readers, wine enthusiasts, movie goers, and the like. Companies who serve these specific demographics, especially ones who have websites and sell computer and internet related products, are the businesses who will be most receptive to you. Remember: even though podcasts have been around for almost five years, not everyone you talk to will know what one is. Explain it clearly and patiently to them. I like to say a podcast is an “On - demand internet radio show that you subscribe to like a magazine and which gets automatically downloaded to your computer or mp3 play er every time there is a new episode. We are looking for audio ads, as well as graphic ads on our website.” 4) Start Small. While you’re dreaming of the six-figure ad deal, start off small in order to supplement your hobby and cover overhead costs. You can place links to products related to your podcast through Amazon or Google and mak e money every time you drive a customer to make a purchase. Many online companies also have affiliat e programs and will pay 10-20% of every sale brought in from an ad on your podcast homepage. Be creative when starting out and think of ways to partner with companies who may later advertise. You can probably convince a company to donate a prize or two for a contest you can run on your show. Thank the company on your website and on the air, and after the contest send the audio file to your contact at the company. If you manage to get them a few sales, they will likely give more prizes and you can eventually discuss paid advertising with them. **** So, that’s it! Follow these four steps and you should be well on your way to higher revenue in no time. Don’t forget-- If someone wants to advertise, it is okay to lower your rates in the early stages if they are hesitant. This will help you get that first ad deal closed, and if other companies see that you have brokered a deal, they will be more likely to advertise on your show. Lastly, work with local papers or other websites, and try to get your show some press. Linking to this press coverage will legitimize what you are doing, build a larger audience, and attract more advertisers. Plus, your mom will have something to proudly display on her refrigerator. Good luck, and happy podcasting!