With Anchor’s Podcast Subscriptions feature, podcasters can now offer exclusive content to subscribers—which is an exciting development for both seasoned and new creators.
When making your plans for podcast subscriptions, include the types of content that are the most effective to monetize your show, keep your listeners engaged, and grow your community.
What is subscriber-only content, and why is it valuable?
Subscriber-only content is any kind of bonus content that you offer listeners behind a paywall or as part of a monthly paid subscription.
Simply put, Podcast Subscriptions gives fans more of what they love. It offers more ways for listeners to enjoy and explore their favorite podcasts. It also provides them with a more robust listening experience—whether that means there are no advertisement disruptions or it gives them deeper access. Or both!
For podcast creators, there’s a range of benefits. Subscriptions give you the chance to see what type of content resonates most with your listeners. As you gain subscribers, it allows you to earn money and grow your brand, which empowers you to keep creating and elevating your content.
The Podcast Subscriptions feature is convenient and easy to use for creators, plus it comes with some additional tools to maximize your subscription’s impact. On the Money page of your Anchor dashboard, you can download a list of subscriber emails to use for community engagement. This way, you can reach out directly about your paid podcast content, subscriber perks, and news about your podcast.
Types of podcast subscription plans to consider
There are so many directions podcast creators can take when planning their subscription content. Focus on what will entice listeners to subscribe, starting with these seven types of content. Selecting your bonus content will also help inform your pricing structure, depending on how demanding or complex the designated episodes are to produce.
Podcast Subscriptions that offer ad-free episodes are a win-win. It’s quick and easy to execute for the creator, and provides uninterrupted content for listeners.
For example, “Monsters Among Us” is a podcast that explores the paranormal with eyewitness accounts of mysterious sightings. For every episode, creator Derek Hayes offers an ad-free episode for subscribers.
Offering bonus episodes is a valuable subscription incentive. These can include separate full-length episodes, ‘minisodes,’ and extended interviews.
Rick Barker, host of “The Music Industry Blueprint Podcast,” shows how to expertly utilize exclusive podcast episodes to their fullest extent. He does this by offering a separate subscriber-only podcast full of exclusive episodes called “MIB Secret Society.” According to Barker, this version “is a private podcast that allows me to be a bit more raw and real without worrying about hurting anyone’s feelings.” How could fans of his podcast possibly resist such intrigue and allure?
To show his appreciation to his paid subscribers, Barker sends each subscriber a MIB Journal. “I figure if they are committing to $60 a year, the least I can do is send a thank you in the mail,” says Barker. Since he has access to subscriber emails in Anchor, he’s easily able to coordinate with them to send their journals.
Behind-the-scenes content is like a backstage pass for your podcast subscribers. For example, if your podcast is interview-based, behind-the-scenes episodes could include your own thoughts and commentary about a guest or topic you featured. Including unreleased clips is another draw for behind-the-scenes subscriber content.
Dr. Dominique Broussard and Terri Lomax, hosts of “Cultivating H.E.R. Space: Uplifting Conversations for the Black Woman,” follow up each of their episodes with a candid bonus episode. “Aftershows are a way for our listeners to get to know us better and get juicy ‘behind-the-scenes’ content.” Subscribers can go more in-depth with the hosts on everything from parenting, finances, and relationships to careers and other life lessons in these aftershows.
Conducting Q&A sessions as premium content for your podcast gives you an opportunity to interact with your listeners in the episodes. This encourages more engagement with members of your audience who are curious about you and seeking advice or hoping to be featured in an episode. Q&As can take different forms, from answering listener emails and DMs to hosting ask-me-anything (AMA) sessions.
EC Synkowski leverages this bonus content format in creative ways in her podcast, “The Consistency Project,” like answering follow-up questions generated from previous episodes. This is a useful content development strategy for regular and subscriber-only content. “Ninety percent of my content just comes from community questions. Either they’ve seen an article or topic, have a question, and I address it in various formats,” says Synkowski.
Extended episodes are a great fit for certain types of podcasts. For example, music, poetry, literature, and meditation-based episodes are all conducive to longer versions. The free, shorter-version episodes serve as compelling teasers for the extended episodes. Extended episodes also work well for releasing full-length interviews that are too long to fit in a regular episode.
For example, “Deep Sleep Sounds” is a podcast with relaxing recordings to help listeners fall asleep, including paid, eight-hour episodes that last through a full night’s rest.
Providing early-access content to subscribers makes them feel special as the first group that gets to consume and enjoy your product before anyone else. This can be a flexible subscriber-only content format that creators offer regularly or highly anticipated episodes that feature timely content or high-profile guests.
One way the hosts of “A Girl and Her Mother-in-Law” monetize their podcast is by offering their subscribers access to all of their episodes a day early.
Live content breaks away from the typical podcast format with a broadcast-style recording. Live content is effective podcast subscription content because it offers subscribers more variety. The personal development podcast “Tiny Leaps, Big Changes” brings in other co-hosts to enhance its live content with expert roundtable episodes.
Spotify’s Greenroom makes recording live sessions super easy. Greenroom allows multiple users in different locations to collaborate, whether they are co-hosts or listeners who want to join in on the conversation. Greenroom can send the live recording to you afterward, so you can easily upload it as an episode.
Best practices for producing your podcast subscription content
To set your subscriber-only content up for success, there are some kernels of wisdom that experienced creators have gained in the podcast subscription development process. Follow these best practices to keep the momentum going and maximize your subscription revenue.
Establish yourself first
For the best results, wait until you’ve built a solid foundation of material and listeners before diving into paid content. “Those first three months should be used to figure out your main content, survey your initial listeners, and start building a small community. There’s no point creating bonus content before you’ve had a chance to establish a base,” says Gregg Clunis, host of “Tiny Leaps, Big Changes.”
Synkowski echoes this sentiment. Before investing time, effort, and funds into making your podcast subscription content, make sure there’s an audience to consume it. “I think looking at the price points you are considering charging and possible conversion metrics, ask yourself: Is the ROI there? If your audience isn’t big enough yet, you may consider just spending more time getting people to your podcast before offering a paid option.”
Listen to feedback
Implement subscribers’ feedback in your strategy. They are your best sounding board and can be instrumental in guiding the direction of your podcast subscription. “Feedback from listeners is what helped me decide what kind of bonus content to go with. People have a way of letting you know what they want to hear,” says Hayes.
Subscriber feedback is not only an effective tactic but also an efficient one. Discovering what types of podcast subscription content are the most popular allows you to focus on the top formats with confidence. “So far, I’ve tested a number of different options, and my audience has responded best to a combination of ad-free episodes and exclusive content. I chose this combo after speaking with subscribers and learning what it was that made them subscribe originally,” says Clunis.
“What do you hear time and time again in their feedback about why they listen to you? Your community is the best resource to help grow your business; they have the pain points and will vote with their dollars. Listen to them!” says Synkowski.
If you’re going to offer a podcast subscription, be prepared to deliver that special extra content on a regular basis with consistent quality. “Consistency is key. If you make promises, you have to keep them. Even though it’s easy to fall behind due to producing your regular/main content, if you promised a piece of bonus content on a certain day each month, you should try your hardest to stick to that schedule,” says Hayes.
The “Cultivating H.E.R. Space: Uplifting Conversations for the Black Woman” creators concur. If you don’t maintain your podcast subscription content, it could come off as unreliable to your audience and might cost you subscribers. “Be consistent with your output because your audience expects it,” says Broussard and Lomax.
Show some love to your supporters
Engage with your subscribers. There are many ways to do this, and like the nature of podcasting as a whole, it’s another chance to be creative. It also shows your listeners and subscribers that you hear them and appreciate them.
One approach is to give them a shout-out in episodes and on social platforms where you’re active as a podcast creator. “They are doing their best to support what you’re doing, so make an extra effort to connect with them, whether it’s responding to questions and comments on-air through your bonus content, on social media, etc. Make them feel like the VIPs they are and don’t forget to always thank them for being there,” says Hayes.
With Podcast Subscriptions, creators can see a list of the subscribers who have signed up to receive emails directly from hosts. This gives you a captive audience of subscribers to engage with via email as another way to strengthen your relationship.
And there are even more fun interactive opportunities to take advantage of. Q&A and Polls features from Anchor and Spotify allow you to interact with your listeners right on the streaming service. These tools enable you to ask questions your listeners can directly respond to.
Podcast subscriptions are evolving. Yours should, too.
Podcast subscriptions are a new development. It’s a space for podcasters to test ways they can explore podcast monetization, create a revenue stream for doing what they love and, as Clunis says, “convert regular listeners into super fans.” By engaging with your podcast community, surveying your subscribers, and trying out new bonus material, your podcast subscriptions will continue to evolve.