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Published on Feb 26, 2020 08:00 am:

Paywalls, Podcasting, and Prejudice [Episode 268]

The decision to put content -- popular content -- behind a paywall is always an agonizing choice for any decent person. Podcasters included. 

It’s not a binary choice. Nor is it a choice that any podcaster gets to make. Successfully implementing a switch to directly charging for access is, for most podcasts, completely dependent on the size of the audience.

Here’s an easily busted myth: Every single person who currently subscribes/listens to your free podcast will continue to listen to (and therefore pay for) your content when you put it behind a paywall.

That’s categorically false. The question really becomes this; how many will, and how much can I make?

On average, you’ll be lucky to see 2% of the people who currently subscribe to your show for free switching over to the paid model. Sure, it can be higher. But it can also be lower. 2% is a good number from which you can do your projections. 

Nota bene: Subscribing to a behind-the-paywall podcast isn’t any harder than subscribing to any other podcast, with the exception that (for now) these for-fee podcasts don’t show up in podcast apps or directories. 

Let’s get back to that 2% number. If you have a thousand people listening to your episodes on a regular basis, you can expect 20 make the for-fee switch. If you're charging five bucks a month for access, that's $100.

For me, going to a fee-based model doesn’t make sense for my podcast. I have roughly 300 people who listen to me. 2% means I’d have six people paying, so a paltry sum. But if I had 10,000? Or 100,000? I’d have to consider it.

If my thoughts have you ready to jump on the paywall bandwagon, I’d advise caution and some math before you take the plunge. There are many, many things to consider. Choose wisely. This is something you shouldn't rush into. 

My advice? Check with your podcasting friends. See if your fellow podcasters are considering this as well, weighing the size of their audience against potential revenue gains to determine viability. And discussing the potential (real, actually) outcry from current listeners if there were to make the switch. 

Send your friends this episode and blame me for your bringing up the conversation. That way they can listen to a neutral 3rd party’s opinion and not bring the judgment hammer on your head. I can take the heat! 

What do you think about this? Email me at and tell me where you stand on the topic of putting some or all of your podcast content behind a paywall.


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Podcast Pontifications is published by Evo Terra four times a week and is aimed at the working podcaster. The purpose of this show is to make podcasting better, not just easier.

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