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What Is a Podcast Network?

Joining a podcast network can help grow and monetize your show. But is it the right option for you?

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Wondery. Gimlet Media. Radiotopia. Earwolf.

While these networks only accept the top 1% of podcasts into their midst, many other podcast networks are willing to work with a wide range of podcasters, across all industries and categories. 

Podcast networks can be a valuable resource for podcasters, giving even independent creators the power to boost their revenue and listenership. However, while having the backing of a network can sound good on paper- not every podcast should go down this path.

So what are podcast networks? How do they work? And is joining one right for your podcast? If you've been thinking about joining a network, you'll want to read this. 

 

What is a Podcast Network?

podcast network is a group or collection of podcasts that are produced, distributed or made available to advertisers through a single umbrella company. Usually, the podcasts under one network are connected by similar themes or audiences, comedy shows, true crime, interviews, or narrative-style podcasts. Others can be more open in who they work with.

Primarily, a network's role is to work as an intermediary. Once a podcast has joined a network, that network will either help promote your show on the network's other podcasts or support your digital marketing efforts and connect you with sponsors for your show. This can provide podcasters the space to focus on creating content rather than sourcing advertisers themselves. 

With many top brands increasing their marketing budgets to invest in podcast advertising, podcast networks can be a pretty good source of income for individual creators looking to monetize their show.

How Podcast Networks Work 

In the late 90's early 2000s, podcasts had a serious discoverability problem. Unlike today, podcasts weren't exceptionally mainstream; directories didn't exist, let alone search engines having the capabilities to crawl and categorize audio content. 

Networks were developed to solve these problems and help these unfindable podcasts market their shows and increase their visibility and capacity to increase their revenue.

But, before you start applying to work with a podcast network platform, you should understand that it comes at a cost and usually strict entry requirements. Most networks want to work with podcasts that have some influence so they can earn maximum revenue. Admittedly, it varies from network to network, but the typical requirements include: 

  • Ad revenue sharing: The standard commission is 30% or a 70/30 split 
  • Frequency: At least one episode each week
  • Downloads: Typically 1,000 per episode or 5,000 per month. Larger networks often have higher requirements
  • Agreeing to cross-promotion of other shows within the network 

Networks tend to favor podcasts with 25,000 or more listeners, and in some extreme cases, especially with the top networks, they only negotiate if podcasts have at least 50,000 listeners per episode. So for the top-tier podcasts receiving thousands of downloads, a different onboarding and agreement process may need to be gone through.


Additional Requirements

Not all networks are built equally, but there is some general information that each network needs. Depending on the network, they will also ask you to provide the following information to aid in creating your listing and present it to potential advertisers:

  • Podcast Title
  • Show's Category (technology, science, true crime, etc.)
  • Podcast description
  • The average number of downloads per episode
  • Date of when the first episode was published
  • Publishing frequency
  • Link to an episode
  • Select the ad spots to sell
  • Select pricing


Podcast Networks Pros:

Before you start approaching podcast networks, it's good to look at how joining a network will benefit your podcast. Although all networks operate differently, there are some typical benefits, but they may not be included within your network deal.

1. Increased Marketing and Exposure

Most podcasts want to increase their listener base. Podcast networks have the marketing tools and services that can help shows gain exposure and reach new, loyal listeners quickly and effectively.

Networks can do this by cross-promoting a podcast across other network members to share listeners between audiences. This arrangement is ideal for the podcasts that don't have the time or know-how to market their show. 

2. Earn Ad Revenue

Now it's common knowledge amongst brands that ads read by a podcast host perform better than third-party ads. As a result, many business or brand looking to reach target audiences through advertising will turn to podcast networks. The beautiful think about this is, networks essentially act as agents, negotiating the advertising deals for the lucky podcasters within their fold. 

What does that ad revenue look like? Podcast ads are usually charged at a flat rate per 1,000 impressions- known as CPM or "cost per mille". However, that flat rate can depend on many factors, including the theme or industry, content quality, or frequency of release. 

Another point to consider is at which point in the show will the ad be? Typically, advertisers will pay:

  • $6-20 CPM for pre-roll ads: This ad placement is before the actual episode starts and is usually 20-30 seconds in length.
  • $11-25 CPM for mid-roll ads: This ad placement is in the middle of the episode and is usually 60 seconds in length.
  • $4-15 CPM for post-roll ads: This is at the end of the episode and usually 10-20 seconds in length.

As your listenership grows, so will your income. Before you know it, you'll be able to reinvest those earnings back into the show, helping it to grow faster. 

3. Production Support 

Not all podcasts have a large production team to help them refine their show to mere perfection every week. So sometimes we need a little help. While not all networks offer production support, there are plenty that do. Networks want you to produce an amazing end product, so they may offer production and editing coaching along with other services to help you create the best show possible.

4. Credibility by Association

Establishing credibility can be difficult for smaller podcasts. But, by associating yourself with other high-quality shows within a network's pool, you can gain the sterling reputation you deserve. Trust is a huge component in building up a large audience, and that's just what a network can help with. People will often automatically assume your show has value if you are associated with a network of other quality, popular, and trusted brands. 

For example, those who like NPR's This American Life will often tune into other lesser-known shows under NPR's network umbrella. Audiences trust the NPR brand; they trust the network. 

Being part of a recognized podcast network, especially one that fits your genre or industry, gives your show a considerable boost in authority.

5. Networking Possibilities

Ever wanted to get access to the VIP lounge? Well, podcast networks are like an exclusive club for podcasters. You can meet experienced and successful people in the industry, build your network of connections, get advice from successful podcasters and even find guests for your show. 


Podcast Network Cons

Before you go ahead and sign on the dotted line, we'd be remiss not to add some balance to the equation and explain some of the pitfalls associated with podcast networks.  

1. Creative Control

Signing up to a network means you may also be signing up to their restrictions- often influenced by associated ad firms. This means that a network can reserve the right to veto some of your podcast content and even request revisions.

Networks can also reserve the right to forbid you from talking about certain topics or criticizing other shows on their network. In addition, some networks may not allow you to decide which sponsors you advertise for, meaning you might wind up running an ad for a sponsor that doesn't mesh well with your brand. 

The contract will outline these requirements, so ensure you read it carefully before signing.

2. Change in Hosting Site

Not all networks work with all hosting sites (Buzzsprout, Captivate, Transistor, Podbean, etc.) and may require you to use their preferred host site. That means moving all your content across, which can be time-consuming and a bit of a headache. 

You may run into some unexpected consequences during the switch that can make the transition a bumpy one. This can include loss of data, files, audio, and content. 

3. The Podcast Network Takes a Percentage

Podcast networks need to generate profit- they are businesses, after all. That is why they require an average percentage of around 30% of any ad revenue you generate. As your show grows, the more significant that percentage will get. 

After a time, some podcasts may feel it necessary to leave their networks because they can negotiate premium ad prices on their own.

Then there's a network's trust in you. When you first join a network, your fees may be higher than other podcasts. A network needs to know you and trust that you will fulfill the contract. 

 

Getting Your Podcast On A Network

Podcast networks are geared towards attracting those big shows that already have a dedicated audience and some influence. It's a simple equation, really. Well-known and popular shows can bring in high-end ad revenue. 

Does that mean the smaller shows should overlook joining a network? Absolutely not. It may be harder to get a good deal with a network until your listener base increases. But, if you look hard enough, you'll find that some big podcast networks want to invest their resources in the smaller, up-and-coming podcasts. 

Find the Best Network For Your Podcast

For a network to work for you it needs to benefit you in as many ways as possible. To have the best chance of success, find a network that hosts other podcasts of a similar vein to yours. 

Chartable is an excellent resource for filtering through the networks that could be a good match for your show. Sometimes doing a simple Google search can yield some great results. Just search for "podcast network" + [your genre] and see what appears. 

You can find similar shows on podcast directories and check whether they're signed up to a network in their description, cover art, or episode intros.

If you find the perfect podcast network make sure to research them thoroughly. 

Top Podcast Networks

We'll be the first to admit that there are hundreds of networks to choose from, so we wanted to give a rundown of the top podcast networks around today. Note that most of them only accept shows that receive about 50,000 downloads per episode. 

The one million dollar question you need to consider is: would joining a podcast network positively benefit your podcast? 

Summary

Podcast networks are designed to solve the big problems podcasters face regarding marketing & cross-promotion. Joining a podcast network can be a great way of monetizing your show and has many other benefits. However, it's not for everyone, and there are several factors to bear in mind when deciding if it's the right strategy for your show. 

Joining your preferred network isn't guaranteed that your show will become an overnight success or bring in a wealth of revenue. So before you approach podcast networks, focus on making the most valuable content possible and strive to grow your audience. By doing so, you'll be more desirable and have some leverage when you come to negotiate a deal with the network of your choice.

Author

Claire Gould