Howard Stern is Getting Ripped Off

Why podcasting may have minted its first billionaire, subscription podcasting is the next great business model, and how to join the revolution

Here’s why…

Last year I helped a few friends grow their podcasts. They had decided to forgo advertising and instead fund their shows using a membership model. Basically: a small percent of their audience would pay around $5-$10 a month to receive extra content like extended and Ask Me Anything episodes.

The $228-million-dollar man

Historically, while big radio and TV personalities get paid very well, the lion’s share of the profits go the broadcaster (CNN, ABC, iHeartRadio, Virgin, Sirius, etc). For example, while Anderson Cooper gets paid around $11 million per year, CNN makes significantly more than that from his show.

Here’s a made up but probably directionally accurate breakdown of costs in two scenarios:

SiriusXM’s 2018 subscription revenue was $4.6 billion. Let’s assume — and I think this is conservative — that just 5% of those subscribers come for Howard:

*Rough numbers based on expense percentages listed in Sirius’ financial statements. This is a best guess.

Podcasting’s first billionaire?

Take a look at Joe Rogan, who currently has the most popular talk show podcast with over 200 million downloads per month. This number comes from Joe himself¹, but let’s assume he was exaggerating and it’s only 100 million downloads per month.

Estimated per episode listener numbers for Joe Rogan vs. Howard Stern

This comes as no surprise to the Chinese

China has pulled ahead of us in podcasting. Where the North American podcast industry was a measly $479 million in 2018, China’s clocked in at over $7 billion (23x!).

The world’s greatest business model

But what about Luminary and Spotify?

Let’s talk about the elephants in the room: Luminary and Spotify.

Here’s the pitch Netflix gives to top TV and film producers:

“Come to Netflix. We’ll give you the tens of millions of dollars that you absolutely need to make your show. Unlike the big studios, we won’t make you go through a frustrating approval process, and we’ll mostly leave you alone to make it how you see fit. Oh, and by the way, your potential audience will be larger than traditional network television.”

Here’s the pitch Luminary gives to podcasters:

“Hey I’ll give you…distribution? No wait you already have that for free via iTunes. I’ll give you…the money you need to produce your show? No wait you can do that with $2,000 worth of equipment. I’ll give you….some money upfront? Yeah. That sounds good. Not as much as you’d earn if you just monetized it yourself though. Oh, and by the way, your audience will be 1000x smaller than if you listed your podcast on iTunes and your audience will hate you for forcing them to subscribe to a service they’ve never heard of.”

Here’s the pitch Spotify would make to Joe Rogan:

“Hey Joe, I know you’re already making more money than you know what to do with, but how about we give you an extra $75 million upfront in order for an exclusive on your show. It won’t be available anywhere except to paid Spotify subscribers, so that cuts out most of your fans, and they will be pissed off because they have to subscribe to Spotify, but you will make more money. Oh yeah, and by the way, your audience will probably be at least 10x smaller, in the short-term.”

An accidental business for accidental businesses people

Back to the friends I was helping…

  • Your listeners don’t need to install a special app or anything. They just click a link in your show notes, pay in 10 seconds with Apple/Google Pay, then subscribe to their new subscriber feed with one click.
  • Supercast gives you in-depth analytics that show your monthly recurring revenue, average revenue per listener, listener lifetime value, and more valuable stats. These terms might sound nerdy, but they will let you accurately predict your growth and even buy ads to help you grow faster.
  • It also automatically busts feed fraud. If someone shares out their subscriber feed, Supercast warns you, and sends them an email telling them to knock it off (instead of racking up a $10,000 hosting bill).



I run Tiny ( @awilkinson

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