Podcast ROI

9 Ways to determine the ROI of your podcast

by | Oct 5, 2023

Producing an original podcast for your brand can grow your business and bottom line, but how do you determine the return on investment (ROI) for your podcast? 

Should you focus on downloads? Engagement? Ad revenue?

With so many metrics available, which one do you choose?

In this article, I will help you clarify the topic by reviewing nine ways to determine your podcast’s ROI.

First, a few clarifications on podcast ROI.

Defining ROI is completely dependent on your goal. If your focus is brand awareness, then metrics like listener numbers, site traffic, and social engagement matter. If, on the other hand, you want to grow your professional network, you can focus on referrals and networking relationships instead.

Then there is the question of what ROI actually means? There are two ways to define your return on investment:

  1. Content ROI: The amount of money you made.
  2. Content Success: The amount of engagement, exposure, etc. you earned.

My recommendation is to focus on the latter. Podcasts have the potential to build quality, long-term traction and trust with your audience much greater than the short game of ad sponsorships. And while ROI from trust and traction is not directly attributable to the podcast, it happens as a byproduct of all the effort. When you are intentional about creating valuable content for a specific audience, you increase your chances of getting measurable results.  

The following nine methods of determining podcast ROI are based on our experience producing podcast for our clients,  multiple internal podcasts since 2012, and from surveying over 50 podcast hosts.

1. Number of listeners/ downloads.

This metric most frequently comes to mind for rating the success of your podcast. Higher listenership and downloads will positively affect ad revenue, reach, and the likelihood of engagement on your calls-to-action.

However, large numbers of listeners are unnecessary to have a “1,000 true fans.” If your podcast is hyper-niched, you will likely have fewer, but more dedicated listeners engaging in your show.

The point: overall numbers are important, but they are only one piece of the equation and are only relevant based on your goal(s).

2. Sponsorships and ad revenue.

You could base your podcast’s success solely off of the revenue your sponsorships and ads generate. The formula would probably look something like this:

Ad Revenue – Expenses = ROI

OR

(Ad Revenue – Expenses)/ Production Time = ROI

And while ad ROI depends on many factors, a study published by the Guardian in 2023 found that listeners pay more attention to podcast ads than they do to TV or radio ads. And the benefits aren’t just in attention. The same study found that listeners are most likely to want to purchase an item they learned about from a podcast ad than from TV or radio ads. 

You should also keep in mind that podcast ads go beyond standard sales-focused messages. Ads can also be used to increase brand or product awareness. And they come in a variety of formats: pre-recorded messages supplied by the sponsor, host-read sponsorship ads, and branded content. 

Overall, ad revenue and sponsorships may be part of your strategy, but it should not be the primary factor that determines success.

3. Podcast reviews.

Social proof plays a significant role in any business. The overall star rating, number of reviews, and quality of reviews on services like iTunes act as a mini case study of the success of your cast. It’s a nice hat tip to say, “Our podcast has X 5-star reviews!”

AT THE BRINK ratings
An example of ratings for At the Brink, a podcast produced by Come Alive

4. Site traffic and conversions.

Your podcast can have a significant impact on your website’s analytics. To understand how your cast is influencing your website traffic, keep track of the following metrics:

  • Site traffic/conversions before and after launching your podcast.
  • Traffic on individual podcast posts/pages.
  • Traffic on specific URLs referenced in the podcast (this could be ad-sponsored links or internally promoted links).

If your site traffic and/or conversions are high, this metric may outweigh other metrics like total listeners.

Source: Unsplash

5. Email sign-ups, open-rates, and engagement.

One of our clients uses email engagements as one of their highest indicators of podcast success. For example, they heavily track the open-rates and click-throughs on the newsletters that promote new podcast episodes.

It’s one way to see what your audience thinks is worth opening and if they value what you’re producing. Monitoring what your existing audience is responding to can also inform what you produce for the future.

6. Networking and referrals.

This is where it starts to get fun. Hosting a podcast gives you an excuse to start conversations with people who may otherwise never talk to you.

Many things can happen depending on who is guesting your show:

  • Increase customer lifetime value: The first three seasons of One Stop Shop featured e-commerce shop owners and users of Conversio’s (the parent company’s) software. With ten episodes per season, we featured 30 different users’ businesses. All of the guests expressed appreciation for being on the podcast, and Conversio was able to build stronger relationships with its customers.
  • Authority by Proximity: What is your company’s expertise? Start interviewing already established experts in that niche, and your listeners will begin to view you as an authority in that space simply by association.
  • Referral Engines: This could mean referrals in terms of people (during interview follow-ups, I always ask if the guest could recommend anyone), or it could be referrals in terms of product sales or onboarding new customers.
Podcast interview
Source: Unsplash

7. Relationships.

Even more than networking with the right people, podcasting helps build long-term relationships. 

For example, I met Rich Mulholland, a presentation specialist and business owner from South Africa. Our relationship started just as social and email correspondence and has grown into much more over the past few years.

He has acted as an advisor to our business, introduced me to my first business coach, and has helped me grow a strong community of South African business people, all from the comfort of my home in Grand Rapids, MI. Now we try to connect monthly.

8. Generating and repurposing content.

Podcasting is a perfect avenue for repurposing or recycling meaningful content. For example, we’re currently producing a series where local business owners get to ask one question about the digital side of their business. Perks of the series include featuring each owner’s business, strengthening our city’s business community, and learning firsthand what questions/pain points these owners have.

Additionally, thanks to the AI boom, repurposing content is easier than ever. Descript, Squadcast, and Riverside all have built-in AI features that help you identify the best sections of a conversation, pull-out the best quotes, create transcriptions, and even clone your voice to fix mistakes

Here are a few ways we’re repurposing a single episode:

  • Video: The episode is recorded as a video for a series featured on YouTube.
  • Audio: The episode is recorded in a way that we’re able to easily pull out the audio and reuse it as a traditional podcast episode.
  • Blog Content: We typically have to research the owner’s question in preparation for the episode. Instead of keeping our findings private, we publish it as an article to our website.
  • Social Media: We use the three above pieces of content plus the actual “quotables” from the episode on our social media channels.
  • Cross-promotion: We’re able to cross-promote the video, podcast, and article in each because the content is incredibly similar.

The response and engagement with each topic inform us on what to provide for future topics.

9. Learning for all.

Hosting a podcast is a way to learn. I used to be co-owner of a board game publishing company. When my partners and I first started, we didn’t know what it took to take a board game from design to store shelf. So, we created a podcast about the business side of board games.

Topics we covered included game design, graphic design, art/illustration, legal, manufacturing, distribution, and marketing. We looked  into every aspect of publishing a board game.

Anytime we had a question, we interviewed the relevant experts to get our answers. The ROI of that podcast was worth the time and costs invested based on what we learned and what we were able to share with our audience.

Finding the right metric for your podcast.

There are many ways to determine if your podcast is worth producing. ROI and content success are worth much more than download statistics or ad revenue.

It all starts with defining what success means to you and your business, and then defining the right metrics to track. Of course, you can also dive deeper into podcast analytics, but only after you’ve decided on your core metrics. 

So, how are you determining the ROI of your cast? Are you doing something other than I listed? If so, I’d love to hear. You can leave a comment below.

Not sure on how to determine your podcast’s success?

You don’t have to do it alone! Whether you need professional guidance on your cast’s strategy, or help with the production, Come Alive Creative can help you turn your podcast into a success. Contact us today and schedule a free consultation. 

2 Comments

  1. Bob Dunn

    Hey Jeff, this is a great breakdown, and I can so relate to all of them.

    The first three is what I have found people who start, and of course are trying to monetize their podcast, are often fixated on. And as you stated, there are many variables here and dependent on your own goals. I think downloads are over-rated, sponsor dollars, as you said, are not long-term goals for most, and reviews are a lot of time begged for. Still they can be valuable though, and if you are seeking sponsors, unfortunately, a lot of how how you may attain those dollars can ride on those first three.

    The others I am more focused on myself. Educating others. Learning from others. Relationships built. And of course, I love how one can repurpose podcasts.

    The numbers as you mentioned, traffic, open rates, etc, are more that I would personally pay attention to and a great to point out.

    Lastly, I think a large ROI is helping to build your brand and expertise with others. This is where the payback through people listening to you, trusting you and eventually hiring you, really can pay off. Numbers be screwed here. It’s like you said, a smaller group of loyal and trusted listeners can be of much more value than thousands of downloads.

    Thanks for sharing this… good stuff!

  2. Bob Dunn

    Hey Jeff, this is a great breakdown, and I can so relate to all of them.

    The first three is what I have found people who start, and of course are trying to monetize their podcast, are often fixated on. And as you stated, there are many variables here and dependent on your own goals. I think downloads are over-rated, sponsor dollars, as you said, are not long-term goals for most, and reviews are a lot of time begged for. Still they can be valuable though, and if you are seeking sponsors, unfortunately, a lot of how how you may attain those dollars can ride on those first three.

    The others I am more focused on myself. Educating others. Learning from others. Relationships built. And of course, I love how one can repurpose podcasts.

    The numbers as you mentioned, traffic, open rates, etc, are more that I would personally pay attention to and a great to point out.

    Lastly, I think a large ROI is helping to build your brand and expertise with others. This is where the payback through people listening to you, trusting you and eventually hiring you, really can pay off. Numbers be screwed here. It’s like you said, a smaller group of loyal and trusted listeners can be of much more value than thousands of downloads.

    Thanks for sharing this… good stuff!