Joining a podcast network – it sounds so official, and credible! Certainly becoming a part of a podcast network means your podcast is doing well, or at least well enough to grab the attention of others and warrant an invite.
Or are podcast networks simply a group of podcasts that talk about a similar topic, that are coming together in order to give advertisers a more attractive package deal?
There’s a lot to unpack when looking at podcast networks.
What is a podcast network?, and what are the pros, cons, and questions you should be asking yourself when considering whether joining a network would be a good move for you and your podcast?
That’s exactly what I’m going to cover throughout this post. Let’s start with a simple definition.
What is a podcast network?
I guess it depends on who you ask.
According to PodcastOne, which by the way is a podcast network itself, “a podcast network is a collection of podcasts that are produced, distributed or made available to advertisers through a single company, or network.”
In other words, instead of an advertiser going to 10 different podcast hosts and cutting 10 different deals in order to sponsor each of those 10 podcasts, they’d connect with a single podcast network and engage in a ‘package deal’.
On the surface, it’s a win/win/win
- The advertiser wins because they have access to multiple podcasts and a broader audience;
- The podcast hosts win because they’re able to engage a sponsor, which they might not have been able to do on their own;
- The network wins because they’re likely going to take a cut of the sponsorship revenue – and gain more attention for their own brand.
But the purpose and benefit of a podcast network has to go beyond just providing sponsors with an opportunity to get a package deal.
I’ve always looked at a podcast network as a way to provide listeners with a playlist of podcasts that are either connected by a similar theme, or by the company that owns and produces them.
In addition, shows within podcast networks benefit from the association and the increased marketing power of the network itself – and also from the combined credibility of the podcasts within that network. But more on this point later in this post…
Let’s take Wondery as an example
Wondery showcases over 150 podcasts, ranging in genre from true crime, to entertainment, to business, to personal growth. Wondery may not fully produce every one of these shows, but they are vouching for them.
Therefore, if I like one Wondery podcast, chances are I’m going to like others. I trust their quality and I believe if Wondery asks a podcast to be in their network that it’s going to be a great podcast.
I get exposed to more great podcasts, Wondery gets more listens because of it, and the podcasters within the network reap the benefits of that visibility.
It’s all starting to make a bit more sense now.
But is a podcast network truly a win for everyone involved? And how easy is joining a podcast network?
Let’s take a look at what it takes to be a part of a podcast network, and then we’ll get into the benefits (and potential pitfalls) of joining one.
Is joining a podcast network easy?
This is a loaded question, and the answer is really: “It depends.”
In doing some research I came across this article about how to join a podcast network. In it is an example of a podcaster, Jeff Umbro, who was approached by a couple of podcast networks and asked to join.
But when the podcast networks found out how many downloads he was getting, the conversation would promptly end.
The article quotes:
This is common among the largest podcast networks. Many won’t consider accepting a show unless it has a minimum of 50,000 downloads per episode. Given that most advertisers are chasing scale and buy ads based on CPM, some networks feel it’s not worth their while to take on smaller shows.
Just for perspective, the average number of downloads for a podcast episode is in the one hundreds. A show that’s getting 50,000 downloads per episode is easily in the top 1% of podcasts.
This is exactly what prompted Umbro to create a podcast network of his own that focused on featuring mid-tier podcasts.
So whether your podcast episodes see hundreds of downloads per episode, thousands, or tens of thousands, chances are at this point, there’s a podcast network for you.
…but you might have to create it yourself.
There are many indie podcasters who have created their own podcast networks, like Kimberly Faulkner’s Premier Dance Network.
What a beautiful example of a niche podcaster paving her own path!
I’ll note: if you’re creating your own podcast network, then a lot of what I’m covering in this post probably won’t apply since you’re in charge. However, everything in this post should absolutely be a consideration for you when growing your podcast network.
The main focus here is whether accepting an invite from someone else to join their podcast network is a good idea.
So, is joining a podcast network a good idea?
The short answer given our own personal experience: yes!
We joined the HubSpot Podcast Network along with four other shows when they launched back in May 2021, and we’ve had an awesome experience. But more on this later…
Objectively speaking, here are some benefits and potential pitfalls to consider.
The benefits of joining a podcast network
There are definitely a number of benefits to joining a podcast network. The catch is finding the right podcast network for you.
Potential benefits of joining a podcast network are many and include:
Increased marketing and exposure
Many podcast networks include marketing and increased exposure as a part of the package. They’ll essentially market your show for you, which will likely mean a lot more listeners for you.
It could also come in the form of advertisements on other podcasts within the network, or through another means of promotion outside of the network, like tradition public relations.
This is an attractive benefit to a podcast host who is either too busy to do their own marketing, or who simply isn’t that good at promoting their own show.
As I mentioned previously, with increased marketing and exposure comes increased listenership. The more exposure you can get for your show the better, and with a network to help support you, your message travels a lot farther than it would were you speaking it alone.
Increased listenership is a positive for sponsorships, but it’s also a positive for your own business. If your podcast is a marketing arm for your overall business, then more listeners means increased awareness for the products and services you have to offer.
Built-in networking and connections
Just like joining a mastermind or a group coaching program, you’re coming into a room filled with others who are on the same journey and path as you.
Being a part of a network means having at the very least better access to the podcasts and hosts who are in that network with you. Not to mention access to those who run the network itself.
Back to the beginning of this post, one of the main purposes of a podcast network is to be able to “pool” download numbers and lock in big sponsorship contacts.
For a podcast that might not be able to land sponsorship deals on their own, becoming part of a podcast network could mean legitimate sponsorship revenue.
From an advertiser’s perspective, it makes so much sense. It’s giving them a variety of shows to advertise on, which means they’re getting in front of a variety of different listeners, at different times, with more frequency.
Another perk of being a part of a podcast network is the production assistance you might receive.
Generally speaking, those who head podcast networks have a good amount of experience under their belts. In certain cases that experience is shared with those who are a part of the network through trainings and other coaching.
As it should be, podcast networks want the podcasts they host to do well.
Note: every podcast network operates differently, and the benefits listed above are not offered to every podcaster as a part of every network deal. It’s critical that you review any contracts or agreements in detail so that you understand not only what’s being offered, but also what’s expected of you.
The pitfalls of joining a podcast network
It can’t all be roses and sunshine… So what are some things you should look out for?
Why wouldn’t a podcast host want to accept an invitation to become part of a podcast network?
Here are a few reasons why you might not want to join a podcast network:
The podcast network is in it for the wrong reasons
Speaking from personal experience, some podcast networks are only in it for the downloads. Their #1 goal is to get as many downloads inside of their network so they can be more attractive for podcast sponsors or advertisers.
It’s pretty obvious to me that at least a few of the podcast networks who have reached out to us don’t have any of our best interests in mind – only their own.
When you join a podcast network, you should be engaging in a contract. If a podcast network asks you to join without a contract, that’s a red flag.
Contracts are a good thing to have in place, but it’s important you actually read them and fully understand what it is you’re agreeing to by joining a podcast network.
Oftentimes you might be asked to switch hosting companies, agree to less-than-ideal sponsorship revenue splits, and even give up a certain amount of creative control.
Giving up creative control
Speaking of creative control, when joining a podcast network you could be entering into a relationship where the podcast network is asking for control of your show.
This could mean anything from the network being able to shut down an idea for your podcast, to choosing sponsors and not giving you any input, to canceling your show completely if it doesn’t perform.
As a good recap of some of the reasons why you might not want to join a podcast network, I wanted to link up this post written by David Kadavy where he explains in his own words “Why I didn’t join a podcast network“.
Taking time to review
Again, all podcast networks are built and run differently, and there certainly are benefits – and potential pitfalls to be aware of – when considering whether to join a podcast network.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also recommend that you simply have conversations – as many as possible – with both individuals and mentors you know, like, and trust, in addition to one-on-one conversations with the podcast networks you’re interested in joining (or who reach out to you with a request).
There’s definitely nothing wrong with engaging in a conversation to learn more about how a particular podcast network operates. Plus, these conversations will provide insights that could be incredibly useful when comparing different network opportunities.
Whether you have a new podcast or have been podcasting for years, be sure to do your homework and take the time to fully consider what joining a podcast network will mean for your podcast!
The HubSpot Podcast Network
As I mentioned earlier, Entrepreneurs On Fire joined the HubSpot Podcast Network in May 2021. From the beginning the HubSpot Podcast Network team has been great to work with, and we’ve really enjoyed getting to know them and the other podcast hosts within the network!
We even had the opportunity to hang out with several hosts, and those running the network over at HubSpot, in August of 2021 at Podcast Movement. HubSpot had an awesome installation where you could do live recordings and learn more about the podcasts within the network.
Not only has our podcast audience grown as a result of joining the HubSpot Podcast Network, but we’ve also been able to do guest swaps with other hosts and leverage some additional advertising opportunities we may not have had otherwise.
The HubSpot Podcast Network continues to grow, and we’ll keep you posted on how things progress! Check back for future updates right here in this post!
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a podcast network work?
A podcast network takes a selection of podcasts and groups them together based on topic, genre, or ownership and leverages the collective audiences for cross-promotion and podcast sponsorship opportunities.
Are there any requirements for joining a podcast network?
The requirements for joining a podcast network are dependent on the network itself. Different networks will have different requirements.
How do I join a podcast network?
You can join a podcast network by simply reaching out to the networks you’re interested in. Many networks are run by bigger companies, so you can start by reaching out to their marketing department.
What are the benefits of joining a podcast network?
Joining a podcast network gives you increased visibility, the opportunity to connect with other podcasters within your network, and the potential to bring on advertisers.
Are there any negatives of podcast networks?
One potential negative of joining a podcast network is that you’re asked to give up certain amounts of creative control; however, this will depend on the network itself, so it’s important to read through your contract carefully.