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?
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 shows 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 going to take a cut of the sponsorship revenue.
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.
For example, Wondery showcases 74 shows, ranging in genre from true crime, to entertainment, to business, to personal growth. Wondery doesn’t produce every one of these shows, but they are vouching for them.
Therefore, if I like one Wondery show, chances are I’m going to like others. I trust their quality and I believe if Wondery asks a podcast to be on their network that it’s going to be a great podcast.
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; 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 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.
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 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.
This sometimes comes in the form of advertisements on other podcasts within the network, or through other 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.
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 your increased listenership 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.
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 gives?
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.
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 joining a podcast network.
Just be sure to do your homework and take the time to fully consider what joining a podcast network will mean for your podcast!