Making a Business of Your Podcast: Planning Membership Content
You're reading a post from Backyard Media's Podcasting 101, a series of guides meant to explain podcasting and podcast advertising to new and current podcast creators. To see our other guides, click here.
We’ve talked about how a premium membership program for your podcast can give your show a more stable source of revenue. Dedicated listeners are willing to pay for premium content, and hosts will often find their listeners want to support the show beyond listening and sharing it. When we talk to creators about making a membership program, we often find that creators struggle to build a specific and detailed plan of what their membership content will consist of. To be successful, podcast creators should plan for multiple months of content before they even begin. Smart planning is a great way to find success with a podcast membership program. So today we’re talking about what content you can offer and how you should think about planning your content calendar.
What your bonus content can be
From our last post about building a membership program, here is our non-exhaustive list of perks you can offer to your members:
Special members-only merchandise (see our last guide for specific merchandise ideas)
Shoutouts or thank-yous to members at the start or end of an episode
Access to extended cuts of guest interviews
One page episode “summaries” for listeners to refer to
Member input on future episode topics (via forum discussion, online suggestion box, or a voting system)
Links to a YouTube or Facebook livestream of the podcast recording
Extra episodes using a private RSS feed
Feel free to use this list as you begin to plan which perks you’ll include in your membership program. As we’ll discuss, it’s important to balance the potential VALUE that each perk can bring to your members with the amount of EFFORT you expect it will take to produce that content. For example, producing an extended cut of a guest interview that you’ve already edited shouldn’t take much time, while creating a full bonus episode might be a more involved production task.
Planning your content calendar
If you decide to pursue a membership program, we recommend that you plan at least six months of content at the outset. Planning a full list of content ideas can help you avoid falling behind on obligations to your members. It can also give you a base of ideas to fall back on if you feel you’re ever in a content rut. More importantly, having a six month running plan for your membership program helps you get very specific about the type of content you could offer to paying members, content that is valuable and manageable given the time you have to spend on it.
With that in mind, what questions should you ask yourself as you build your calendar? First and perhaps most obviously, you need to think about what you want your content to be.
Also consider how often you want your content to come out, particularly for the more time-intensive offerings like bonus episodes and new merchandise. As the creator, it’s important to be realistic about how much time you expect different content will take in terms of production. Do you have 1 or 2 extra hours per week to devote to your membership program? Or are you aiming to do a full-slate of offerings, and want to add another 5 to 10 hours a week of production time?
An example content calendar
Let’s say we have a weekly podcast about running a startup called By Your Bootstraps, which features guest interviews from successful CEOs in Silicon Valley. If the BYB production team wanted to start a membership program to bring in more funding, here’s what their content calendar might look like. Note: we’ve used Google Sheets for our calendar, but you could use any planning tool for your podcast content.
Notice that in the first month of our membership program we’ve spaced out the podcast’s bonus content, placing content releases in between the show’s regular weekly episode schedule. This allows the production team to avoid overlapping deadlines. We’ve started our perks program with one episode transcript, plus an extended interview cut of another regular episode. We’ve set Wednesdays as our normal release date for bonus content so that subscribers start to look forward to bonus releases on a regular schedule.
For a small production team that may also have other work commitments, it’s important to give yourself time to produce quality content that members will feel is worth their subscription. We’ve scheduled bonus content to come out on Wednesdays, a week after the related regular episode comes out. This is a doable calendar for a creator who wants to spend 1 to 2 hours of time per week on their podcast’s membership content. With that commitment, you can build up a content calendar that members will be willing to pay a small monthly fee for.
Let’s assume that BYB will maintain this calendar for a few months, and the team wants to add a few more perks in May. Here’s what the 4th month of their plan might look like:
We’ve expanded our offerings to include a bonus episode and a conference call. The bonus episode is a less production-heavy episode compared to a regular episode. For this hypothetical podcast, the podcast hosts tackle a single startup-related topic in a more relaxed, conversational setting. This takes them less time to do, as it’s drawing upon their existing knowledge about running a business.
The conference call AMA we’ve put for the end of May is a high-engagement offering for BYB members, one that can be incredibly valuable for your podcast. The “Ask Me Anything” with the hosts lets listeners get on the phone and ask questions of them, essentially gaining access to their expertise. These sorts of events can strengthen listener loyalty by making them feel that they have a personal connection with the host, which in turn can push members to share the show more and encourage friends and family to sign up for membership.
With these extra perks, we can expect the BYB team will spend a few more hours per month on extra content. We estimate that preparing, recording and editing the bonus episode on startup networking would take 2-4 hours, depending on how highly produced the episode is. For the AMA call, we can likewise expect it to take 2-3 hours to complete (between finding and setting up the conference call technology, soliciting questions from listeners on social media ahead of time, and then doing the AMA).
With a full six month plan, the BYB team might add a few more perks to their calendar, like live-streaming their episode recordings and one-page readable summaries of episodes. Month 6 of the program could look like this:
Membership programs free up more time for your podcast
We should keep in mind the big picture here: by building a rich, sustainable membership program that listeners want to buy into, we can create a constant revenue stream for our show. Many creators want to transition from their regular jobs to full-time or half-time podcasting, and membership is one way to achieve that goal. As creators gain more revenue from their members, they should be freeing up more time to reinvest into their podcast production. High-quality membership perks take time, and creators should be smart in creating a program they can keep up with that still adds value for their listeners.
Want to read more guides for podcast creators? Click here to see our other guides.