Podcasting for Fun and Profit

In one of the most lively and entertaining sessions at the 2022 ASBPE national conference, Matt LaWell, managing editor at Golf Course Industry, informed and entertained the audience with his session entitled Podcasting for Fun and Profit.” During the session, LaWell shared his own podcast journey and gave tips on how editorial teams can monetize podcasts while giving listeners what they want. 

LaWell began the session by throwing out some revealing stats: 

  • In 2006, only about 22% of Americans knew what a podcast was; in 2022, it’s more than 70%
  • More than 144 million Americans listen to podcasts
  • There are more than 500,000 active podcasts
  • In 2010, podcasts brought in $45 million in advertising revenue; by 2022, ad revenue topped $1.6 billion 
  • In 2019, the projected number of U.S. podcast listeners was 132 million — which  means the industry is 9% ahead of forecasts

Podcasts are an untapped revenue stream for most industry, trade and B2B publications. Yet they are a natural crossover for trade magazines, since name recognition alone can help attract potential guests and build a loyal listening audience. That’s where monetization comes in. 

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According to AdWeek, more than 75% of podcast listeners pay attention to the ads, and about 38% have purchased products and services mentioned in those ads. Nearly 70% say they learned about new products or services thanks to ads. More than three quarters (80%) of podcast listeners stay through all (35%) or most (45%) of each episode. This means podcast listeners are among the most engaged media consumers out there. 

LaWell shared that Golf Course Industry increased its annual podcast revenue from $12,000 in 2018 to more than $100,000 in revenue by the end of 2022. All of that in just four years — impressive! He also shared some of the programming that he builds the podcast around.

“Beyond the Page” is a monthly dive into the magazine with two or three conversations: one or two with a story subject or author; another with a columnist. “Off the Course” showcases longer conversations with a single compelling personality about their life outside of the industry and focuses on physical and mental health, work-life balance, outside interests, and more. And in “Greens With Envy,” LaWell and his editor discuss golf courses they’ve visited and industry people they’ve met over the previous month.

“Wonderful Women of Golf” is produced by a regular contributor who the publication recently helped win a grant from the USGA to go from six to 12 episodes per year. And “Reel Turf Techs” is hosted by an equipment technician in Georgia who talks with other equipment techs. The magazine helped this creator get his first sponsor and now runs one of his 4-5 monthly episodes on their feed. 

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For publications just getting started in podcasting, LaWell encourages them to dive right in. Things don’t have to be perfect in the beginning, but you do need a basic plan. Here are some things to consider: 

  • Do you drop new episodes weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly?
  • Seasonal or ongoing?
  • Tightly structured or more free-flowing?
  • Will the podcast be highly-produced or more like an audio blog?

Editors must also make a decision on dynamic or baked-in ads (or a combination of both). Among other things, dynamic ads target listeners with time-sensitive offers, tailor ads to specific episodes rather than specific shows, and can be swapped out retroactively. Baked-in ads, however, are perceived as more authentic and are a more integral part of each episode. These ads have been shown to be more than three-and-a-half times more effective than dynamic ads in terms of measured cost per customer acquisition (CPA) and see an overall lower CPA over time. 

LaWell ended the session with a reminder that podcasting might not be right for every publication, because every industry and market is different. But if you do the work, find interesting guests, provide useful information for your target audience, and post regularly, it can be a significant revenue and thought leadership boost for your brand. 

ASBPE plans to feature more great educational sessions at its 2023 National Conference, which will take place May 11-12, 2023. The location is to be announced. Stay tuned to ASBPE.org and ASBPE’s social channels to keep up to date.

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