Patreon: How to build a sustainable subscription model

Diona DaCosta on how creators can effectively monetise their audiences

When listeners think of subscription options for podcasts, the first platform that usually comes to mind is Patreon. Some of the most popular podcasts across the globe monetise through Patreon subscription models, including audioChuck’s true-crime podcast Crime Junkie, history podcast You’re Wrong About, and sports podcast The Fantasy Footballers. With the ability to create a range of paid subscription tiers with creative bonus content and exclusive offers, Patreon continues to be a popular revenue stream for podcasters - but it’s important to know what you’re capable of actually committing to before signing up. 

In this week’s PodPod episode, Diona DaCosta from Patreon’s creator partnerships team spoke to presenter Rhianna Dhillon and PodPod editor Adam Shepherd about the importance of building an engaged - although not necessarily large - audience before creating paid subscription tiers for a podcast, how to create a subscription model that won’t lead to burnout, and the unique ideas for bonus content that creators have come up with in the past. 

Key Takeaways 

Work on building up a community on other platforms first 

“Download numbers are not the end all/be all, and social followers are not the end all/be all when it comes to this,” said DaCosta. “You really wanna make sure that your audience is engaged because at the end of the day, that community is who is going to pay for the membership.”

“If you have a really strong community, it may be a hundred people, but that will show you meaningful revenue versus you having a million followers who actually don't care about your content. They're not actually engaging in your content to be able to say, okay, I'm gonna give you $5 per month to unlock bonus content when I'm not actually even engaging with your unpaywalled content.”

It’s better to add more later than to take away 

“There's no minimum or maximum [number of paid subscription tiers]; I would say the sweet spot that I've seen personally is between one to three tiers. It's much easier to add than it is to take away,” said DaCosta. “I have podcasters that have a single $5 tier that are just as successful as a podcaster that has three tiers at $5, $10, and $25 so it really does depend on the audience.” 

Stick to what you already know you can do 

“I think for a first time podcaster, sticking to what you know is definitely gonna be great for you as you evolve as a podcast,” said DaCosta. “As you create that more intimate relationship with your fans, you're able to experiment a little bit more with what they'd like to see… but starting with what you know and what your bread and butter is definitely the best approach when you're first getting started.”


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