Podcasts should beware “creator burnout”, says Patreon

Creator partnerships exec says mental health is not worth sacrificing for members

Podcast creators need to be wary of the risks of burnout when building a healthy and sustainable subscriptions model, Patreon has said, warning that it’s important to not overcommit to bonus content. 

Patreon is a membership platform that allows creators the freedom to create their own subscription models by setting their own paid tiers with access to bonus content and perks that they have chosen for their shows.

Although there are no maximum or minimum number of paid tiers, Diona DaCosta - a member of the Patreon creator partnerships team - told PodPod that the “sweet spot” is usually between one to three, and that it’s much better to add more as you go along rather than overcommit early on in the process. 

“I think that there have been many instances where people will say, if I'm going to ask my fans for money, then I'm going to need to put out a lot, a lot of content and that's not always necessarily the case,” said DaCosta. “There have been creators that have definitely done that strategy and needed to scale down their membership to be maybe less tiers or content.” 

“You want to make sure that they're happy and you're happy. Creator burnout is real across the board, regardless if it's behind the paywall or not. You really want to make sure you're taking care of yourself even when doing content.” 

The key to building a sustainable subscription model, according to DaCosta, is to offer bonus content that aligns with your day-to-day schedule already and to start off by sticking to what you already know - like leaving the podcast mic on for 30 minutes after recording to create bonus content - before experimenting with new styles and formats curated for paid subscribers. 

“At the end of the day, you're still doing all of your other content, you're still having this full-time business and membership really is an added bonus,” said DaCosta. 

In a previous PodPod feature on paid podcast subscriptions, Content is Queen CEO Imriel Morgan advised creators to carefully consider what type of additional content they can actually commit to before announcing it to subscribers as there’s “nothing worse than promising the world and not quite reaching your target revenue goal”. 

“There's no harm in starting with something small and manageable - such as a shoutout on the podcast versus monthly bonus episodes or a newsletter - and then increasing the value you offer as your subscribers grow,” said Morgan. “You can feel good about the additional work you put in as it’s well compensated.” 

Other “low intensity” bonus content options for podcast creators that DaCosta recommends for creators that want to start out small include a chat server like Discord that allows for communication with fans with weekly or monthly livestreams, or audience polls that allow audiences to tell the creators what they want to see. Merchandise and superfan meet-ups can also be Patreon exclusive benefits that creators can look into incorporating as they grow their community down the line. 

David Law, co-host of The Tennis Podcast, also shared in a previous episode that one of their monetisation options for fans is ‘pet sponsorships’, where listeners can pay to give their pet a shoutout on the show. 

“I think that you really wanna create something that's tailored to you and your specific audience,” said DaCosta. “It's definitely not one size fits all, no two creators are the same, so no two memberships should ever be the same as well.”