Why I Financially Support Podcasts

It is estimated that 46 million Americans over the age of 12 listen to podcasts on a monthly basis. That is 17 percent of the U.S. population, which is a ton of people. Especially since in 2013, only 12 percent of people in America had ever listened to a podcast.

New podcasts are popping up all over the place, and there is one for everyone. There are podcasts about cooking, finances, religion, crafts, writing, economics, pop culture, and maybe one of the most popular topics -- true crime. You can listen to sermons from your favorites pastors, or you can listen to full podcast episodes dedicated to episodes of Gilmore Girls. When I say there is something for everyone, I mean it.

I got into podcasts in 2013, and my interest peaked in 2014, thanks to my husband. After introducing me to favorites like This American Life, Stuff You Should Know, and The Nerdist, he then told me about this new podcast called Serial. Along with the rest of America, I quickly became obsessed. The intriguing nature of the story, combined with it’s Dateline-esque feel and high production value, along with the soothing nature of Sarah Koenig’s voice made it an instant hit in the podcast world and beyond. Serial mimicked an idea only known by our grandparents, who huddled around radios with their families listening to nightly programming. People who didn’t even know what podcasts were suddenly found themselves enthralled in this one-of-a-kind entertainment experience. And like many of them, listening to Serial is when I fell in love with podcasts.

Since then, I’ve subscribed to almost 20 different podcasts that I listen to weekly. I listen while I’m driving, doing dishes, walking my dog, at the gym, doing chores around the house, etc. I listen to at least one podcast almost daily.

Even though I have filled my life with this specific form of entertainment, it didn’t occur to me until the end of the first season of Serial that maybe I should consider financially supporting a podcast. When Sarah Koenig put out the call to donate to Serial so that they could do a second season, I blew it off. Then I got to thinking about it and ended up donating. Since then, I’ve donated to my other favorites as well. And here’s why.

  1. Podcasts provide a form of entertainment that I enjoy. We constantly consume forms of entertainment. Cable, internet, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Sling, Xbox Live, Redbox movies, iTunes, Amazon Music, books, going to see a movie, etc. are all forms of entertainment that we pay for. Podcasts are one of the few forms of entertainment that we don’t pay for. When Serial put out the call for donations, I realized that I had enjoyed listening to that podcast substantially more than any other form of entertainment I had consumed during that time period. And why shouldn’t that be rewarded? If I’m willing to pay $9/month for Netflix and $7.99/month for Hulu Plus, shouldn’t I be willing to donate money to a podcast that I enjoy even more?

  2. Creative work should be rewarded. As a creative living in the creative world, I constantly see articles posted about how “we shouldn’t work for free,” “we shouldn’t ask photographers to work for nothing,” or “we shouldn’t give our talents away”, etc. etc. And yet almost daily, many of us are consuming excellent content and not paying a cent for it. I don’t like to work for free--do you? And while we can make the argument that many of these people do make money from podcasts by sponsorships, there are plenty who don’t but are putting out great work regardless. I for one want to see these people succeed and their hard work rewarded. We could also make the argument that podcasters know they won’t make money and do it anyway, so we don’t need to support them financially. That’s your decision, and that’s fine. But producing a podcast is expensive, and if you enjoy it, you should at least consider supporting them, even if it’s just once.

  3. There are multiple ways of doing it, and it doesn’t always mean cash out of your pocket. There are generally multiple ways to support your favorite podcasts. For example, one of my favorite shows, “Crime Writers On,” provides Amazon Affiliate links on their website. When you click through their link, it takes you to Amazon and you can purchase just like you would any other time. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, and they receive a small percentage of money from a purchase that you were going to make anyway. Another favorite podcast of mine, The Popcast, provides multiple ways of supporting them. You can donate one time or monthly through their Patreon crowdfunding page, and, depending on your level of support, you receive bonus content! Or you can choose to buy extras when they are offered. They’ve written e-books--both of which are excellent--and also release bonus episodes that you can purchase by naming your price and providing as much or as little of a donation as you’d like. Another way of supporting your favorite podcasts is to support their sponsors through the website link shared during the podcast. By supporting their sponsors, you are letting the sponsor know that they are worth it! Not only that, but you are receiving something in return. I do not need, nor can I afford, one but after listening to many shows sponsored by Casper mattresses, I’m about ready to break down and order one solely because my favorite podcasters make them sound so fabulous.

Maybe you’ve never considered donating to your favorite podcast. But if you enjoy listening to them and find yourself recommending them to all your friends, I urge you to consider how valuable they are in your life. After you do that, think about financially supporting them, even if it’s just once. It may mean one less Starbucks purchase each month, but I don’t think you’ll regret it. Valuing creative work is important, and there’s nothing wrong with rewarding it with your hard-earned dollars.