The Exciting Journey of Podcasting: From Curiosity to Global Impact.
How I Make $1.2 Million A Year From This Podcast | E94 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "How I Make $1.2 Million A Year From This Podcast | E94".
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This week, we're going to do something different on this podcast. This podcast is about this podcast. So many of you have asked me questions about this podcast, how it works, how big the team is, how we pick and find guests, how we make a successful podcast, how you can build a successful social media channel or personal brand, and also how much money you can make from a podcast. At the end of the day, I just sit here and talk. I get to have interesting conversations with people I genuinely find interesting. So I think people typically assume that having a podcast is just a labor of love. Now, that is true. I don't do this for the money. I'm fortunate enough to have made a lot of money from the first company that I founded. I do this because I love it. Of all the things of all the revenue streams I have in my life, podcasting is my lowest financial return on the amount of time it takes me. However, this podcast will make millions this year. So this week, I'm going to tell you the truth about everything. After all, this podcast was founded on truth and honesty. And I've not seen any other podcasters tell you the things that I'm about to tell you about this business, about this medium and about this industry. I'm going to show you exactly how much money I make from this podcast, how I do it, how I did it, and how anyone else can do it too with six or seven simple pieces of advice. I'm also going to tell you all the non-financial reasons you should stop podcasting, even if it never makes you a penny. And some of these things are things that I came to learn over time. Some of the things I never ever expected and some of the things, some of the upsides and benefits, non-financial of starting a podcast have quite honestly changed my life. So without further ado, I'm Stephen Butler and this is the Dirova CEO. I hope nobody's listening. But if you are, then please keep this to yourself. So here's the thing. I started doing this podcast three or four years ago with a 90 pound microphone that I bought in Apple that I plugged into my laptop.
Podcast Management And Monetization
I put a duvet over my head three a.m. in the morning. I went downstairs into the quietest part of my house. There was no script, no plan, no team. I edited it myself. I engineered the audio myself, recorded it myself on my own. And I sat there and just spoke into a microphone about my life. And in that first episode, episode one, it was a total one off experiment in my mind. I never actually thought it would become multiple episodes or a season. And that renowned line that people in the comments section often ask about that I just said, I hope nobody's listening, but if you are, keep this to yourself, was totally random. I didn't plan to say that. I said it because I was about to share my diary for the first time. And I was unsure how being so vulnerable, open and honest would be received. So I jokingly asked anyone listening to keep it to themselves. And obviously, you guys didn't do that. And here we are three years and 10 months later. And the podcast has done very well. It's now the most listened to business podcast in Europe. It's sat at number one in the charts almost consecutively for 40 weeks straight. And as I said, it's become a multi million dollar business since I founded it. But and here is my first piece of advice if you're thinking about getting into the podcast game. And this piece of advice, I guess, applies not just to starting a podcast, but also to all facets of your professional and probably personal life. I published my first podcast episode three years and 10 months ago. But for the first three years, I was never ever consistent with my podcast. When I started one month, I might release an episode. And then there might be a gap of like two months or three months or a couple of weeks, then I'd pop up with another episode. And then there'd be a huge gap again and so on and so on and so on. And whenever I was consistent and managed to publish predictably every Monday for several weeks in a row, the podcast audience would grow and grow and grow. And you could see on the graph that the podcast growth was compounding. If I then took a month off, it was almost like I was back to square one again, you could see on the data when I would come back from my little hiatus, less people were there to listen. So I realized very quickly that if this podcast was going to really work and reach its full potential, then I had to figure out how to be consistent. So 10 months ago, I made the decision that no matter what, we would publish an episode on Monday every single Monday. And from that point onwards, the growth absolutely exploded. If you're watching this on YouTube, here's the actual graph of listeners from the minute I started being consistent with publishing the podcast every single Monday, the growth exploded by 10x, 10 times higher. And as I said, this is not a lesson on podcasting. It's a lesson on all facets of life, whether it's building a business, getting millions of followers on Instagram, or even getting into the best shape of your life, figuring out a way to reach that point of sustainable consistency was the key to explosive growth and progress. That is a fundamental lesson of my entire life, one that it genuinely took me 27 years to appreciate the value of being consistent at almost anything. Consistency unlocks everything. It teaches you faster than everybody else. It compounds growth and as it relates to content and building audiences, it helps to establish a cadence which keeps them coming back for more. If your podcast is once in a while, or even broken down into seasons that have these sort of large gaps between them, I seriously believe you're going to have a really difficult time growing your audience, especially organically, because people move on and they forget about you and you fall out of their routine. We publish every Monday morning at 7am because I know roughly 50% of podcast listeners listen in transit, which means on their way to work on a fly, on a train, on a walk, or even like on a running machine at the gym. So I want my audience to know that on Monday morning, before you start your week, or as you're getting ready for the week ahead, or during your Monday morning commute, you can count on me to be there every week right here. And that predictability for your audience allows them to fit you into their habits. And we are all creatures of habit. My second piece of advice is also a tip about how to grow a podcast and how I grew this podcast.
Getting your podcast discovered (06:20)
When this podcast started, it was me alone in my bedroom, always in the early hours of the morning stumbling around with a wire, my laptop and this cheap little microphone. And I loved that. I'm so happy that's where this podcast started. It was great. But me talking about myself to my existing audience was never going to grow this podcast significantly in an organic way. In order to grow this podcast, I had to find a way to reach new audiences and to pull them in. So I opened up this podcast to other entrepreneurs, to successful people, to the guests you've seen, to come here and share their diary in the way that I did when I started this podcast. And those guests bring their audience with them. And the podcast started to grow faster and faster and faster, faster than ever before. It turns out, I actually also enjoyed that a lot more because I got to meet amazing people, learn from them and be inspired by their stories. But it also saved me tons of time. When I did it on my own, I would honestly spend seven or eight hours planning and writing each episode. I had to do bullet points and figure out how I'd move from one bullet point to the next. And then if I wasn't happy, I'd rerecord the bullet point to try and nail it. It took a lot of time. Having a guest means I could just walk in, sit down, ask them the things I'm interested in, and have a great conversation, which now takes me just two hours to record. And as I said, I find it significantly more enjoyable because I get to learn from this incredibly diverse range of incredible, inspiring people from all walks of life. And I think generally, you guys enjoy that too. I know you guys still love the solo episodes, but I think generally it's really enjoyable to get really diverse range of inspiration from unexpected guests that a lot of the time you've never heard of before. And I, in that format, I still get to weave in my own thoughts and ideas into every episode, although it is centered on the guest. If you want to grow your own podcast, and you don't already have millions of followers, you need to figure out whether this growth is going to come from, whether organic growth is coming from, because Spotify and Apple podcasts, stores and apps don't have any viral discovery. You can't just hit retweet or share in Spotify and send it to all your friends, like you can on other social platforms, like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The vast majority, I'd say over 95% of the discovery of podcasts, new podcasts, happens outside of the Spotify and Apple podcast store. It happens on social networks. It happens in WhatsApp group chats. It happens in real life by sort of face to face word of mouth recommendations. So to grow your podcast, you need to figure out how your podcast is going to reach a new audience and do it often. And for me, this is achieved in two ways, as I said, by bringing guests in, but also by having the YouTube channel, there's a lot of content discovery happening on YouTube. Every time you watch one video, it recommends another. And sometimes that video is going to be the direct of a CEO. So we get a lot of new listeners coming in through the YouTube channel, and in future, they might decide to listen on Apple or Spotify or to stay on YouTube. Okay, my third piece of advice is actually a bit controversial. It's really important in all aspects of your professional life to find the right balance of having consistency and quality at the same time.
Maintaining a high quality of work (09:24)
And if you know me, you'll know that I'm someone that is an absolute stickler for quality. If you're one of the many thousands of people that has worked in one of my companies or alongside me or with me over the last 10 years, you will know this to be true. My job as a CEO or a founder or a marketer or a creative is to set a high standard for the quality of work we produce as a team, and to protect that standard like a hungry guard dog. And honestly, if you think the standard is too high for you, or you don't like me because I'm uncompromising about that standard, then that doesn't matter to me because I'm not here to be liked. First and foremost, I'm here to produce high quality work with a high degree of integrity and work that we can be proud of. Everything else is a secondary bonus. Everything. That is why we are here. That is our central mission. I never confuse that. With that said, on multiple occasions, I invited a guest to this podcast, recorded a full episode with them. And then I've deleted the episode and never published the episode because I didn't think it was a valuable enough conversation to share with you guys as my audience. I genuinely feel a deep sense of responsibility to all of the people that listen to this podcast because I know that you show up every single Monday and often give me two hours of your time listening to someone you've probably never heard of before. And you're trusting me to find interesting people and have a valuable conversation and to give you that value on your Monday morning. So on several occasions, even on one occasion, when the guest was a mega star with tens of millions of subscribers of their own, which obviously would have done wonders for this podcast going back to the point I just made about leveraging people's audiences. I realized that the conversation was not valuable enough to share it with all of you. And that was because, for a number of reasons, because it lacked insights, because it lacked inspiration, it wasn't an intelligent conversation, it was boring, and it didn't meet my standard. So I deleted the episode, told the guest why, and we moved on. In fact, that even happened this week. I tend to think my listeners are somewhat like me. You must be because I ask questions I'm interested in to guess, and you're clearly interested in those things too. So if I found the conversation with a particular guest to lack value or to be boring, that I know you will too. And keeping that trust with you, to me, is so unbelievably important. It's not nice for a guest to have their episode of a podcast deleted. And I'm sure some of them have been a little bit pissed off historically, because I might have wasted their time. I imagine if I was in their position and I went on a podcast, I traveled to it, and then I found out that it had been deleted. I would be annoyed too. But as I said, all of this stuff, to me, is secondary to producing a piece of work that me and my team can be really, really proud of. And if we're not proud of it, then you won't ever see it. And that's a standard that will always maintain it's not happened a lot. I've got to be honest, maybe three or four times in almost 100 episodes. But it's an important point. And I think having a standard drives all of the other work you do up. So even though we've only deleted four, it's definitely meant that we've set a higher bar for ourselves as a team, because we know that it's possible that episodes can get deleted if they're bad. And so we do a lot more work beforehand to make sure the guest is right and the themes and conversation are going to be right too. My fourth point is probably the point you guys want to know about the most, which is money.
Okay, so as I said, I only started doing this podcast once a week, 10 months ago. That's when we made the decision to take it seriously and to be consistent. Before then before 10 months ago, the podcast was basically just a hobby. 10 months ago, when I realized I was going to do this podcast once a week and launch this YouTube channel, which meant videoing the podcast for the first time, and really, really, really go for it. I realized I would need camera equipment, a location to film it, and a team to help me put this whole thing together. I've never ever cared about making a profit from this podcast. This fits into the things I do because I love it bucket in my life. And my goal, as I said to the team at the time, was just to break even. Jack Sylvester, who I produced this podcast with, made a shopping list of all the equipment we would need to make a high quality production. And the total for all that equipment came to roughly 4,000 pounds. I saw that list, and I said to Jack, Jack, I want you to really go for it. I want to produce one of the best podcasts in the world, come back to me with another list that is even more ambitious. A few days later, Jack came back to me with an equipment list that cost £40,000, which is about $55,000. He wanted seven cameras, some of them are robots that move by themselves up and down the room, some of them are sliders. We've got GoPros, state-of-the-art audio software. We've got the best microphones, the best lighting, blackout lines, you name it, it's here. And we really obsessed about the small details of this room, the set, and how it would make you feel, and how the feel of the set would impact the content itself. Additionally, if we're going to publish four podcasts a month across video and audio, and then promote these podcasts across social media with video clips, but also find really high level guests, we're going to need a team. So here's who I hired. Jack, who produces the podcast, I also have a full-time podcast book called Harry, who contacts potential guests. I have a full-time PR manager, Emma Berta, who produces the video assets and clips from this podcast and other projects. Callum, who produces more video clips for the podcast, Grace, who handles the social media across all of my channels, Don, my manager, who works with sponsors and on brand deals, and of course, Sophie, my longstanding assistant, who helps me organize my diary and logistics across all areas of my life. So in total, I have a team of eight people that are involved in the production of this podcast in various ways. It's not cheap, especially if you want to do it properly, and you don't have to do it on this scale. Podcasting can be remarkably cheap, especially if you don't want to video it. You can start with a $100 microphone like I did, as long as you have a laptop and edit it yourself and record it yourself, you can do it over Zoom. But because I wanted to do it big, I knew I needed to find a way to make money from this podcast. People had historically told me that there is no money in podcasting. They'd shown me the depressing numbers that you'll see if you Google the term, how much money can you make from a podcast? And those numbers work out the revenue potential based on how many downloads or listeners you're getting, and then they offer you some kind of dollar per download. And I read on Google, when I was starting out with my podcast, that you could make $25 to $50 per $1,000 downloads, which meant if you got 100,000 downloads per episode, I'd make $2,500 to $5,000 somewhere in that range. Obviously, this wasn't going to cut it. Most podcasters make their money from reading out adverts in the middle of a podcast episode, and most podcasters get these advert deals from some kind of podcast advertising company that acts as a middleman between the podcaster and the brand. And the brand is basically paying them on a dollar per download basis. The issue with this is that the middleman is taking a big, big cut, and the brand is paying a fixed fee per download, regardless of how good your show is, who you are, or how valuable your audience is. The brands are basically handing the middleman a bag of money and saying, "Get me podcast downloads as cheap as possible," and then they're coming to you and offering you some reduced rate. So point number five is the approach that I took. I knew the typical way of monetizing a podcast was never going to be enough to cover my costs, so I cut out the middleman. Here's what I did. I made a list of five companies that I genuinely use every single day and have done for years, companies that have helped me in various aspects of my life, and all companies that I really loved in terms of their mission and values. I made a nice little presentation deck, which was just two and a half slides long, showing my audience the growth, and I got hold of the email address of the CEOs of those five companies. I sent them all an email explaining exactly why they should sponsor this podcast. My ambitious plans for the future. I told them that I was a customer of their brand, proved I was a customer, and I told those companies that I would make this podcast the number one business podcast in Europe if they backed me. And I would do it within 12 months. All five of those companies replied. One of them was the CEO of a company called Heul, a guy called Julian Hearn, and he called me the next day offering to support me, this podcast. He knew I'd been a customer for three years, because I talked about he'll all the time anyway. He knew every single word I was going to say about he'll would be the truth, and he's never ever ever told me what to say, how to say it, what to promote, or anything like that at all. He simply believed in me. He backed me. He liked the show. And I guess because I'm a genuine Heul customer, he knew I would be a benefit to his brand. And no bullshit. I am a Heul customer. I realize creators and influencers say that a lot because they have to. That's what they're getting paid to say. But now I'm a super customer. I have two Heul fridges in this building alone that I'm recording this podcast in now. Six tubs of it over there on my fridge. If you opened up the cupboards, you'd find Heul products. It is the reason that I'm in the best shape of my life. It saves me huge amounts of time, which is the most scarce and important thing in my life. And it keeps me 10 out of 10 healthy. A few months after, she'll back to the podcast, I actually asked Julian, the CEO, if I could invest in the company too. And I ended up being a pretty significant investor in the business. And I also now sit on the board too. So a really, really amazing relationship. And one that is based in authenticity. And that's all because I cut out the middleman. And I went directly to the brand that I loved with a really compelling pitch and a very ambitious plan for the future. It's not often or typical that a creator or an influencer goes and pitches themselves to a brand. But I swear, if you have the gut skill, effort and hard work to do that, you can get amazing deals and deals that are authentic to you. And for me, that was the most important thing. Another company that replied to me was Fiverr. The same thing. They believed in me and actually worked on a project with them before. I used their products. I've used Fiverr across a whole host of portfolio companies that I'm involved in. I use it for everything from graphic design to video to audio editing to translations. You name it. I contacted the Global Marketing Director, who I'd never spoken to before, found him on LinkedIn. I told him about this podcast. I hope to resume call with him, sent him some stats around the podcast, told him about my plans. And they said they had sponsored the podcast too. Again, they've never told me what to say, how to say it. They leave me alone. And that makes everything much more authentic and much more honest. And I think you guys can tell. Lastly, my third sponsor is My Energy, my newest sponsor, an absolute phenomenal British success story co-founded by a remarkable entrepreneur called Jordan Brampton. Some of you will know I've been a big advocate for sustainability ever since I sold my Range Rover Sport and replaced it with an electric bicycle. And My Energy are at the very forefront of British renewable, eco-smart technology. In my mind, they are the British version of Tesla. And so I reached out to Jordan because their values and missions are completely aligned with mine. I asked if they would support the podcast and they too, after a Zoom call and a few chats, said they would love to. And my relationship with My Energy has got closer and closer and closer. And I'm now involved in a lot of other things within that business too. I asked all of my sponsors for a 12 month contract, which allows me to plan further ahead into forecasts and to hire. And I genuinely have such a amazing, relaxed, trust-based relationship with all of them, which means I have that freedom to speak about my relationship with their brand in my own way, in my own words. And that, as I said, is incredibly, incredibly important to me. It also means that this podcast has never felt like a job. No one hands me a script and tells me what to say. I do it in my way. And that's integral. The psychology proves that's integral to enjoying something. The minute it starts to feel like a job and you lose that autonomy, typically that's when motivation declines. And this, as I said at the start of this podcast episode, fits into the bucket of my life. That is called things I do for fun. I don't want to compromise that. If I ever feel that is compromised, then maybe the podcast would stop. Outside of those key sponsors that I've mentioned, I have the odd brand collaboration or opportunity, maybe once every other month, which I might mention on the show from time to time. And my three key sponsors and my other sponsors pay varying fees depending on what I do for them. But all in all, this year, this podcast will generate over $1.2 million, which is just over $100,000 a month. So it turns out the naysayers I encountered when I started were wrong. And there is money in podcasting and you can turn it into a really lucrative business. My last point is a bit of a bonus point.
Personal Motivation And Persistence
Why I started and new reasons to keep going (22:29)
And that's about why I wanted to do the podcast in the first place. And since launching it, the new reasons why I carry on doing it. I started the podcast because I believed in the medium of podcasting to communicate ideas and to tell stories and to connect with an audience. In a world now where everybody is subsessed with reach, like 1 million views, 1 million impressions, podcasts are alone as a different channel because they're offered depth. When I started the podcast, I was also making videos on Facebook Watch. I remember making four videos that ranged between 3 million and 33 million views. On average, those four videos did 10 million views each. The views were staggering, huge view numbers. However, the videos were like two to three minute, kind of viral, semi-fagatable, highly relatable videos that after watching, most people never really remembered ever again. And one of the sort of like real world measurements that I have about how much the content I make online is connecting with people is when I meet people in the streets or on a train or an event, what they mention and people never ever mentioned my Facebook videos. And so for me, that meant that those Facebook videos weren't connecting with them at any real depth. When I started the podcast, although at the very, very beginning, I was getting thousands of listeners, I would get stopped all the time. Even though it was doing 100 times less than the views as my Facebook videos were, when I was getting stopped in the streets, it was getting 100 times more mentions. And the essays I would get in my DMs, the long sort of anecdotal explanations about how it impacted people meant way more to me than getting a really big reach number. And so I made the decision that I found the depth much more enjoyable. It was having a greater impact. And when I'm producing content that I hope will help people, I think of it in terms of the time it takes me versus the impact it has. And in that department, podcasting sits absolutely alone. The audience is smaller than the viral videos I used to make, but the impact is 100 times more profound. None of you can remember the last thing you saw on Instagram. You can't remember the last photo you tapped, the last reel you watched, but all of you can remember the last movie you watched on Netflix. And I think that's the perfect example of how reach can be quite meaningless, but depth can be incredibly impactful. It stays with you. And for me, podcasting an hour long and two hours long sometimes at real depth on very emotional topics has a tremendous amount of impact, which makes it all for me incredibly worthwhile. And the other really unintended consequence of doing a podcast was it forced me to keep a diary, to then sit down at the end of the week and look at that diary and to reflect and to take lessons from my experiences. We all go through life experiencing things. Those that stop, look at what's happened, pick it apart, analyze it, and form conclusions on it will learn more in the same amount of time because they're taking more from their experiences. My diary, keeping a diary, analyzing it, and taking lessons from it genuinely made me smart. It genuinely helped me understand myself. It grew myself awareness. And even if I didn't have a podcast or an audience, I would recommend that everybody does that journal have something where at the end of the week or at the end of the day or whenever you want to do it, you reflect on the experiences you've had, and you extract the maximum amount of learnings from them. I never expected that, but being forced to produce content, whether it's on Instagram or a podcast or on YouTube, really accelerates how much you learn, learn about the world, learn about the topics you're discussing, but most importantly, learn about yourself. And the other really unintended consequence of starting a podcast, especially one that's now videoed, is it's helped me sharpen my sword in terms of my skills, in terms of how I speak, communicate my ideas, present on camera. And those are skills that are so incredibly important in the day and age we live in, especially in the social media era. So I would deeply encourage everybody to find some type of way, especially if you're young and you're growing up in the social media era, or if you're someone that wants to improve your confidence or get better at sales, I would find a way to create a pact with yourself, like a promise. My promise is I have to show up on Monday and make this for you, create a pact where you have to consistently produce content. As I said, it improves your ideas and improves your ability to speak. And it also helps you on camera, which is an important skill in an era where everything seems to be recorded. And the other really unexpected upside of having a podcast and inviting guests on was you genuinely make amazing, potentially lifelong friends. There's this TED talk I watched probably about four or five years ago. And it's, I think it's called like the 35 questions to fall in love with somebody. And it's basically this list of 35 questions that if you ask somebody and then spend four minutes staring in their eyes, apparently you're supposed to fall in love with them. Now, of course, that's bullshit, but there's real psychological evidence to support why that would help you connect with somebody. And the truth is, as humans, when we open up to somebody else and they open up to us, it's been proven that it's easier to connect with them. So after sitting here for two hours with a guest that I've never met before, talking about their childhood and things they've been through and their mental health problems and their struggles and their dreams and their ambitions. After the podcast finishes filming, honestly, in like 90% of the time, I feel like they're my mate. And they genuinely 90% of the time will say to me, let's go for dinner. Let's go for a, you know, and they genuinely mean it. And I genuinely do like, you know, I had Reggie Yates on the podcast, never met him before. A couple days later, I'm at his house and I'm having dinner at his house, Lee and Payne never met him before came on the podcast was at his house two days ago, and we're genuinely, really good friends now. And it's the same with all of my guests. I go to their birthday parties, I go to their weddings sometimes. We become really, really, really good friends. And it's because we connected from a place of vulnerability. I never expected that. And for me, that is reason enough to launch a podcast. It expanded my professional network, but it also expanded my friendships. And that's really what I wanted this podcast today to be about. I wanted you to know that you can start your own podcast. And even if you don't go for the full production studio like I have, you can make enough money to live off. Think about it. I get paid to sit and chat with other people that I think are amazing. That is a unbelievable privilege. So what are my plans for the future of this podcast? If you know me, you probably already know the answer to that question. I want to take it to another level. As you may have seen, we launched the Diary of a CEO Live, which is our live event. And we sold out Manchester's Albert Hall. We had thousands of people there. And it was, I think I'm safe to say, totally unexpected, a big production. It was theatrical in its nature. There was sort of like special effects and stuff, video, music. It was all there. And it was a really, really, honestly, one of the most powerful evenings of my life over the last five years. Maybe the most powerful thing I've ever done, maybe. And we're now going to tour that across the rest of the UK coming to five UK cities first and foremost, which I'm going to announce shortly. And in other elements of this podcast, we're going to continue to take it to another level. Guests are going to get even better, production's going to get even better, and hopefully I'm going to get even better too. And most importantly, we're going to continue to be consistent at something that we all very much love doing. This was a very different episode this week. I hope you enjoyed it. I wanted to finally answer some of these key questions around this podcast and just be completely honest with you. And I'll see you again next week. We've got another great guest coming in on a current way.