Acast founder Johan Billgren on podcasting success // Part II: Growth and monetization

Acast founder Johan Billgren on podcasting success // Part II: Growth and monetization

Johan Billgren founded Acast in 2014, and his company pioneered monetization for the podcasting industry — ensuring creators get fairly reimbursed for their hard work. We asked Johan how podcasters can grow their shows and make money from their craft.

Written by By Johan BillgrenCo-founder2021.06.03

How much money do you need to invest to start a podcast? What equipment do you need?

Starting a podcast doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but investing in a good microphone can be a good idea in the long run. Today, you can buy good, affordable podcast equipment for not much more than $100.

At Acast we’re confident everyone has a story to tell, and we make it easy for people to turn their ideas into podcasts, and share their story across any and every podcast listening app out there. You can get started for free today.

How important is it to find your niche?

Consumer interest in podcasts is greater than ever, so a strong format and niche can be key to your success. Research the market and see whether there are any gaps that you can help fill with new, inspiring content.

Make sure the format you choose to go for is something you enjoy, and that you’re covering a topic you’re passionate about, so the content feels trustworthy and authentic to the listener.

If you feel you have a unique format, make that clear in either the title of the show or as a subtitle. Sum your podcast and your format up in a short description that your listeners can share with their friends. For example, “it’s a podcast where a man and his friends read from the porn novel his dad wrote” — you instantly know what you’re getting.

Understand what makes you and your content stand out, and why a listener would choose your podcast, because that decision is made before they even press ‘play’.

How can you grow your podcast audience?

Get to know your audience properly by diving into the data and insights about your podcast. Identify how many people are listening, what they’re listening to, and when.

By analyzing what your target audience likes, it also becomes easier to develop and adapt the format to suit their needs and interests. Talk to friends and family about the podcast and ask for concrete feedback — it’ll all help you refine your content, which will help increase your listenership in the future.

Expose potential new listeners — and maybe even those who’ve never tried podcasts before — to your content by sharing snippets on social media. Make sure you have a landing page where people can listen through an embedded player within their internet browser, as new listeners in particular are less likely to already have a podcast app downloaded.

Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth. Ask your loyal fans to share and recommend your show to their friends and families.

Another way to grow your show is to ask other podcast creators if you can run cross-promotion in each other’s podcast and channels. Plenty of podcasters within the Acast Creator Network do this as an effective way to “exchange” listeners with each other.

How do you make money?

At Acast, we believe all podcast creators, regardless of size, should have the opportunity to make money from their craft, on their own terms. Today, most creators do that through audio advertising and sponsorship of their podcasts, but we’re also launching Acast+ soon — giving podcasters even more monetization options, such as offering ad-free streams and exclusive content to paying subscribers.

To maximize the chances of increased revenue, it’s important to build a loyal listener base. Many of the world’s most popular podcasts have worked for a long time to reach the audience — and therefore reap the rewards — they have today.

Since 2014, Acast has generated more than $100 million in revenue for podcasters through ads, sponsorship and branded content, and there’s still an incredible amount of unexplored ground.

What makes a successful podcast?

One success factor you can point to is when a listener feels strongly enough that they want to pass on what they’ve just heard — whether that’s because it made them laugh, or touched them emotionally, or educated or enlightened them.

But, while it’s definitely worth it, it takes time to build an audience so committed and dedicated. Creators need ice in their veins. We often say podcasting is a marathon, not a sprint.

How do you think podcasting will evolve in the future?

In the future, we’ll see even stronger, clearer, more well-developed formats that offer listeners more knowledge and education, but in a simple, easy-to-consume way. We’ll also see creators investing in shorter episodes and releasing more per week.

Target audiences for podcasts will continue to broaden, with those who had not previously discovered podcasts entering the space — such as those who are aged 55+. I also believe we’ll begin to hear more and more light- or kind-hearted content, as we humans yearn for escapism and humor now more than ever.

Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, we’ll continue to see the rise of the creator economy. No longer will creators need mass appeal and a huge audience to be able to quit their nine-to-five job. While blockbuster shows will always be popular, podcasters with audiences of all shapes and sizes can make money — all you need is a highly engaged and dedicated fanbase.