Analysis of top earning podcasts on Patreon

Analysis of top earning podcasts on Patreon

I was curious if any of the top Patreon podcast accounts have commonalities of any kind, so using Graphtreon I charted out the top 15 and found some common threads.

Name #
Per Month
Chapo Trap House 245 24,778/
33.99 81.7k/
Bonus episodes
Sword and Scale 131 16,943/
22.8 35.2k/
Bonus episodes
shop discount
ad free feed
community access
Second Captains 655 11,071/
13.39 70.6k/
Bonus episodes
shop discount
ad free feed
Last Podcast on the Left 352 9,203/
42.79 82.3k/
Bonus episodes
ad free feed
free merch
Cum Town 147 9,250/
50.92 N/A Bonus episodes
Tell 'em Steve-Dave 99 7,143/
39 91.7k/
Bonus episodes & content
The Fantasy Footballers 207 6,784/
31.44 119.9k/
Bonus episodes
community access
Doughboys 193 6,646/
35.05 17.6k/
Bonus episodes
ad free feed
The Liturgists 90 5,731/
10.44 26.7k/
Bonus episodes
ad free feed
community access
The Tiny Meat Gang 60 5,891/
22.42 47k/
Bonus episodes
community access
The Ralph Report 43 5,238/
9.8 123k/
Bonus episodes
shop discount
True Crime Obsessed 72 5,480/
14.7 7.2k/
Bonus episodes
Enty Lawyer ? 5,361/
N/A N/A 68k/
Access to podcast
We Hate Movies 418 5,279/
40.13 9.3k/
Bonus episodes
back catalog
Not Another D&D Podcast 48 5,190/
32.22 529/
Bonus episodes & content
shop discount

*Guess is assuming the average Patron gives $4, unless there's only 1 tier
in which case that amount is what is assumed. Which is consistent with most top earning podcast Patreons.

Observation #1

Every one of them gives bonus episodes for Patreon supporters. This indicates to me that fans of those shows like the show so much that they want more of it, and by giving those fans a paid options to get more is absolutely working for these podcasts.

If you're a podcaster with a Patreon, this should be your #1 perk, and you'll be just fine if this is all you offer as a perk. A second, nice thing to do, seems to be to give ad free feeds to your Patrons if you have ads in, or even ads about your Patreon.

Observation #2

Fans REALLY love these shows. If you noticed the column "Plays per sub", this is the number of plays on Castbox divided by number of subscribers. This tells you how many episodes the average subscriber listens to (on Castbox). And just look at that column, the results are unreal! Topping the charts was Cum Town at 50! That means the average subscriber to Cum Town listens to 50 episodes, holy cow!

To compare other popular shows:

  • The NY Times the Daily (493 episodes): 7.9
  • TED Talks Daily (785 episodes): 3.64
  • This American Life (65 episodes): 6.67
  • Joe Rogan (1334 episodes): 20
  • My Favorite Murder (253 episodes): 21.64
  • Stuff You Should Know (1195 episodes): 7.5

So all but 4 of these top earners have more dedicated fans than Joe Rogan does. The podcasts are no where near as popular as Joe Rogan's but the average fan listens to more episodes.

This tells me that it's extremely valuable to put more focus on your current listeners and not worry about new listeners. You want to keep the ones you have so they listen to a lot of shows. Because having them be this dedicated not only can directly be turned into cash, but it usually means they'll spread the word for you, doing all your marketing for you.

Quick note about Castbox. I use numbers from there because it's the ONLY podcast app that displays actual download numbers and subscribers. It has about a 2% market share for all podcast downloads so this is only a slight look into how well the podcast is doing, but it's all you can really use to externally judge this.

Observation #3

Top earners Tweet a lot! Topping out at Tell em' Steve-Dave with 24,000 Tweets! Wow! But the trend for almost every show is that they are all Tweeting all the time. Even though Cum Town doesn't have an official Twitter, the 3 hosts do, and they Tweet their butts off. This is consistent with growing your audience. You don't make a podcast then hope people follow you on Twitter, you make a huge splash on Twitter and join or create thousands of conversations and people will follow you and maybe give your podcast a shot. The one anomaly on the list is Not Another D&D Podcast, I don't know what's up with their social media. Their host does have 28k followers and has tweeted 2,500 times so there's that...

I didn't have time to check these shows' Instagram and Facebook pages out, but it doesn't matter, they're killing it on Twitter so it's obvious that podcasters should be using it.

Observation #4

You actually don't need that many subscribers to make a full time living from Patreon alone. Suppose your goal is to have $3,000/mo income to make podcasting your full time job. If we scroll down the list further we'll see shows like this:

Name # Eps Patrons/Per Month Castbox Subs/Played
She's all Fat 48 559/$3,110 1,692/19,392
Not a Podcast 45 559/$3,189 280/9,009
Podcast The Ride 77 628/$2,834 542/13,770

Now sure each of these shows have multiple people working on them so $3k/mo won't cut it for 2+ people, but you get the idea. Look at how low these Castbox numbers are. Based on those numbers, and their iTunes reviews, you can take a wild guess that their total subscribers are somewhere between 3k-30k. This may sound extraordinarily big for some people, but this number is much more within reach than the million+ subscribers top shows are getting. So it just seems like a much more reasonable number to aim for.

What this also reinforces is the belief that a niche audience can be very profitable. You can find a small audience and if you make something they really love, you don't need that many people to listen to make it very profitable. So always aim small on your target audience and seek to satisfy them as much as possible

Observation #5

Everyone has over 40 episodes. Even the lower shows only making $3k a month. This indicates each of these shows have been at it a while. Even if they started as nobodies by the time they put out 100 episodes, their podcasting skills are probably decent. So it just takes time to develop that audience and get good enough to get people to love your show.

What's more is most of the shows on the top 15 have had their Patreon for over a year. So it also takes time to build up your Patrons there.

Observation #6

As far as I can tell Enty Lawyer's podcast is only available to Patrons. This is exciting to see some podcasts doing great by being a paid only subscription with no free option at all. I personally like the idea of podcasts being free but I am happy this model is working for them.

Final thoughts

Here's your recipe for making a full time living as a podcaster. Create a show people love, make over 40 episodes, Tweet thousands of times, create a Patreon, give bonus episodes as rewards, and then keep it all up for a year. The creating a show people love is really the hard part here. You can do that by talking to your audience, learning what they love and want to hear more of and what their desires are and then over deliver that to them.