Simply put a podcast network is a group of podcasts that all are under the same label, such as Gimlet, Wondery, and Radiotopia. But why should someone join a podcast network? What benefits does it bring? We'll cover all those topics and more.
What's the Benefit of Joining a Podcast Network?
Generally, most podcast networks help cross promote other shows in their network. This means other shows will do a 30 second ad for your show and you will in turn do a 30 second ad for theirs. Doing cross promos like this can have a huge boost of new listeners. Some networks like Castbox and Stitcher have podcast players so they can promote your show through the player.
Not all podcast networks are the same though. Some have a primary goal of helping you find sponsors. They'll go find potential sponsors, negotiate ad deals, and then work with you to read the ads in your episodes.
Podcast networks may also help you with other things. Such as free hosting, using a free graphic designer, getting copy editing help, or even help with production of a show. They won't give you access to a full time member of your team, but they can provide assistance now and then on parts of your show.
Above all though, by being part of a network means you can meet other podcasters like you. You can share experiences, bounce ideas off each other, and help each other out. You can easily connect with other podcasters in your network to pick their brains, and learn from. This may also mean being a guest on another show or helping out on another show to learn more.
Do You Pay to Join?
There are hundreds of networks out there, and the vast majority of them do not require you to pay. But the bigger ones usually do need some kind of funding to help you out. Networks that help you find sponsors will typically take 30% of the sponsor revenue. Other networks may require you to help do a fund raising campaign for the network.
If you're considering joining a network but it will cost you, talk to other podcasters in the network to see if it was worth it for them. If by joining the network it made their show 10x bigger, then maybe it is worth it to help grow your show.
Requirements to Join
The vast majority of networks are small time, group of friends kind of things. There's no requirement to join other than asking if you can be part of it and they say yes. But some of the more top tier bigger networks have very strict requirements. Joining the Stitcher network, for instance requires at least 30,000 downloads per episode and some say much higher. The Radiotopia network has stated they aren't accepting any new shows for years now. So it seems they pick you. Check with each network individually to learn what the requirements are.
What you Give Up
All good networks will always let you keep all of your intellectual property. You get to keep control of your podcast and all it's content. If a network doesn't let you keep your IP then quickly say no to the contract.
Normally a network will want you to add the network branding to the podcast artwork, podcast author, and even during the podcast credits. So your show will see some new branding.
Some networks require you to sign a contract, typically for 1 year. There may be additional rules to being part of the network like having a certain minimum amount of ads, release a certain number of episodes a month, or requirement to cross promote at a certain frequency. Read any contract very carefully and look for any areas of concern.
Power of Staying Indy
You can do everything a network does yourself, without having to join them. You can go directly to other podcasters and ask if they are willing to do a promo swap with you, and you can find sponsors yourself to put ads in. And when you do it your way, you aren't under any contract or obligated to follow any rules. And by doing it all yourself, you can have a much bigger pride in building your show all on your own. It's not cheating by joining a network but really if your show is great, it won't need a network. Some marketing and networking with other podcasters, journalists, and influencers and you'll be just as well off.
Personal story. When I first started podcasting I made it my primary goal to be approached by a certain top notch network. I wanted to be part of their network so bad it's what I dreamt about every night. I did a lot to try to be noticed by not by directly asking them to notice me. Eventually they did notice me and called me up and asked me to join. After 2 months of thinking about it, I turned them down. It was a dream come true but when I arrived I realized it wasn't for me. While networks can be very helpful, don't think that they will give you an easy path to success. If you are good enough that you get noticed by one, you're doing something really right and you'll be just fine on your own.
List of Networks
Here are a few lists of podcast networks.