It’s a relatively common question: if you’ve built up a following online, how can you monetize your audience?
This is the first of a series we’ve put together to address the question of monetizing an audience that you already have. There are many examples out there, such as people with blogs, podcasts, email newsletters, or large numbers of social media followers who aren’t yet making money from their audience.
If you’re in this position, great! You’ve done a huge part of the hard work already. Building an audience is an essential ingredient for successfully monetizing online, but one of the most challenging aspects.
In this first part of the series, we’re looking at advertising as means of monetizing your audience. Here’s what that might look like, and the relative pros and cons:
When you’ve got an audience of a reasonable size, this gives you the opportunity to monetize by showing them advertisements. Here are some examples of how content creators are monetizing:
Podcasts have become an increasingly attractive channel for third-party businesses and organizations to advertise. By 2023, it is estimated that two-thirds of the US population will listen to digital audio at least once per month.
Advertising on podcasts may be pre-recorded ads like what you’d hear on a radio station, or they may involve the podcast host/s talking about the company and telling people where to go to learn more about them. Ads are placed pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll, with the most premium spot being pre-roll. This is because pre-roll ads generate 5% more website visits. Placement of ads is something to consider when you price them! You can ask more for those pre-roll spots.
Podcasts may also tout sponsors. For example, you’ll hear hosts announce “this content was made possible by sponsorship from [Name of business]. Get your [product of the business] at [website].”
There are typically three main ways to get sponsors or advertisers for your podcast:
Display ads are ads that are shown via graphics, banners, text, images, video, audio or animations. They are displayed on web pages, social channels, emails, and more so that an audience can click through to the website of the advertiser.
In the US, the overall average click-through rate on display ads is 0.10%, although it’s important to recognize that this varies widely across industries. You may see much better results on your own media channels if those ads are highly relevant to your audience.
Display ads can be sourced through joining an ad network such as Google’s AdSense.
Video ads are shown during your own video content. For example, if you upload videos to YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram, you can choose to monetize by allowing ads. These are typically either skippable or not, and you get paid through views.
To allow video ads, you’ll need to follow the instructions for your channel of choice. For example, on YouTube you can join the YouTube Partner Program.
Affiliate links can be used in all sorts of content. They are associated with your account with the advertiser so that when visitors click through and buy, you receive a commission.
Examples of using affiliate links include writing about products in your blog or social media posts, then including the link to purchase the product. You could also post affiliate links within your video content.
You can start affiliate marketing by finding programs you’d like to join that are a fit for your content. For example, if you run a home decor channel, programs such as Walmart’s affiliate program might suit you.
Paid partnerships or “branded content” can be found on channels such as Instagram and TikTok. It’s where your content features or is influenced by a partner who pays for being recognized in your posts. These posts tend to be marked as “sponsored content” or similar on those platforms.
You can access paid partnerships by going through the instructions on your channel of choice (here are Instagram’s).
The next question is, do you want to monetize your audience through advertising? It’s a good idea to weigh up the pros and cons, so here are some to consider:
There are a few criteria to consider before choosing to monetize through advertising to your audience. First of all, you’ve got to know your audience very well. Do you have a consistently high-quality audience? Do you have a significant number of people who return for your content, or does your audience seem “transient?” Do you have the sort of audience that won’t be put off by advertisements, or will introducing them cause people to leave?
Secondly, does your content easily lend itself to sales? Some content is naturally a great fit, while some would be a stretch. Yard Mastery is a great example of a brand that started with popular content. People flocked to their lawn care videos, which they were then able to monetize by dropshipping related products.
If you’re choosing to monetize through advertising, then it will work best for you if the ads relate to your content. It’s a jarring experience for people if the kitten video they’re watching is interrupted by an ad for life insurance…
There are many examples of content creators who grew their audience and have been able to monetize through advertising and other initiatives. For example, take a look at social media influencers who didn’t come from a celebrity background. On Instagram, influencers such as Emma Chamberlain grew their audiences by producing unique content and getting noticed for their popularity. These influencers get a mix of advertisers who come to them, or advertisers that they approach themselves.
In the blogging world, there are thousands of examples of monetizing through advertising. We’ll pick just one - The Spruce, a crafts and hobbies blog. They frequently include affiliate links to products in their content, although they expressly state in their editorial guidelines that their product reviews are based on their own independent research - they don’t accept compensation for reviews. Their mention of their 72 million annual readers on their homepage serves to let readers know they’ve found a popular blog, and let advertisers know the same thing…
Advertising can be a viable option to monetize an audience IF you have a large, high-quality following. It works best if you’re able to show ads for relevant products or services, rather than interrupting the user experience with unrelated content.
However, as we mentioned, this is just Part I of our series on how to monetize your audience. It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of advertising and determine whether it will be a good fit for your audience and content. If not, another option may be better for you. Stay tuned!