BBC Article

Robert Cassanello (he/him/his) Discussion

Greetings all, I read this BBC article [] "Can podcasts turn a profit?"

I am not interested in the monetizing of podcasts, but there are some interesting insights into how producers and advertisers are engaging an audience and packaging content for subscribers that I think are useful. If any of you teach a Podcasting class this could be a useful read and discussion.



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Thanks for sharing that, Robert. It's worth noting that this podcast article still came out in the Tech section, rather than Arts & Entertainment, which suggests a sharp perceived divide between "traditional media" and podcasts.

But more than monetization, I'm really interested in ways that independent podcasters (and academics in particular) are finding support for their work. Hosting podcasts on H-Net networks and the resources that we're compiling here at H-Podcast are two forms of support. But what strategies/resources/tricks are independent and/or academic podcasters using to continue to make episodes sustainably without having to shut things down? Are departments, research centers, or colleges providing technical or other kinds of support to faculty or grad student podcasters? Are people finding that having a podcast as part of one's professional profile helpful on the job market, promotion & tenure, or other kinds of professional contexts? I think this kind of information would be extremely useful to fellow podcasters. If you don't want to post under your name, please feel free to send a note to, and I'll post it here.



At 15 Minute History, we benefit from having a common-use studio and audio editing owned by our college that we don't have to pay for (we do pay for web hosting, however, since we were given permission to take the podcast site outside of the university infrastructure - partly because we sank time and energy into getting promotional materials with our web address and they changed it six months later).

The History department at Texas has been emphasizing public scholarship (and alt-ac trajectories in general); I can't say for certain whether that's been successful, but I will say that at least three of our featured speakers who were going on the job market have mentioned that the hiring committee found their podcast and mentioned it in the interview process (also, all three were hired -- while I would love to say there's a direct correlation there, I have no actual evidence to back that up). This has made it a lot easier to get graduate students into the studio. 

That said, there's still a disconnect in the way that public scholarship is viewed as desirable by the department and how it's viewed in terms of, say, course release or eligibility for tenure. If I'm not mistaken it still goes into that vast and nebulous category of "service to the university," of which "enhancing the reputation of the university" is an objective. My co-host, who is a full professor, did get partial course release to manage a massive public history site called Not Even Past, of which the podcast is a part, but that was due to her chair's ability to leverage funding (and interest in doing so), not any sort of university policy. 

As for myself, I've been working as a public engagement person at the university for far longer than I've been a graduate student (that's actually the hat I was wearing when I pitched the idea), and the podcast is a definite boon as a tool when working with K-12 and two-year college educators, since its something that can be used without much preparation on their part. On the other hand, there are exactly four other people at this university (with 50,000 students and 10,000 employees) who share my job description, so I'd have a hard time drawing any conclusions about wider benefits there!

Mostly, I'd say it's a labor of love.

Christopher Rose
co-host, 15 Minute History podcast
Assistant Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Doctoral candidate, ABD, Department of History
University of Texas at Austin

Yelena asked the money question about academic podcasting and it’s about, well, money. I’ve run the New Books Network ( for seven years. We’ve had no trouble expanding (we now have 81 subject-specific, author-interview podcasts), finding hosts (we have over 150), producing a lot of new episodes (we publish 60 a month), or gaining an audience (we serve around 20,000 episodes a day, and rising). So we’re achieving our mission: public education.

Paying for it—or, rather, trying to make it sustainable—has proven much more challenging.

I don’t have a department or even an institution, so that’s not an option. Even if it were, I don’t think the “departmental/institutional route” is ready for academic podcasters to travel, at least sustainably. Perhaps one day departments and institutions will see supporting public-spirited academic podcasts as part of their mission--the same way they support radio stations, institutes and even museums--but that day is yet to come. I’ve talked to many departments and institutions about sponsoring the NBN and, with a few exceptions (shout out to Wesleyan!), none of them was really keen on the idea. Maybe my “pitch” was off, but I suspect that they don’t yet appreciate what an effective, online out-reach program can do for them, both in terms of pursuing their mission and in terms of (to use a bit of business-jargon) “branding.” Eventually, they will, but not for some time. That said, I’d love to be proven wrong…

The folks at academic institutions who are somewhat interested in supporting academic podcasts are university presses, or at least a few of them. The reason in the case of the NBN is pretty simple: we promote books and they sell them. Amherst College Press has proven a very generous sponsor, as has Cambridge UP. We’re in talks with others, mostly about buying advertising on our podcasts. Both business-wise and technically, however, selling ads to UPs on our podcasts has proven difficult. We’ve had to bring the UP publicists up to speed on podcast advertising (they live in a print world), bring our production schedule into line with their ad-buying schedules (they need a lot of lead time), and develop software to actually embed the ads (pre-rolls, mid-rolls, post-rolls) in the served files. I say “we’ve” had to do this, but basically it’s me. The job is too much for one person, so I’m thinking about hiring, say, an ad-sales rep (if you’re interested, contact me!).

We’ve tried NPR style fund-raising. While not completely ineffective, it’s not going to pay the bills, at least the way I’ve done it. It’s not news, I think, that most people are perfectly willing to get something for nothing. That’s not going to change. Since we’re committed to giving away—rather than charging for—our podcasts, donations are not going to get us where we need to be. That’s okay; we really appreciate the listeners who donate!

The folks who are really interested in supporting podcasts—academic and non-academic—sell stuff and want to advertise it. Again, that’s not really a surprise. Since the wall between the “business side” and the “editorial side” is impregnable at the NBN, we don’t have a problem selling ads to support the project. Sure, if Big Name University, Ms. Very Rich Benefactor, or some flock of much-loved donors were to fund us sustainably, we wouldn’t sell ads; but that’s not going to happen. So the NBN, though “value-driven,” is like every other “content provider”: we’re going to support our good work by selling ads. There are a number of podcast ad networks that bring advertisers and podcasters together: Midroll, Panoply, Acast, among others. The folks at these companies all think podcasting is a weird kind of broadcast radio; they want BIG NUMBERS on new episodes and care not about the “back catalogue.” The NBN gets most of its downloads from the “back catalogue” (we prefer “library”), so working with Midroll and the rest isn’t really an option. I think we need to sell ads directly to advertisers, like most magazines, newspapers, and TV shows do. Hence the need to hire an ad-sales rep. Of course you have to have money to make money and I don’t have the money to hire an ad sales rep… (See “Chicken and Egg,” for more). Maybe we should discuss creating an an ad network like MidRoll et al. JUST for serious, public-spirited, non-profit, academic-esque podcasts? We could share the expense and services of the staff of the network. That's an idea.

I’m confident there is a way to make academic podcasts economically sustainable. We just have to find it!

One final word about the benefits of hosting an academic podcast, since Yelena also put that question. It’s “service” and should be thought of as such. It should “count” and it does in my limited experience. As editor of the NBN, I’m asked to write letters for hosts’ job applications, tenure cases, and promotion files with some frequency. I’ve been told that these letters—and the podcasting activity they reflect—have helped NBN hosts get jobs, tenure, and promotions. I wish I were asked to write more such letters, but the fact that I’m asked to write them at all is good news.

With Warmest Wishes,

Marshall Poe
Editor, New Books Network