Those of you that have tried to use Patreon to generate revenue for your show know it’s not exactly the easiest platform to add your podcast to. Aidan Hornsby (pictured) is the founder of a company called DoubleUp. He tells PBJ his company has developed a new platform, called Supercast, built specifically to help podcasters generate subscription revenue.
PBJ: Explain what Supercast is and why you launched it?
Aidan Hornsby: Supercast is a new product that gives podcasters everything they need to easily sell subscription content to their listeners and build predictable, recurring revenue.
Over the last year our agency DoubleUp has been working with podcasters to grow their businesses. Some of our clients and friends in the industry were looking to fund their shows using a membership model. Basically: a small percent of their audience would pay around $5-$10 a month to receive extra content like extended and Ask Me Anything episodes.
As we dug into listener, download, and revenue numbers, we realized subscription podcasting is one of the best business models we’ve ever seen. We come from the software world, so we quickly realized that subscription podcasting has many of the same characteristics of a SaaS business (recurring revenue, predictable growth rate, predictable customer lifetime value, predictable churn) with none of the downsides (expensive R&D, expensive marketing, ruthless competition).
We were surprised there weren’t already better tools to help podcasters realize subscription revenue. Some were solving this with a combination of WordPress, membership plug-ins and Paypal integrations, but they were all running into the same headaches. Nothing worked seamlessly, and they were leaving money on the table: Payments would bounce, the software wouldn’t retry the card or send reminder emails, listeners would share out their subscriber RSS feed and thousands of people would pirate it, racking up massive hosting bills.
On top of that, there was no way to track how many subscribers were sticking around, or even figure out what a subscriber was worth so we could advertise. Most importantly, it was all a huge pain to configure, and took lots of manual developer work to set up.
As we worked with more and more podcasters, we realized there had to be a better way, and decided to build Supercast to help podcasters unlock subscription revenue from their shows.
PBJ: We’ve trained consumers that podcasts should be free. Other than a few well-known stars getting paid, how could that possibly change at this point?
Aidan Hornsby: We certainly recognize that the majority of podcast listeners today are enjoying great shows for free. In fact, as podcast fans we know all too well that there are too many good shows, and not enough hours in the day to listen to (or even discover) all of them.
That said, it’s also clear that in 2019 consumers are absolutely willing to pay for content they love — particularly via subscriptions (look no further than Spotify, Netflix, and their kin). Patreon’s success in helping content creators across mediums monetize their audience relationships directly is proof that the subscription model is feasible for creators at all levels.
In fact, this model is already proven in China, where podcasters have moved to the subscription model — they get their most loyal listeners to pay for member-only content instead of monetizing using ads. Where the North American podcast industry was $479 million in 2018, China’s clocked in at over $7 billion (23x!) Podcasters in China can make over $8m a year with just 250 thousand listeners. In contrast, Serial, America’s most popular podcast ever, made about $500k in ad revenue in its first year.
PBJ: How is Supercast different/better than Patreon?
Aidan Hornsby: Unlike Patreon, Supercast was designed from the ground-up for podcasters.
For example, while Patreon does support delivery of private podcast feeds, they don’t make it easy for listeners to actually access member-exclusive podcast: Subscribers have to copy-and-paste private RSS URLs into their podcast player of choice (a clunky digital juggling act), or download the Patreon app to access the content there instead.
We know that most listeners want to listen to shows in their favourite podcast app, so this was one of the first problems we wanted to solve. With Supercast, it’s simple: Podcasters link listeners straight from their show notes to a simple page where they can quickly pay on their mobile device (Apple / Google Pay or credit card), and subscribe to the private feed in their app of choice a couple of taps.
On the analytics side, Patreon offers some basic insight into general engagement (comments, likes, shares and clickthrough rate, etc). We’ve built Supercast to offer podcasters richer, podcast-specific content analytics, as well as providing valuable insights into their recurring business metrics (more below).
PBJ: Talk about the metrics you deliver to podcasters?
Aidan Hornsby: Generally speaking, cross-platform podcast analytics are limited when compared to other types of digital content (apps and software-as-a-service, video, email, etc).
Because Supercast gives every user a unique, private feed, it’s able to collect more detailed analytics than a public podcast feed, tracking downloads at a per-user level. This helps podcasters get a better understanding of the listening behavior of the most valuable segment of their audience (paying subscribers). We also allow podcasters to tag episodes to track which seasons, topics, guests, etc, drive subscriptions and keep listeners sticking around over time.
As well as rich content analytics, Supercast also helps podcasters get a clear picture of the health of their subscription business (and project their growth) by tracking key metrics like total and recurring revenue, average revenue per user, lifetime value, and churn.
PBJ How does a podcaster get paid, what are the tiers and what percentage does Supercast get?
Aidan Hornsby: Supercast integrates directly with a podcaster’s Stripe Connect account. Once the podcaster has set their price and got set up, they’ll get paid every time a listener signs up and pays for a subscription.
Supercast costs the podcaster a flat rate per subscriber, starting at $0.99. The fixed rate model gives us an advantage over other platforms like Patreon, who take a percentage cut of the podcaster’s revenue. This doesn’t doesn’t scale well for the podcaster: As their revenue grows, Patreon takes more money.
With a flat rate, regardless of how much money the content creator charges for their subscription, what they pay Supercast is fixed (in fact, because our fixed rate discounts with scale, the podcaster’s margin increases as they grow their subscriber base).