Should You Join A Podcast Network?


(By Dave Jackson) I sometimes feel like Indiana Jones going through the jungle, hoping to come across a series of cement stairs that lead to a giant light switch that hovers above the ground and when you flip it you get 10,000 downloads per episode. I’m here to tell you there is no switch, but one idea that many people feel is a switch is joining a podcast network.

“Man, if I could just get on [insert network name], my show would take off.” I don’t think that’s how this works. In some cases, I’ve heard of people being asked to join networks based on a previous relationship they had with people at a network. If you think some network is searching the globe for a “diamond in the rough,” you are being misled. The shows I see being added to larger networks are already successful — which is why they are being brought on the network. It’s like musicians or actors who are in search of a manager. The easiest way to get a manager is to have enough success that there’s something to manage.

Different Types of Networks

Podcast networks can be typically divided into a few groups.

  1. A network featuring successful podcasts that are grouped together for the sake of attracting sponsors. It’s run as a business.
  2. A network featuring podcasts around a common topic or theme. The goal here is to boost exposure and downloads.

You want somewhat a mixture of both.

I’ve been approached by a network — now what?

When you are approached by a network, there are some questions and steps you can perform.

  1. Do you have to change your feed? This is huge. Your feed is the blood of your podcast. The most important thing is if you DO have to change to their feed, get it in writing that if you part ways they will redirect your new feed to wherever you land. If they don’t you just lost your audience. I would need some pretty solid reasons to have to change my feed.
  2. Find someone on the network and ask them what their before-and-after downloads were before joining the network.
  3. Check out the other shows on the network. These people are now going to be part of your brand. If someone on the network has a show filled with hate speech, that’s going to reflect on you. Some networks have a disclaimer at the beginning of their show that the host’s views do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the network.
  4. Would someone who listens to the other shows on the network also listen to yours? Does it appear you could share an audience? If there is going to be cross-promotion, there is no sense cross-promoting if the other shows have a completely different audience.
  5. Do you have to pay anything to join? If you do, RUN AWAY. You’re bringing your audience to the table. This is where you REALLY need to talk to another one of the hosts on the network to see what the before-and-after downloads look like. My knee jerk reaction is to run away.
  6. What steps do you need to take to leave (and how hard is it)? Are you under a contract for a certain period? Are there any rules you need to know about that, if not followed, would have you removed from the network.
  7. How do they choose future members (as they will also be part of your brand, you want to make sure you have a say in who joins)?

Why You Might Join a Network

  1. A better chance at securing sponsorships. A sponsor might not run ads on a show that gets 1000 downloads per episode, but if you bundle five shows that share a topic together, you might get their attention.
  2. I’ve heard of some networks providing free hosting. Keep in mind, in the same way that there are no free lunches, there is no such thing as free media hosting. Someone is going to pay for it (and that likely means a portion of any ad revenue is going toward that bill).
  3. Additional cross-promotion to a like-minded audience. is a great example of a bunch of shows about Start Trek. is a site featuring podcasts for horse lovers.

As more and more podcasts are launched (about 1000 new shows a week), joining a network might be something you’re thinking about. It can be a strategy to help you grow your audience. If you have the option to join a network that promises promotion, potential sponsors, and you don’t have to change your feed, it might be something you seriously consider.

If you are thinking of starting a network, episode 643 of the School of Podcasting has some interviews and insights from multiple network organizers.

Dave Jackson is a Hall of Fame podcaster who has helped hundreds of people start their podcast and grow their influence at the School of Podcasting