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Hot Pod Insider

Alternative Monetization

This week saw three developments around non-advertising podcast monetization models.

Hello, all! Today, we have a few stories on podcast apps and alternative business models, and so shoving them altogether in the same newsletter seems right. Here we go.


Looks like Anchor, the Betaworks-incubated short-form audio app (I guess we’re calling it that?), is coming for that Patreon money.

This morning, the app announced that it was rolling out a new feature called “Listener Support,” which lets Anchor-using podcast publishers implement a recurring payment system where its listeners can directly support their work over the platform. The feature is activated on the Anchor dashboard, and it largely takes the shape of a “Listener Support” button that then appears on the public Anchor profile.

Some details to note:

  • There appears to only be three support tiers possible at this time: $0.99, $4.99, and $9.99.
  • Payments are processed by Stripe.
  • Here’s the cut: from every transaction, Anchor takes 4.5% of the money, while Stripe takes 5% plus $0.10.
  • I’m told that listeners do not need an Anchor account in order to support podcast publishers using the Listener Support tool.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast…


Looks like Breaker, the Y Combinator-accelerated podcast app, is also coming for that Patreon-podcast money.

On Monday, the app rolled out a new feature, called “Upstream,” which aims to make it easier for podcast publishers to create and manage a “premium content” structure without having to rely on a non-podcast specific membership platform.

“Podcasters told us traditional methods for monetizing their podcasts just weren’t working,” wrote CEO Erik Berlin in a press release. “Small podcasters have a hard time securing advertisers with a small audience, and larger podcasters felt that they were leaving money on the table when relying solely on advertising deals or voluntary donations.”

He added: “We’re not here to close off the historically free and open nature of podcasting… What we’ve done is create an opportunity for podcasters’ biggest fans to get more of the content they crave and provide podcasters with another tool to make their businesses sustainable.”

Two things to note:

  • Subscribers to publishers that use the Upstream tool can only access the designated premium content through the podcast app itself, so they’d have to also buy into Breaker’s listening infrastructure if they want to buy into their desired publisher’s paid-only tier. “That’s the only way we can make it secure — by controlling both ends,” Berlin told me.
  • Breaker is taking a 4% of sales for publishers that create accounts with Upstream before the end of the year. The percentage will likely increase afterwards.

Some things I’m thinking about:

  • Breaker and Anchor follow RadioPublic as the latest examples of next-generation podcast  apps that are working on the problem of developing alternative monetization tools aimed at small-to-mid-sized publishers. In February, RadioPublic launched “Paid Listens,” an advertising marketplace geared towards smaller publishers that guarantees upfront payments. Which means that, at this point, we have three experiments in the oven: direct support (Anchor), premium content (Breaker), and a specified advertising marketplace (RadioPublic).
  • In terms of Anchor’s “Listener Support” feature, I suppose it’s worth remembering that Google Podcasts is believed to be working on a Donate feature, based on the presence of such a button in press materials back when it first rolled out.
  • It certainly is interesting that both Anchor and Breaker announced their respective alternative monetization plays in the same week, huh? If this was a noir film, the two things would probably have no connection whatsoever, and someone gets tossed out of a window.


And while we’re on the subject of Patreon, that company, too, had an interesting week. Yesterday, the membership platform provider acquired Memberful, a smaller membership platform that provides white label services with users like Gimlet Media (which uses it to power its Gimlet Members program), Ben Thompson’s Stratechery, and, well, yours truly here at good ol’ Hot Pod Media.

From Wired:

Though they operate in the same, growing field, Memberful and Patreon don’t consider themselves direct competitors, and Patreon says that for now, the Memberful platform will remain independent. The only integration it’s thinking about developing is a way for creators to seamlessly move between Patreon and Memberful’s services. The two companies aren’t disclosing how much the deal is worth.

The move comes as competing giants like YouTube and Facebook are beginning to offer digital creators the same services Patreon has specialized in since 2013.

In case you didn’t know, Patreon serves a number of notable podcast operations, including Chapo Trap House, The Last House on the Left, and Second Captains.

Seems like Patreon is in a pretty tough situation with competition heating up on all sides. As the Wired report noted, Patreon is up against tech giants like Facebook and YouTube that have both been working on subscription services aimed at creators — which would theoretically cut out Patreon as the middle-man that handles creator support — while, tying things back to this newsletter, also facing medium-specific competition from upstarts like Anchor and Breaker with core business engines that lie elsewhere.

Plus, Patreon has been experiencing some technical difficulties lately as well.

For what it’s worth, I’m rooting for Patreon — mostly because I have to, I guess, now that it owns the platform I use to run this business. But also for other reasons like, hey, it ain’t Facebook, right?