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A Very Long, Super-Nerdy NBA Podcast Is Making Money (bloomberg.com)
114 points by pmcpinto 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments

It's difficult to find out how much money podcasts make, so here are some data points about my podcast, which I started in February of this year.

I released 5 episodes of the newly-created Indie Hackers podcast[0] in March and made about $1000 from sponsors. That's one sponsor per episode at ~$200 each.

Today new episodes get over 20k downloads within their first week, but back then each episode got about 2-3k downloads, tops.

One could make the argument that a business/tech podcast like Indie Hackers can land more lucrative advertisers than a basketball-focused podcast. But on the flip side, I was also completely new to selling sponsorships, editing and promoting the show, etc., and the podcast was just one of many things I was doing on my own.

Regardless, if they're doing multiple episodes per week, each receiving 50k downloads at minimum, and each with multiple sponsors, I'd guess they're making a much more comfortable living than their Patreon numbers suggest.

[0] https://www.indiehackers.com/podcast

> Regardless, if they're doing multiple episodes per week, each receiving 50k downloads at minimum, and each with multiple sponsors, I'd guess they're making a much more comfortable living than their Patreon numbers suggest.

So, what do you think? Their Patreon subscribers are only ~$60,000. Are we talking $500k total with ad sponsorships? $1M? More than that?

Do the sponsors pay you cash, or free product?

Did you actively reach out to them, or did they contact you when you got big enough?

Cash, and I reached out at first.

How did you reach out to them? Like, did you reach out to their marketing department? Hoew did you get their contact info?

Yep, marketing departments. No one trick to finding the right person: research, asking around, very polite cold emails, etc. I also made it clear in my newsletter and on my website website that I was looking for advertisers.

I've written about various parts of the process in a few of my month-in-review posts here: https://www.indiehackers.com/blog

Thanks. I'm confused why you don't take sponsorships/payments now.. you mentioned Stripe - what does that have to do with it?

Any chance of this going up on Spotify? Apple doesn’t seem to want me to get via iTunes Store, infinite loop of asking for TouchID

I've heard that the process for getting a podcast onto Spotify is terrible and difficult - i.e. literally email an individual at the company and then they might send you a SurveyMonkey form if you ask enough times.

It happened to me too, restarting the phone helped.

Thanks, no such luck here unfortunately, direct podcast link worked however, for anyone in the same boat: https://itunes.apple.com/ie/podcast/indie-hackers-podcast-ho...

> in March and made about $1000 from sponsors. That's one sponsor per episode at ~$200 each.

I've heard that sponsors pay more for podcasts than they do for youtube videos. Any idea why?

My guess - captive audience. People listening to podcasts are likely to be driving or exercising, which means they're not able to do anything BUT listen and are far less likely to even be able to pull out their phone and start skipping forwards.

Plus, hosts usually read the ad copy, which psychologically connects people to the sponsors in a way that has only really been done in very early TV and radio.

By way of example, the Crooked Media podcasts (Pod Save America, etc.) include ads in which the hosts also discuss their private lives, personal disagreements, and pop culture, which creates this weird kind of serialized drama/discussion that carries through either within an episode and between ads, OR in ads for the same product but across multiple episodes. All of that makes listeners more likely to listen to ads instead of skipping them.

Plus, alot of the time, the ad reads are done live while recording (Rooster Teeth does this), so when they're done reading the copy, the hosts sometimes continue to talk about the product or topic.

What's ad revenue like now for IH?

$0, I stopped taking on advertisers after joining Stripe

Never listened to these guys but what's described sounds like your typical NBA podcast nowadays. NBA discussion on message boards and forums has changed a lot in recent years with fans being very knowledgeable about the salary cap, trade provisions, and other general management intricacies. in fact there is a derogatory term for fans who don't know about the nuances of the CBA or how to calculate effective field goal percentage...we call them "casuals". The NBA has done a good job developing an intelligent involved fan base which remains engaged even when games aren't being played

That it is MUCH easier to follow NBA than Baseball and Football due to sheer numbers of people is also a big plus. You actually can easily know every regular player (Usually 10 players or less) very quickly. It is also very easy to understand the impact of different players subing in and out.

Basketball is the most played sport in the world for the past 20+ years (Arguably) and I think in 30 years NBA will be the second biggest sport in the US and it already is 2nd in the world.

There’s simply no way that a sport that requires a court and a hoop is going to beat Soccer as the most played sport in the world.

Soccer definitely has the breadth of places played locked down. Nothing is likely to overtake that any time soon.

But basketball has a surprising advantage in potential players in that China is mad about basketball. The last time I was there the enthusiasm I saw for the sport, especially with young players rivaled anything I’ve seen outside of my own basketball obsessed childhood home of Indiana.

Which leads to another conclusion. If I were betting the most popular sport globally I’d probably bet on Ping Pong, just based on Chinese school children participation.

> Soccer definitely has the breadth of places played locked down. Nothing is likely to overtake that any time soon.

> But basketball has a surprising advantage in potential players in that China is mad about basketball. The last time I was there the enthusiasm I saw for the sport, especially with young players rivaled anything I’ve seen outside of my own basketball obsessed childhood home of Indiana.

> Which leads to another conclusion. If I were betting the most popular sport globally I’d probably bet on Ping Pong, just based on Chinese school children participation.

Basketball flat out isn't. Every single adult male in China could play it and it still wouldn't be the most popular sport in the world.

Your suggesting that there is a sport out there right now that more than 10% of the global population plays?

Cause Soccer certainly isn’t played at that scale.

currently plays obv you're right, but played ever? i bet it's over 10%. youth soccer participation is over 50% in most of europe and north america and while it's hard to find statistics for africa and south america for organized play for casual play i would be shocked if it was lower than the organized play rate for north america

> But basketball has a surprising advantage in potential players in that China is mad about basketball.

You ignore all the players in China that are mad about Soccer.

I think the conversation about most popular sports in the world almost always ignores the size of India & China.

If any sport takes over in those places it basically rockets to the top of the list (thus cricket which is a marginal sport most places is very popular globally based on Indian participation).

So you can say my bet on basketball is not ignoring Chinese soccer participants it’s just a bet that basketball will outstrip soccer in China.

I don't think you have any idea what you're talking about.

An estimated 700 million people watched the 2006 finals of the FIFA World Cup. In 2014 the entire tournament was watched by an estimated four billion people and that's just one event.

Unless the Chinese population explodes to 5 billion people overnight and they ALL start watching basketball, the two sports aren't even in the same league.

Football's wildly popular, but spectator numbers are a non-argument for that. How many people have seen Michael Schumacher drive or Conor McGregor fight? Neither is indicative of how many are participating in race car driving or MMA themselves.

The last FIFA census estimated that there are 265 million people playing in organized games with 5 million referees. The number of people who play pickup soccer games is much, much higher.


The Chinese Basketball Association puts the player count in China at 300 million today.

Almost 200 million people watched a single non-championship basketball game in 2007.

That’s the thing, people just completely misunderstand the scale of China (and India).

When talking about population based stats the rest of the world doesn’t matter.

Indeed, football is popular and that's an actual number supporting that. I was pointing out that your initial citation of viewership was a non-argument, as you can trivially name (as I did) various sports with amazing viewership & almost zero actual public participation. There's no clear relationship between the two.

Same league? They're not even the same sport.

Soccer, which requires a ball, doesn't stand a chance against running and boxing...

I can look out my window in Chicago and see a milk crate hung on a telephone poll & kids playing.

Meanwhile I suspect even though regulation soccer requires a lot of space, you’ll be able to find a pickup game in very space constrained places like Rio.

That is, I don’t find the equipment argument very compelling on either side.

You can still play with a cheap ball. And in case of emergency you can fashion a ball out of a bunch of old socks. Soccer can be very flexible :)

I’m not sure how you’re drawing your metrics, but football/soccer is the most played and popular sport in the world—by a long shot, for more than 20 years. Basketball is, I believe, the fastest growing sport in the world, judging by number of players, teams, and revenue. However, it still lags about a billion followers behind cricket.

11% of the world plays Basketball. http://www.espn.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/19814/is-basketb...

In saying the most popular sport in the world I am talking about what people participate in the sport. There have been a strong argument that while Football/Soccer is the most watched sport in areas where it is played the vast majority o players are under 14 and due to economical factors the adult populations do not have time for leisure.

Also people don't understand how global basketball has become the last 20 years (I really think it is tanks to the Dream Team of 1992). Right now in the U.K. for under 25 year olds Basketball has replaced football as the most played sport there. Also for places with bad weather it is easy to play basketball inside.

There is no way 11% of the world population plays basketball.

I tried to find the original source so I could check the methodology and couldn't - but i'd guess that a telephone survey of 35,000 people being extrapolated out to the entire world population leads to bad results

The second part of that statement - that Basketball is the most popular sport in Australia - is verifiably false as the governments own data shows it at only the 7th most popular[0]

[0] http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/article/2017/04/28/football-a...

I don't think you understand how popular soccer has always been, everywhere.

The last FIFA census estimated that there are 265 million people playing in organized games with 5 million referees. We're not even talking about pickup games - which is what the research in your link is about (I'll ignore the quality of research methodology for now) - we're talking about organized leagues. The number of people who play pickup soccer games is much, much higher.

This is very America-centric. Basketball isn’t even that popular in other western countries, is popular in China, but meaningless on the Indian subcontinent, Africa and South America compared to football. Even the China thing is a stretch.

Most played sport in the world? It doesn't even come close to football (soccer).

These guys are probably THE podcast when it comes to numbers.

Sure fans are educated, but I've listened to a lot of NBA podcasts and while lots of them bring up salary numbers, these guys get into the nitty gritty of the CBA quite a bit more than the typical NBA pod.

You should. Their pod is BY far the best for hoops junkies.

I gave them a listen after reading this article and listened to their last podcast breaking down the Rockets vs. Cavs game etc. Added to the rotation!

As a hoops nerd this is one of my favorite podcasts. I think people underestimate how much demand there is for just good discussion. And since you don't need high production, you can just crack out out near daily.

I listen to this podcast almost every day. These guys are great at breaking down why certain trades/contracts are a good value or (most of the time) not. They've also given me a more critical eye when I watch basketball games for what makes certain players good at what they do and why certain players are playing poorly. I'd say Dunc'd On and Lowe Post are my two favorite podcasts for following the NBA these days.

I'll be very disappointed when podcasting becomes fully metricised. The large scale introduction of advertising will be toxic and do to this beautiful indie space what has happened to the web.

Obviously they'll need to have DRM added, lock out all those great 3rd party apps you're using and ban all those non-iTunes using people.

How else will advertisers know every step of their listeners?

Would you rather the people who make quality podcasts have to spend the not-inconsiderate amount of time researching, rehearsing, performing, and editing alongside a full-time job? Would you rather they do that instead of making it a better thing?

Podcast advertising has been around for a decade and somehow, just somehow, it has not been as "toxic" as you imply.

It really depends. The problem is that once advertising become the primary drip of financial resources, the content begins to revolve around the needs, goals, and preferences of advertisers. Content that isn't seen as monetizable gets shown the door. Content that rails against consensus opinion or is anti-corporate gets shut down. Things that earn money get promoted at the expense of all else.

You can see this lucidly in the case of Bill O'Reilly. People had already known his deal for over a decade, but it wasn't until his ad dollars were pulled (after a public pressure campaign) that he was dethroned. That's an example of the kind of media system that is fostered by advertisement.

EDIT: changed 'decades' to 'over a decade'. https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/a-timeline-of...

Hasn't advertising always been the primary drip of financial resources for podcasts? Aside from a bit more enthusiasm for Casper mattresses than is probably warranted, I don't think your concerns have come to pass.

The great thing that podcasts have going for them as a product is they're super cheap to make (relatively speaking). Podcasters willing to compromise the product by taking on more obtrusive advertising will get outcompeted by those who don't. It's ideally how media sites in general would work, but those are expensive enough to run that most sites resort to intrusive ads.

I think the point is that it hasn't happened... yet. In theory, writing for newspapers shouldn't be expensive either, yet somehow it is.

I would rather keep the current state where I can pay for podcasts and still listen to them on any device and any form I wish.

And when that state probably isn't economically tenable for the creators? Are you paying for everything you're listening to (you're almost certainly not)? For those you are paying for, are you paying enough to make up for everyone who isn't?

Like...podcasts are a lot of work for not a lot of return in the current environment. That's why advertising happens: because making a few hundred bucks an ep off of a preroll and a midroll, for a show with ten thousand active listeners or so, makes the argument for continuing to do it. Metrics are gonna keep mattering because it's the only way to make it a creative work that can at least pay for its time.

It sucks, but hey. We say we like capitalism.

What's surprising about this is that people find it surprising. I'm surprised that so few podcasts have figured out the formula is: pick a subject and talk about that subject. It's really not hard!

So many people in the media seem to feel that what people want is interviews. Bill Simmons is a great example, he has very good podcasts when he just sits around and talks to his friends/coworkers about sports (or pop culture or whatever). But he seems to want to be a talk show host and do interviews... and very few people can do interviews well. And even fewer people make a good interview.

This is a great podcast. There are many people that don’t care about all the theatrics in a show. They just tolerate it. Podcasts like dunc’d on just go straight to the point. This started with Bill Simmons’ grant land which had very lengthy detailed articles with analysis that never got done before. It was a huge success. Nate Duncan just continues that. I believe a sports fan invariably will gravitate towards a nerdy analysis given time, no mater what the sport is.

Is there any way to verify that downloads of any given podcast aren't just bots?

Not really. The various podcast hosting services provide analytics that you hope are providing anti-bot measures.

As an avid podcast listener, and a recent attendee to the podcast festival in LA, I think this article has several flaws.

1. It never mentions gambling or fantasy sports, which makes me suspect it’s a native ad for the NBA. I bet that a good percentage of the 745 Patreons are really into gambling on the NBA, in some form — how could the article not mention that!? https://www.patreon.com/DuncanLeroux

2. It starts off with some headline listener stats (e.g. “hundreds of thousands of listeners”) and later admits the hard truth that listener stats are not reliable. You only know if people have downloaded a podcast — not if they listened.

3. It perpetuates the myth that Serial is the most successful podcast. I also used to believe that, until I learned otherwise at the LA Podcast Festival.

4. It mentions, but doesn’t properly emphasize, that the $7 Patreons get to download a spreadsheet (which, again, they probably use for gambling). So, really, these guys are both podcasters and data providers. The podcast is how they market their data service.

5. It classifies them as a financial success, without saying how much they make. We know they get about $5,400 per month from Patreon (split 2 ways). I’m not sure how much they earn from Blue Apron, etc. I know $2,700/month doesn’t go too far in San Francisco. Also, they don’t divide $2,700 by the number of hours they spend watching NBA games, compiling their data spreadsheet, and producing the podcast.

6. Gives the obligatory main stream media reference to Gimlet Media, calling it “successful.” Does Gimlet make money? How much? How much does Gimlet pay its employees?

7. The headline is unnecessarily snarky, implying that podcast listeners are looking for vanilla, short, mainstream content. In reality, niches are the biggest areas for opportunity in podcasting. The headline should not start with “Even This...”

You can do some quick estimates of ad revenue. (TLDR: their ad revenue likely crushes their Patreon by at least 5x.)

The article says they get between 50,000 and 140,000 listeners per episode. They publish 5 shows a week. Episodes start with a 10 second pre-roll, 90 second mid-episode, and 30 second post-roll. The rates calculator at AdvertiseCast [1] suggest industry averages of $6/CPM for the pre-roll, $15/CPM for the mid-episode ad, and $11/CPM for the post-roll. That's $32/CPM total, or $1600 ad revenue.

20 episodes a month at $1600 per episode gets you $32,000/mth in ad revenue.

[1] https://www.advertisecast.com/podcast-advertising-rates

Edit: As a bonus, the Entrepreneur On Fire podcast has some similar math about CPM rates for their show, with the hint "now you can see why I love doing a daily show": https://www.eofire.com/podcast-sponsorships/

How do you get listener stats for a podcast?

You can't, but obviously the podcast can, and a major reason why podcasters use third-party sites for hosting (podbean, etc.) is because advertisers trust their metrics. If you share your podbean/libsyn/whatever data with an advertiser, it's more well-regarded than "well, we pulled this out of our butts".

The downloads-to-listens ratio is, of course, largely bullshit in one direction or another.

On the downloads-to-listens, Apple is apparently working on that metric for people using their Podcasts app (announced at WWDC 2017). They're considering per-minute tracking, so podcasters can measure if people are skipping over ads, and what percentage of listeners finish the podcast. (If only 50% of listeners finish an episode, then an ad placed at the start will be worth more than one at the end.)


For other metrics, some podcasts take listener surveys, like the annual TWIT Audience Survey: https://twit.tv/survey

I don’t think podcast producers can accurately measure or estimate the number of listeners.

The vast majority of podcast listeners download directly from iTunes. There’s simply no data on who actually listens, and how long they listen.

My claim is that anyone who claims to have data on podcast listen stats is wrong.

Now I realize that I'm not necessarily the norm, but I'm a long time listener and subscriber to this podcast and a Patreon donor and I don't gamble. I just really like basketball and really like their content.

Also, Danny writes for a few different places pretty regularly and has a book out, so I'm sure he's doing okay from that. He's also the host of a RealGM podcast. Nate is the actual host of the podcast and not every single episode includes Danny (though 95% do) so there's a chance it's not an even split.

I can’t recall the pod ever talking about gambling lines, or fantasy value.

Not to say listeners don’t use the info for those purposes, but it’s not a value proposition they even hint at IMO.

And covering games after they happen really doesn't help at all for fantasy. I just think the top comment is making assumptions without understanding the landscape.

> so there's a chance it's not an even split

The Patreon page says that "we are each taking home half of what we bring in". In context that could be limited to the Patreon subscriptions, but it seems to indicate a 50/50 split of all revenue.

I think the challenge to your comments, which are well thought out, is that in the admittedly few (10 or so?) episodes of this, the amount of discussion of "games coming up" is approaching none. It's all reviews of games.

Now, certainly, people have memories and pay attention and start to draw their own inferences, but I think the target market feels more like "Basketball Nerds" than gamblers or fantasy players. Is there a benefit to the latter two to listen to this podcast? Undoubtedly. But I just don't "feel" (yes, subjective) like that's the push they're making.

Yeah, sounds like I was wrong about an association between this podcast and gambling.

So have you ever been to the LA Podcast Festival?

What did you learn about #3 Serial vs ??? at LA Podcast Fest?

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