New Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett has revealed how he makes $1.2m a year from his popular Diary of a CEO podcast.
In his latest episode, the Social Chain co-founder detailed his journey from starting almost four years ago with a £90 microphone from Apple with a duvet over his head at 3am and no script.
With no plan and no team he edited it myself and started out spending almost eight hours preparing each episode as a “total one off experiment”.
He only began doing the podcast once a week ten months ago and there is now a team of eight people now who are involved in its production.
At the start of the episode, Mr Bartlett said: “At the end of the day, I just sit here and talk. I get to have interesting conversations with people I genuinely find interesting.
“So I think people typically assume that having a podcast is just a labour of love.
“Now that is true, I don’t do this for the money. I’m fortunate enough to have made a lot of money from the first company that I founded.
“I do this because I love it. Of all the things, of all the revenue streams I have in my life, podcasting is my lowest financial return on the amount of time it takes me.
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“However, this podcast will make millions this year so this week I’m going to tell you the truth about everything.
“I’ve not seen any other podcasters tell you the things I’m about to tell you about this business, about this medium and about this industry.
“I’m going to show you exactly how much money I make from this podcast, how I do it, how I did it and how anyone else can do it too with six or seven simple pieces of advice.”
The first advice given was to be consistent, a lesson he learnt after he vowed to publish an episode every Monday at 7am no matter what.
He then talks about getting his podcast discovered. “Me talking about myself to my existing audience was never going to grow this podcast significantly in an organic way”, he said.
So he started to invite guests who brought their own audience with them.
Mr Bartlett said: “My third bit of advice is actually a bit controversial. It’s really important in all aspects of your professional life to find the right balance of consistency and quality at the same time.
“If you know me, you will know that I’m someone who’s an absolute stickler for quality. If you’re one of the many thousands of people that has worked in one of my companies or alongside me or with me over the last ten years you will know this to be true.
“My job as a CEO, or a founder, or a marketer or a creative is to set a high standard for the work we produce as a team and to protect that standard like a hungry guard dog.
“And honestly if you think the standard’s too high for you or you don’t like me because I’m uncompromising about that standard then that does not matter to me because I’m not here to be liked.
“First and foremost I’m here to produce high quality work with a high degree of integrity and work that we can be proud of. Everything else is a secondary bonus.”
He also revealed that he has deleted episodes before as he did not think the conversion was worth sharing with the audience.
He added: “I have never ever cared about making a profit from this podcast. This fits into ‘the things I do because I love it’ bucket in my life. My goal is, as I said to my team at the time, is just to break even.
“Jack Sylvester, who I produce this podcast with, made a shopping list of all the equipment we would need to make a high quality production and the total for all that equipment came to roughly £4,000.
“I want to produce the best podcast in the world. Come back to me with a list that’s even more ambitious. A few days later Jack came back to me with a list that cost £40,000.
“Most podcasters make their money by reading out adverts in the middle of their podcast episode and most podcasters get these advert deals from some kind of podcast advertising company that acts as a middle man between the podcaster and the brand. The brand is basically paying them on a dollar-per-download basis.
“The issue with this is that the middle man is taking a big, big cut and the brand is paying a fixed fee per download regardless of how good your show is, who you are or how valuable your audience is.
“The brands are basically handing the middle man a bag of money and saying get me podcast downloads as cheap as possible.”
Cutting out the middle man
He said: “I made a list of five companies that I genuinely use every single day and have done for years. Companies that have helped me in various aspects of my life and/or companies that I really loved in terms of their mission and values.
“I made a nice little presentation deck which was just two-and-a-half slides long, showing my audience, the growth, and I got hold of the e-mail address of the CEOs of those five companies.
“I sent them all an e-mail explaining exactly why they should sponsor this podcast, my ambitious plans for the future, I told them I was a customer of their brand, proved I was a customer and I told those companies I would make this podcast the number one business podcast in Europe if they backed me and that I would do it within 12 months.
“All five of those companies replied. One of them was the CEO of a company called Huel, guy called Julian Hearn. He called me the next day offering to support me and this podcast.
“A few months after Huel backed the podcast I actually asked Julian, the CEO, if I could invest in the company and I ended up being a pretty significant investor in the business and I also now sit on the board too.
“Outside of those sponsors I have the odd brand collaboration or opportunity every other month which I might mention on the show from time to time.
“My three key sponsors and my other sponsors pay varying fees depending on what I do for them but all in all this year this podcast will generate over $1.2m which is just over $100,000 a month.”