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Diving into the world of podcasting: Money, hard work & lessons learned

Minnesota podcasters share their successes and struggles to create a podcast, and offer advice for people who hope to start their own show.

MINNEAPOLIS — These days, it seems like everyone has a podcast or is thinking about starting one.

A lot of eager podcasters are hoping to become the next Joe Rogan or Howard Stern and make millions of dollars, but how much can you really make? And is it more work than you might think?

KARE 11 took a deep dive into the world of podcasting to find out.

We searched the internet for Minnesota podcasters to get their advice on how to start a successful podcast, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

Through our search, we got to meet Samantha Mello and Allie Enggren who co-produce "The Twisted Sisters Podcast."

“We wanted to give a platform for people to tell their stories,” Enggren says.

The two friends started their podcast nearly a year ago.

“We launched on 2-22-22,” Mello says.

The weekly show is recorded in a makeshift studio in a spare bedroom at Enggren’s home.

“We had the space, so we decided to put it here,” Enggren explains.

Their show is about friendship, grief, healing and the perseverance of working mothers.

“We are both teen moms and we sort of bonded over that,” Enggren explains.

“We are both so different in many ways, but we’re also the same as we were going through a lot of the same things.”

The two friends often talk about the chaotic lifestyle of being a working mother.

Mello also shares her story of losing a loved one in order to help viewers manage their grief and find hope in life.

“I just want our viewers to know that it’s okay to be sad, and it's okay to be where you’re at and be who you are,” Mello says.

So far, their show has around 40,000 downloads.

"We literally went in blind,” Mello says.

The two friends had no experience with microphones or recording a show.

They’ve learned a lot over the past year, and they’ve definitely made a mistake or two.

"Like recording episodes and realizing, 'Oh, we didn't press the record button,'” Enggren laughs.

And they quickly learned that producing a podcast takes a lot of work.

"A lot more than I think we realized,” Mello says.

The two friends say it typically takes five to 10 hours a week to produce a 30- to 60-minute episode.

“I might spend four hours or so getting the social stuff ready to go, the posts and pictures and everything, so we can promote the podcast,” Enggren says.

“I might spend two to three hours editing the episode together and doing the technical stuff,” Mello adds.

So far, they've spent around $6,000 to get things started.

“We haven’t made any money yet. We are in the process of getting our sponsorships,” Enggren says.

Mello says they typically get offers from advertisers at least once a week, but they haven't found the right fit yet.

"It's a mixture of business and trying to stay true to yourself,” Mello says.

They are currently working with an advertiser who should come on board sometime in 2023, but they’re not ready to announce who that advertiser is just yet.

The friends are hoping to turn a profit in 2023 and start earning back their initial investment.

Their podcast is quite successful by most standards.

According to the podcast hosting service Buzzsprout, more than half the podcasts out there are getting fewer than 30 downloads a month.

Ian Levitt works with several profitable podcasts.

He is the president and CEO of Studio Americana in Edina. The company produces audiobooks and around 45 podcasts for clients across the country.

"One of our most high-performing podcasts that we help produce is a horse veterinarian,” Levitt explains.

He says podcasts come in all shapes and sizes.

“Besides the fact that there’s audio and sound involved, that’s where the similarities end. No two podcasts are the same. They each require a different amount of work and a different type of work,” Levitt says.

Most of the podcasts they produce and edit at Studio Americana are actually created by companies that are trying to reach new clients

"You could have a hundred people listening. If you get two leads out of that, depending what industry you're in, you've done everything you've hoped to do,” Levitt says.

“Take a car podcast for example. If you’re talking about cars and selling them on your podcast, you sell one car each episode, you’re in good shape.”

Levitt says podcasting is a lot of fun, but it’s a very competitive industry.

“There are a lot of people vying for that spot,” Levitt says.

According to the Podcast Index, which tracks new podcasts and episodes, there are more than four million podcasts available for download, with tens of millions of episodes.

This month alone, more than 100,000 new podcasts will enter the marketplace.

“The barrier to entry is so small. It’s just so easy to get started.”

Levitt says a basic podcast setup will cost around $150, while a professional setup will cost somewhere between $500 and $600.

“I’d say a beginner setup will make you listenable. A professional setup will help set you apart from the other podcasts,” Levitt says.

"Making sure your quality is good is going to put you above 85% of people out there."

So, good audio equipment is important.

Levitt says it’s also important to realize that building an audience takes time.

His clients Danielle Arlowe and Amy Zaroff started their podcast nearly five years ago.

Their show is called “Hyperbole: The Best Podcast Ever.”

“We wanted to do it for the fun and entertainment of it,” Arlowe says.

The two friends say their show is part news, part reality TV gossip, part game show — and a whole lot of fun.

“Some of our listeners say it’s basically like Danielle and I are having our weekly chat over the phone as friends and the listeners get to listen in and have fun with us,” Zaroff explains.

We got the opportunity to sit in on one of their most recent recordings.

During the show, the two friends talked about the snowy weather, the newest reality TV show and the terror of wild turkeys.

"They attacked my car,” Arlowe laughs.

“They're mean and they're aggressive."

Arlowe also got to show off her newest Scooby Doo impression.

“The impression needs a little work,” Arlowe laughs.

Zaroff taught the viewers a new word in Yiddish.

“That’s a segment we do every episode. Amy will teach the viewers a new word in Yiddish. After all these years I’m surprised we haven’t run out of words, but she always finds a new one to teach us,” Arlowe laughs.

For Arlowe and Zaroff, podcasting is all about having fun.

"We do it because it brings us joy and other people joy,” Zaroff says.

The two friends have managed to bring in a few sponsors and do make some money, but Zaroff says most of that money goes back into producing the podcast.

"I believe that the way we measure success is by making people laugh,” Zaroff says.

They’re not focused on getting clicks and downloads because they feel counting the numbers constantly can cause stress and can lead to burnout.

Levitt says being fixated on the numbers and the money is a common problem for first-time podcasters.

“People get bogged down and they can get overwhelmed and anxious because they feel like they’re not seeing the success that they were hoping for,” Levitt says.

“It’s important for people to have realistic expectations when they’re going into podcasting. Don’t set yourself up to let yourself down.”

Mello agrees, counting clicks can create a lot of anxiety and unrealistic expectations.

"I had to stop. That was an issue for me,” Mello says.

“It almost felt like a job for a second, but we weren't getting money from it."

So, if they had any advice for a first time podcaster, it would be to focus on the fun and not the money, because if you're having fun, then listeners will, too.

"If you feel like this is your passion and purpose, then by all means, go for it,” Enggren says.

There are more listeners every day.

According to The Infinite Dial 2022 from Edison Research and Triton Digital, 177 million Americans have listened to a podcast.

That’s around 62% of the U.S. population, up from 57% in 2021 and 29% a decade ago.

Insider Intelligence estimates podcasting will be a $94 billion industry by the year 2028.

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