Increasingly, podcasts have become an excellent way to build an audience, get your brand name out there and get your story, opinions and expertise in front of people worldwide.
However, the podcast landscape is highly saturated. According to Podcast Insights 2021, there are over 2 million active podcasts, with over 48 million available episodes for listeners to choose from. It can be extremely difficult for podcasters to get their footing and start building an audience.
Here at ZenCast, we believe that producing and publishing your hit podcast should be as easy as possible.
That’s why podcast networks are so useful, chiefly for visibility, production, and promotion. What are podcast networks? What are some of the best choices for podcast networks? What should you look out for in a great podcast network?
For listeners, our list of the top podcast networks will help you find the best podcast shows out there!
In this article, we’ll introduce you to our picks for the Best Podcast Networks for 2022!
What is a Podcast Network?
The role of a podcast network is to collate and host collections of different podcasts that are produced by different creators under one cohesive banner.
Why do companies bother to create podcast networks? With the sea of available content, listeners turn to curated collections as a way to guarantee that the podcasts they’re browsing are produced well, are factually correct, and are entertaining.
For this reason, podcast networks are usually pretty selective on what shows they accept onto their platform - as any bad podcast risks harming the reputation of the entire network.
What are the requirements to join a Podcast Network?
The specific requirements to join podcast networks vary from platform to platform - but all podcast networks have some prerequisites in common. Podcast networks are looking for shows, hosts, and formats that are proven to work and attract some audience.
Many networks are looking for podcast shows that attract at least roughly 1,000 listeners per week (or 5,000 per month). Need some tips for reaching this important milestone? Check out our blog post on the topic here.
Some networks may only be looking for certain genres or formats to fill gaps in their offerings. It’s useful to consider podcast networks similar to TV networks or streaming platforms like Netflix. You may be able to pitch a new, unproven show as long as you can demonstrate a track record for producing decent shows - such as a successful previous podcast.
In return for the benefit of a podcast (see below), networks usually ask for a revenue split. This is commonly a 70/30 split, with 30% of your advertising revenue going to the platform - but this can vary dramatically.
Why should you join a Podcast Network?
You may be thinking: what’s the point of joining a podcast network? Here are some important key benefits:
Visibility: Being part of a reputable collection of podcast shows helps get your podcast discovered by new listeners. The backing of a network may also help you find it easier to convince popular guests to come on your show - for instance, famous actors, writers, etc.
Discoverability on podcast platforms like Spotify and Apple Podcasts is predominantly skewed towards large podcasts and network shows.
Production Help: Networks may offer you production equipment, training, and editing services to help increase your production value.
Networking & Collaboration: Being part of a network offers you great connections to collab with and learn from.
Increased Marketing: Networks often handle a lot of the promotion and marketing of their flagship shows for you.
Best Podcast Networks
What are some of the best and most trusted podcast networks out there? Here are some of our picks:
PodcastOne is considered one of the most prolific podcast and digital audio networks in the world. Fortune says that “PodcastOne is building an empire” - and its success is largely down to its ability to attract high-value advertisers and monetize shows well.
Traditional podcast advertising involves negotiating brand and sponsorship deals with one podcast show at a time. PodcastOne streamlines this process and offers advertisers their aggregated content as ad “packages”. Brands that are targeting young mothers - for example - can strike a peak with this network to offer advertising on all PodcastOne’s relevant shows. Advertising in bulk like this helps increase the profitability of podcasting and helps you monetize your shows faster.
PodcastOne has over 200 active shows on its platform. Whilst this offers their listeners a great selection, it also showcases how selective they are in bringing on new shows - and for good reason. All it takes is one controversial or bad podcast episode to break the trust advertisers have in PodcastOne’s bundle advertising system.
The network will also handle selling your merch for you - with a dedicated page on their website offering hats, hoodies, and mugs brandishing the logos and branding of shows in PodcastOne’s vast catalog.
Gimlet Media is PodcastOne’s primary competitor in the high-quality, high-value podcast network space. Gimlet, interestingly a subsidiary of Spotify, hosts narrative shows and content - and positions itself as a collection of some of the best shows in audio art, journalism, and drama.
This network places key importance on quality, substance, and accuracy above all else. All the shows on their platform are well produced and crafted to such a high standard. It is these high standards that convinced Spotify to acquire Gimlet in 2019 to transform it into a flagship collection for Spotify Podcasts.
The main benefit of joining Gimlet is the access to their award-winning producers, editors, journalists, and marketing talent within the company. They’ve spent years creating a “walled garden” of high-quality content - and it is their expertise that can help jettison your podcast show to new heights.
Gimlet is even more exclusive and selective than PodcastOne. To get your show on the network, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that your narrative podcast does something interesting, unique, and noteworthy. Find out more here.
Earwolf follows a similar advertising model to PodcastOne - where they fund their shows primarily through ad packages sold to advertisers for multiple shows. Where Earwolf differs is that it relies on the reputation of its hosts and talent to sell to advertisers.
Previous prolific hosts to grace Earwolf include TV legend Conan O'Brien and comedians Tracey Morgan and Paul Sheer. The network was initially positioned to be a collection of great comedy podcasts, but has since transitioned into lighthearted factual & educational content, sci-fi, and even narrative shows!
Earwolf is part of the SXM Media group, which owns the podcast network and promotor Midroll alongside the podcasting platform Stitcher. Midroll, in general, is pretty good at taking new shows and hosts seriously, and is always looking for new podcasts to populate Earwolf and Midroll.
Want to pitch to Earwolf? Send over an email to email@example.com and give it all you’ve got!
Cumulus Podcast Network
Cumulus Podcast Network prides itself on letting the voices, opinions, and experiences of America be heard by over 250 million monthly listeners. Cumulus specializes in opinion, current affairs, and politics - including the infamous The Ben Shapiro Show and Just Getting Started with Suzy Shuster.
However, their selection is as diverse as ever, with a recent hit show being the narrative podcast The Agent.
Cumulus’ unique selling point for podcasts is its network of traditional radio stations - including 406 owned-and-operated radio stations across 86 markets, and over 9,500 affiliated stations through their partnership with Westwood One - the largest audio network in America.
They regularly syndicate their shows on radio stations, potentially opening up your content to millions of listeners across the US and around the world. Cumulus believes in bridging the gap between the tech-savvy podcast listeners and those who swear by radio and TV.
Should you join a podcast network?
As traditional broadcasters and producers finally warm to podcasting and digital audio, the prominence of podcast networks will only grow. The answer to whether a network can benefit you will largely depend on what your goals and next steps are.
For smaller podcasters, your time & effort is much better spent increasing your production value and marketing your show to reach new audiences. Networks are uniquely positioned to give experienced hosts and matured shows a way to monetize their podcasts.
Unlike with TV and radio, a network isn’t required to build an audience and create a successful show. With tools like ZenCast, it’s easy to create and publish your podcast on multiple platforms. It’s up to your skills in marketing and promoting your show to grow your podcast further.
Podcasting Made Easy with ZenCast
ZenCast is the easiest way to host your podcast & publish it on every platform. With our tools, it’s easier than ever to publish anywhere your listeners are looking for new content.
One-click publishing to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and more.
A self-updating website, showcasing your podcast, that is engineered to increase your subscribers.
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