Ricky Gervais , the person behind what is apparently the most popular podcast on iTunes is forcing people to pay to listen. Apparently it will cost USD$7 or GBP£4.50 per month, which will get you four episodes running at 30 minutes each.
The question that immediately sprung to mind when I read the story on slashdot  was “Doesn’t he realise he will lose listeners?”
I suppose, in his case, losing even half of his audience would still make him a lot of money, but I just can’t see this form of podcast money making taking off. More “traditional” forms of making money out of podcasts make much more sense to me. This Week In Tech  aka TWiT, another rather popular podcast, makes some money out of voluntary donations in exchange for donator benefits, and many other shows such as dl.tv  and You Are The Guest  contain short ad breaks.
In the case of TWiT, I decided to donate because I enjoy the program, and appreciate all the work that goes into it. In the case of dl.tv and You Are The Guest I listen to or watch the ads because it takes too much effort to find the exact point where the ads finish and the program returns, and I feel like I’m supporting the program by sitting through the ads.
I suppose that the people who have listened to the Ricky Gervais podcast might consider paying for it, but I doubt that many, if any new people will consider paying for it, I know I won’t. To the same extent, any new podcaster considering requiring people to pay to listen is deluding themselves, unless of course they have some kind of “big name” or “big product” behind them, but even then they will only have a very limited audience.
I can understand podcasters wanting to make a bit of money out of their podcasts, I know just how much work goes on behind the scenes, and the money that also gets spent by the podcaster putting the podcast together and distributing it. Many of the larger podcasts wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have the support of advertisers, listeners or bandwidth providers. My podcast is still small, and will probably remain that way for quite a while, and whilst it remains small I will be happy to cover costs as they are fairly small, especially considering that they are shared with my blog in terms of hosting, bandwidth and domain name services. If my podcast does gain a much larger audience, then I might consider advertising or optional donations, but until then I am more than happy to pay for it all myself.