This is a quick public service announcement: I will be stopping the fan-supported podcast experiment and moving back to an ad-supported podcast. This post will explain a few of the reasons.
Let’s kick off with some housekeeping notes:
- Huge thanks to everyone who became supporters. I’ll have more to share with y’all via email soon.
- As part of that thank you, I will be refunding every supporter 100% of what they’ve paid to date. Doing this for thousands of people will take 1-2 weeks, so thank you for being patient.
- All support subscriptions have been stopped, so you will not be charged again.
- Just for kicks, I will do another live video Q&A just for supporters on August 2nd, 2019, most likely 8-9pm ET (5-6pm PT), so you can pencil that in. More details will be sent via email once finalized.
- If you think your company/product/service could be a good fit for the podcast, I’m interested in a few new sponsors to keep things fresh. Most sponsor spots for Q3 and Q4 are already full, but if interested, please click here for more information.
Now, back to this stopping of the experiment…
You might be thinking “Well, that was fast!”, and you’d be right.
The feedback and data have been overwhelmingly clear. Given the size of the audience — the podcast passed 400 million downloads a month ago — experiments can sometimes yield conclusions much more quickly than expected.
So, what did I learn?
The entire experience has been very surprising. For one, many of my assumptions were totally off.
It turns out that most of my listeners have a strong preference for an ad-supported model compared to other options. Many folks have come to use the podcast and 5-Bullet Friday for discovering new products and services, and that has been reflected in the comments since launch. After weeks of consistent feedback from my audience, it’s now loud and clear that my vetting and sharing of sponsors is better received and a better fit.
Below is just one of many blog comments left after the initial switch to no ads/fan-supported:
“Tim, just feedback about the no-sponsor thing– I don’t mind hearing your sponsored adverts because I believe you’ve considered them carefully and only tell us about great products. That’s why I have a closet full of Mizzen & Main shirts and drink Four Sigmatic. Not sure I would have known about those without you. I would rather hear your ads for you to get paid than to offer up my own money; those companies have more money than I do. Just my $.02. Thanks!”
Here are a few more, out of hundreds:
Screenshot 1: https://i.imgur.com/ImJlcFr.jpg
Screenshot 2: https://i.imgur.com/vYH9Ute.jpg
Live tweet example.
The really comical part is that I should have known, and I could have known. Actually, one could argue that I did know.
Pre-launch polling on social media almost perfectly predicted the outcome. Here’s the tweet I used to test the waters, which had nearly 18,000 respondents. The results were:
72% – No, I wouldn’t donate.
24% – I would give $5 per month.
4% – I would give $10 or more per month.
The comments on this post are really worth reading. The feedback was almost entirely positive towards ads and almost entirely “meh” about fan-supported.
In other words, the answer to my question was clear from the outset: 99% of my listeners are totally OK with ads, and many of them look forward to finding new products and services through my sponsor reads. It’s industry standard for high-download podcasts to have ads, anyone who wants to skip over ads can skip ahead, and people generally do not want to support multiple podcasters by paying for them à la carte.
I may very well write an in-depth blog post about the data and findings another time, but here are a few teasers:
- Did anyone actually decide to contribute at the $1,000-per-month level I added perhaps 10 days into testing? Short answer: yes. That ended up comprising roughly 13.4% of total monthly recurring revenue (MRR).
- What percentage of converted visitors to the sign-up page chose the lowest-priced option, no matter the dollar amount ($9.95, $19.95, etc.)? Across all of our split tests, approximately 83%. Keep in mind that this is 83% of total supporters, not 83% of total revenue.
- The customer service was incredibly low labor. This was shocking. Even with thousands of paying supporters, there were very few inquiries and very few issues (great people, I tell you!). The self-serve portal worked. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, without adding bonuses and incentives for various tiers — something that would create 10x more labor than the ad-supported model, defeating the purpose — the upside wasn’t enough for most listeners to subscribe/support.
So, we are going back to what worked.
The short conclusion to this experiment seems to be “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.” My sincerest thanks to everyone who provided support, advice, and feedback. It’s been a great learning experience, and I’m lucky that I can do these types of tests at all.
Onward and upward!
All the best to you and yours,
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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113 Replies to “Why I’m Stopping the Fan-Supported Podcast Experiment”
Lol, I would have commented pretty much the same – `your ads are great, I love hearing about brands you have rigorously curated (incld. Foursigmatic). But I was too lazy. Keep doing the amazing job you are doing! Thanks for being there for us.
Please keep my subscription $$ already collected – either for yourself or apply to one of your ongoing initiatives as you like – you should offer this option to those subscribed (as alternative to refund). As a 1000 true fan I am happy to purchase whatever content you produce, and consider products you endorse, since the value of your work far exceeds any associated costs. Thanks Tim.
All in all a great blog or book-worthy business experiment! I agreed about the ad-sponsored podcasts. As someone who has tried many of your recco’d products. You have built client consumer and fan based trust. created lasting relationships, increased your brand and business and done it all your way. its what every book or class or mentor would teach but not even really do – you should be crazy proud.
I’d say there were couple of big problems with the manner of the experiment- too little tangible gain for those subscribing and too little tangible loss for those not subscribing. The starting point for subscriptions May have been too high (folks are used to the Spotify/Apple Music range of 3.99$ or so a month).
I bet if people thought they would actually lose access to your content, the number ready to support would be considerably larger.
I’d suggest you create a committed followers list, keep the money and offer the monthly q/a or any other specific value for a stipulated period of time.
This experiment reminds me that “how you do anything is how you do everything”. This was classic Tim, thanks for setting a good example of how to run a business experiment and make it interesting for everyone to follow!
As Bill Eberhardt said. keep the $$.
I deeply regret that you didn’t do a $5 minimum. I’ll have subcribed to that.
This was a really cool experiment and I’m glad you did it, even though it turned out that you’re going back to the ads. I felt a twinge of guilt not subscribing and don’t mind the ads so this works great for this listener.
The ads work well when they are in-line with the interests and theme of the podcast/host. If Tim started promoting diapers all of a sudden, I’d be a little suspect. Unless, of course, the diapers somehow helped with increasing cognitive abilities or weightlifting.
That’s funny x
Thank you as always for treating your audience like adults and being a responsible guardian to us all : ) All the best
Thank you for this information. These are helpful learnings and a good template for trying out new business models.
Perhaps you can provide people with an opportunity to make once-off donations to your podcast if and when they feel inspired? I know I would make a few a year. Maybe also allow people to pay for limited spots in a Q&A session with you?
I do agree that allowing one-off (or even recurring) donations on top of your ad-driven income is an idea that can’t hurt, and will also help the fans stay even more engaged.
Also, there is one additional factor you might not have considered, that might have affected some of your fan’s decisions : the “user experience” of the blog/podcast after the experiment started went down, not up.
Case in point: when you announced the experiment, I thought “that’s great !” and started the process of registering a monthly donation… before I realized I didn’t have my credit card with me.
BUT what happened next was the reason I procrastinated the actual donation :
when I remembered to come back to your site 2-3 weeks later to actually make the donation, I was kind of disappointed by two things :
1 – it seemed to me that the podcast frequency over that period had gone down, not up or steady (which made me think that maybe the experiment wasn’t going the way you wanted ? in any case, there wasn’t a feeling of excitement emanating from the blog over those weeks),
2 – I tried to listen to the latest episode and was disappointed by the content (maybe I need to re-listen to it, but the episode on cramming 2 months of learning in 1 day felt like it had very-low-to-none actionable items on actually speeding up learning)
and, last but not least,
3 – the experiment was about getting rid of ads, BUT then those podcasts started and ended with the call to action to donate, which ended up being just as long as the ads themselves were.
So in the end, there definitely wasn’t a “wow factor” for listeners in the few weeks following the start of the experiment 🙁
Although I love you and your podcast has changed my life several times over, and I would gladly donate to pay back for all this “past” content, my emotional response to the future extrapolated from those 4-6 weeks was : let’s just leave the browser tab open, and I’ll subscribe in a little while when the “vibe” is better…
Just my $0.02
Good decision Tim!
Hey Tim and team 🙂 Why don’t you keep the donation part? Because tbh, 1) I guess most of us didn’t know the podcast is your main source of income; and 2) We trust your judgement on your investment path you’ve taken in terms of supporting research etc. But at the end of the day, not all of us have the time to dig very deep into it and decide what to support and not to support. May be you can create some foundation dash investment vehicle. Just ideas 🙂 Cheers, Ivan
Thanks so much for your honesty Tim, it’s great to have been able to witness you try something out and be so open (I mean that pretty much describes your model). But to be open about running the business and what you’re trying is valuable to see.
Tim, since skipping the first 3-4 minutes of a podcast is extremely easy I never cared about those minutes. No matter if it was ads or your explanation why you are doing the experiment.
Your content had such a positive impact on my life over the past 7 month that I paid for a selfish reason. I wanted to enable you to do more of the impact work that you are doing and less of the ads work. So overall I think this is bad news for a lot of people who actually benefited from your content. Thank you for the great things you produce.
Tim, you describe yourself as a human guinea pig, and part of your job is to discover things on the edge, then come back and report to the general populous. As long as your ads continue to reflect this with products you have actually vetted, I’d much rather listen to ads, I’ve already got too many other podcasts I feel guilty about not supporting monetarily.
Ads or no ads, as long as you keep the great guests and quality of the podcast going, you’ll have a very loyal fan here. Your interviewing has got so much more polished and it’s great how you give the guests space to tell their stories (so many interviewers make the mistake of talking too much) but also dig into the weeds on details for specifics.
The solo-casts are always fun as well.
Keep doing what you do, we love ya!
It was worth a dabble 😎
Why not both? I think you should have a way to support you with a donation either monthly or lump sum. I really do not like recurring charges on my CC. I wanted to donate $50. I guess I could have done $9/month for 5 months but that is too much work. I do like the ads. You are like Arthur Godfrey with our credibility. That is something you should continue to leverage. Gotten a lot of good books and got on to Shopify via you. ( No thanks for the mushroom tea-barf) and will continue looking for your recommendations of good stuff.
For efficiency, I found a reply I agreed with (mostly) and only want to add, the benefits that you were offering – to give access to more time and content with you – is still worth the adder, if it is worth your own time investment.
Your recommendations are of great value to me, mushroom tea ELIMINATED my insomnia, and I know you realize how HUGE that is. Reishi Rules!!
I don’t think most people mind ads as long as they are minimal and the surrounding content is valuable.
The experiment is brilliant marketing – even though its unintentional. Sponsors and potential sponsors now know the importance of being on the podcast – thus providing Tim with much higher leverage than before. Master stroke.
Totally agree with Taimur,
It will make Tim’s job also easier since he now has a case to show the sponsors how valuable the ads are to his audience.
Hope it saves Tim some work and thanks for sharing this experiment and the great podcasts!
To echo some of the other commenters, your work has lead me to FAR more value than the cost of the subscription. I am happy to contribute for the chance to keep that rolling.
It’s obvious that you are looking to reduce your amount of time overhead, which is why you are choosing ads OR subscription. It’s a shame there isn’t a world for both.
All the best, keep up the good work regardless.
I agree the ads are well vetted and interesting, but I have no problem skipping after the first 1 or 2 new sets. If/when a quality crypto currency comes out that allows micro payments, I would be happy to contribute per episode or monthly but in smaller increments while keeping ads. $10/ podcast gets too expensive. Just a consideration for the future. Keep the podcast and books coming. All have added a lot of value in many different ways.
To be honest, I miss hearing “Optimal…” Before the podcasts
I find incredible satisfying to find out why I was not able to actually support during the experiment as it closed so quickly.
I am also a beneficiary of the comercial advice on the selected sponsorship that pass your filters.
My only disappointment is that due to the inability to create a sponsor support account (ah yes. My monthly contribution would only had been 10 dlls a month) is that I will not get the special editions …oh well..
It was worth a try! Thanks for sharing all of the results with us. Also, on the topic of patronage, it might be fun to interview Jack Conte?
It was worth a try. If the ads are reasonable length and don’t break the flow they are good. It can be draining to get minutes and minutes into the the podcast and intros before getting to the meat of the content
A really interested experiment, and great to read the thinking behind the decision. I broadly agree with the suggestions that we (your listeners) hav confidence in your choice of adds. I would, however, like to put it out there that many of the ads are US only products, which can be frustrating at times, as an international listener. Any chance you’ll consider focusing on international advertisers/sponsors?
The fact that you tried this, is awesome! Your ability to try new ideas or tactics at a faster rate than the rest of us make following so great. Shared learning for others and similar to the challenges in App purchases … they were free or $0.99c for so long … why would I pay more or subscribe?
Another favorite line:
I can explain it again, but I can’t understand it for you.
Can we opt out of the refund? I had a feeling it wouldn’t last, but was happy for the chance to say a little thank you for all the amazing free content over the years.
No worries Tim! You stayed true to your brand by experimenting with a new model. We’d expect nothing less from you!
Hey Tim, I think you do a great job on ads, and I was really excited about this experiment. At first, I was excited because after I’ve heard the same ad more than 3 times, I don’t want to hear it anymore, but after I signed up, I realized that the more important part of the experiment was a sense of “I’m on the team supporting Tim Ferriss.” There’s something to be said about being able to contribute to Team Ferriss and be a part of an inner circle. If I can pay $10/month to be on your support team, please keep taking my money. I already bought all your books.
Thanks for being awesome, it’s been fun watching you grow and taking us with you.
Your words and those of your guests on your podcast have had a wonderful impact on my life, more than a couple hundred characters can do justice. Your recommendation of Vagabonding inspired me to backpack through Japan, later to be joined by my father. While riding the oh-so-wonderful Shinkansen we began to read a book called Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. This book changed my life for the better, and it is my hope that it may do something for you. I believe that it may be reach you at exactly the time that you may be in need of it. Perhaps this may be a way for me to repay you for all the help you have given me through your meticulous work. Know that the lessons you have shared compound as we spread them to our friends, colleagues, and families. I love your passion and ability to be bold, I hope that it only grows stronger.
Take care of yourself,
Hey Tim – Thank you for sharing your results! When I heard about the experiment, I was really intrigued to see how things would pan out.
Podcasts are the primary way I consume content (3am workouts and 4 kids keep me busy) and some showrunners get a little ridiculous with the ads (10-17 minutes of the beginning of a show).
I really appreciate how you’ve done ads (beginning/end of an episode) because I feel respected as a listener instead of repeatedly interrupted mid-stream.
Have you thought about doing ad-supported for public feeds (iTunes, Overcast, etc) with a separate fan-supported, ad-free feed through Stitcher or Patreon?
That would give people a way to support the show directly beyond purchasing from advertisers.
Keep up the good work. 🙂
Ironically I saw this post when I came on to donate – I’m too slow off the mark! I think the subscriber whose comment you screen-pasted above put it perfectly. My favourite podcasters tend to do adds in a very classy, authentic, non-sucky way (the perfect example of contextual commerce) and I trust them to have the judgement to pick the right ads for us. Also – the amount of value you create for your listeners is INSANE. The podcast is a great gift and that was why I was going to donate – because I get so much value from it that I consider it a university course in personal growth, and that is worth paying for! I’m glad you feel better about going ahead with the ads – I just feel bad that, as you say, the sponsorship side of things is massively time-consuming for you and I wish we could save you that so you could do more cool stuff.
The sponsor ad presence was minimal and easily ignored at the head of the podcasts. The way Tim is doing it is inoffensive and effective and obviously most people agree it’s not a problem. The only person who is doing even better (more fun, more interesting) sponsor advertising is Conan O’Brien, who puts a very humorous spin — sometimes verging on snark — on the copy he gets from sponsors. Not everybody can be Conan, however.
Kind of like Coca-Cola Classic! Even more value demonstrated for your sponsors after this experiment 🙂 Thoroughly enjoyed the QnA.
Sorry to see your ad-free experiment end so quickly. I respect your ambition and I think others like Sam Harris have made a strong case for listener-supported content.
That being said, I’m curious if this was your plan all along?? The strong and public “backlash” to pulling your ads just boosted your negotiating leverage (“Hey, Sponsors, my customers love the products I recommend so much that they got angry when I tried to go ad-free”). If I’m right, that would be some Jedi-level marketing sh*t. If not, you still “lucked” your way into an enviable position.
Hat’s off, Tim!
As someone who willingly signed up to donate monthly after listening to the podcast faithfully for years, I am shocked to hear how little your audience was enthused about supporting it. My only beef was the length of ads were replaced by a lengthy explanation of the new sub based model, but I do understanding needing to communicate the experiment. 🙂
I agree with Bill Eberhardt regarding refunds. You can keep my $$.
I appreciate you trying this experiment and am truly sorry it did not work out.
Very interesting that you’re going back to ads. I’m impressed with your experiment and analysis. It’s true your ads are better than most. I’ve been wearing one of those “dress shirts” for years, but I’m not as favorably disposed towards ads as most of your listeners. But I realize it’s a delicate balance and you handle it well. Your friend, Sam Harris, is going the other direction with his podcast, and it’s hard to imagine him “pitching products.” You are definitely a “marketing guy,” and it is less discordant to hear you pitching products than it would be to hear Sam Harris doing it. I also wouldn’t want to hear Russ Roberts or Tyler Cowen pitching products on their blogs, so it has to do with the “brand” of the blog and podcaster. I also like that you keep the ads at the beginning and and end of your podcasts instead of having some irritatingly in the middle like blogs like “FiveThirtyEight” and “Axelrod.”
Agreed – the ads are useful, especially since you add your own comments about your experience with the brands. If I ever get tired of them, I just skip ahead to the interview.
I’m glad to hear that you’re going back to the ad-supported model. For me, it’s quite simple – I have more time than money. If an advertiser wants to pay for my attention so that I can listen to incredible content on my commute, then by all means let them pay!
I appreciate your willingness to try new things.
All the best,
Very interesting article. Thanks.
Also a great way to prove to advertisers that 99% of you listeners come to your podcast…for ads! Let me just say that I didn’t discover FourSigmatic on my own…Peloton I’m not there yet, but I’m bike-curious.
I supported the fan-sponsored model – not because I didn’t want to hear the ads, but because I wanted to support you. Your podcast is a source of many things to many people. I was excited to be able to give back in some small way.
Kudos to you for trying something new. You’re on to something there, but maybe it’s just too ahead of the times.
Thank you for your time (every week).
Tim i subscribed to the podcast because i did not want to miss you insights. but i am busy and can’t schedule when you are live. i too value your opinion on products. i may not use many of them but i still like reading of them.
As always, your integrity and degree of transparency is appreciated. One commenter mentioned the degree of incentive not being quite enough to get people over a mental hump and I’d have to agree.
As a participant in the line Q&A, I was part of the back channel comments that, while small in population, is obviously committed to being a next level fan. Like so many freemium services out there, I was hoping for the occasional access that comes from a paid model. Totally understand if the juice ain’t worth the squeeze and I’m sure you did the math as part of your decision. Regardless, keep up the great work!
I also echo others in saying “keep the money” and use it for one of your interests, particularly mental health. Excelsior.
I was so happy to subscribe but understand your reasons for doing so. While I do trust your advertisements, most of the products don’t ship to AUS. (Fingers crossed one day!) Would be happy to still pay a monthly fee for added benefits like the Live Q&A, and happy for you to distribute to whichever cause you see fit. Would you make a Patreon model? Thanks!
One point I would make, is that I’m normally 3-4 months behind on podcasts – I load up all my shows, go through them all, then refresh. I only knew about this experiment after it had finished. Like other comments here, I’d say find a way to do both, like adding a Patreon link perhaps. I’ve bought your books, and your guest’s, as a way to show my gratitude; I’d be happy to pay for that reason too.
This is a great blog!
Tim – clearly I’m in the minority because I was all-in with the paid support model. However, I do agree with the blog post you included above – I’ve ordered a few of the items you have advertised and I would never have know about them without hearing of them on your podcast. I’ll be tuning into the next and final one since I have a couple of questions. This brings me to my point – the appeal of direct access to you was compelling in my decision to contribute (aside from guilt I would feel for getting something for nothing). Is there any thought toward doing something similar for a segment of your audience?
I’m surely in the lower income bracket of listeners, but shelled out $10/month just to show TF support. I too am fine w/ads & the “in-the-know” they impart. Thanks for sharing your rationale & evidence for ceasing. Most of all, thanks for doing the all-time best podcast.
Hey Tim, my only question is couldn’t there just be both? I have zero problems with the ads on your podcast, I paid more for the opportunity to see you on the hourly call and submit questions. Additionally, I’ve wanted a way to give back for all you’ve done and how meaningful it’s been for me over the past 5 years. If you’re going to keep ads, couldn’t you also keep this structure running or switch to Patreon if it’s hard to maintain and allow us to support you monetarily AND with ads?
In the post “Less Hustle more Art” you announced the new model “to support me doing more crazy experiments and initiatives”. This was kind of vague. But on the support page you wrote clearly: “Sponsors and ads chew up a TON of time that I’d rather spend finding and doing cool things I can share with you”.
Everybody in this comments is only discussing your findings on ads or no ads. But this is not the whole point.
You promised to your supporters to use the new model and especially the time and hustle it saves to bring more of your art, more experiments and initiatives. Did you do this? To me it seems you just continued like you did before. There was nothing new and nothing cool.
Of course it needs time. But instead of working on something new and cool you simply stopped? Why?
I can’t believe you did this experiment only to figure out what you have known in advance: people like your ads and the majority is not willing to pay.
I was hoping so much that you might really get a step further to leave the bubble you are caught in. Now I feel frustrated.
When I first stumbled upon the 4 Hour Work Week I was an awkward 27 year old failed law school student/degenerate aspiring poker player. Since then you’ve taught me how to automate a business, slow carb, cook a damn good steak, ( Oxo tongs all day) use nootropics, learn how to learn, meditate, pagg stack, Jocko, screenplays, ask questions, anchor gratitude, be a stoic, apply first principles, see things through the eyes of a bunny rancher, listen to the origin stories straight from the Unicorn’s mouths of so may greats. We have never met yet your work has impacted, guided, and carried me through the brightest and darkest times for the past 10 years. The amount of money you could earn from me even at $1,000/month+ is a pittance compared to the value you’ve created and the paradigms you’ve created in my life and the lives of so many others. Keep doing what you do best compiling the Jeet Kune Do of life hacks and the Tao of continuous learning. Happy to keep supporting that work any way possible. Rock on and Thanks for everything Tim!
Thanks so much for the kind words and comment, Tony! It means a lot. And many thanks to everyone for the great feedback. I love you guys.
Just wanted to weigh in. I have no issue at all with paying a monthly subscription fee for access to extra content, in fact that would be great. However, when I heard you were removing ads from the podcast, I was a little disappointed. Like the majority of your listeners, I love your ads. You and your team pick your sponsors better than any other podcast / show and I never skip past them, even the ones I’ve already heard (strangely enough).
Glad to hear they’re here to stay, but please consider offering a premium subscription as well!
Wow, that was fast. I logged on today to support your experiment, actually to support you. Your podcasts are entertaining (Brian Grazer – too funny) and your topics and guests continue to be cutting edge.
But it is your un-rushed interviews and your ability to ask industry titans specifics (what do you eat, what was your wording in the email you sent, etc.) that I most appreciate…and why I wanted to show support.
I would happily listen to ads and still give you a few dollars on Patreon or goFundMe so you can fund all your research efforts and specific projects! I got all your books at the library so I definitely owe you 🙂
so how about the “it takes me and my team forever to organise and manage sponsors?” – that seemed to be a major chunk of the explainer in that first announcement 🙂
I totally agree with you. The discussion at the moment is all about ads or no ads. But actually Tim expected to have more time for his fans and new content (“more Art” he called it) with the new fan supported model. This is totally missing in the explanation and the current discussion.
To make fan-supported work, it would require lots of bonus activities, incentives, etc that would make it more time-consuming than sponsors, so it would equally pull time from “art” and experiments that require longer block of time.
Glad you’re sticking with the ads, Tim. As a result of your endorsement of 99 Designs, I ended up hiring them to do my business logo. My chosen designer was a gentleman from Argentina who did an outstanding job and provided all the electronic files (correctly formatted) that I needed to move forward with my web site design.
Tim my adult son (23) and I love your work – we found you originally through Ramit Sethi. We spoke on the phone about the sponsorship and discovered that we had gone through a very similar thought process, then decided to support you. We each thought it would be a lower amount based on the interview you did with Amanda – her fans have a lower monthly option, I believe. When we found out that it would be $10/month, we each hesitated a moment, then thought about all we have learned from you, and continue to learn and decided to contribute. For me, your support of research into psychedelics, was an additional factor. My son said, in all fairness, that he would pay $10/month for someone to tell him which books to read.
For me, your podcast is the main source that influences books I purchase (Book Bin, a small book store in Salem, OR, Powell’s or amazon) and listen to (audible.com).
I will stop your podcast at the mention of a book that sounds good, listen to the book, and then continue on with the podcast.
I believe a good way to support the podcast is to get paid for these “product placements”. That way there is no need for ads BUT you get some credit and paid for driving people to particular books.
Close friend of Paul Attia (brother of Dr. Peter Attia), strong supporter of your work in Canada..with one comment & one question re: “the experiment”. The comment is that I was a few days away from setting up a support relationship. I was debating it, wondering on your behalf if it was the right model, but ultimately was prepared to show my support financially. So, my question is..why not both? Why not have a supporter model along side your curated advertisements? Wouldn’t that unlock both potentials? You build a unique tribe of dedicated supporters who obtain some benefits beyond the “free to all” audience, and, you gain additional selectivity to choose the people/products/services that earn your endorsement..
Just my CA$.02
Oh, too bad. I was planning to subscribe and hoping I could attend the Live Video Q&A session.
But anyway, you’re doing a wonderful job producing awesome content and I will be forever grateful to you!
Thank you, Tim!
Hey mate. I’m in Australia so most of your advertising doesn’t apply. It’s not hard to skip to the 5 minute mark. What you do is awesome and I have been a listener, reader and follower since the beginning and I will continue to support what you do.
Simply put, keep being true
I really think you need to diversify your interviews guests. Scrolling up through this page, and many of your others, it’s a blur of white men.
It might be part of a bubble Tim lives in and is probably not intended. I would also wish to see more international content from different cultures. Thomas
Wow – fascinating experiment! For what it’s worth, I would have subscribed at $5. I like the hybrid idea and would happily contribute regularly with few if any added benefits. I enjoy Athletic Greens thanks to you! Enormously grateful for all you do Tim.
At the time I wondered why you created your own model rather than going with something like Patreon. Plus I wondered as you seem to test everything, why there wasn’t an option to let the contributor decide how much they wanted to give per month? Anyway, I’m not bothered by the ads either. If they are new I listen to them. If I’ve heard them before I skip past them. Keep up the great work, thanks!
I don’t know why you think one cancels the other one. Your ads are curated, your Patreon should be optional for those that want to give you direct support.
That’s all well and good, but I’m curious to know at the end of the day what percentage of revenue fan supported turned out to be compared to ad supported. I’m going to take a shot in the dark that if it was even 50% you’d take that no labor trade off for your time and sanity, so it fell well short of that.
This is a great example of one of the reasons I love your content–very few people would take a business model experiment they are conducting and make it a piece of content in itself. I’m a podcast addict and am very interested in the business of podcasts, esp. with all the movement we’re seeing the space right now. So this was really cool to see how the experiment played out. Please do write an in-depth article with more data!
What I find really surprising is I just heard the announcement on the podcast last week, and haven’t had time to sign up for one of the options. Somehow I missed this in any 5-bullet Friday announcements, which I read every week. I’ve been listening to podcasts less lately, tho yours is a must listen when they release new. I’ve skipped the re-release ones b/c I was around since the beginning! I figured you were on a much-deserved media hiatus and just trying to drip some content to us!
Looking forward to getting back to podcasts we love (the latest interview with Josh Waitzkin is great!).
If you’re still wanting to support Tim but he refunded you, why not take those $ and support the Johns Hopkins Psychedelic research unit? I think Tim would be 100 percent down with this because I believe he financially backs them as well & believes in the importance of their research. Or of course just donate to a charity of your own choice in honour of Tim.
All data is good data. Do you agree?
Hi Tim – I love that you took the time to explain the feedback you received and why you stopped the experiment. Much to my own surprise, I also really enjoy your ads and hadn’t realized it until reading the comments from your other listeners. I find myself getting annoyed by the way other podcasts include ads for things that I would never buy AND scatter them throughout their shows. Without knowing it, I assumed all ads would be like yours, but sadly, they are not. You have built fantastic trust with your listeners (I bought WordPress because of you) and are a great example for other content creators/authors/podcasters. Thanks for all that you do!
I appreciate your decision to go back to the previous model. Instead of a refund, I would like to donate the funds to the research projects you are participating in.
I appreciate the work you do to help all of us.
There’s nothing like find out how right/wrong an idea is in record time.
I wonder, now that you know the ad-supported model works (at least more than the fan-supported one), is there any more fun to be had in figuring out how it could be made even better? What tweaks to the content, format or delivery might further improve the match between what you, your audience and your sponsors value?
Also, as a quick aside, you could probably afford to be a little kinder on the should-have-known aspect. The difference between suspecting something and actually knowing it is the whole point of a prototype.
Stay curious, and thanks for the good work.
Glad to hear the ads are coming back (something I never thought I’d see myself typing). Regardless, it was an interesting experiment for sure!
Love the transparency about the whole process and glad to see you revert back to the ad supported model.
This means I’ve been out of the circle. I haven’t heard about this listener-supported podcast. Ads never bothered me. Some ads are thrown out there and no cares about them. When THE Tim Ferriss throws out ads out there, people believe THE Tim Ferriss believes in them. You are our favorite guinea pig; you still are! So when you advertise something, maybe that’s something we want to try. Keep the sponsor ads! We trust you on this! This is the primary reason you’re able to keep the show. And we support the ad-supported podcast 101%!
Sam Harris foreshadowed this in his podcast. The Patreon model makes sense for him since he’s supposed to an objective truth-teller. You’re a life optimizer and a lot of companies make great products towards this end. Your ads serve a valuable curating function that’s normally not true of ads. Joe Rogan’s show is somewhere in between.
Ads for your show (and discounts for your listeners, etc.) make sense.
You should also consider that some type of direct listener support (where people get direct access to you, deeper discounts on certain things, etc.) is entirely compatible with having ads on your podcast. I think you should consider doing both.
Agreed 100% with the conclusion. Ads are annoying 99% of the time, but your careful vetting and the quality of your content have made the ads more than tolerable – I’m happy to use them as a discovery tool.
love my ON shoes, thanks to hearing about them from you
Hi Tim – In case you’re interested. I really liked your ad-free experiment and would love an ad free podcast. I listen to your podcast with some regularity, and refer to ‘tribe of mentors’ often. I get a lot of value from the work you do, and would be happy to support it.
I wouldn’t need any additional content, I’d be happy to give a few bucks a month to keep the podcast ad-free. However, the $10/month level is too high for me. I’d say around $3/month would be right for me.
Maybe those economics don’t work out for you – just thought I’d let ya know.
Thanks so much for your great work, it’s been very valuable to me.
I wanted to suggest this when you got started with the subscription experiment but did not know how to get through your filters. Perhaps for next time you can try it. Most of the goals you mentioned around the subscription model sounded like philanthropic ones. Would love to see you set up “Tim Ferriss Foundation” as a 501(c) and let people donate as barter in exchange for the podcast and keep a few product ads if that is what people like! I would enthusiastically donate and would certainly make the dollar amount more than a subscription model. Would hope this would go toward funding interesting mental health solutions research, funding outlier self learning organizations et cetera but I am sure you can come up with great ideas in this arena and indeed you already have. This model sounds considerable more interesting/attractive to this listener/reader/supporter.
Still cool that you went through with it!
This was a great experiment and I echo the feelings that I actually look forward to your advertisements. I used to work at a certain product review company publisher and their success was driven by their authenticity in giving the best recommendations. I view your advertisements as similar and love to hear what you suggest.
All that said, why does it have to be one or the other? I was personally happy to donate as well as hear advertisements. I believe in what you are doing and listening to you and the amazing people you interview – it is a highlight of my day to walk my dog and listen to the show. I also love what you are doing with psychedelic research and think that you should consider continuing the donation program and making it explicitly for funding these passion projects that you have that go beyond helping you pay the bills. Continue the great work!
Was traveling and missed opportunity to subscribe, however as once famously quoted “in God we trust, for everyone else show me the data”. Clearly the data revealed very quickly the outcome! Would add support to those who have mentioned that would be happy to contribute and still listen to adds given the value over many years
Thanks for all the work
I am one of the minority that liked the fan-supported idea. As a physician I know how we are influenced even without knowing it by product promotion. I respect you for trying to do something human.
look tim, I think the ad-supported model is better. I don’t have huge pockets because I am an 18-year-old kid who is your fan, from third world (hint: rural Pakistan, but I live in a city which is, in American terms, a cross between Detroit and LA. Hope that demonstrates where this comment is coming from).
Remember [in the 1980s] when THE NEW YORKER was “saved” from extinction by the Newhouse family, with a “fresh” Publisher (from Conde Nast Publications) who made the magazine “profitable”by boosting advertising sales with the introduction of “Advertorials”? Well, the HERETIC who shamefully overturned the editorial … purity, by “prostituting” the pages to Commerce was [admittedly] a relatively ignorant young gal who had just graduated from Princeton University. She had leapt at the chance to work in the very same corridors once home to (among others) her very favorite Writer/Humorist E. B. White. (In fact, she was so “undone” at the thought of the advertorial pages — which she’d made a living PROMOTING — simply breaching that “Great Divide”, she ultimately quit that job.)
That person was I, Kim Wilson. Happily, I survived that “breach”; left Magazine Publishing; watched THE NEW YORKER survive (though THAT publisher eventually “passed on”); and I also survived atraumatic brain injury [TBI] that seems to have left me with a more clearly defined sense of Worth.
That is, a truly valuable arrangement of words — be they in terms of Expository Writing, Fiction, Poetry — may in fact serve as the canvas for an Epiphany, of sorts.
Tim. I appreciate, too, that your ads are at the very beginning and at the very end of your podcasts. Nothing is more irritating than to hear an ad in the middle of a podcast. Kudos to you for your quick admission and I look forward to hearing your ads once again and of course to your interviews, I continue to learn sooo… much.
To be honest I completely missed this and was wondering why you weren’t making as many podcasts lately!! I’m very happy to hear that you’re going back to sponsored podcasts :)) cool experimentation though!
If it’s not too much work, I think you should keep the paid option for fans who just want to support the amazing work you do, and try to repay or reciprocate some of the value you’ve created in our lives. Also would love a few more Q and As now and then.
Well said!!! As usual, your approach to, testing of, and conclusion on this issue was handled brilliantly. Further emphasizing why I listen and read everything you put out!
I love the fact that you did the experiment. It fits who you are to test assumptions, and great you did it such a public manner. That showed courage and vulnerability, and just increases the respect we have for you. I love your podcast, and (embarrassingly) didn’t want to pay for it. I got used to “free” (ad supported). I also enjoy the curation of products and services you trust. If you let vape companies or some other companies like that advertise, I’d have a different reaction. Cheers to testing assumptions with smart experiments!
Thank you. Your podcast is life-changing!!!
I hate adds (but like the way you deliver yours and do find your adds interesting, although I get sick of them and fast forward them a lot), and was happy about the new model. And am a bit disappointed that it did not work out. I did not subscribe, and if there had been a lower price point, I probably would have. Regardless I will still remain a loyal fan. Thank you for everything. (I can’t thank you enough.)
I respect your business decision and thank you for the refund.
Tim – I really appreciate the “internet hug” and the thoughtfulness of the refund/the surprise today. That said – I’d still be happy to make a monthly contribution even with the ads remaining in place. Please consider allowing for paid fan-support without sacrificing ad revenue. If you continue to create exclusive content, that’s great. If not, it’s still fine. I’m a better version of myself largely as a result of lessons learned from your writing and podcasts.
Thank you for the gift card. 🙂 totally unexpected and unnecessary but speaks volumes and very much appreciated.
Made a FB group for those on the Q&A, anyone is welcome to join but thought it’d be fun if Tim popped in and said hello: