November 15, 2019

Monetizing Midlife

Mary Rogers' “Experience 50” is the highest-ranking midlife podcast in the nation. Are you listening?
By Ross Boissoneau | Oct. 26, 2019

In her 50s, Mary Rogers is having the time of her life. And so are her listeners.

“Of everything I’ve done in my career — and I’ve had some fabulous jobs I’ve loved — the biggest surprise was the joy I got from connecting with people on radio,” said Mary Rogers. That was from her time helming “Mary in the Morning,” her morning talk radio show on TK. 

While she’s no longer on the airwaves, she’s still talking with her audience. These days, though, it’s as the host of her own podcast: “The Experience 50 Podcast for Midlife.” She doles out advice and relates her own experiences, interviews guests, and tries to help people make sense of their 50s and beyond.
 
“I began the ‘Experience 50 Podcast for Midlife’ in late 2015, when I decided to make a mission of helping other people to recognize that something kinda wacky happens to many of us at this age. Nobody had warned me ahead of time either,” she says on her website.
 
Rogers is also the founder of Marigold Women in Business, the former director of membership for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, and the past executive director of the Detroit office of the National Association of Women Business owners. She’s owned and sold her own businesses, managed and led nonprofits, served on boards of directors, and consulted startups and growing businesses. Along the way she’s bested breast cancer, married, divorced, and married again, raised children, and embraced technology. She’s used all those experiences as a basis for “Experience 50.”

TAKING THE LEAP
The transition to podcast was relatively seamless for Rogers. She simply built on her radio, business, marketing, and event-planning experience. “A podcast is an event, one time a week. The how was most of what I knew from radio, how to edit audio, I built a studio. There wasn’t really a learning curve.”
 
But while the how was relatively easy for her, the part where podcasting became a viable career took some time. “I make money, but it’s not what I expected. I drank the Kool-Aid,” she said with a laugh, referring to things like sponsors and advertisers, which she believed would quickly jump onboard. “I was a bit naïve.
 
“In my fifth year, now I have an audience. Plus I have listeners who want more private information. Where I really make money is, I offer listeners a one-hour midlife coaching call.”
 
Rogers said part of the genesis of her podcast was advice from her best friend, the late Bryan Crough. “He said, ‘Honey, you don’t need a job — you need a show.’ I didn’t want to do broadcast radio. After Bryan died, I got cancer, and I had that whole midlife epiphany of ‘this is not feeding my soul.’”
 
REALITY CHECK
She warns against others jumping on the podcast bandwagon just because it’s the “in” thing or someone said to do it. She said you have to be invested in it and realize it won’t be a money-maker — at least not at first.

“If you’re looking to monetize a podcast that doesn’t have a service or product, I wouldn’t recommend it. The average podcast gets 113 downloads. There are over 700,000 podcasts available, and only the top 2 percent make real money.”
 
Rogers said feedback from her audience is what helped her hang on through the lean years. She’s been told “You changed my life. I felt you were talking directly to me.” The most heartrending response, for her, was to an “Experience 50” episode in which she addressed the fact that suicide createsmanyvictims. “I heard from six or seven people who were considering killing themselves. They wrote me for saving their lives.”
 
She said the most popular episode was one titled “Reclaim Your Mojo.” Second was one she posted in the first six months about adult children (now in midlife) of alcoholics. Where does she get her ideas for her podcasts?

“They come to me. I get emails that start clustering around a topic. I get emails from publicists.” And because she’s writing about people like her in their 50s and confronting all that means, she often comes up with ideas and topics based around her own life. “I am my audience,” she said.
 
She said many of those in her target audience are in their 50s, figuring out themselves and their world in transition: parents are dying or dead, and their estates have to be dealt with, their children are growing or grown. Yet they feel young and healthy and want to be active and experience life in all its often-chaotic glory. “I love talking to my listeners about living deliberately. Our 50s is a juicy, messy part of life. Listeners aren’t finding the conversation anywhere else.”
 
SH*TSHOW
As a podcaster, Rogers isn’t constrained by any FCC regulations or external censors. On the radio, if you say something controversial, you can alienate part of your audience or your advertisers, she said. On her podcasts, that doesn’t matter. “I can say what I want. I can swear if I want. That’s the great thing about podcasts,” she said.
 
“Apple has called me explicit. Sometimes I can be mean and piss people off. That’s fine. There are 699,000 other podcasters they can go to. I benefit most with intense, regular fans in smaller numbers.”
 
While Rogers is a local who had a significant local following for her radio show (and, full disclosure, she also pens about five annual guest columns for Northern Express), her podcast subscribers are spread far and wide. “When I first started, I had a local following,” she said, estimating as many as 90 percent of her listeners were local. That’s not the case any longer. “Over time my audience has shifted, so Traverse City is maybe five percent. Most are now in major markets.”
 
“Experience 50” is the highest-ranking midlife podcast in the nation. In September 2019, the show ranked No. 266 of all U.S. podcasts in the United States and No. 17 within the Personal Journals category. It’s been recommended by AARP’s “The Girlfriend”and in The Wall Street Journaland garnered a five-star rating.
 
Because it is a podcast, Rogers can count who subscribes, which episodes they listen to, and whether they finish listening to it. “I’m a data geek. I can track how long people subscribe, whether they open it.” That way she can see if a particular topic or show struck a nerve among subscribers, “like, this episode spiked in Peoria.”
 
Find Mary Rogers’ “Experience 50 Podcast for Midlife” on Apple podcasts. You can also listen and learn more at www.Experience50.com.

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