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Marketing Tips
July 8, 2024
min read
Daniel Conn

Everything you wanted to know about podcasts but were afraid to ask

Podcast advertising is booming. The number of podcasts featuring sponsorship continues to rise YoY with growth proving to be robust even through the economic uncertainty of 2020. 

Growth in podcast sponsorship

As more and more brands look to podcast sponsorship and more and more podcasters seek to make a living from it there are some key questions we need to ask:

What's the typical ad/sponsorship format?

Podcast sponsorship has 3 principle ad types. Baked in Host read, Dynamic Host read and Dynamic non host read. Fancy terms but what does that mean. Baked in means that the sponsorship is an integrated part of the audio file itself, essentially meaning that the relationship between the sponsor and that episode will always be there.

Dynamic conversely means that the sponsorship is not part of the audio file and is a served ad. Therefore we can consider dynamic to be closer to other forms of served ads with one core and important difference. 

With podcasts,  a very common form of sponsorship is host-read dynamic. This means the host will record the actual adspot which will then be served for a specific number of impressions across the current and past inventory of the podcast in question. The advantages for podcasters here is that their past inventory is monetisable and for brands there is the security of a specified impression count. The disadvantage is that in most cases there is still an understanding that the ad read is a pre-recorded insertion and not part of an integrated flow of the conversation. In essence it feels more scripted.

When a dynamic ad is not host-read it may as well be a radio ad as by doing so the connection between creator and brand is fully severed. Therefore it should really be considered as its own thing outside of influence led marketing efforts.

This chart highlights the connection between value and scale:

Connection between value and scale

What are good CPM’s?

There are two lanes for deciding CPMs, Niche or General content.

Niche is as it sounds. When a podcast is narrowly focused the value of the content and therefore its audience rises with it. If you are a product targeting marathon runners and only marathon runners then a podcast that focusses on that topic is many more times more valuable to a brand than a general audience. Therefore Niche content can cost more. We’ve seen niche podcasts with CPMs upwards of $200 that make perfect sense for certain brands.

If you’re targeting marathon runners you’re going to pay more for a podcast that has discussed marathon running 184 times.

A list of thought leaders discussing marathon running

General podcast content has CPMs that operate in a more predictable range. Variation is still common but for a brand that is ubiquitous in its potential audience make up the more reliably cheaper and larger audience sizes of general content is more appealing. We routinely see CPMs range from $10-$50.

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How to grab audience attention?

You’re gonna love this one. Just remember POD (get it, POD as in podcast!) That stands for :

Grab an audience's attention through personalization, offer, and by being direct

This question was about audience attention but there is another crucial benefit from following POD. When you have specific offers that need to be redeemed and use the host to direct the traffic to the requisite landing page, or instruct to deliver a specific coupon code you are not only pulling in the audience but tracking them. Offers in podcast sponsorship are a crucial component of tracking because of the lack of clicks. If you were planning to rely on links in the description of a show, don’t.

ExpressVPN and Betterhelp show great examples of leveraging offers for incentive and direction on where to redeem them.

Examples of sponsorship promotions

What is the actual unit I’m buying?

Marketers who like precise and accurate data, look away now. We like when things are clear and universal but we are just not there yet with Podcasting. Due to the wide spread of points of distribution and holes in tracking: understanding whether you are paying for someone who downloads a podcast or someone who listens to a podcast is not widely possible.

Technically a download is when the episode appears on a device and a listen is the actual opening of the episode but for the purposes of media buying this is more or less irrelevant.

Most podcasts/ networks will sell based on downloads/ impressions the term listens doesn’t really appear. A download and an impression can mean the same thing.

As a general rule, consider that 80% of the quoted audience figure is most likely a unique listener but don’t expect good and accurate data for any of this.

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