While doing research on podcasting in the last few months I started digging into the podcast advertising model. In this article I explain how advertisers choose a podcast, how much they pay, what metrics they expect in return and how successful podcast advertising really is. Because this is such a hot topic there is a lot of information available and what I’ve found is that traditional forms of advertising might not be the best way to monetize your podcast.

How podcast advertising works

If you listen to podcasts you’ll be familiar with the types of ads you hear during the shows. Usually there are three or four ads throughout shows. One during the intro, one or two during the show and one at the outro. Usually podcast advertisements are endorsements from the show host but in some rare cases I’ve heard an ad similar to what you would hear on the radio (a prerecorded advertisement or an ad “jingle”).

The trend of the host simply speaking the endorsement is likely a more successful approach. I don’t have data against this but here is my thinking. Because podcasting is such a niche specific form of media the listener is very “tuned into” the topic as well as the speaker. Plus the listener may be already familiar with the advertiser. Because of this, simply having the host endorse the product is enough to raise interest in the listener. Because the listener likely values the opinion of the host they are more likely to take the advertised product or service more seriously.

Many report that the conversion rate of podcast advertising is very high. Numbers aren’t “in stone” yet because podcasting is still the wild west, but based on a Midroll sponsored survey of 300,000 listeners they found that 63% of the listeners said they sampled or purchased an item because they heard about it on a podcast. That’s a big number!

Now, before you get to excited remember that this statistic is coming from Midroll which is a large podcast advertising network. That number might be a bit skewed, but I doubt it’s far from the truth. It makes sense. The podcasts that people are listening too are incredibly niched. Podcasts are on-demand and you can find a very specific topic that fits into a part of your professional or personal life. The advertisers know this so they are able to find the podcasts that speak exactly to the buyer persona that they are targeting. Just keep in mind that this is all new territory and we don’t have hard data yet.

How much podcast advertisers pay

Podcast advertisers pay based on the number of downloads your show is receiving after a new episode is released. The metric is based on each segment of 1000 downloads per episode release. Advertisers are typically paying about $15 per 1000 downloads per episode per ad.

So, if we imagine you have a podcast that is getting 5000 downloads per episode, and you have 3 ad slots available, you could start making $225 per episode. If you are doing 4 episodes per month (one each week) you’re looking at just less than $1000/month.

Podcast advertiser expectations

Most podcast advertisers won’t take a podcast seriously until it’s reached at least 10k downloads per episode. Some bigger networks want to see 25k – 30k downloads per episode before they’ll talk with you. This is understandable, they just want to see plenty of traction before they start dumping money into your platform, but that means your podcast might be live for a long time before it’s a successful candidate for podcast advertising. Getting to a regular download rate of 10k per episode could take months or even years.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get started with podcast advertising immediately. If you are starting a podcast or are several months into podcasting about a specific niche why not develop a list of potential sponsors that sell products or services that fit within your listener persona. If your numbers are currently low but show signs of growth then sell the advertiser on that fact. Keep in mind that your podcasts are evergreen content. Just because your episode only received 500 downloads after it’s initial release that media will exist for years to come meaning that hundreds or thousands of downloads are possibly in that episodes future.

Alternatives to standard podcast advertising

Instead of looking for podcast advertising or sponsorship many believe that podcasts are best suited as a platform for advertising your own business, services or applications. I tend to agree with this approach.

For instance The Rainmaker Network uses this approach. If you’ve never heard The New Rainmaker podcast I suggest checking it out. Start at episode one and listen forward, the content is invaluable.  It’s hosted by Brian Clark and one of his business partners Robert Bruce. Brian Clarke is the creator of Copyblogger (a very successful blog about content marketing), The Rainmaker Platform (a distribution of WordPress that is offered as a SaaS model), along with about a dozen other entrepreneurial initiatives.

Brian is smartly using The New Rainmaker podcast along with many others to advertise his business initiatives. All of the content in the podcasts are about (generalizing here) building up your personal or business brand by using various media types (blogging, publishing, podcasting, speaking, etc). Essentially making your company a media company to promote the things that you do. He’s taking a dose of his own medicine and using many podcasts under the “Rainmaker Network” to drive people to try his software, events, educational resources, etc. From the outside looking in, it’s working. Brian regularly talks about how their company has broken the 8 figure mark and that they have 60+ employees working all over the world. 

Another approach is to use your podcast as a platform for introducing your audience (potential customers) to your strengths, abilities and thought leadership. For example, I recently met Douglas Burdett, the host of “The Marketing Book Podcast”. In his podcast he interviews the authors of many marketing books. Douglas owns and operates a marketing firm, Artillery, which helps businesses build a marketing strategy to increase brand awareness using digital tools.

Douglas is a very smart guy and has a long history working in ad agencies on Madison Avenue in New York City. What’s interesting is that he does not promote his business, Artillery, in his podcast. He doesn’t even mention his business. Instead, he’s building a podcast that is very interesting, informative and includes many popular authors from the world of marketing (guests include Joe Pullizi, Guy Kawasaki, Lee Oden, etc). Plus in one of LinkedIn’s recent blog posts they ranked his show in “10 Podcasts that Will Make You a Better Marketer in 2016 “. To put it mildly, it’s attracting attention.

Listeners get introduced not only to the authors of the books but to insight about Douglas, his approach to marketing and his easy-going approachable personality. They observe him from afar then feel comfortable reaching out to him for business advice which eventually (in some cases) turns into business for Artillery. See what he’s doing there? Smart marketing.

Conclusion

If you are going to get into the podcasting game there is certainly room to make money from advertising, however I suggest you think more deeply about what your goals are and if there are other ways to monetize your efforts in a more efficient and self-fulfilling manner. Podcasting is still a new medium and I’m sure advances will continue to be made in the future.

Additionally, I think there is a very important broken piece to the podcast advertising model. I will go into more detail about that in a future article and will link to it here once it’s live.


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