The Startup’s Guide to Podcast Advertising

Microphone in recording studio

Despite being about as hip as the average mother (that is, not very), my mom is definitely in the know when it comes to cool new startup products.

Harry’s Razors? She bought them for my dad. A Casper mattress? She’s never slept better. An Audible subscription? Listening to Gone Girl spiced up her commute to work.

If you listen to podcasts, you’ll know how my mom is learning about all these companies. Podcast advertising is taking off; so much so that in April of 2015, the Interactive Advertising Bureau published a 27-page “Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide”. In a single year, advertisers will spend $34 million on podcasts (and that’s a low estimate).


Of course, the rise in advertising is stemming from a rise in the podcasting industry itself. According to Edison Research, one-third of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast–a 300% increase since 2006.

So, if you’re looking for a great way to get the word out about your startup, you should definitely consider podcast sponsorships. 

Why Podcasting Is Such a Great Ad Medium

As you no doubt know, most people pay little attention to traditional ads–if they don’t ignore them completely. From banner ads on websites, which 99.8% of people don’t engage with, to TV ads, which 37% ignore, most mediums have low interaction rates.

The recent rise in ad-blocking makes advertisers even more nervous.

Podcasts are different. Not only do people listen to the ads, they actually enjoy them.

First, most people simply can’t ignore the ads. More than 25% of podcast consumers listen during their morning commute. Other popular podcasting activities include walking the dog, doing household chores, and working out. These activities don’t allow you to fast-forward through an ad, nor do they let you focus on something else until the ad finishes.

But the vast majority of people don’t want to. Podcast ads are considered fun and engaging. Many of them match the overall tone of the podcast; for example, PC’s ads for Reply All (a popular Internet-themed podcast), feature a charming exchange between the Reply All host and a young couple, who agree they’d rather save their laptops than their wedding pictures.

Most ads are read by the hosts themselves, which makes you feel as though you’re hearing about, say, from a friend rather than a self-interested stranger.

As Adam Sachs, CEO of ad network Midroll, told Fast Company, “That passive endorsement is really powerful.”

The Set-Up

Before you can make any decisions, it’s helpful to know the jargon.

Pre-roll: This 15-second spot opens the podcast. Usually, it has more of the traditional audio ad feel than the mid-roll, which can be more casual.

Mid-roll: These 30 to 60-second segments occur periodically throughout the episode. 

Offer code: Most podcast ads offer listeners a unique promo code, which allows sponsors to track how many conversions they’re getting.

Native ad: The standard podcast ad consists of the host(s) reading a script into the microphone. However, you’ll also hear the occasional agency-produced ad, with music, sound effects, interviewees, etc.

Outro: The final part of a podcast, during which the host can urge listeners once again to try out the company (“Don’t forget to use offer code Take30 to receive 20% off your first Wayne purchase”) or simply remind them of the sponsorship (“Thanks to Wayne for sponsoring this episode.”)

Direct response: Since most podcatchers offer linkable show notes or captions, you can now provide direct links to your site or product page.

Podcatcher: A podcast player. iTunes still reigns supreme, but apps like Stitcher, Overcast, and Castro are gaining ground.

Finding Podcasts

The beginning step in any marketing strategy is to find the appropriate outlets.

You can tackle this project in two ways.

The first way is to identify shows your target demographic is listening to, contact those shows, and ask to sponsor them. 

Let’s say your company provides millennials with simple, easy-to-use banking software. After some research, you decide to approach Night Vale and Rooster Teeth, two shows popular among millennials.

Pros: This approach is pretty low-budget. Also, it allows you to scout out niche podcasts that directly appeal to your core market–as opposed to hyper-popular shows like Serial that everyone listens to.

Cons: It’s a pretty unscientific and time-consuming approach.

The second option is to work with a podcast network, like Midroll or Archer Avenue. They act as the middleman, matching you with multiple shows within their roster.

Pros: Almost all of the heavy lifting is outsourced. Plus, you can gain access to top podcasters (who may ignore you if you reach out to them independently).

Cons: It’s more expensive.

While your decision will depend on how much you can afford to spend and the audience size you’re going after, in general, I’d recommend starting with the first approach, seeing how it goes, and iterating on your approach, then moving to the second.

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Source: Sitepoint