Podcasts have turned mainstream over the last couple of years. According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2016, 21% of all Americans over the age of 12 listen to at least one podcast each month. With the proliferation of podcasts also comes an abundance of opportunities for podcast ads and sponsorships.

The price of podcast ads on the top shows can run up to $100 CPM. For mid-tier podcasts the cost can run up to $50 CPM. The cost of podcast advertising is pretty steep compared to a lot of advertising alternatives such as social media banner advertising (on average $1- $4 CPM) and magazine advertising (on average $8 – $20 CPM) (check out Chron for more information). On the other hand, the specialization among podcasts allows for an efficient targeting of audience segments.

Here are some tips to help you out if you want to take the plunge in podcast advertising or sponsorship.

Pick the right show(s)…

Do your homework and make a careful pick of the show(s) that are right for you. This is less about chasing numbers of listeners and more about reaching the right listeners. If you are on the verge of advertising in a podcast you have never listened to yourself, you should hit the pause button. You’ll be far better off if you are already familiar with the podcast to ensure it is consistent with your advertising goals as well as brand image and ethos.

but avoid (perceived) conflicts of interest

Sponsoring a show that brings news on your industry might seem tempting at first, but there are reputational risks involved. People who listen to the podcast might come to wonder if the people who produce the show are fully independent in the way they cover the industry and, more specifically, the role you play in it. In other words, this kind of sponsorship always comes with the risk that people think you are trying to ‘buy’ your way into favorable coverage.

A recent Wired article addressed the issue of sponsorship conflicts of interests. It cited an example of a freight shipping company that sponsored a podcast covering the Port of Oakland and how this represented a challenge to the (at least perceived) editorial independence of the podcast producers. In other words, occasional advertising comes with much less risks of such independence perception problems.

Apply a direct response strategy

There is a reason why there are so many direct response ads that run on podcasts. With this type of advertising you can measure the return on investment of your advertising spend much better than using the traditional metric: downloads. After all, a download does not accurately measure how many active listeners there are or how many hear your ad (as opposed to skipping it). Building in a call-to-action at least provides you a way to measure a podcast ad’s reach and effectiveness. Consider taking it a step further by using a dedicated landing page to more accurately measure traffic generated by the ad or use a coupon code as a special offer to the podcast’s listeners.

Hone your message

A podcast host will typically not read ad scripts verbatim on air. He or she will use your bullet points and turn that into something that has a more organic feel to the show. A podcast ad broker will be able to help you hone your message. The tried-and-true laws of good advertising also apply to podcasting: think outside-in, focus on the benefits of your product or service and add a sense of urgency to your offer.

Evaluate and redirect

Will you spend thousands and thousands of dollars on podcast ad campaigns only to evaluate the impact of your campaign twelve months later? We hope not. Some shows might prove to not be a good fit, but you won’t know unless you are monitoring the key metrics you assigned to measure the initiative. Perhaps you went astray with your messaging or failed to make your call-to-action enticing enough? Continuous monitoring will tell you when you are hitting the mark or need a mid-flight adjustment.

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