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The Keys to Podcast Advertising

Gregory Galant
The Keys to Podcast Advertising Gregory Galant

People can't seem to stop talking about podcasting-- and for good reason. According to Arbitron, 27 million Americans have listened to a podcast. Clearly, independent podcasters and media companies alike have attracted engaged, highly focused audiences of early adopters.

Advertisers have a tremendous opportunity to get their message out in this fragmented media landscape. But understandably, advertisers and podcast producers fear turning off users and losing their attention by botching the campaign. Unlike podcasting itself, podcast advertising shouldn't be just all talk. It's time for marketers to take action. Here are five tips for launching a successful podcast ad campaign.

Keep your message brief
Podcast audiences have proven accepting of ad spots so long as they're short. In a recent Nikon ad campaign that ran across our podcast network, we did not receive a single complaint from listeners about a 15-second spot.

Short ads drastically decrease the incentive to fast-forward. Even Clear Channel is pushing "less is more" for its broadcast radio advertisers. Besides, brevity is the soul of wit. If you do need 60 seconds to pitch the benefits of your product, it would be better to do four 15-second spots throughout a podcast than one 60-second spot.

Vary your creative
While listeners don't mind short, tasteful ads, they do mind hearing the same creative over and over. After all, they sought out podcasts in the first place because they're easily bored.

Produce as many short ads as possible. Each could feature a different use for your product, a different benefit of your product or a different person describing their experience with it. You can also change your ad over time, addressing different seasons, holidays, current events or other timely issues.

Don't underestimate your audience
Podcasting gives you the opportunity to reach a niche, sophisticated audience that's likely on the cutting edge of an interest group. A large internet service provider recently advertised in several technology podcasts whose listeners get excited about terms like RSS, open source and network neutrality. However, the advertiser used a dumbed down ad that slowly explained in lofty terms how their service makes web browsing easier. The ad was clearly aimed at a general, less technology-savvy audience. It might have worked well for broadcast, but the ad was not well received by podcast listeners as evidenced by numerous comments and blog posts. Listeners felt talked down to.

The ad we recently ran across our network for the Nikon Coolpix Camera quickly explained that the company's camera transfers photos wirelessly, without patronizing the listeners.

Place your ads interstitially (don't use pre- or post-roll)
Ads placed before a podcast make it difficult for potential listeners to sample and get excited about the podcast. Many podcast producers reject them for that reason. It's even bad for the advertiser because that's when podcast listeners are most likely to fast-forward-- when they have their hands on the control just after they've selected a podcast.

Ads placed in between the content segments -- interstitially -- allow the listener a chance to become engaged in the show before experiencing the sponsor message. They also reach the listener after she's removed her hands from the fast-forward control. Ads need to be worked into a podcast to take full advantage of the medium.

Don't imitate broadcast radio
Many people who listen to broadcast radio aren't really paying much attention to the content in the first place and are quick to switch the dial. This state of affairs gives the producers of broadcast radio ads the unenviable job of having to grab the listener's attention. These attempts often reek of desperation and take the form of loud and obnoxious voices performing cheesy skits.

Luckily, you're advertising in podcasting. The user has already subscribed, downloaded and actively chosen to experience the content your message will be heard in. The listener is already engaged. You have his attention. Your job's easy. Just be clear, concise and informative. A little wit never hurts either.

Podcast advertising isn't complicated and offers numerous benefits. It simply requires some common sense to craft a campaign that will engage and entertain the listener. Put yourself in the user's shoes, but put your ads in their ear buds.

Gregory Galant is the CEO of RadioTail, a firm that facilitates advertising in podcasts. Galant first entered the world of podcasting when he founded Venture Voice, the leading podcast about entrepreneurship.

Galant has worked at Newlight Associates, a $120M technology venture capital firm. He was an associate producer at CNN.com where he analyzed the latest trends in citizens' media. In 1996, he founded Halenet, an award-winning internet strategy firm.

In May 2005, Galant graduated Emory University with a degree in philosophy. He has been featured in The New York Times, The Venture Capital Journal, The New York Daily News, Catherine Crier's WOR radio show and News 12. The Suffolk Nassau Chamber of Commerce named him the 2003 "Entrepreneur of the Year."

What role should innovation play in this effort?
Chances are you already have some tactical ideas on how to meet the objectives outlined earlier in the process. Here the goal of the question is to gain agreement to how venturesome the plan should be. There are two sides to this:

Sometimes certain team members are interested in being bold in trying new strategies and tactics to deliver on brand goals. Deciding to do this ultimately requires that the team be comfortable with performance risk. That risk may be necessary; beyond the simple desire to innovate, there may be compelling reasons to be rather venturesome:

  • Perhaps the effectiveness of existing strategies and tactics has plateaued, and the brand needs to disrupt to grow.

  • Perhaps the brand is dependent on a few tactics that are volatile on the pricing front. Aggressively pursuing new tactics helps to ensure the long term success of a brand.

  • Perhaps the essence of the brand would be enhanced with more bleeding edge tactics.

Alternatively, the team may collectively decide that the need for immediate short term results is too important to risk spending significant dollars on the unproven.

There are a host of possible right decisions here. The point in asking this question is to ensure that everyone on the team is aligned with the challenge and business situation. That's important because teams may assume that they need to go with the tried and true when the brand really needs to disrupt. Alternatively, decision makers may request "out there" ideas that have no realistic chance of being acted upon. Most of this should have been clear in the objective setting that took place with question one. This question provides greater granularity on the best "hows."

Ultimately, the goal is to focus the team's efforts and creativity on things that will actually matter -- things that might actually happen. No client wants rote solutions -- they pay for out of the box thinking. And this question helps us understand what box to get out of.

How can we be smarter in this effort versus previous efforts?
This question gives everyone the opportunity to discuss ways that they see our efforts can be improved.

One approach to take is to ask people to bring forth ideas on how to be smarter in five areas:

  1. Measurement: Are there better ways to measure than what we are doing now?

  2. Vendors/partners: Are there new vendors to consider, or ways that we can derive more insight and ideas from existing partners? Etc.

  3. Creative: Are there ideas to make our creative more effective? Technologies?

  4. Ad Ops: What are the bottlenecks in our process that need to be addressed? Are we spending too long dithering so that trafficking is always rushed and ergo error prone? Etc.

  5. Analytics: Are there new tools to consider to more accurately track metrics identified in this process?


By compartmentalizing functional areas, we ensure that each of the major tasks of an effort receives team attention. Further, each of these areas has very different characteristics and requires disciplined thought toward improving performance.

I am well aware that there is no earth shattering new insight behind these five questions. The value here is in codifying a process -- to improve what we end up doing by aligning the team more fully and completely from the beginning.

A cynical person once said, "Garbage in, garbage out." When we fail to drive genuine and deep alignment across these simple dimensions, we can expect misfired efforts in a lot of cases. It can be difficult to insist on real answers to these questions. It might even be painful -- but probably less painful than trying to do jazz hands in front of bad results for the next 90 days. In our rush to create deliverables and execute, let's make sure we don't forget to ask the questions along the way that help ensure we do the right things.

Jim Nichols is senior partner at Catalyst: SF.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

2. Publishers will get comfortable with their content being read offsite.

Not only is the majority of content being consumed from within mobile apps, but also a growing percentage of the content is being hosted by platform providers. For example, Facebook has Instant Articles, which allow publishers to have their content stored within Facebook. This enhances the viewing experience as users see content immediately and don't have to click on a link that takes them to a publisher's site -- and away from their mobile app experience. Other platform providers like Google and Twitter are developing similar capabilities.

The downside of these initiatives by platform providers is that users will not always go to a publisher's website to read an article. As a result, publishers will need to get comfortable with their content being read "offsite," and they will need to find ways to measure how consumers are interacting with their content (and brand) beyond their own website properties. Fortunately, new analytic tools that provide a comprehensive picture of offsite and onsite user activities are becoming available.

3. Marketers will start leveraging content data to gain cross-platform visibility.

As marketers distribute content across a variety of platforms, they will discover that content performs differently on the various platforms. For example, a particular piece of content might drive more clicks on Twitter but more email signups on Facebook due to the nature of each platform's audience. As a result, marketers will need visibility on how their content is performing across platforms so they can distribute content effectively.

To get insights on content performance across platforms, marketers will start to use "content data" -- data that captures how different audiences act on content across platforms. This data will enable marketers to push past the limitations of traditional cookie-based marketing -- particularly important as more content gets read on mobile devices where cookies don't work -- and target audiences across different platforms with their content.

4.  Publishers will leverage their audiences to provide a new source of advertising revenue and to strengthen relationships with brands.

Top publishers are continually testing new ways to drive long-term ROI in today's shifting publishing landscape. From a subscriber perspective, a lot of emphasis has been placed on digital subscriptions and the use of paywalls, but the verdict is still very much out in terms of how effective they are.

On the advertising front, realizing they have a treasure trove of data about their subscribers, publishers will try to model Facebook's targeting approach and give their advertisers the ability to market to specific target audiences directly from them. In addition to being a new source of revenue for publishers, this will also be of benefit to a publisher's advertisers. Advertisers will have a new option that is different than the fraud-riddled ad exchanges they are shying away from.

5. Paid distribution will no longer be a dirty little secret for publishers.

Historically, it has been a major faux pas for publishers to pay for content distribution. While the decline of content's organic reach in social channels is no longer up for debate, many publishing industry pundits have clung to the belief that good content should and will find its own audience.

Good content might indeed find an audience over time, but it might not be the ideal audience and it might not meet business goals. As different content will likely resonate with different people, each piece of content should be distributed to the audiences that will help publishers achieve their business goals. As content consumption patterns continue to shift, publishers will need to use editorial content in new ways in 2016 -- be it justifying advertising rates and attracting new audiences or signing up new subscribers.

Now a valuable currency, content can be used to drive many business goals. For that to happen, content needs to get in front of the right people. In 2016, more publishers will embrace the fact that paying for content distribution to targeted audiences is the best way to do that.

6. Kittens will no longer cut it.

As marketers spend money to distribute their content, it becomes important to make sure that business goals are being achieved. Creating massive amounts of content and blindly distributing it across audiences and platforms will not always achieve business goals. Moving forward, content will need to be developed through the lens of business objectives, target audiences, and distribution platforms.

Marketers can better understand how content resonates with various, niche audiences across different platforms by focusing on measuring content effectiveness -- particularly against business goals. Looking at how the content experience and resulting target audience response differs based on distribution platform (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) is the first step to improve content creation and measurement.

In closing, 2016 will be an exciting year in content marketing. Marketers will develop a "mobile-first" mentality and become better at leveraging the platform providers -- both from a content hosting and a content distribution perspective. Content marketing initiatives will go to the next level in the year ahead, becoming much more effective at meeting business goals.

Yaniv Makover is CEO of Keywee.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

"Businesswoman change landscape from dry to spring" image via iStock.


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