An Introduction to Podcast Advertising

Research shows that the amount of time people spent listening to Podcasts has doubled in the last four years (Edison Research). From comedy to mysteries to sports and relationships, podcasts give listeners access to fresh content focused on the subjects that interest them most.

Typically, your advertisement is integrated into the program and voiced by the host, co-host or producer of the podcast. So, your brand gets instant credibility and trust among the listeners.

You can buy pre-produced spots at a lower rate, but you need to know you will lose the endorsement effect that has made podcast advertising a valuable and powerful source of new leads, customers and sales.

One of the most important aspects of podcast advertising is how convenient it is for listeners to consume the media. Once they subscribe, the fresh podcast is available automatically on their smartphone and they are alerted as new content is available. Since the talent of the program is reading your ads, there are no up-front production costs.

Here are some eye-opening podcast facts to consider:

  • Podcast audience has grown to 73 million listeners a month (Edison Research).
  • 81% of podcast listeners say they pay attention to podcast ads.
  • 60% of listeners have purchased something promoted in a podcast.
  • 93% of podcast listeners are active on Social Media.
  • Podcast hosts endorsements bring instant credibility to your brand.
  • Podcasts audiences are extremely loyal. They hand-pick the podcasts they want to consume.
  • Your brand gets a positive halo effect of the program you associate your brand with.

It’s important to note that even though you pay for a 30-second or 60-second spot on podcasts, many times your ads can run much longer. We have seen talent go on for three to four minutes about a client because they related a personal story to the sponsor.

You will get alerted the day that a show is available and get a link to how your spot ended up sounding. Be advised that even though you send the exact same script, the spot will sound different if the host is doing a “live” read. That’s because show topics change from program to program, and hosts usually try to bring relevant content to your spot.

This is one of the reasons that podcasts are so valuable in today’s distracted world. Because your target audience is extremely focused on what is being said in the program, they are engaged. And there are usually not many other sponsors right next to you like there can be in radio spot sets that last 5 to 7 minutes long.

Types of Podcast Advertising

Pre-roll spots are ads that air before the program actually begins—like the inside cover of a magazine. In this case you may have three to four sponsors in the pre-roll section of a podcast. It airs somewhere in the first minute or two of the show. The audience hears the introduction music and then the pre-roll spots air before the host begins talking about the show’s subject for the day. We suggest avoiding pre-roll.

We like to position clients in mid-roll. Mid-roll can be more expensive because it delivers more results and is in higher demand. Mid-roll is usually positioned in the middle of the podcast. The talent is heavily involved in the content of the program, and then your advertising is delivered and highlighted. Sometimes the show’s producer or co-host will read your copy. This normally happens in podcasts where the host is not allowed by contract to be seen or heard endorsing a product (for example, national news anchor such as Anderson Cooper). Since each podcast varies in length, it’s difficult to know exactly when the mid-roll spot will air. However, because your ads are embedded deep into the content of the show, it sounds like it’s actually part of the program versus just being a sponsor.

There is also post-roll, which comes at the end of the podcast. You will hear “this program has been brought you by” and then a list of sponsors. The show ends with the post roll sponsors.

In regard to production there are two types of podcast ads: pre-produced ads and host endorsements or “live” reads.

1. A pre-produced ad is voiced by a professional talent other than the host or producer.
2. The “live” reads or host endorsement ad is read by the host, co-host or producer.

Podcast Special Considerations

Because there are no strict guidelines on commercial lengths, spots can last from 30 seconds to five minutes. They are usually sold as 30-second or 60-second units, but that does not mean that’s exactly how long your ads will be. In fact, some of the best performing spots are ones where the host takes your basic script and adds his or her personality, personal experiences and input.

Podcasts are not restricted by typical broadcast standards. Which means you need to know in advance if the program’s hosts use language you are not comfortable associating with your brand. Both the topics and language can be considered NOT “family-friendly” very quickly in the program. The title of the podcast does not always reveal the actual content of the program. It’s wise to listen to several programs before sponsoring to make sure you are comfortable with the content of the show.

How Much Does It Cost to Advertise on a Podcast?

Podcasts are priced based on the CPM basis. Most podcasts try to get $25 CPM, or $25 for every 1,000 people who download their podcast. So, for quick pricing a podcast that delivers 100,000 downloads is going to cost an advertiser $2,500 per sponsorship per show. If you want to try a pre-produced spot, you could test it for around $10 per thousand.

However, like with all other media, podcast advertising rates are negotiable. DX Media Direct has access to several well-known podcasts at 50% off what other advertisers pay. It’s wise to get a professional media buyer on your side who has tested these programs with other advertisers. They can guide you to safe harbors for best results. While some podcasts promote huge download statistics, we have seen some inaccuracies in the data and results. Be careful of podcasts that have packaged themselves together with other podcasts to boost their reported download numbers. It’s smart to measure the performance of each podcast as a stand-alone. In doing so, you’ll have better insight as to which host, program and content is driving the real results and sales. You can do this by giving a special offer code, using a dedicated tracking number for each show, or both.

DX Media Direct can help connect you to the right podcast audience. Here are some examples of rates and downloads. There are literally hundreds of programs available.

Program Topic# Of DownloadsMid-Roll Rate
60 Seconds
Host Endorsed
NBA Basketball79,000 $1,100
National News78,000$1,100
Business News8,000$100
Conservative Talk250,000$2,205
Rock & Roll Music7,000$90
WWE Wrestling 120,000$1,500
Celebrity Talk400,000$4,500
Crime & Mystery65,000 $825
Financial Talk 8,000$250
Comedy 100,000$2,200
Conservative Host650000$10,500
Political Talk150000$2400
Wrestling Talk17500$350
Celebrity Interviews75000$1,050
Economic & Current Events20000$275
Comedy & Shock Jock30000$385
Serial Killer Crime65000$750
Web Technology show20000$700
Photography7000$250
Psychology & Philosophy200000$6,500
Work Life15000$550
Car Talk13000$450
News Anchor Podcast140000$1,400
Hot Button Issues550000$7,350
Unsolved Mysteries15000$250
College Basketball6200$95
Football Sports Talk8200$125

(Additional advertising costs can be found in our blog post titled, “How Much Does It Cost to Advertise?“)

How Do I Know It’s Working?

As you can see there are about as many podcasts as there are topics of interest. In fact, some podcast topics have several shows covering them weekly.

As an advertiser, you will want to know how long you should test a podcast before knowing if it will perform for you. We have an answer: within two weeks.

Believe it or not we have found that you get 90% of the results from the podcast within the first week that it airs. Remember that loyal fans are usually waiting for fresh content from the show’s producer. They love the program so much that they have subscribed so they consume the new content relatively quickly when it hits Apple Podcast ad, Google’s Play Music or another source. We have seen same-day results, call spikes, website visits and app downloads on most of the successful podcasts buys. Likewise, for underperforming podcasts, waiting several weeks for results to come in did not help. Time is not necessarily your friend. If results are poor on the first one, then buying 10 more will not help.

Additional Tips:

  • Establish a target goal for results with every podcast buy. If you need a cost per lead of $50 and the podcast costs you $1,000, then you should receive 18 to 22 responses within the first week.
  • Test two podcasts and watch the results for two weeks. Then renew if it performed or search for other opportunities if it does not achieve your goal. It’s not to say you won’t get results after the two weeks. Podcasts do have a nice shelf life. But the consumption behavior that we have observed has shown us to look at the results within the first two weeks of the release date and repurchase the podcast or stop the bleeding right away. There are so many opportunities still available to test, there is no use hanging around and hoping results get better.

If you need help creating a script for your podcast, then reach out to us here at DX Media Direct. We’ve written hundreds of scripts that have delivered millions of dollars in sales over the last 30 years. Put our podcast ad agency experience and expertise to work for your brand.