Future Of Podcast Advertising


My attendance at the Future Of Online Advertising Conference this week gave me some good insights on how to take podcasters to the next level with advertisers.

The first eye opening tidbit from the conference is the fact that the word podcast was barely uttered. Chas Edwards of Federated Media did invoke Ask A Ninja as an interactive advertising success story. Unfortunately the discussion of the power of podcasts was very hard to find after Chas’ presentation.

By contrast blogs were all over the place. PayPerPost and BlogAds were sponsors of the event. Leaders from both companies took the stage to speak on behalf of their company. It is my perception that advertisers understand what they are getting with blog advertising. Buying space on websites either randomly (via services like AdSense or AdBrite) or buying via a sponsorship model (through companies like BlogAds or Federated Media) has become an accepted tactic in the advertising world.

I made it a point to engage some media planners in conversations in between the sessions. The things I heard in those conversations tracked with comments I heard to presentations by reps from Yahoo and Google. Advertisers want more accountability than ever on metrics related to online advertising. They not only care about impressions. Advertisers want to be able to track actions based on their campaigns. Like it or not the Cost Per Action (CPA) model is starting to get very popular. In fact, Google is getting set to roll out CPA advertising as a part of AdSense.

I also heard about the impression that podcasting as a medium has slowed down. You just don’t hear as much about it in the news like you did two years ago when Apple launched a version of iTunes with a podcast directory. Indeed, the trend line for searches on the word podcasting peaks at that time. It seems that advertisers searching for growth markets are more concerned with the online video efforts of the major networks and the exploding social networks of the moment. Is podcast advertising doomed to play fifth fiddle online behind search ads, social networks, blog ads and streaming TV shows?

Here’s a point by point panacea for the situation:

  • Advertisers are looking for audiences. The best thing that podcasters can do is to spend less time looking to make money now and more time working on techniques that build a community around their content. We’re in a period of investment for content producers. There’s no secret sauce here. Those who build a strong audience will make the most money from advertising and sponsorships.
  • Advertisers need metrics. If we live by the download then we die by the download. Downloads and unique IP addresses don’t tell the whole story. If podcasts build a community around their content then web traffic will be come more important. Advertisers barely trust click and impression numbers anymore, but the combination of the two can provide a more accurate representation of the audience for content. So lets invest some time in gathering common sense metrics for media and website based activity.
  • Advertisers want action. The standard for podcasts is going to be higher than all other mediums. Podcasting is the new kid on the block and is not going to get the free ride that more established forms of media enjoy. This means we need to craft campaigns that produce action so advertisers can more accurately determine their ROI for each campaign. Do canned pre-rolls result in high rates of action? You know the answer to that question. There will still be flat rate and CPM deals. But CPA will present trememdous opportunities for those with influence over their audiences.
  • Advertisers are attracted by brands. Podcasts that look and sound like amateur exploits won’t garner the same attention as those with a strong web presence, unique branding and a consistent production schedule. Hence, all shows are not created equal. There’s nothing wrong with a very laid back approach to podcasting. If you want to get the most advertising dollars though, its best to do a front to back evaluation of a show. Potential sponsors will be sure to do one before writing a check.

There are more points to cover, but the object of this post isn’t to write the book on podcast advertising. We know that the medium of podcasting is growing in a variety of ways. Trends on searches for audio blog and video blog are much stronger measures of people’s interest in on-demand content served via the internet. We also know that the power of podcasting is more than about the media. Communities are developing around rich content. That’s where advertisers want to be.

The opportunities are tremendous. Now is a time for teaching and listening rather than pitching and talking. Everyone in the game could benefit from this approach. We plan to find out what advertisers need from independent content producers. And we plan on educating folks about the true reach and impact of podcasting at the same time.