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How to pay to advertise your podcast

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This month's consultant: Dan Page

Dan is founder and CEO of Podspike and has made it his mission to give podcasters access to easy, affordable and effective marketing services
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Kira Dineen, host and producer of DNA Today asks:

What are the best ways to spend money on podcast advertising? How much should we expect to pay for a 30 or 60-second advertisement on another podcast? What are other methods that are worth spending money on?

Dan says:

Hi Kira!

Paid advertising can be a really effective way of growing your podcast. The challenge, however, is to know which options are right for your show – and budget.  This is quite a complex area to explore but, broadly speaking, there are four types of paid advertising you could consider for you show:

1. Paid ads on another podcast

2. Paid ads on social media (e.g. Facebook)

3. Paying to be be featured in a podcast app

4. Paying to be be featured in a newsletter

In order to decide which of these routes are best for you, there are several factors you should consider:

1. Where is the best place to find my audience?

2. What should my ad look/sound like?

3. How much will it cost?

4. What results should I expect?

If we take an in-depth look at each of those factors, it should begin to give you the answers you are looking for.

1. Where is the best place to find my audience?

The key starting point here is to make sure you understand who your audience is and why they might want to listen to your podcast. Once you feel you understand this, you can start to decide the best route to reach them.

If you have a general entertainment show that appeals to a wide audience, then paying to feature in a newsletter for podcast fans would be a great start, as would paying to feature on a podcast app. If your show is more specialist, then finding a podcast with a similar audience and advertising or cross-promoting with them could prove more fruitful, as could a Facebook ad targeted to reach people with specific interests.

2. What should my ad look/sound like?

There’s no magic formula for ads that will always work for all people (although, if you’ve found one please let me know!) but a good rule of thumb is to create something that excites, interests or offers value to your target audience – and ideally all three.

So try to avoid running ads that say “listen to my podcast” (what you want) and instead offer to help your target audience with something e.g. “get the latest insights on…” (something they want). It’s often a good idea to create a couple of examples and test them in a small ad run first (or simply with friends and family) before committing to a bigger paid campaign.

One alternative (for podcast audio ads) might be to ask for the host to create one for you (or at least read from a script). Hosts naturally have a strong connection with their audience and – according to research from Nielsen – host-read ads tend to perform better.

3. How much will it cost?

The industry average rate for the ‘cost per mile’ (CPM) or cost per thousand downloads is about $24 (£20), but prices can vary hugely depending on the prestige of the show. Big-name shows with loyal audiences will often price on a ‘per slot’ basis instead. I’ve also seen hugely varying rates on the smaller shows – anywhere from $10 to $100 per thousand downloads.

Similarly, for newsletters the price can vary tremendously on prestige or the placement of the ad, but a good rule of thumb is to expect to pay around $25 to $60 per 1,000 newsletter subscribers.

Facebook ads can be hard to master, but a well-targeted campaign could cost around $11-$15 per thousand impressions – perhaps less if you have a really effective advert.

The data isn’t there to calculate a cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for podcast app adverts, but the prices tend to be at least $99 and as much as $1,000, depending on the category you’re advertising in (the Business and Tech sections tend to command a higher fee) and how long you’re advertising for. Most podcast app advert schemes tend to have minimum spends, some of which can be quite high.

4. What results should you expect?

The key here is that word ‘expect’. Having unreasonable expectations for what your paid ad will achieve will almost certainly lead to disappointment. For someone to go from seeing or hearing an ad to making the effort to listen or even subscribe requires a long sequence of events to all happen without losing someone along the way.

So even though a show may have thousands of listeners, or a newsletter thousands of readers, the proportion who make it through to the point of listening – or ideally subscribing – can be relatively small.

How small? Well, open-source data suggests that podcast ads have a ‘click-through rate (CTR) of 1.5 to 2% – meaning that if a thousand people hear your ad, just 15 to 20 will act upon it. Facebook ads typically have a CTR around half this, but tend to make up for it with lots of impressions for the same price.

Newsletters tend to have around a 40% open rate, which means that you’re losing over half your audience before you even begin, although declared click-through rates tend to be fairly good, at around the 3-4% mark, meaning a newsletter with 5,000 subscribers could generate around 60 clicks.

Podcast apps don’t tend to share CTRs, but do often give estimated high/low values for the number of clicks and listens/subscribes you might reasonably expect. Again, concrete data is hard to find, but you might reasonably expect more ‘clicks per dollar’ with apps, as these are places audiences specifically come to listen to new podcasts (as opposed to newsletters and social media which offer more general content).

There are, however, other benefits from advertising – namely increasing your show’s profile and ‘brand’ awareness. Simply putting your show in front of people’s eyes and ears will ultimately make it more likely that they’ll engage with your content at some point, if not there and then. In particular, newsletter ads can be a great way to build awareness: if it’s in a trusted newsletter then readers will start to think more highly of the show, or even just acknowledge that it exists (no mean feat when there are over 4 million podcasts available).

After making some approximations and crunching the numbers, I came up with these results:

While the exact figures may vary, and your personal experience no doubt will, on balance it’s probably fair to say that:

– Newsletter and podcast ads perform similarly well… and have other benefits;

– A good Facebook ad can be more cost effective than a Podcast audio ad;

– An advert in a podcast app is the most cost-effective solution by roughly a factor of two.

So to answer your question Kira, if you’re a general entertainment show keen to raise your profile, I’d recommend a newsletter ad. But if it’s listeners/subscribers you want, then a podcast app advert is probably your best bet.

For a show such as DNA Today, with a specialist audience, then a carefully targeted Facebook advert or finding shows to cross-promote with are probably more appropriate options.

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