Paid Podcast Advertising – A Look Behind The Scenes
Last Updated on April 26, 2021
Podcast Advertising, especially with paid ads, might not be something most podcasters consider in promoting their show and growing their subscriber base. Lots of questions arise:
- How effective are paid podcast advertising strategies, and do they work for podcasters trying to promote their show?
- Which ad platforms are the most effective? And which are the most affordable?
We take a look behind the scenes of 3 platforms, Google AdWords, Facebook and Podcast Ad Networks.
Using Paid Podcast Advertising Strategies
Using paid ads for promoting a podcast may not be for everyone. A lot of casual podcasters are in it just for the fun. If their show grows organically, fine. But spending money on ads is not something they'd consider.
However, when podcasting is part of a business content strategy, then paid promotions seem to make more sense.
Still, here are some common questions and objections:
- It is an expensive way of getting new subscribers?
- Measuring the effectiveness of paid ads is difficult?
- Your ads may not even be reaching podcast listeners?
A Podcast's Business Purpose
I find that podcasting for business is more inbound than outbound. Successful business podcasts should offer solutions, solve a prospects problems or provide training and education. Thus they are extremely effective in building a brand's authority.
But Podcasts are not effective for direct response selling to cold traffic.
If you are a business getting into podcasting as a way to sell something, stop. You might be better off advertising on existing podcasts in your niche. We cover this later in this episode.
On the other hand, if a business has a good inbound content marketing funnel, podcasts can serve as a great entry vehicle. As a business podcaster you get to talk to your ideal and relevant audience when they are in a receptive mode. Think about what people are doing when listening to their favorite podcast, the one you are appearing on. They are likely commuting, working out, going for a walk.
This listening modality is very different from interrupting an audience in the middle of browsing through their Facebook feed. So the "getting to know, like and trust" factor is huge in podcasting. And this is why Podcast Listeners are such a lucrative audience. You get to offer solutions, entertainment, education – and present your core ideas to them. But this takes the vision to invest in a longer term "inbound" strategy.
High Ad Awareness
Podcasts result in exceptionally high awareness levels for ads.
Among those who listen to or watch podcasts, just over two-thirds (67%) say they’re aware of ads in podcasts. While not an apples-to-apples comparison, the number far exceeds the 26% of smartphone users who recalled seeing an ad in a Facebook newsfeed in the last 30 days, or banner ad on the mobile web (22%)
I'd like to compare several podcast advertising platforms in this episode, and point out the differences between them. Not all ad platforms are created equal.
So here’s my take on 3 platforms.
- Google AdWords
- Facebook Paid Ads
- Podcast Ad Networks
Podcast Advertising With Google Adwords
Generally speaking AdWords is expensive. So the question you’ll want to ask yourself is this: Can I afford driving traffic to my podcast at $5-$20 per click? How do you even know if your ads are reaching podcast listeners? On AdWords you cannot target podcast audiences easily.
My own view is that you need measurable results for AdWords to make sense.
For most businesses this means sending traffic to a good podcast landing page with a compelling reason to subscribe to their podcast.
Often such landing pages features an incentive for subscribing to the podcast via email, for example a guide, gift, contest or give-away. At least these landing pages should collect email addresses. Using Google Ads to send cold traffic to iTunes and hoping that people subscribe is difficult to measure, and not worth it in my opinion.
So we don’t use it except for certain corporate podcasts or non-profit podcasts in search of PR (as we are producing several). Some organizations have a PR budget, and promoting their show on AdWords seems appropriate for them.
For example, we have a non-profit organization with a podcast that has a grant from Google. We should all be so lucky! Podcast advertising using AdWords makes sense when the cost is reduced by such a grant. Plus, in their case Google stipulates that the grant money be spent this way:)
When is AdWords Appropriate?
If you are promoting high ticket products, services or programs costing hundreds or thousands of dollars, then running a podcast advertising campaign costing $5-$20 per click may appear to make sense.
But assuming that you can convert 3% of these clicks into podcast podcast listeners and subscribers, your cost per subscriber would be between $170 and $670. If you think that's expensive, so do I.
One example where AdWords could make sense is a Financial Investment and Trading Podcast. A client signing up to such a podcast and becoming a client later is worth many thousands of dollars.
But for casual podcasts with a small budget I think Adwords are hardly ever worth pursuing.
Facebook Advertising For Podcasts
Facebook is one of the most affordable paid choices for promoting a podcast. It may seem easy to simply “boost” an episode specific post on your podcast site, and then hope people listen and subscribe.
But I would not recommend this approach when first starting out. Instead, I would recommend sending traffic to your main podcast landing page that features an incentive for signing up.
Where to Send Facebook Traffic?
When you're first starting with Facebook ads, you should send these ads to your podcast home page, not your episode pages. Do not simply boost your episode shared post on Facebook. This is because boosting an individual episode show notes post seems like a quick solution but rarely converts as well as a carefully crafted visual leading to a conversion optimized page. And your ad should be designed to specifically outline the listener benefit and value proposition of your overall podcast.
Some podcasters promote on Facebook by sending traffic straight to their iTunes page. This makes no sense to me, since iTunes makes for a very poor landing page. By sending your valuable ad traffic to iTunes, you miss the opportunity to present the benefits of signing up for your podcast, and to capture an email subscriber in the process. Plus, from an SEO perspective, iTunes doesn't need traffic or social signals, but your own site does.
So let's assume you are sending ad traffic to your own podcast homepage. You therefore want to ensure your podcast home page is optimized for conversion. We have a huge guide on podcast design patterns for conversion, I suggest you check it out.
There is an exception to this rule.
If you have a lead magnet or give-away specifically for each episode, Facebook can be a great way to take advantage of that. Your visual for the Facebook ad can focus on the lead magnet give away, instead of on static or boring podcast art. Your Facebook episode specific ads should make it clear that there is a "must have" lead magnet associated with the ad.
The more your "lead magnet" is aligned with the topic of the episode, the better the conversion rates will be.
Targeting Podcast Listeners On Facebook
As I mentioned, targeting podcast listeners on Facebook can be tricky. Here is our 5 step process for creating custom Facebook audiences that are more likely to be podcast listeners. You can use this to drive Facebook traffic to your podcast's home page. By the way this is an example of an episode specific lead magnet:
Using Facebook Paid Ads For Contests
A popular and effective way to gain podcast subscribers is by running a contest or give-away on Facebook. This used to be a popular podcast launch strategy. Contests were typically set up to ask for an iTunes review in exchange for entering the contest. However, the iTunes algorithms have changed since then. Reviews no longer play as much of a role in driving a podcast into the New and Noteworthy section.
That said, contests can work for subscriber growth even after the initial launch period. The benefit here is that people entering your contest are providing their email address, and you can make it clear that by entering the contest your listeners are signing up for email notifications when new episodes launch.
The prize for a contest does not need to be anything super expensive.
But it should be aligned with the topic of the show. It is much more important that the prize is relevant. Take a Customer Experience podcast for example. Rather than giving away an iPad or some other expensive gadget, consider giving away tickets to the premiere Customer Experience Conference that year. If you were to give away an iPad you would get tons of meaningless content entries of people just fishing for an electronic gadget. But it you are giving away conference tickets, you can be sure that people entering your contest are interested in your topic, and thus ideal podcast subscribers.
Here are some good Facebook Contest Resources.
- Heyo – Beautiful and easy to set up, including a free trial and affordable monthly rate after that.
- Wishpond – Lots of contest templates to choose from. Also includes a free trial.
- Shortstack – A platform for contests and quizzes. More options and a greater learning curve.
- Agora Pulse – Most affordable platform, and ROI focused.
For a more complete review of Facebook Contest platforms, check out this in-depth review by Venture Harbor.
Additional Ways To Use Facebook for Podcast Advertising
While Facebook advertising is affordable and effective, it is also a pretty vast topic, requiring lots of expertise. We will do a deep dive into this in a future episode. Here are just some additional ideas on utilizing the Facebook ads platform.
- Facebook Messenger bots to invite people to subscribe or leave a review. These messenger bots result in you acquiring leads with emails.
- Installing Facebook Pixels on your site and re-targeting your site visitors to subscribe.
- Running Facebook ads to social share gates, using our favorite social share gate tool called "GoViral". This saves you from having to create a landing page, and still results in people sharing your podcast pages with their Facebook audience in order to "unlock" your lead magnet offer.
If you have not done so before, getting started properly with Facebook ads can be intimidating, so consider taking a Facebook ads course or hiring someone experienced to help you get started.
Podcast Ad Networks
With both AdWords and Facebook you will mostly be advertising to non-podcast listeners. It is difficult to target podcast listeners only on Facebook, and next to impossible on Google.
In-podcast advertising networks are so effective because by default, your entire audience consists of podcast listeners.
One great way to get new listeners is to advertise on other existing podcasts in your niche. Most podcasters only think of podcast advertising networks as something to help them monetize their own show. But placing an ad inside one of the most popular podcasts in your niche can be super effective. According to Midroll, 61% of podcast listeners have taken action and purchased or signed up for something from such podcast ads.
The real benefit of this approach is the fact that you are advertising on your medium. If people are listening to your ads, that means they are podcast subscribers already. It is much easier to convince them to check out your show, than to show your Facebook or AdWords content to people who may not even listen to podcasts at all.
So how much does this cost?
Here is some information from Midroll, by far the best known podcast advertising network.
All Midroll podcast ads are priced on a cost-per-thousand downloads model, or CPM. For instance, with a $25 CPM, a spot on a show with 10,000 downloads per episode costs $250; with 100,000 downloads, it’s $2500.
So let’s do the math. If your ad is highly relevant to the audience of the podcast you place your ad into, and assuming 3% of listeners take action and subscribe to your show, your cost per new listener would be $0.83. If only 1% of listeners take action, then it would be $2.50 per subscriber.
On the surface, these numbers compare very favorably to advertising on Facebook or AdWords. However, there is a rub: Podcast networks charge per download, and the number of downloads do not equal the number of listens. And in order for your in-podcast midroll ads to work, you need people to listen, right? How many downloads are actually listened to depends greatly on the type of podcast. A daily news podcast might have a much lower download to listen ration vs. a podcast with a loyal fan base. Just something to keep in mind.
- Midroll is the largest player in this field, with an inventory of over 300 podcasts, and a focus of matching podcasters with
- Here is a link to Midroll’s metrics, demographics and pricing, everything you need to know to advertise your own show on one of the best known podcast ad networks.
- Authentic is another podcast ad network with some compelling shows to advertise on, including the hit “Serial”.
- Archer Avenue works with you to ensure your ads are placed only on the shows you are interested in. They can also help you design an audio ad matching the style of the show you would be advertising on.
- Advertise Cast has an interesting tool to help you find podcasts to advertise on, as well as predict the total spend of your campaign. Look for the "filter" tool in the left sidebar of their site. You can set the Cost Per Thousand (CPM) downloads to display podcasts that match your budget, and then proceed to select shows that would be a good fit.
- Podgrid focuses on small to medium sized shows, and go the extra mile to match you with the best podcasts to advertise on.
- Because they are small, they work to match your budget. Thus I think they are a good choice if you want to experiment with a limited budget.
- Podcast One is a large network with 200 shows and "400 million impressions" according to their page.
- They claim to be able to offer metrics on spots actually being heard, instead of using downloads. This is done through "3rd party verification". I do no know to what extent this increases their pricing, something you might wish to ask when reaching out to them,
How To Get Started With Advertising on Podcast Ad Networks
If placing ads on podcast networks seems intimidating, there is a good article on Adopter Media explaining podcast advertising rates and how they work. It answers the most common questions about how costs are determined and common pricing approaches.
In order to figure out if this will work for your podcast and your budget, I would suggest the following: Study each podcast network website listed above. Remember that the best outcome results from being aligned with the show you are advertising on.
- Make a list of podcasts that would suit your niche and messaging.
- Set a budget you would be comfortable with for 1/2 year.
- Contact each network through their online form and describe what you are looking for.
- If your budget is limited, try the Podgrid network first.
All of the podcast networks are very customer friendly. They offer consulting sessions to help you get started, and I'd suggest phone or Zoom meetings with each one to get a sense of how they work and how well aligned you are with their stable of available podcasts.
All in all, I think I can summarize it like this.
- Google Adwords is appropriate only in rare circumstances. If your podcast is associated with a "big ticket item" business, or if you have a grant:)
- Facebook is the most versatile podcast advertising platform simply because it's targeting flexibility and relative affordability.
- Podcast Ad Networks are the most effective way to get to existing podcast listeners, but require a decent budget.