The following piece is a guest post by Thomas Mancusi, the VP for sales and development for AudioBoom, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of this publication.
Behind the podcast boom in publishing is a remarkably successful revenue model. In fact, we see many brands redistributing their ad-spend to ensure that podcasts are allocated a significant piece of the pie. Ad performance is a key reason for that.
Consumers in fact prefer ads in podcasts over other channels. AdWeek recently reported that people prefer ads in podcasts over ads on any other digital medium, referencing that podcast ads are found to be the least intrusive.
Podcast ads also encourage consumers to take measurable action. Importantly, listeners seem to be moving through the purchase funnel after hearing an ad. According to ComScore — a U.S. study of 2,000 respondents aged 18-49 — two-thirds of podcast listeners reported responding to podcast ads by engaging in research and/or purchase-related behaviors.
With 67 million Americans listening to podcasts every month, brands would be remiss not to consider investing in this increasingly effective medium. As the on-demand audio space continues to see success, many do seem to be taking note. According to Statista, U.S. advertising spending in podcasts is estimated to reach $256 million in 2018, up from $133 million in 2015. That’s huge!
Still, some brands and advertisers are hesitant to make the podcast advertising leap because not everyone agrees on how to measure success.
How to Measure Podcast Advertising
The most basic podcast metric is the download.
But determining how many impressions a podcast ad has received is an imprecise science. Some advertisers gauge success based on number of downloads, but this doesn’t show them whether the ad was effective in pushing listeners to take action — or even if a listener has completed the full podcast (88 percent of podcast listeners say they listen to most or all episodes of the shows they subscribe to, but there’s no real way to tell).
Other advertisers gauge success by looking at increases in social mentions or web hits after a podcast ad airs. It can be difficult to prove that a podcast ad is responsible for any bump in traffic, though, because direct traffic is not exactly trackable.
So, what’s worked? For many advertisers, a call to action that includes a promo-code or vanity URL offering specific discounts for listeners has been the key to monitoring effectiveness. Direct response provides a clear way to track clicks and purchase activities. However, the technologies that measure these analytics are still not as sophisticated and standardized as they are in other forms of digital media advertising, hence the hesitation.
Beyond benchmarks and measurement, advertisers and publishers need to understand the elements of an effective podcast ad: what do they need from the brands being advertised to ensure success? For many, the answer is clear — yet difficult to measure.
Advertisers need the freedom to be creative and experimental, as well as a thorough understanding of the tone and theme of the show on which they’re advertising. Look at SquareSpace and MailChimp, two popular brands that launched original sponsored songs (and even rock operas) on the “Back to Work” podcast. While this is certainly an unconventional method, it meshes well with the content of the show — and as a result, it works.
How to Beat the 15-Second Skip Button
For some brands and advertisers, the challenge of podcast advertising isn’t in creating interesting ad content, but rather in convincing listeners to actually consume their ads. As consumers become more tech savvy and regularly interact with their favorite brands on various digital platforms, they’re becoming more skeptical of the often-forced nature of advertising. Many listeners automatically skip past ads – whether it’s fast-forwarding on TV using DVRs, changing the station on the radio, or immediately skipping past digital ads online.
In the podcast world, there’s the infamous, untraceable 15-second skip button, as well as the issue of listeners simply glossing over the tracking code provided because it’s audio, not visual.
The key to reducing ad-skipping and driving consumers through the purchase funnel comes down to how the ads are delivered on podcasts. Unlike any other digital medium, the most effective podcast ads are incorporated within the show itself through live-reads, featured more like an audio product placement than a traditional radio advertisement. Live-read ads are organic, with the host creating a natural segue into a discussion about the product or service. Teamed with the host’s endorsement, this presents a powerful way for the ad to be delivered.
To add to this, advertisers can tap into and measure the host’s digital influence as many of them will share details of the product or service on their social media channels, extending an ad’s reach and impact.
How to Increasing Ad Listens
Brands and podcast producers have a shared goal when it comes to ad listenability. Everyone wants paid ads to be heard as many times as possible. How does that happen?
- Ensure a high share of voice. Most podcast listeners are actively searching, subscribing and downloading audio content that interests them. This inherently makes listeners more engaged, as they’re less inclined to switch the dial and tune out when ads begin to run. Most podcast platforms limit ad segments to three or four spots for a one-hour show, offering advertisers a higher baseline share of voice than other digital mediums.
- Generate a personal connection. Most podcast listeners engage with audio content through headphones in an intimate, one-to-one setting, as opposed to the radio which is often consumed by a group of people with broad content. As people build familiarity and a relationship of sorts with their favorite shows and hosts, they inevitably begin to pay attention to, and trust, the ads they’re exposed to.
- Take advantage of influence. Generally, hosts who deliver ads are given the products/services to test and try for themselves, which helps add a level of authenticity to their advocacy. Due to the trust and rapport that have with their dedicated audience base, podcast hosts become influencers, just like bloggers and celebrities on social media. As a result, endorsements from hosts have proven ROI.
A successful ad is beneficial for all involved parties – the brand, the advertiser on behalf of the brand, the podcast host, the podcast platform, and the listener. The data about the medium’s rising influence on business’ bottom lines speaks for itself. For brands and advertisers, approach podcast advertising with a tailored strategy according to what the medium dictates, and measure your results.
Thomas Mancusi is the VP for sales and development for AudioBoom.