An interesting piece from The Verge titled Say Goodbye To Your Favorite Podcast Promo Codes highlights the recent entrance of large brands in to the podcast advertising space, which could make life more difficult for the smaller direct response advertisers who were the early pioneers in the industry.
On one hand, the progression from direct response towards brand campaigns is a positive signal that the medium is moving towards maturity. On the other hand, many who supported the podcast advertising industry early on in it's awkward years are feeling pushed aside.
The way we at AdvertiseCast view this dichotomy is that the whole thing is being slightly overblown. We believe that the good old days are still here in many ways, despite the fact that things look very different within many large networks due to recent acquisitions and content deals. But don't be fooled - what is happening at major networks is not rampant across the entire podcast ecosystem. Not all podcast ad placements are more expensive, less organic and lack the magic that they used to have. There is still plenty of magic to go around...you just need to know where to look for it.
"There is still plenty of magic to go around...you just need to know where to look for it."
What many new to the industry don't realize is that even though the lion's share of podcast advertising revenue goes to the top 2,000 (ish) podcasts, the ecosystem is much more vast. In fact, more than two thirds of podcast downloads can be attributed to shows outside of the top 2,000. Much of this content is not only untapped by advertisers, but those brands who do decide to partner with small and mid-sized podcasts often receive greater value, a larger share of voice and have the opportunity to engage directly with the creators to help craft a powerful message for the audience.
Glenn Rubenstein, Founder and CEO of the podcast advertising agency ADOPTER Media, views the podcast channel as a bottom-up medium. "When we bring new brands into the podcast space, it's about finding the right opportunities to prove viability at the lower and mid tiers and work our way up to optimize and achieve greater scale while maintaining performance." He adds, "there are ample opportunities for brands to develop show partnerships that result in highly-engaged, meaningful podcast campaigns, but this requires much more effort than simply calling on the Top 5 networks. A top-down approach may work in other media, but the secret to success in podcasting is putting engagement first and many new brands don't know how or where to find it — they go for the biggest because they don't know who the best is.
"...they go for the biggest because they don't know who the best is."
My personal opinion on optimizing results in a direct response podcast campaign has always been that I would rather spend across 10 podcasts doing 10,000 downloads per episode than one show doing 100,000. Not only is there a portfolio diversification concept in play with this strategy, we have often found some of the most engaged podcast listening audiences in these smaller tiers of shows. Of course, employing this strategy is not without challenges. In an environment where those placing campaigns are very often compensated based on a percentage of media spend as opposed to effort exerted, the business case is difficult to make. The good news is at AdvertiseCast, we have deployed proprietary technology in order to make this strategy not only possible, but profitable.
Our recent acquisition of PODGO, a marketplace that facilitates advertising on emerging podcasts below the typical 5,000 or 10,000 minimum audience thresholds, further demonstrates the power of deploying the right technology in this ecosystem. The micro-influencer craze, which has taken off in other digital media channels, is a massive opportunity for enterprising brands in the podcast space who are willing to tread further off the beaten path to forge partnerships with podcast creators.. Getting in early to build creator relationships can lead to long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships. As podcasts scale, creators very often have a huge sense of loyalty towards the brands who worked with them early on to support the show.
"If it's a lesser-known product or service that I feel my audience would benefit from knowing about and having in their lives, these are always a definite yes for me."
Erica Mandy, Founder and Host of popular independent daily news podcast, The NewsWorthy, stressed that although her audience has grown significantly in recent years, placing her show firmly at the top end of the middle tier in the industry, doing what's right for her audience is always top of mind. Erica told us, "When I am considering whether or not to take on a brand partner, I view it through the lens of my audience," she added, "if it's a lesser-known product or service that I feel my audience would benefit from knowing about and having in their lives, these are always a definite yes for me."
The NewsWorthy has several long-running direct response advertising partners including BetterHelp, KiwiCo and Rothys who have supported the show throughout its various growth phases. The show is a resounding independent podcast success story, with monthly downloads now approaching seven figures.
In The Verge article, Dan Granger from Oxford Road compared the latest growth in the industry to neighborhood gentrification, which is a great analogy. What I would add is that, yes, perhaps there are some big box or pricey department stores opening up on Podcast Blvd., but on the side streets, is where you find the cool boutiques and hidden local gems that make the neighborhood desirable. This is where you will find the really exceptional stuff that will surprise and delight you the same way a great, undiscovered podcast will.