Today, 40% of Americans over age 12 have tuned into a podcast, and 24% are regular listeners, according to a study done by Edison Research in partnership with Triton Digital. Within this next-generation form of media, old-school radio-style advertising tactics have proven successful: a survey from Midroll found that 61% of podcast listeners bought something advertised on a podcast. Podcasts now have one of the highest cost-per-impression (CPM) rates, notes Drake Baer in Business Insider.
So what lessons can seasoned advertisers learn from the burgeoning field of podcast advertising?
The importance of a highly targeted audience
Podcasts are often focused on a specific topic and have cultivated a small but mighty following, allowing advertisers to collect highly targeted data from each podcast and speak directly to a specified audience.
Based on the host, content and reviews of a podcast, advertisers can make predictions regarding who's tuning in. Take NPR’s "How I Built This" with Guy Raz, a show about entrepreneurs and how they built their businesses. We can assume listeners are likely younger, educated, and tech-savvy.
And unlike TV, online, or in-app audiences, podcast listeners have gone out of their way to download and consume the content, and tend not to tune out when an ad comes on. Even more so, since listeners are often otherwise engaged while listening -- driving or exercising, for example -- they’re less likely to stop what they’re doing and fast-forward through an ad. Listeners are both a more captive and captivated audience.
Ads should feel intuitive and natural
Podcast ads usually feel natural, especially when read by the host of the show. Many are delivered in a particularly conversational tone and involve personal stories about the product or service, making them seem more like an anecdote or recommendation than an advertisement.
Podcasts ads are also often native, seamlessly integrated into an episode. Take, for example, entertainment and celebrity gossip podcasts whose hosts weave in personal recommendations for beauty products, subscription boxes, cooking services, and more. These ads often fit perfectly within the podcast’s regular, non-promotional content, pinpointed for the audience.
Trusted sources and influencers go a long way
Podcast listeners are true fans. Hosts develop genuine followings, becoming influencers by virtue of being the voice that delivers the content listeners crave day to day, week to week. This loyalty fosters long-term exposure, as 88% of podcast listeners tune in to most or all episodes of their chosen podcasts, according to Midroll, and will travel to attend live shows or tour gatherings. Fans are often so devoted that they’re even willing to donate money. Listeners of the show “99% Invisible,” for example, raised almost $600,000 in three years to help pay for the show's production expenses, according to Cecelia Kang in the Washington Post.
Despite the plethora of media outlets and the almost-science fiction level of today’s technology, it seems that old-school audio advertisements are back. Podcasts have allowed the host-read audio ad to make a comeback, and it’s succeeding. Seasoned advertisers can draw from this success, implementing the value of self-selected and pinpointed audiences, intuitive or native ads, while piggy-backing on the loyalty and intimacy that hosts and other trusted sources engender.