When podcasts come up, a common refrain is, “Can they produce revenue?” They can and they do—some tips are below—but there are other reasons to deploy a good podcast: attract subscriptions (see Arizent below); promote other revenue-producing initiatives; add diverse voices to your content; give your site a different feel (see Overdrive’s Over the Road below); and amplify your own editorial voices.
Last week, Arizent’s American Banker won the Neal Award for Best Podcast for its amazing 5-part series, Access Denied: Systemic Racism in Financial Services. I listened to an episode on “The Financial Media” this morning, and it is eye-opening. It was so engrossing that, of course, I then moved on to a second one and encountered a paywall. It flashed very tempting “special introductory pricing” for subscriptions where you can choose from $41 a week for a month, $29 a week if you subscribe annually—highlighted on the page—and $35 a week if you subscribe for 6 months.
(I wrote last week that Piano’s recently published Subscription Performance Benchmark Report found that 74% of annual subscribers remain loyal to a brand after one year, vs. 46% of readers who pay monthly.)
Of course, many podcasts also weave ads seamlessly into their broadcasts. In an interview on the ASBPE site, John Heltman, editor-in-chief of American Banker Magazine and winner of the Grand Neal in 2019 for his narrative podcast series Nobody’s Home, was asked: What kind of sponsorship opportunities do you offer to clients? How do you seamlessly weave sponsorships and maintain editorial integrity?
“Our sponsorships run through the sales department… but last year we started what is known as pre-roll and mid-roll ads in the podcast. That just means that we run an ad before the episode begins and in the middle. For the mid-roll ad, we just lead up to it by saying ‘And we’ll find out more about that after this quick break.’ And the ad rolls. Sometimes I read it, sometimes it’s read for us, but if I read it there’s music in the background so it’s easily distinguishable from the program. I’d say ours is a pretty typical approach for this kind of podcast.
“As for maintaining editorial integrity, I don’t think it’s different from other advertising. And advertising has pretty clear rules: don’t give preferential treatment to sponsors or represent something as editorial when it’s advertising. Some podcasts have the hosts kind of ad-lib a pitch for the thing they’re selling, but that hasn’t come up for us.”
Speaking of pre-roll and mid-roll, an article on the site Lower Street says that, before approaching a sponsor for your podcast, you should know these things:
What is your inventory? “Podcast ads are often broken up into pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll ads. It’s a familiar format. The mid-roll is the most valuable, since people are already engaged in the podcast by that point… Pre-roll ads are often the shortest, in order to keep listeners on board. Post-roll is often less valuable.”
What’s your pitch? “Simply put: why should a brand advertise with you?” They recommend creating a media kit and a podcast trailer. (There’s a link below to the trailer that Overdrive did.)
What are the demographics of your audience? Who listens to your podcast? “Knowing this is very helpful in determining how to get sponsors for your podcast.”
What’s your advertising rate? “Even if the prospect of earning anything at all from your podcast is exciting, you don’t want to undervalue your show… Rates are typically calculated as a CPM (cost per mille). It’s not all that rare to see CPMs reaching as high as $40 or even $50. Somewhere in the $20-$25 range is fairly average per Midroll and AdvertiseCast.”
Another Neals finalist for Best Podcast, Crain Communications’ Automotive News Daily Drive, features sponsorships—during the podcast itself (the brief intro of the sponsor sounds warm and friendly)—and also ads on the website. And another finalist, Bobit’s Heavy Duty Trucking HDT Talks Trucking, has a sponsor, Fleet Management, and talks up their own events during the podcast.
The other Neals finalist was Randall-Reilly Overdrive’s Over the Road, an eight-part series that gave “voice to the trials and triumphs of America’s long haul truckers.” One thing they do that an expert once recommended to me is to have a separate website and url for your podcast. Here’s a link to the trailer that Overdrive did for Over the Road.
Let’s hope that your podcast gets nominated as a Neals finalist next year—and accomplishes some of these goals.