I want to start by prefacing that there is no playbook on how to purchase podcast ads. Everything you read in this blog post is based on our research and the many hang-ups we experienced along the way.
Podcast advertising isn’t a cut-and-dried initiative, and it requires a lot of upfront labor. What makes this process worthwhile is the fact that it’s not something that everyone is doing—which can mean great things for brands that are struggling to grow a name in a saturated space.
This post will teach you the fundamentals of purchasing podcast ads and prep you for running your very own campaign.
Get to Know the Podcasting Lingo
Similar to social or paid advertising, podcast advertising has its own lingo. And while knowing the ins and outs of podcast advertising terminology isn’t a must, it will help you make better decisions about running a podcast advertising campaign.
Here’s what you need to know:
Podcast hosts praise themselves on the popularity of their show. Show popularity, as you might’ve guessed, is measured in episode downloads. Regardless of which publishing platform the host uses (e.g., Apple, Spotify, etc.), they’re given information on the number of downloads every episode receives.
When looking at the performance of individual episodes over time, hosts can make educated decisions about the average number of downloads an episode will receive in the future. They then gather those insights and use them to decide on their sponsorship rates.
It’s important to note that episode downloads do not equal the number of listeners who will hear your ad. Podcast listeners may not play the episode right away, or they may skip the ad read altogether. And while this may sound discouraging, research shows that 93% of podcast listeners get through most of the episode and are less likely to skip podcast ads altogether.
Technically speaking, podcast hosts base their advertising rates on a CPM model. CPM stands for “cost per mille,” which translates from Latin to “cost per thousand.” If a podcast has a CPM of $25, that means you’re paying $25 for 1,000 listeners (or downloads per episode). And if that podcast receives 50,000 downloads per episode, you should expect to pay $1,250 for a single episode.
Based on our experience, however, pricing isn’t always this cut and dry. Many other factors go into play when it comes to podcast advertising rates. Such as:
- Campaign duration (number of episodes sponsored)
- Ad type (baked-in vs. dynamic)
- Ad placement (pre-roll, mid-roll, vs. post-roll)
In summary, the podcast advertising pricing model is very much arbitrary. And while it’s important to take note of podcast CPM rates, it should not be the only stat you take into account.
There are two different ad types: baked-in and dynamic. The baked-in ads are the permanent, evergreen ads. They’re the ads that get recording during the show and remain part of the episode until the host decides to take it down entirely. From our experience, those types of ads sound more organic, as hosts tend to weave them into the topic of the show naturally.
Although it’s common for dynamic ads also to be host read, these are the types of ads that get inserted into the episode on-demand. Once the episode reaches the promised number of downloads, the ad will be swapped out with a different sponsor. In doing so, hosts can monetize the same episode over time and in turn, make a larger profit. As a sponsor, you’ll want to consider dynamic ads if you’re interested in running a seasonal campaign, as the evergreen exposure is of less importance is those instances.
You can learn more about live-read versus pre-produced podcast ads here.
There are three types of ad placements that you should be aware of:
- Pre-roll: runs at the beginning of the show for 15-30 seconds
- Mid-roll: runs in the middle of the show for 60 seconds
- Post-roll: runs toward the end of the show, usually before final credits
Since mid-roll ads get the most significant exposure, they tend to be the most expensive, followed by pre-roll and post-roll.
When deciding on ad placements, remember that not all hosts treat their placements equally. And while most established podcasts offer all three, some may provide fewer placements or charge the same amount, regardless of when the ad is played. So be sure to check in with the host and confirm the placement and the duration of their ad spots.
Setting a Budget
Even if you have all the confidence in the world that podcast advertising is right for you, it’s essential to start small. If you’re working with smaller, host-owned podcasts that offer baked-in ads, a budget of $10-15K is a solid starting point (check out this case study to see an example of this approach). And while a smaller budget may not result in the most glorious ROI, it will help you dip your toes into podcast advertising, without blowing your entire advertising budget.
It’s also helpful to set a budget for individual episodes—as it gives you parameters on what podcasts fit into your price range. For example, if you’re starting with smaller podcasts, set a per-episode budget of $500-$1,500. This way, while you’re prospecting for podcasts, you can easily vet podcasts that are way outside of your price range.
In our experience, we found that pricing fluctuates based on the popularity of the targeted niche. If that niche is saturated with other sponsors, your $10K budget may not stretch far. Keep this top of mind as you search for podcasts and set your budget.
Know What to Ask for as a Sponsor
Once you’ve built a list of podcasts that you’d like to work with, you’ll need to start getting in front of the podcast hosts and formulating partnerships.
When you’re first getting started, this can feel a bit daunting. Podcast advertising requires a lot of moving parts that need to be solidified before the launch of your first campaign.
To make things a little easier, here’s a template that we use to collect information from the hosts:
SUBJ: [NAME OF PODCAST] sponsorship inquiry
I’m reaching out on behalf of a brand in the [INDUSTRY TYPE] industry and I was hoping to get a media kit for [PODCAST NAME] podcast.
Primarily, I’m looking to get information on the following:
- Downloads per episode
- Ad type (baked-in vs. dynamic)
- Cost of mid-roll placement
- Sponsorship commitments (required # of episodes/spend)
Thanks so much!
In addition to asking the technical questions, you’ll want to gauge the host’s enthusiasm in their email reply. If they don’t seem super interested or excited about your product or service, their lack of excitement could very well translate into the live ad read.
When you first begin establishing relationships with hosts, there’s going to be a lot of back and forth. If you’re not keeping track of whom you’re contacting, it won’t be long before the podcasts start blending. A spreadsheet will help you keep track of which podcasts you’ve contacted and what it costs to sponsor them.
It’s also important to note that sponsorship slots for popular podcasts fill up quickly. During your outreach, you’ll soon come to realize that the podcasts you’re most interested in working with may not be available for several weeks or even months. It’s a good idea to use the same spreadsheet to track upcoming availability—which can also help you plan for upcoming campaigns.
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the process, purchasing podcast ads will be a breeze! If you’re ready to start finding podcasts to sponsor, be sure to check out our tips on finding a podcast for your next ad campaign.