Podcast advertising - the "sponsor read" is key

Like most companies that are not investment backed, at Perch we have a pretty small advertising budget. We like to use that budget where possible in sponsoring and supporting things we like, rather than just paying for ads. The standout success in our advertising has been in sponsoring podcasts. However not all podcasts are created equal, and I thought it might be interesting to both podcasters seeking sponsorship and product owners thinking of sponsoring a podcast to know what we have found to work well.

A note on data. As people don’t tend to impulse buy a content management system, getting good data on conversion rates is reasonably difficult for us. We often find that the time between someone hearing about Perch and perhaps trying the demo and then going on to buy a copy can be months, even years. The best metric we have for engagement is whether people sign up for a demo. So the data this article is based on is empirical, based on the trends we see, rather than hard and fast figures.

When you sponsor a podcast, at some point during the show the host will announce the sponsor for that episode and do the “sponsor read”. This will generally be something you provide to the podcast, perhaps detailing a special offer or some enticement to listeners to visit your site and find out more. In our experience these sponsor read segments are what makes or breaks the effectiveness of the sponsorship. Podcasts that simply announce “this episode is sponsored by x and y” at the beginning and end of the recording send through very little traffic. In comparison those podcasts that embed the read somewhere inside the episode, and discuss the product with some familiarity are remarkably successful.

Our biggest success in terms of the number of people signing up for a demo and quoting that particular show is Unfinished Business. Unfinished Business is a great match for us – and especially because Andrew Clarke, his previous co-host Anna Debenham and regular host Laura Kalbag have all used Perch. While we let them know what we are currently trying to promote, they are also able to add to that with personal thoughts about the product.

However, a good sponsor read can happen even when the hosts don’t use your product. We recently advertised on ShopTalk Show with close to Unfinished Business levels of engagement. As I mentioned at the start, gaining accurate figures is difficult. However, we can draw comparisons with advertising slots that haven’t performed as well.

I’m not going to name poorly performing shows however we took a slot on one show which we know to be popular and is also sponsored by some big name companies. The listener demographic and industry status of the host is similar to Unfinished Business and ShopTalk. We would have expected similar results to those shows. The big difference was that instead of doing the sponsor slot mid-show, a short “This show is sponsored by” read was done at the beginning of the recording. The difference in engagement was huge. Rather than the steady stream of mentions when we ask “How did you hear about us?” that we see from our other podcast advertisements, this show has only been mentioned 3 times in total.

Calculating the results of podcast advertising is hard. As a podcaster being able to give accurate estimates of listener counts to potential advertisers is hard too. It’s not a game where we can get any kind of accurate conversion information. However the empirical evidence we are gathering seems to demonstrate that if you want to gain customers via podcast advertising, the shows to look for are those who will include a discussion of your product within the show. In particular look for those shows where the host is willing to find out a bit about the product and why they might be interested in it – even if they are not a current customer.

As an advertiser it is worth considering what information you give to the host for the sponsor read. Is there something about your product that the host is likely to be particularly interested in and therefore able to talk about easily and naturally? If you listen to previous episodes you should be able to get an idea of how sponsor products are discussed.

If you are a podcaster I would highly recommend including your sponsor reads within the show. If a sponsoring product is new to you spend a little time getting to know the main benefits of this product for your audience. It is likely to result in a more interested sponsor section of the podcast for listeners and your advertiser should see more engagement – and be more likely to sign up to sponsor your show in the future.

If you are a podcaster or advertiser and have any additional information to share please add it to the comments. I’d love to know if similar results are seen by other advertisers.

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