Data-Backed Insights For Effective Podcast Advertising – New Study

A recent research study examining brand attitude and advertising in more than 8,000 podcasts found that hosts, and not listener numbers, make all the difference in successful podcast advertising.

This latest research on podcasts, entitled Podcasting as Advertising Channel: Understanding the Context Effect by Rang Wang & Sylvia Chan-Olmsted from the University of Florida, contained several interesting insights for advertisers AND podcasters that can help both get more from podcast advertising.

Podcast Style Affects Brand Attitude Toward Advertisers

An audience’s engagement with podcast content had little effect on attitudes toward advertisers or sponsors. It turns out that high content engagement simply means listeners absorb more content, except when the podcast involves significant storytelling. And this means advertising has to be done differently depending on the genre and style of the podcast you’re working with.

For podcasts that deliver information such as sports or news, the more attention, enjoyment, and enthusiasm listeners have for the content, the more positively they view the brands that the podcast advertises.

BUT listeners tended to view brands more negatively when their ads appear in podcasts with high entertainment value, like comedy or storytelling.

In other words, how listeners view a podcast’s advertising depends on the podcast’s characteristics and style.

Here’s what you need to know:

Informational podcasts – The listening experience has to be enjoyable. Designated advertising breaks work here to take advantage of the listeners’ attention.

Entertainment podcasts – Advertisements placed at the front or the end of the episode avoid interrupting the experience (which tends to sour listeners to the podcast and the advertising brand. Yikes). For a seamless experience, use the same techniques and style for the ads that you use in the episode. So, for example, if it’s a comedy podcast, make listeners laugh and have fun with the delivery.

Storytelling podcasts – Avoid interrupting the story and the listener’s experience by integrating advertising into the storyline with silence, imagery, sound effects, foreshadowing, and other techniques.

It’s All About The Host

Research finds that hosts wield considerable influence with their audiences and can make or break an advertisement.

That isn’t a surprise.

What stood out in the research, however, is that the host matters far more than the content regarding advertising success. So, instead of seeking out a popular podcast with a large audience, advertisers should seek out a quality host who is well-connected to their audience.

Podcast hosts should do their own ad reads and explain how advertising helps them provide free content to connect the advertising brand with the host and emphasize the rule of reciprocity. Then, bond and engage the audience to boost the success of the podcast and advertisers.

I know. You’ve got questions, right?

How do you engage an audience when podcasts are a one-way communication platform with hours, weeks, or even years of delay between the recording of an episode and the time someone listens to it?

Engaging With Listeners For More Successful Advertising

Researchers suggest a strong social media presence is key. Entertainment and storytelling podcasts should use the same style in their social media communications and share podcast samples to attract views and likes.

Informational and opinion podcasts should aim for contributive interactions in their social media–prompting listeners to share opinions and discuss related topics.

Beyond that, Wang and Chang-Olmstead suggest sending weekly emails, offering exclusive content, or hosting events that let listeners connect and feel like part of the inner crowd.

And if you’ve avoided subscription models, it may be time to reconsider it.

Subscription Models Can Boost Listener Loyalty

Not only does paying a small subscription fee make listeners feel invested in the podcast, but by getting something others don’t have access to, they begin to feel like part of an inner circle. And this makes sense. The IKEA effect can easily explain this finding. Users are more loyal, more bonded with their groups, and value their group membership more when it costs them, or they need to sacrifice something to get in.

So, if you’re giving away all your content for free, you could be stunting the growth of your podcast by reducing the engagement and connection between you as a podcast host and your listeners.

And as the authors of the study noted, subscription-driven loyal audiences also make podcasts the perfect choice for partnerships and cross-over-like opportunities.

Other interesting insights and tips about podcast advertising you might find helpful:

  • Podcast advertising leads to 4.4 times great brand recall.
  • 383.7 million people listened to podcasts regularly in 2021.
  • Podcast sponsorship generates better (PDF) results than pre-recorded advertisements.
  • Advertisements at the beginning of a podcast episode perform better than those placed in the middle (PDF).
  • 70% of podcast listeners don’t do other things while listening, so they’re actively engaged with the content.
  • Podcast hosts and the audience have an implied contract of honesty.

Final Thoughts

We trust people who are honest. And we buy from people we trust. And if we trust a podcast’s host, we tend to trust the things he or she associates with. So, if you’re looking to advertise on a podcast, skip looking at the stats and listener numbers. Instead, look for a host that an industry or listener type loves.

If you’re a podcaster, the secret to successful advertising is to go the extra mile with your audience. Bring your content, advertising, and listeners together by creating ads that match your content and meet your listener’s expectations.

And don’t forget to take some time out from behind the mic to connect with listeners.

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