Podcasts represent a great opportunity for radio stations to add to their sellable inventory without driving ratings down or program directors crazy. But before your radio station's sales team starts pitching podcasts to clients, they should understand the differences between podcast ads and radio commercials. Here are some of the key differences:
1. Podcasts use host-read ads, not produced spots.
Podcasting is a more intimate medium than radio listening. People often listen to radio in the background, so commercials have to grab listeners' attention to cut through. With podcasts, people listen more actively. That's why podcasts are often described as a “lean in” medium. Blaring commercials with music, sound effects, and cheesy announcers are too jarring for podcasts. Instead, most podcast commercials are copy points read by the host, sometimes with a fair amount of improvisation.
2. Podcasts are not as strict about commercial length.
On our airwaves, we adhere to strict clocks. With podcasts, things are much looser. Podcasts ads don't have strict 30- or 60-second time limits. This is good for creative on-air talents, but bad for long-winded ones.
3. Podcast spotloads are much lighter.
Podcasts do not run 6 spots in a single break, or 12-15 minutes of commercials in an hour. Depending on their length, podcast episodes often have a pre-roll break, one or two midroll breaks, and a post-roll break. At most, I've heard three different sponsors in a single break, and that is rare.
4. Podcasts often contain direct response ads.
Many podcast ads feature a host directing listeners to a custom URL (such as “Acme-dot-com-slash-Awesomecast”) or asking listeners to type in a custom discount code. These podcasters get paid every time a sale is attributed to their ads through these URLs or codes. Some companies, such as Audible, set up turn-key advertising programs so that any podcaster can run direct response ads for them without requiring prior approval.
5. Podcast ads can be dynamically inserted.
Many podcast hosting companies now offer the ability to dynamically insert ads. “Baked in” ads are ads that are recorded at the same time that the rest of an episode is recorded; the baked in ad is permanently part of the episode, so everybody who downloads the episode hears the same ad. Dynamically inserted ads, on the other hand, are not included in the original episode recording, but inserted when a listener downloads the episode. For example, if I download a five-year-old episode of Hardcore History today, I may hear a different ad than somebody who downloaded the same episode when it was first published.
Ads can be dynamically inserted by time or by geography. Somebody in Los Angeles might hear a different ad than somebody in Topeka. This allows national podcasters to sell to local advertisers.
Before your sales team starts selling podcasts, make sure they understand these key differences. You may want to gather them in a room and listen to a range of different ones, from entertainment shows like comedian Joe Rogan's to public radio shows like Invisibilia, to hear how different podcasts are handling advertisements. Using these as a starting point, decide what makes the most sense for your station's shows.
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