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The benefits and limits of podcast advertising

The digital marketing world can no longer afford to ignore podcasts as a platform since the rest of the world definitely isn’t.  If the world’s podcast episodes were the citizens of a nation, it would sit somewhere between Malaysia and Mozambique, with over 28 million people and rising. A country of podcast listeners though would number somewhere between Indonesia and the United States. Nearly two-thirds of South Koreans, half of Americans, a third of Australians, and a fifth of Germans, and many other portions of other countries all reporting having listened to a podcast in the last month.

benefits and limits of podcast advertising

The demographics of the said nation would largely fall between age 25-44, affluent, educated, and aspirational. A highly coveted market by firms selling everything from meal-kit-deliveries to mattresses.

Yet as many look forward to leaping upon this potential gold mine of an audience, questions of possible pyrite and the true nature of what is being proposed here need to be addressed. Before hopping on board the podcast train, do deeply consider the risk/reward tradeoff involved, says i3Media.

Risk –highly limited metrics

Although there are many different analytics tools out there about podcast listenership and the width, depth, and breadth of the audience, there are many aspects of the actual act of listening that get missed. In much the same way that television advertising cannot account for people simply leaving the room, podcast advertising must account for the “skip 10 seconds” button. Depending on the position in the podcast, the style of the presenter, the kind of advert you’ve drafted, and of course – your product – this could be a larger or smaller problem. Unfortunately, there’s just no way to reliably know.

Reward – word of mouth

While some podcasts will just accept pre-recorded inserts part way through their show, others work very hard to include the advertisement as part of the show itself with skillful transitions and stylised, sophisticated, and witty interpretation of the ad-read text. It creates a sense of authenticity and trustworthiness that many advertisers crave. Something that’s very difficult to replicate in other mediums, but also something that can be a risk in itself.

Risk – loss of control

Many advertisers are understandably nervous at the prospect of leaving their advertising ideas up to the whims, wit, and potential reinterpretations of a comedic podcast “shock jock” or another equivalent. While the vast majority of podcasters are professionals, despite their jovial exteriors, they too have to know how to balance the genuineness and transparency of their performance with the need to generate revenue. Depending on your product, that may be a level of lost control that you cannot tolerate.

Reward – reaching the otherwise unreachable

The cord-cutting tendencies of Millennials and those younger have limited many advertisers’ options. As ad-blockers get smarter and smarter, the ability to supplement traditional broadcast media advertising with internet alternatives has become more and more difficult, especially now with platforms like YouTube offering premium ad-free options. Podcasts are a much more decentralised platform. Like e-mail, the RSS feed technology podcasts relies upon is still roaming free across the plains of the more untamed plains of the internet. Attempts like those of the recently publicised “Luminary” to create the “Netflix of Podcasts” are widely predicted to be failures. This lack of centralised frame, with no one place to pin software control measures, makes the ability of advertisers to reach their audience far more dependent on good relationships with individual podcasters, rather than the whims and trends of technology.

Risk –international vs national vs local

What is podcasting’s greatest strength, in terms of its audience size, may well also be its single greatest weakness. Since a given RSS feed can be accessed as easily from Rwanda as it can be from Russia or Ruislip, there is no way to geographically target a specific audience. If your service is only available in Rabat or Reykjavik, Podcasts may be of only limited utility to you.

Reward – the self-selecting audience

While there might not be a technological way to geo-tag your advertisements through a podcast, you can be reasonably sure that a host and cohorts who exclusively discuss local politics of Croydon won’t have too many listeners east of Bromley or west of Sutton. The niche nature of podcasts allows for a level of audience targeting almost unparalleled by any other medium. With audiences deeply engaged by everything from Airships to Zoology, you will find someone, somewhere, making a podcast that will synergise with your target audience.

Formulating a digital marketing strategy is complicated, and if your product is sufficiently niche that this kind of strategy appeals, it is important to not neglect the more traditional forms of internet outreach.

More on small business marketing and getting yourself on YouTube.

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