Podcast advertising: a listener’s perspective

I have a 2.5 hour commute to work every day. Hence I listen to a lot of podcasts in various genres including news, science, technology, business, fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, horror) and comedy. I’ve seen various forms of advertising on these podcasts. I’d like to elucidate a few points to podcasting advertisers out there, based on my analysis of the ads I have heard:

  1. Know your audience: This goes almost without saying. I do mention it because some advertisements I’ve heard seem to miss this basic point. If your podcast has a largely international appeal, for example, an advertising pitch that highlights “all American” as the potential benefit of consuming the product is missing the point.
  2. Know how your audience listens to your podcast: While the podcast format derives a large part of its popularity due to the freedom it affords users in terms of how and when they listen to your podcast, a quick survey might give you an overall picture of consumption milieu. This could give you crucial insights into what kind of products that you can effectively advertise. One fiction podcast, for example, realized that a large portion of its audience listens to its podcast at bedtime and made a concerted pitch to sell fuzzy headphones that you can wear when you sleep.
  3. Keep the advertisement relevant to your podcast and, if possible, to the particular episode: While this seems very basic too, I’ve seen many business podcasts miss this! An automobile advertisement that talks about style and comfort is not exactly the thing you would like to sell in a podcast that is talking about green-tech or clean-tech.
  4. Know just-tolerable-length: Remember, most of your audience is listening to your podcast on an audio player that can easily skip ahead. If you make a advertisement small, then there is a good chance that the annoyance of skipping ahead is greater than having to listen to the ad itself. If you make it too small, your advertisement may not be effective. The key is to realize how small, exactly your pitch must be. The exact length that an ad should be is what I call just tolerable length.1 This is going to depend a lot on the factors I’ve listed above. If your advertisement is relevant, humorous or informative, people may be willing to spend more time listening to it than otherwise.

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  1. This is inspired by a consumer behaviour concept called just noticeable difference or JND. Just Noticeable Difference is the minimal apparent difference between two products as observed by the consumer. Otherwise we can say -“The just noticeable difference (JND) is the smallest difference in intensity between two stimuli that a person can detect.” []

Fiction and me

I am no big fan of fiction, let me correct that – I was no big fan of fiction. I have been converted by podcasts – escape pod and podcastle. Escape pod is a science fiction story podcast and podcastle is a fantasy story podcast.

I really liked stories such as Exhalation, which is a truly amazing story – an alien “on the origin of species”; Article of faith, which talks about a religious robot; N-words, which deals with racism of a very different sort etc. On the fantasy side stories such as Dragon Hunt and Komodo were very entertaining. Do give them a try sometime.