You often hear people refer to our current cultural moment as "the golden age of television", but we think that we also happening to be living in the golden age of podcasting. Podcasting has changed the way we consume audio by helping to democratize the airwaves. Broadcast networks used to the sole gatekeepers to audio storytelling and news, but now, with a small investment in quality recording equipment, anyone can create a podcast. The breadth of content that has resulted is amazing -- there's something for everyone. Podcasting is an exciting space right now. But, with the exception of Mailchimp, aka Mailkimp (little insider podcast humor for you there), most brands are not very familiar with podcast advertising. With that in mind we put together a list of some of the things to know if you're considering launching a campaign:

Listener numbers are growing

Aided, in part, by the phenomenon that was 2014's smash hit, Serial, podcasts are experiencing something of a renaissance. Listener numbers are on the rise -- from 8% of the US population in 2014 to 13% of the population in 2016 (roughly 35 million people).

The audience skews young

Perhaps unsurprisingly, podcast audiences skew on the younger side. One reason might be that a lot of podcast content seems aimed at younger audiences. Many shows are unscripted conversations between hosts and the tone is usually more casual or off-the-cuff than it is in more traditional forms of media. It may also be that younger audiences are more comfortable or familiar with accessing media on their devices than older ones.

The audience tunes in often

The podcast audience tends to tune in relatively frequently. Of listeners who listened in the past 6 months, 55% listened at least once a week. An additional 30% per cent reported listening 1-3 times per month.

Ad engagement is good

Audience engagement with ads appears to be good. High numbers of listeners report engaging with a brand in one way or another after hearing an ad.

Cost are based on impressions

Costs are based on impressions and impressions, in this case, are measured based on how many times a podcast is downloaded. Strictly speaking, there's no guarantee the download will get played or that the user will stay tuned in long enough to hear all the ads within the episode. According to eMarketer, average podcast advertising CPMs are currently around $21-22 and are expected to rise over the next few years:

Tracking and targeting are imperfect

Just like television and radio advertising, podcast advertising is a bit murky to track. Many advertisers implement promotional codes and urge listeners to use those codes on their websites as a means of gaining visibility into the effectiveness of their podcast advertising. Without a promotional code though, there is very low visibility into the traffic generated from ads. You'll know how many impressions your ads garner, but you won't be able to tell what portion of your website traffic is generated from those ads or how engaged that ad traffic is once it reaches you. Absent promotional codes or custom URLs used in podcast campaigns, you can look at typical brand awareness metrics to measure the success of your ads. Targeting is also somewhat challenging. While it's possible, of course, to do placements on podcasts that have demographics which are aligned with your brand, the ability to do more granular targeting does not exist.

Ads are usually host-read

Most of the time, podcast ads are read by the hosts of the show. The host may read word-for-word from a prepared sponsor message, or they may have a few brand talking points that they riff on. This approach can definitely feel more personal to listeners and it's less disruptive, overall, to the listening experience to stay with the voice of the show host rather than cutting to an advertiser-produced ad. However, this arrangement may also be less comfortable for brands who are accustomed to maintaining strict control over their creative. You can hear a few examples of host-read ads on the Panoply Media advertisers landing page.

Key Takeaways

Podcast audiences, though still small relative to other forms of media, are growing and podcast audiences are generally engaged. Demographics skew young, which makes the medium attractive for brands whose target customers are 35 and under. Tracking and targeting are not perfect -- other than tracking conversions with the use of promotional codes or custom URLs, brand awareness metrics are the best way to evaluate success with podcast advertising. What else do you think brands should know about podcast advertising? Is podcast advertising for your brand's online marketing strategy? Share with us in the comments below.
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