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How to make great podcast ads

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Make your podcast ads as good as your content

Monetising your podcast should never come at the expense of your show. 

So if you’ve got sponsors interested, or you want to go out and find some, you need to think about your podcast ads as being as important as the content around them.

So how do you create podcast ads that both your listeners and advertisers will love?

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Curate your podcast sponsors

Podcast ads shouldn’t be something you think about as separate from your content. 

Since you’ll be reading the content in your ads (more on that below), the words you say have to match what you say in the parts of the show no one is paying for. 

For example, if you’re always talking about how diets are BS and people should love their body the way it is, bringing on a weightloss client wouldn’t be worth the damage to your credibility, no matter how much they’re paying.

Curating your advertisers means you select sponsors that fit the values of your show as well as brands you think your listeners would find useful. 

Get this mix right and you can get to the spot where your listeners actually enjoy your ads, which is something podcaster Tim Ferris discovered when he tried to remove ads and replace them with a listener-supported model.

Tim was picky about the brands he chose to work with, so his ads would often shine a light on products his audience might not have found otherwise. 

When those ads were removed and Tim started asking his audience to support his show financially he found himself on the receiving end of messages like this…

Set boundaries

If a client has decided to sponsor your show they know there’s value in your content and it’s your job to protect that. 

One of the things to stand firm on is that advertisers shouldn’t be able to influence content that sits outside their paid spot. 

Their space in your podcast is in the ads, where it’s clear to your audience there’s been a financial exchange for what’s being said. 

So, if an advertiser asks you to “casually” mention their product in a conversation you should always say no. 

Advertisers will try and push the boundaries because they want to hear their brand mentioned as many times as possible.  But you’re the brand guardian of your show and there are no long term benefits to eroding the trust you’ve worked so hard to build.

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Get the balance right

When you’ve got advertisers as a part of your show you have to think long and hard about the balance of content vs. ads. 

If your podcast is an hour-long you can probably get away with more than one ad in the mid-roll spot.  But if your podcast is ten minutes you might want to look at selling shorter ads or only filling the pre and post-roll spots.

It’s not like you can’t monetise a shorter show but you just want to make sure the audience doesn’t feel like they’ve had an ad shoved in their face before they’ve been able to consume any content, so placement is key.

You want your listeners to feel like your show is ad-supported not ad-filled.

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Podcast ads should be read by the host(s)

Your podcast ads should feel different to the main show so people know they’re listening to paid content but they shouldn’t be so different they’re jarring. 

One way to do this is by making sure your podcast ads are read by voices your audience know and trust. 

That way they’ll sound more like a recommendation than a pushy sales pitch which will be more palatable for your audience and more effective for your advertisers.

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Have fun with it

People often sound like they’re phoning it in when they’re reading their ads but if you want your podcast ads to be effective (and you do if you want advertisers to come back) you need to be as excited about what you’re saying in the paid bits as the stuff you’re saying in the actual show.

You also need to make sure the tone of your ads matches the tone of your content.  

If you’re an irreverent show that tells it like it is, bring that tone into your ads so it doesn’t feel like something unfamiliar to the audience.

Pod Save America is a political podcast in the US and their ads are some of my favourites.  I’m surprised their advertisers keep coming back because sometimes they’re brutal and will literally say “this script is terrible.”

That might seem harsh but it fits with the vibe of the show and tends to make their advertisers seem like good sports for being part of it.  

When I’m listening to their podcast I rarely skip the ads and if you manage to get your audience to do that, you’re doing it right.

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Use music to separate your podcast ads from the show

You need to let your audience know when you’re moving from content to an ad and an easy way to do that is by putting music underneath.

In addition, you could also flag your ad break with a little intro e.g. “We’ll be back with more (insert show name or a tease for upcoming content here) later, but first a word from the sponsor of today’s episode, (insert sponsor).”

This provides a seamless transition from your content into your ad so it doesn’t feel like your ad is interrupting your show.

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Make sure you’ve got creative control

You should never record a script sight unseen. 

Since the ads are being voiced by you the scripts need to be written in your voice so you need to agree on a process for edits with your advertisers.

Often a good way to do this is to ask a sponsor for the points they definitely want you to cover and then write a script around those so the words coming out of your mouth sound as natural as possible.

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Throw in a personal anecdote…for extra

Most podcast ads are sold as 15 to 30 second scripted reads but there’s no reason you can’t offer longer (not too long) ads where you incorporate more personal content.

If you want to offer this as standard, that’s great because this content will always be more compelling for your audience.  But if you want to offer different levels of sponsorship this might be a good way to offer another level to sponsors who want more than just a scripted read.

Got a burning podcasting question you’d like answered? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

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