Expert Advice on Podcast Advertising from LA Podfest

The Los Angles Podcast Festival was all about hard choices. There were just so many great live shows and panels stuffed into two days and three nights of podcasting heaven.

I chose to spend some of my precious Podfest time attending panels on the business and practice of podcasting, since these are topics that are near and dear to me. I have to admit I was surprised how many fellow attendees made the same choice. The room hosting panels like Sponsor Relations and Getting a Job in Podcasting was nearly full to capacity, and both hosted an impressive queue of audience members with thoughtful questions.

Sponsor Relations was the first business panel, on Saturday. Dan Benjamin from the 5by5 network moderated this panel including Midroll’s Adam Sachs, Ilyas Frenkel from Squarespace and Ally Loprete of the This Little Parent Stayed Home radio show.

Kicking off the panel Dan observed that going back five years ago sponsors were less focused on audience size and return-on-investment, and instead were most interested in brand recognition.

Ilyas agreed that there’s been a shift to an ROI focus, but also pointed out that the sponsorship money going towards podcasting has greatly increased since 2009. He noted that Squarespace now has five employees focused on podcasts. The company sponsors around 175 podcasts, and plans the podcast ad budget a year ahead. However, if a new show that looks promising is introduced, they’ll go ahead and sponsor it. Ilyas said the Improve Photography podcast was one of those shows, because photographers use Squarespace to create online portfolios.

Adam acknowledged that the number of downloads per episode is an important metric, and helps determine which shows Midroll will represent. In order to appeal to advertisers podcasts that appeal to a broad audience–like comedy–need to have more downloads than those with a more niche demographic, like tech or photography. He emphasized that Midroll wants to do a good job for every podcast the company represents, which is why most contracts have a 30-day out clause, giving podcasters the option to leave if they’re not happy with the results.

Dan noted that the benefits for podcasters to work with an ad network like his company, Archer Avenue, or Midroll is that they get infrastructure and the benefit of working with a staff that is already familiar with the business.

Ally said she has been able to build audience in an authentic way using social media, which in turn made her show more attractive to sponsors. In response to an audience question she revealed that one of her keys for audience development is to figure out what will cause someone in your target demographic to think, “she gets me.”

Ally explained that people do run hashtag searches on Twitter. That means “there are hundreds of hashtags” that you could use to help your ideal demographic find you.

In my next post I’ll cover the panel on getting a job in podcasting, which is something I’m sure many podcast fans would love to learn more about.

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