Why we survey the field

My friend and fellow podcaster Marco Arment published a blog post about the press’s recent fascination with the resurgence of podcasting. As Marco writes, while podcast’s growth as a business is phenomenal, the so-called resurgence isn’t quite that dramatic: Podcasts have been doing great business for a while now; the recent change is largely the mainstream media taking notice.

But there’s a footnote in Marco’s piece that I thought worth discussing a bit.

Marco writes:

Midroll previously sold our podcast’s ads. If you’ve recently heard a bunch of podcast hosts begging you to take a demographic advertising survey for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card, those are Midroll shows—and a big reason we’re not anymore.

All of that is true; I started selling Marco’s show Accidental Tech Podcast (ATP) a couple years back, and it was a pleasure and delight to sell. I don’t mind admitting that I miss getting to sell that show. It generally performed quite well for advertisers, and the hosts did great reads. While we continue to offer a steadily-increasing roster of tech-focused shows (beyond Relay FM: Macworld, Cult of Mac, iMore, Android Central, and more), it’s no secret that developer-focused advertisers would do well to seek out spots on ATP, too.

Marco makes reference to Midroll’s listener surveys—and intimates that our request that hosts offer up those surveys was a key factor in his choosing to take his podcast’s ad sales independent.

It’s my sincere belief that those listener surveys—ten (anonymous) questions about the listener’s demographics, spending habits, and the like—are hugely beneficial. Those surveys allow us to gather the data shown in our incredible whitepaper that I can’t stop crowing about.

Some advertisers know, “this show is about [x], and so I should advertise on it.” Some know, “this show reaches an audience of size [y], and so I should advertise on it.” That’s totally fine.

But there are other advertisers who want to know more. What percentage of The Nerdist’s audience has a six-figure income? Are the folks who listen to Comedy Bang Bang typically parents? Do WTF listeners spend above-average amounts on apps?

Our survey data helps us discover insights such as those, which are valuable to advertisers (and thus to podcasters, too!). So when we ask our hosts to encourage their listeners to take our survey, it’s so we can help the ads on that show be as relevant as possible. We know before we launch the survey that most of the listeners to, say, Upgrade, will be iOS users. But it’s only because of the survey that I know two-thirds of Jason and Myke’s listeners on that show are married, and that more than a third spend $30 per month or more on pet supplies.

Podcasting’s growth is driven by higher quality podcasts. The reason for the growing pool of top-quality podcasts is the fact that podcasters can now make real money from podcasts. (Think of Gimlet Media and Serial, both of whom Marco mentions in his post.) Today, the podcast industry relies on a lot of the same advertisers who know the value of podcast ads – people like Squarespace, Audible, Igloo Software, lynda.com, and the like.

Podcasting’s continued growth will necessitate an analogous increase in mainstream advertisers, the kind of advertisers who don’t bat an eye at radio, but need a lot more convincing on podcasts. Squarespace quite clearly has a ton of money to spend on podcasts, but that company alone can’t infinitely finance podcast’s ongoing explosive growth.

Marketers are driven by data, and without any data, it’s incredibly hard to convince them to spend their marketing dollars. So while requesting surveys may not be palatable to all podcasters, we do always ask them to. We want to help get the right advertisers on the right shows, while respecting our listeners’ privacy.

Surveys aren’t for everyone, of course, and some hosts on rare occasion opt out. But our top goal is making sure the ads we place on shows have the highest chance of success—which means the highest chance of appealing to the listeners in question.

Comments 1

  1. Heather

    Great article. I find that fascinating that a podcaster would drop simply because you ask them to promote a survey. Wouldn’t it be great if there was qualitative info on listenership and not just quantities of listeners? Couldn’t iTunes get that info from iTune accounts? or is that an invasion of privacy???? Perhaps Google should take over, they seem like they know their way around collecting everyone’s personal info 🙂


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