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3 Things Podcast Listeners Want to Tell You About Ads

May 1st, 2018 | 4 min read

By Darin "Doc" Berntson

3 Things Podcast Listeners Want to Tell You About Ads

Podcasting can be a great deal of fun, but it's also not free.

Equipment and, of course, all the time spent planning and recording a podcast are valuable investments for any business or individual who chooses to broadcast. Given that podcasting can become a full-time (unpaid) job whether you're using it for inbound marketing or personal expression, it's no surprise that most podcasters choose to include paid commercials.

Of course, podcast commercials aren't quite the same because the host usually talks about the product, gives reviews, and sometimes even hosts interviews about whatever they're promoting.

Podcasters all over the world have taken on scripts, checked out products 'on the air', held interviews with company representatives, and shared words from their sponsors with their listeners.

In the recording studio, making a non-live radio show your listeners can't tell you how they feel, but this is a summary of how they feel about current podcasting commercial practices.

Smooth and Silky

Podcasters are creating what is known in the audio circles as a 'Listening Experience'. The listeners load up their favorite podcasts to enjoy 30 to 120 minutes of uninterrupted content. Whether they are staying updated on industry news or listening to fairy tales from a big old book, listeners are counting on their podcasters to make sure the entire podcast is enjoyable and, stylistically what they expected to hear when they downloaded or began streaming the files.

While podcast listeners will tolerate ads, the fact that podcasters don't always use pre-recorded material gives them a unique opportunity to make a commercial as smoothly integrated as possible. It's important to avoid sudden changes in tone of voice or volume or using jangly music or unexpected sound effects.

The commercial should be introduced then cover the required material or particular segment, then cleverly transition back to your content with as little interruption as possible. This provides listeners with a more complete listening experience.

1. Match the Commercials to Your Content

There's nothing more disconcerting for listeners than a bizarre change of subject in the middle of their podcast. Sure, they know their podcasters must advertise, but each listening experience should be complete with the kind of content the specific podcast audience enjoys.

For a serious show, ads for toys or cheerful product placement will seem entirely out of place. Sponsors should be serious and products can be discussed in the same tone as the rest of the show.

In fact, no matter who or what is being promoted to build up the podcaster's sound effects fund, the best way to make that the audience is happy with the 'necessary evil' is to integrate the ad fully. Somehow link the ad's content to the current conversation topic, keep the tone of voice and demeanor similar throughout the ad, then ensure that the end of the ad links to the next segment of content.

The more freedom podcasters have with each ad, the better they can make it part of the listening experience.

2. Don't Try to Be the Radio

Podcasting naturally inherits many of its recording styles and structural mannerisms from the previous primarily audio entertainment media: the radio. However, there is a fundamental difference between podcasting and radio, which is that your podcast is not live and your advertisements don't have to 'catch the attention' of listeners. They are already listening closely, so there's no need to shout or even over-emphasize during commercial time. Podcasters are better off downplaying the commercials to keep their audience happy listening to them.

Remember that the audience knows which podcast they're listening to so there's little need to run advertisements for the show itself. On the radio, they have to continually remind listeners so those listeners can remember how to find the station again by 'touching that dial'. With a podcast, listeners took the time to find it, download it, and load it onto their playlist. Rest assured, they know what they're listening to so stating it more than, say, three times an episode is just a bit overkill.

Podcasters should also remain conscious of their host's personality and avoid accidentally starting to talk like a radio personality. This can be especially tempting when reading advertisements or while interviewing guests. If guests wanted to listen to radio DJs and jarring ads, they'd turn on the radio. Instead, they have tuned into a well-structured, pre-recorded podcast, so unless the podcast is built around a purposefully radio-like host personality, leave the goofy announcer voice behind.

3. Engage Your Audience

One of the most important things to remember about any modern digital marketing or presentation method is that the audience wants to be involved. In fact, they expect it. We live in a world where feedback is instant. If the podcast you create or market with is live-streamed before uploading it to a platform, comments could be coming in on the content before the episode is even over.

Times have changed since the days of sending unread fan letters to favorite celebrity entertainers. Listeners know that if they leave a rating and review on a podcast platform, join the comments, or seek you out through social media that their voices can and will be heard. The best way to please a podcast audience is to give them what they want, a relationship with the host, the podcast, and maybe even the advertising companies.

Of course, you don't have to personally respond to the potential thousands of comments, reviews, and questions that may be sent to the podcast host, but by mentioning and answering even a few of them, the entire audience feels more included and involved in the creative process. Consider reading a few particular comments or favorite reviews on the podcast itself or holding contests that are announced on the podcast and then handled on your social media site.

How does this make a better listening experience? By the simple fact that your listeners will enjoy being included. Many will wait eagerly for part of the show where you talk directly to your audience and answer a few questions.

Finally, remember to thank the audience. Without their interest and support, the podcast could be sitting at the bottom of a platform list, unlistened to and unloved. Whether you're putting together a promotional podcast series for your company, arranging for your company's ads to appear on popular podcasts, or podcasting independently, always thank your audience for listening or ensure that your partnered podcast host does so.

Every podcast is unique, and each audience chooses based on the differentiating factors they care about. To both make podcast listeners happy and achieve the goals of your podcast or advertising, always give the audience what they want. If you include ads, keep them pleasant and entertaining, keep your content smooth, and provide a reliable, continuous listening experience from episode to episode.

With the right formula and a good relationship with your audience, you're sure to achieve your goals and who knows, your podcast might even be picked up as a TV show. It's been known to happen.


Darin "Doc" Berntson

Owner/Head Coach @ Bernco Media. Digital sales & marketing since 1997. Passion for teaching companies to be the most trusted voice in their space. They Ask, You Answer Certified Coach & HubSpot Certified Partner & Trainer. Reversed Type 2 Diabetes doing KETO. Wears Mickey Mouse Daily. Daydreaming of next Disneyland Trip.