Podcasting and Advertising … Everything Old Is New Again

Remember when Podcasting was dead?

Well, in case you didn’t get the memo, it’s back with a vengeance.

This was in evidence when President Obama appeared on a podcast (remember, he invented Twitter, or something).

There are lots of reasons why Podcasting is huge: it’s interesting audio content, it’s storytelling, it’s long format journalism, and it’s interviews. But it largely comes down to this: authenticity.

The radio ad I hear on my commute means nothing to me, and even less, probably, to the DJ. The ad on YouTube, meh. The website banner (probably served by Google)… well, OK.

But when I hear Jesse Brown from CANADALAND talk about how great Freshbooks is, or that Josh and Chuck from Stuff You Should Know are wearing MeUndies … I’m way more likely to check them out.

Few people on earth today will remember that this is what radio advertising WAS when radio was young. The people you trusted and loved telling you to smoke Camel Cigarettes, because they were so smooth or whatever. Somewhere along the way, the slick ad took over. Instead of the trusted DJ, now it was a pretend doctor telling you to smoke. And slick ads worked for awhile!

But in 2016, we’re all pretty jaded with advertising, generally. So, what works today?


Remember authenticity – the battle cry of social media marketers everywhere before we got caught up in analytics, hyper-targetting, ROI and the mountains of data surrounding inbound marketing.

I can’t say for sure if Josh and Chuck really wear MeUndies, or Jesse Brown really loves Freshbooks … but I love listening to them, and they seem pretty authentic about their infatuation with these underwear delivery and online billing businesses.

And this is, I think, where the business model is rediscovered. Maybe YOUR business model for your podcast? Here’s a list of rules I propose for this brave not-so-new world of advertising:


  1. Don’t promote stuff you haven’t tried. This is hard. What if the product is a mattress? Well, you better ask them to send you one if you really want to be authentic about selling them.
  2. Don’t promote anything you don’t at least like a little bit. If you follow rule #1 and it turns out the product was not so awesome, do the right thing and tell the advertiser you can’t promote them (send them back the mattress, but ask them to cover shipping).
  3. Talk about your experience with the product. Encourage the advertiser not to go too far beyond “tagline” in what they want you to say. No matter how authentic the ad copy they used in a magazine or advertorial might sound when reading it, it’s not in your words, so it will come across unauthentic (even if you truly love the product).
  4. Incentivize. Yup, that’s right. No matter how much Josh and Chuck love MeUndies, I’m not going to try them unless I get a discount code or a free trial. Even better than my incentive is trackability. Consider trackability a two-way street: the advertiser wants to know how well your podcast is performing for them – and you should want to know this too. If it’s not performing well, it may not be anything to do with your lack of awesomeness; it may simply be a bad fit for your audience. Good for everyone to know that, since you are so awesome that there are far better things for you to be promoting anyway.
  5. Don’t sacrifice authenticity for promotion. Don’t change your programming to interview the CEO of the product you’re pushing. This is journalism 101, but for most podcasters without a journalism degree, you may not already know this is bad, and horribly inauthentic (even if the CEO is interesting, and you’re not talking a lot about their product).
  6. Don’t be desparate. You want people to buy the product because it’s great, and you know it is … not because if they don’t then you worry about losing the advertiser.
  7. Mix it up. Don’t push the same product every show. Or vary the places where you push them. Premium spots for the same advertiser might appeal to the advertiser, but will cause your show to become stale and predictable (even if you editorialize the “ad”).

If you are an advertiser follow all these rules in reverse. Send your product. Trust that it’s awesome. Give the podcaster their editorial space, and trust them to represent you well.

If you don’t have a massive audience on your podcast, the trackability factor could also turn a standard advertising gig into an affiliate one – for every sale generated with your code, you get $x.

What do you think? Are you advertising on your podcast? Thinking about it? Let me know what you think of the rules in the comments below, and I’ll update the article from time to time.

Paul Holmes

Paul Holmes is Co-Founder of Social Media Camp. He is a 25-year IT industry veteran, and lifelong resident of Victoria, British Columbia.

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