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Once considered niche media, these days podcasts are a big industry—especially for advertisers and sponsors. The Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that businesses are expected to spend $659 million on podcast advertising in 2020.
Why do advertisers spend so much money on podcasts? Briefly put, podcast listeners are wealthier and actually pay attention to ads.
According to research by Music Oomph, 45% of podcasts listeners have an annual household income of over $250,000. And these wealthy listeners actually listen to the ads. Nielsen reported that “podcast advertising has been found to increase key metrics like awareness, ad recall, affinity, recommendation and purchase intent.”
Most podcast sponsorships involve a brand paying podcasters in cash or products to mention their brand during one or more podcast episodes. There are four common podcast sponsorship methods:
Your podcast doesn’t have to stick to any single sponsorship method—many podcasts mix and match depending on their sponsors.
A fixed-price sponsorship is when a brand pays a set amount of money for a specific number of mentions in a podcast. The exact rate is up to the brand and the podcast, and is typically based on the average number of downloads the podcast receives. On average, a podcast can expect to get $25 per ad spot for every 1,000 downloads of an episode.
Sometimes, podcasts can negotiate higher rates even if they have fewer listeners. If your podcast appeals to a niche audience of high earners, brands might place more value on reaching your listeners. After all, brands pay a lot of money for highly qualified leads—i.e., people who are most likely to spend the most money on their products.
For example, if your podcast is about repairing classic cars, it’s safe to say your listeners have a dedicated interest in rebuilding their own classic cars. A brand that sells parts for classic cars might spend more money advertising with you than a meal kit company because your podcast and their products are highly aligned.
To understand affiliate partnerships for your podcast, you need to know what affiliate marketing is. With affiliate marketing you earn a portion of sales placed through a website or brand with your affiliate link or code.
Most affiliate partnerships programs have a dashboard that allows you to see how effective your affiliate marketing is.
An example of an affiliate marketplace is Amazon Associates. With an Amazon Associates account, you encourage your listeners to buy specific products you discuss on your episode via unique links that Amazon generates for you. When your listeners buy products through those links, you automatically get a percentage of the sales.
A CPM sponsorship varies in payment depending on how many listeners an episode gets. Remember above when we mentioned that podcasts on average charge $25 for every 1,000 listeners? That translates to a $25 CPM, which stands for “cost per mille” or thousand downloads.
For CPM sponsorships, you and your sponsor agree to a CPM over a fixed period of time. For example, you might bill them for the downloads that have accumulated after a month of the episode going live then again after three months.
An in-kind sponsorship (also known as a trade or product sponsorship) is when a sponsor gives you a product or service as payment for a sponsorship instead of a cash payment. For example, if you have a music podcast, a festival might offer you press passes to their event in exchange for a few sponsorship slots.
The most common types of podcast sponsorships are:
These are ad spots that you either read live or pre-record and insert into the podcast at the beginning, middle or end of the episode. Mid-roll ads are typically more expensive than pre-roll or end-roll because listeners are less likely to skip them.
Sometimes, a potential sponsor will ask to be on the show as a guest as part of a sponsorship. For example, the founder of a hot sauce company might want to be interviewed on a food and cooking podcast as part of their sponsorship.
A paid review is when someone sends you a product to review and discuss on the podcast. If you have a guitar podcast, a sponsor might send you some guitar cables or a pedal to review and discuss on an episode of the podcast. Keep in mind that you’re usually required to disclose a partnership in a paid review.
A product placement is like a paid review, only you don’t even have to review the product. For example, if you have a video podcast you might have sponsors reach out about sending you a shirt or hat to wear during an episode.
A feed drop is a little more rare than the other types of sponsorships we’ve mentioned. Basically, it’s when another show pays you to push an episode of their show through your podcast’s RSS feed, so it’ll appear as one of your episodes to subscribers—with a disclaimer that it’s another podcast, of course.
Every podcast finds their sponsors via different methods. A few of those methods are:
Advertiser marketplaces like Podcorn bring podcasts and brands together. Podcasters and brands create profiles on these advertiser marketplaces and brands post requests for sponsorship proposals. Podcasters then submit their proposals—including their rates and availability—and brands can accept or decline those proposals.
Popcorn’s advertiser marketplace allows advertisers to submit requests for sponsorship proposals, including which types of sponsorship spots they’d like to book.
While podcasts of any size and standing can use Podcorn, other advertiser marketplaces like Midroll and AdvertiseCast curate a more selective and established batch of podcasts. If you’re accepted by one of these networks, they’ll do the work of matching you with sponsors so you don’t have to worry about pitching your show.
We’ve already mentioned how affiliate marketing can generate revenue for podcasters, but how do you find affiliate programs that are well-suited for you? After all, it would be a little weird to have an affiliate link for microwaves on a grilling podcast. An affiliate marketplace lists different affiliate programs that you can join and start promoting so you can find programs that are a good fit for your podcast.
There are a lot of general affiliate marketplaces available, including:
Some podcast hosting platforms even have affiliate marketplaces baked into their services. Buzzsprout, for example, has a curated selection of affiliate programs their podcasters can join. Part of the requirement for a brand joining Buzzsprout’s affiliate marketplace is to waive any “level of influence” requirements, which means podcasts of any size can start earning affiliate revenue.
Automatic ad drops are when ads are automatically dropped into the beginning, middle or end of your podcast episode. You hardly have to do any work for them—simply select which types (pre/mid/end roll) of automatic ad drops you’d like to run on your podcast and collect your money when the ad drops happen.
Some podcast hosting platforms allow you to specify times for automatic ad drops.
PodBean and most other podcast hosting platforms have this feature baked into their hosting plans. Often, your podcast host will take a cut of the revenue from these automatic drops depending on your plan with your host.
A podcast network is a collection of podcasts under one branch, which means shows often cross-promote and can band together to negotiate with bigger sponsors. Examples of podcast networks include Exactly Right, Wondery and Mission. Some existing traditional news outlets—like the CBC—also boast their own podcast networks.
The ability to join a podcast network depends on a lot of factors, including existing relationships with people associated with podcast networks, the success of your podcast and your podcast’s niche. Some podcast networks like to bring in existing shows with sizable audiences while others accept pitches for new podcasts.
Outreach is the traditional way of landing podcast sponsors. To find podcast sponsors via outreach, you simply call or email brands you think would be a good fit for your podcast and ask them if they want to sponsor you.
For example, let’s say you host a podcast about country music. You might want to consider reaching out to country music tourist attractions, country music record labels and western apparel companies as potential podcast sponsors.
According to internet radio network Live365, average podcast sponsorship rates vary by length and placement, but are generally in the range of $10-25 per 1,000 downloads. However, niche podcasts with a valuable target audience may be able to negotiate higher rates.
While $10-25 for every 1,000 downloads might not seem like a lot of money—if you can attract multiple sponsors for your podcast, you could start generating some decent revenue.
For example, let’s say you have a bi-weekly podcast that gets 2,000 downloads per episode and is typically 30 minutes long. That means you can sell up to three minutes of ad space without ads taking up more than 10% of your podcast’s run-time.
If you charge $30 each for two 15-second pre-rolls, $50 each for two 60-second mid-rolls, and $40 for one 30-second post-roll spot, you’ll gross $200 per episode or $400 a week. That’s before factoring in any affiliate revenue, profit sharing or product trade you might be able to negotiate with your sponsors.
Before you start selling ad spots for your podcast, keep in mind that each ad spot could potentially turn off listeners. Most listeners are happy to listen to an ad or two during an episode, but try to keep your ad space to less than 10% of your podcast’s run-time. On a related note, it’s a good idea to keep a calendar for your sponsorship slots, since organization is key for not over-selling your sponsorship inventory.
A minimum ad buy is when your podcast requires a sponsor to buy a certain number of ad spots. The biggest reason to require multiple ad buys—other than netting you more money at once—is because repetition in marketing and advertising is highly effective, and you want your sponsors to succeed.
No matter where you find your sponsors, you need to be able to prove your value to them before you can expect sponsorships. Here are a few things you can have prepared to make your podcast more appealing to sponsors.
Be prepared to talk about how many listeners you have on average. Typically, sponsors will care most about your average listens for your five most recent episodes. If nothing else, have that metric handy.
Be ready to discuss any other information that might appeal to potential sponsors. Here are a few questions sponsors might want to know about your audience:
Some podcasts are going to have more information about their listeners than others. The longer your podcast runs and the more listeners you have, the more you’ll learn about their demographics and interests.
If the bulk of your listeners are located in Washington state, you might be able to find sponsors local to Washington.
You might consider asking your listeners to take a survey to learn more about them, but you can find a lot of information about your listeners through analytics from social networks.
Rather than typing up emails or relaying listener information to each sponsor individually, some podcasts build a slide deck or one-sheet with their most important listener information and ad rates. Publicly posting your information and rates might seem like an odd choice, but the visibility could save you time that you might otherwise spend fielding questions from unqualified sponsors.
If you host your podcast on a platform like PodBean, you might feel like you don’t need to build your own website. While it’s not necessary to build your own website, it’s something sponsors love to see. And it’s easier than ever to build a website without hiring a designer. You can easily and quickly build your own website via site builders like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace and more.
One reason to have a website is to make it easier for sponsors to find and contact you. Remember earlier when we mentioned keeping a one-sheet about your audience? Your website is the ideal place to keep that.
Another reason to keep a website is to provide extra value to sponsors via a link to their website from your website. Links from your website to another are called backlinks, and they can help boost a website’s search engine rankings.
Sponsors might also be interested in bundling a sponsorship package if you have a website. If your website sees traffic comparable to your listens, you might be able to sell some display ads or other sponsored content on your website in addition to podcast sponsorships slots.
Being active on social media isn’t just a great way to get more listeners or learn more about them, it’s a way to add value to your potential sponsorships. If you can grow your social profiles, shout-outs to sponsors on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are an add-on that you could include in a sponsorship package to net you some extra money.
Spending the time and energy to build a solid email list of your listeners can attract some big-time sponsors. Like with social media, if you have a robust email list, you may be able to upsell potential sponsors who would probably love to be featured in your newsletter.
It’s one thing to upload an audio version of your podcast to YouTube, but filming and releasing video episodes can attract new viewers and—you guessed it—add more value to sponsorships.
With video episodes, you’re likely drawing folks who don’t normally listen to audio podcasts. After all, everyone has their own preferred way of consuming content, and millions of people watch videos on YouTube.
A video version of your podcast opens up additional sponsorship opportunities, including background decorations and on-camera product features.
In addition to expanding your audience, featuring sponsors on-camera when discussing their products or creating an overlay with their logos can help your solidify name-brand recognition with your listeners. This is especially valuable to sponsors with visual products, such as a sock subscription company with fun patterns.
It’s a lot easier to keep existing sponsors than to try to find new ones week after week. Here are a few quick tips to keep your sponsors happy.
Even if the sponsor doesn’t require it, we recommend starting with a script—at least while the sponsorship is new. Sponsors will appreciate you running a script by them to make sure you’re sending accurate information to your audience, including any discount codes or URLs.
If possible, try to get a unique discount code from your sponsor to promote to your audience. It’ll make your listeners feel like they’re getting a special deal for tuning in, and it’ll allow your sponsors to track any direct sales from your podcast back to you. If you convert a lot of listeners, that will bode well for sponsors continuing to support your show.
If a discount code isn’t possible, see if you can get a unique link for your sponsor. Not unlike affiliate links, a unique link with tracking information can help your sponsor track any sales from your podcast’s show notes, email list, website and social media.
Your relationship with your sponsors shouldn’t end as soon as the check clears. Report back to them with any episode analytics insights, especially if it was a popular episode. If you can track clicks or get testimonials from your listeners that they purchased something from your sponsors after listening to your podcast, it’ll help you build a (hopefully) long-term relationship with your sponsors. Remember, finding sponsorship opportunities for your podcast doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes real work to land high-quality sponsorships. If you’re trying to make money from your podcast, sponsors aren’t your only option. Check out our article about how to make money podcasting for more revenue-driving inspiration.