Podcast Advertising

How to Scale Host-Read Podcast Ads

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As podcast ad revenue continues to grow even through the pandemic, podcasting has graduated from a handful of advertiser’s test budgets to being an integral part of most mainstream marketers’ strategies. Yet unlike other digital channels, the nature of the medium makes it challenging to scale without sacrificing what makes host-read podcast ads so effective.

Traditionally, it’s a slow and complicated process to buy host-read ads. One that requires a lot of back and forth communication between the brand and podcaster to coordinate a single campaign. The typical buying process is a manual and labor intensive one that is managed and tracked entirely on spreadsheets. Because of this, bigger brands usually outsource their podcast buys to agencies. As a result, it’s much harder for newer brands with smaller budgets to buy podcast ads efficiently. 

Evo Terra, author of Podcasting For Dummies and self-proclaimed O.G. podcaster is one of many industry insiders that recognizes these challenges, “It’s way too complicated to make live, host-read ad buys at scale. The warm, fuzzy feelings advertisers get when they run live, host-read ads on a handful of podcasts quickly diminishes when they try to scale that to hundreds or thousands of shows.” 

You can’t scale host-read podcast ads using the same programmatic strategies as other digital platforms, such as video, because it’s critical to preserve what makes the podcast ad so effective to begin withauthenticity. This is why the industry has been hesitant to fully adopt programmatic ads, they risk losing the personal touch from the host that make podcast ads so powerful. 

Unlike other channels, host-read podcast ads prioritize the listener’s experience, seamlessly flowing into the content, while leveraging the audience’s relationship and trust with the host. A recent study has found that podcast advertising campaigns result in an average 10 times lift compared to print, digital, and tv. There is a reason that so many networks’ ad formats are host-read, because they work, especially for direct response brands.

Scaling host-read podcast ads

In order to scale host-read podcast ads, you must strike a balance to preserve and protect the value of host-read ads, while leveraging technology to add the speed and scalability of programmatic ads. But technology alone won’t solve scalability issues in podcasting, you must also be strategic with the type of shows you partner with to help your spend and reach go further. 

Embrace new technology 

The current standard for buying podcast ads is manual and labor intensive, taking weeks to put into place. It will be impossible to scale the host-read ad without leveraging new technologies and services including dynamic insertion and podcast ad marketplaces. 

RedCircle’s self-service Ad Marketplace modernizes the process of buying and selling podcast ads by allowing brands to build and launch their own custom campaigns without any middlemen. There are several key benefits to using RedCircle, starting with speed. You can launch and manage campaigns within days, instead of weeks using RedCircle. And since you have direct access to thousands of podcasters across a variety of categories on RedCircle, marketers have the ability to source their podcast inventory at scale and with flexible budgets. That means that RedCircle gives brands with any size budget accessibility to podcasting.

Dynamic insertion is another essential piece of technology to successfully scale host-read podcast ads. Instead of “baking in” host-read ads into the episode, the majority of networks today dynamically insert host-read ads. To the listener, it’s the same seamless experience as if the host was reading it live, and for brands, dynamic insertion gives them the ability to buy inventory across all episodes, not just new episodes. This ensures messaging remains fresh and relevant and can be heard across more inventory. It also ensures that brands get what they pay for; if you buy 100,000 insertions; the campaign is inserted until the budget is met. No need to count on historical download counts or trust in 3rd-party reporting.

Partner with independent podcasters

One of the other main barriers to scaling host-read podcast ads is cost. There’s over 800,000 podcasts worldwide, yet brands typically only access the top few hundred. For brands with modest budgets, it would be easy to burn your entire budget buying inventory on a single podcast that’s on the top 100 on Apple Podcasts.

In order to scale and make more efficient buys, brands of all sizes should start paying less attention to the big blockbuster shows, and start taking advantage of the dedicated niche audiences that listen to smaller, independent podcasts. While their audiences and download numbers may be small in comparison, their listeners are far more likely to trust and engage with the host. With RedCircle’s platform, you can aggregate tons of these indie podcasts into large-scale budgets as well.

There are several advantages to buying ads on smaller, independent shows. Smaller and new shows are often priced with lower CPMs. Less expensive inventory enables brands to be more flexible and test their budget across multiple shows and broaden their reach. Independent podcasts have dedicated audiences with content that is focused around niche categories. It’s a huge benefit to brands that want to accurately match up shows to their target audience.

Ready to scale?

Whether you are just starting out advertising on podcasts or looking for ways to expand your existing reach, RedCircle’s Ad Marketplace was built to enable brands to quickly and easily scale their host-read podcast campaigns. Sign up to learn more about advertising with RedCircle.

Podcast Advertising

Podcast Advertising Basics: A Marketers Guide

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Podcast advertising revenue is forecasted to exceed 1 billion by next year (2021) and has seen double-digit growth over the last five years. It’s clear that marketers have quickly come to realize just how relevant and effective podcast advertising is for the growth of their business. 

There are several reasons that podcasting has become such an attractive channel for marketers, no matter the size of their budget.

Podcasts might have once been a niche medium, but that is no longer the case. About 90 million Americans listen to podcasts each month and listening is only continuing to increase and become more and more mainstream. More importantly, podcasts have the ability to reach a niche and attractive demographics, which is why more and more brands are dedicating more of their budget to podcasts. 

Listeners feel personally connected to their favorite podcast hosts, making them some of the most loyal and passionate consumers. When podcast ads are done well they don’t feel like an ad. They sound more like a recommendation from a trusted friend and that’s what makes them  so effective. Listeners are also unlikely to manually skip over podcast ads since many people are listening to podcasts while doing something active – on their commute, while doing the dishes or working out. 

Not only are people paying attention to podcast ads, many listeners actually like the ads they hear on podcasts and according to AdWeek, 75% of podcast listeners follow the calls to actions. 

It’s clear that podcast advertising works! The great news is that you don’t have to be a household name brand or have a large budget to start advertising on podcasts. The key is to start small and scale up as your business grows.  

4 steps to launch your first podcast campaign

Step 1: Learn the language of podcast advertising

If you are new to podcast advertising, it’s important to understand the different variables that determine the value of a podcast ad, including the ad format itself, as well as how and where the ad gets inserted into the episode (aka the ad position). 

CPM Rate – Podcast ads are generally priced by a CPM rate or the cost per 1,000 listeners. For a host-read ad, the average CPM rate starts around $25 for a 60 second ad spot. Pre-recorded ads have much lower CPM rates that average just a few dollars.

Ad Formats

The two main types of podcast ad formats are Host-read Ads and Pre-recorded ads. 

Host-Read Ads

Host-read ads are read by the podcast host (or producer) and are the most common and traditional way of advertising on podcasts. The way that host-read ads get inserted into podcasts has evolved and changed over the last few years. Instead of being “baked in” or directly edited into the episode, now almost all major publishers and networks dynamically insert their host-read ads into the episode. 

Pre-Recorded Ads 

Pre-recorded ads are similar to traditional radio ads. These ads are recorded and supplied by the advertiser and are dynamically inserted into the episode. They are also significantly less expensive than host-read ads with a typical CPM of $3 – $11. 

Ad Positions

There are three different ad positions in a podcast: pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll. While the ad format determines the type of ad read and how the ad is inserted, the ad position determines where in the episode the ad will run. 

Pre-roll (15 – 60 seconds)

Pre-roll ads run before the episode starts or within its first few minutes and can be anywhere from 30 – 60 seconds long. Depending on the placement, pre-rolls can sometimes be skipped over so they are typically priced slightly less than mid-roll ad spots. We often encourage publishers to place the pre-roll slightly after the introduction for better performance.

Mid-Roll (30 – 90 seconds) 

Mid-roll ads run halfway through an episode and are usually a little longer and more in depth than a pre-roll or post-roll placement. Listeners are most engaged through the middle of an episode and make mid-rolls the most expensive and most effective ad placement.

Post-Roll (15 – 30 seconds) 

Post-roll ads run within the last few minutes of the episode or directly after the end of the episode content. Post-roll placements are typically shorter in length and priced the lowest because listenership tends to decline slightly by the end of an episode. 

Step 2: Find podcasts to partner with 

Once you are comfortable with how podcast advertising works and understand the various industry terms, the next step is to find and partner with podcasts. 

RedCircle’s Ad Marketplace makes it super easy to purchase ads from a diverse set of podcasts and allows you to launch a campaign within days, removing much of the manual process and back and forth communication with a middleman. 

Speed and testing are a few key benefits of managing and executing your campaign with RedCircle. You can easily A/B test and optimize your campaigns, whether it’s through messaging, ad formats or show placement, in addition to testing the channel as a whole before scaling. It’s simple to manage your budget across one or many shows and get a campaign up and running within days. 

Similar to creating a Facebook or Google ad, you can browse and select from thousands of podcasters and use RedCircle’s platform to build a custom host-read or pre-recorded ad campaign across multiple shows that fit your brand’s unique goals, timeline, and budget. 

Step 3: Create a personalized campaign that fits your goals & budget

The next step in the process is planning out your campaign. As a marketer, your goal is to make the biggest impact with the budget you have to spend and the inventory that is available. While a podcast’s audience size is a factor when deciding what shows you want to advertise with, it’s not the only consideration. What’s more important is the content and finding shows with audience demographics that align with your current or target customers. 

If you are new to podcast advertising or working with a smaller budget, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Shows that aren’t an obvious match with your product may still work well for customer acquisition. For example, if you’re advertising a business-related product, you shouldn’t just run ads on business podcasts, there are plenty of corporate decision makers listening to a sports or parenting podcast. It’s easy to run tests on different content categories with RedCircle so you can get a clear sense of what performs best for your brand. 

Want to make your budget and reach go further? Don’t overlook shows that have a smaller audience.

When looking for shows to advertise on, Brooklinen told NYT that “they tend to make “efficient” plays for smaller, but more committed, audiences. ‘It doesn’t really matter what genre their podcast is in. Whatever they buy, their listeners will buy, for the most part.’” 

Step 4: Measure your ROI, optimize, and repeat

Given the nature of podcast advertising, there aren’t the typical well-defined metrics that marketers have come to expect from other digital channels. The majority of podcast ads, whether host-read or pre-recorded are direct response campaigns, which means that promotion codes, surveys, and vanity URLs are the best way to track the performance of the overall campaign and individual shows. 

While promotion codes and vanity URLS are the most direct way to track the effectiveness of your ad, you also have to make the assumption that some new customers come from the ad campaign indirectly. There’s several different tools and metrics you can use to get a fuller picture of your campaign performance, including:

Check-Out Survey

Not everyone will remember to use the podcaster’s unique promo code when they go to make a purchase. Including a quick survey question asking how the customer heard about your brand will improve the accuracy of your attribution. 

Third-Party Tracking 

There are a few third-party podcast attribution products, such as Podsights and Chartable. They essentially connect a podcast’s downloads to activity on your website to give both the advertiser and the podcaster additional insight into the effectiveness of a campaign. 

Referral & Direct Traffic 

Many podcasters include their sponsors and vanity links in their show notes so you can track whether you see an uptick of direct and referral traffic to your website using Google Analytics throughout the campaign.

Tracking podcast attribution is not a perfect science, so it’s important not to get caught up in the individual metrics and focus on the performance as a whole. 

Once you’ve ran a few campaigns and experimented with different messaging, ad formats and podcast categories – it will become clear what is working and what isn’t. Like any other medium in marketing, testing and continuing to optimize your campaign based on the data is key to driving better performing campaigns.  

Want to learn more about advertising with RedCircle? Sign up and we’ll get in touch! 


How Podcasters Can Help Slow the Spread of Coronavirus

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In these difficult and uncertain times, listeners are turning to your podcast as a source of information or a source of comfort. Many people around the world are stuck at home and tuning into their favorite podcasts to get the latest coverage on the coronavirus crisis, or for a welcome distraction from the news.

Over the past few weeks, countless influencers and celebrities have used social media to find creative ways to entertain people and more importantly use their influence to encourage their audience to stay at home and do their part to slow the spread of Coronavirus. 

Share the #AloneTogether message with your listeners 

At RedCircle, we know that our creators want to do everything they can to help support their listeners and keep our communities safe during this unprecedented time. 

We’ve partnered with the Ad Council, a nonprofit organization responsible for producing, distributing and promoting public service announcements (PSAs), to help support the urgent response to Coronavirus. We hope you’ll join their #AloneTogether campaign by adding your own PSA in your podcast in the upcoming weeks and months.  

Your voice can make an enormous impact on efforts to slow the spread of Coronavirus by bringing awareness to the importance of social distancing and urging your listeners to take this seriously and stay at home if able, in addition to supporting mental health and wellness. 

Below are a few of the talking points from the Ad Council for you to highlight. Remember to keep the message positive and encouraging and say ‘Coronavirus’ instead of ‘COVID-19’ since it’s easier to understand.

  • Stay home if you can. It can save lives.
  • Staying home during the coronavirus outbreak saves lives. Why? Because people who don’t have any symptoms can still spread the virus without knowing it. 
  • Everyone – including young adults – is at risk for coronavirus. The best way to protect yourself is to stay home.
  • Staying home helps lower the risk for everyone, including your family members and those most at risk.
  • Stay a minimum of 6 feet – or two arms-length – away from others.
  • Avoid discretionary travel, shopping and social visits.
  • Avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts—use drive through or delivery options.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • If you have symptoms of fever, dry cough and shortness of breath, call your health care provider before going to their office.

For a full list of talking points, scripts, social assets and other helpful  resources visit coronavirus.adcouncilkit.org.

If you don’t want to record your own PSA, you can also go directly to the Ad Council website to download a pre-recorded 15-30 second spot that is ready to go. 

Now is the perfect time to share what you’ve been up to while socially distancing. Give your listeners suggestions on how to stay busy and keep their spirits up while spending so much time at home, often by themselves. Our favorite advice of course, is staying home and listening to a podcast. 

The more you share the better! If you share your message on social media, be sure to use the official hashtag from the Ad Council, #AloneTogether. 

Use dynamic insertion to distribute your PSA message to listeners

To get this important message out quickly and easily, we suggest recording your own message or usinga pre-recorded PSA from the Ad Council  and using dynamic insertion to insert it into your most recent and upcoming episodes over the coming weeks. 

  1. Record your audio clip 
  2. Add the audio file to an audio block 
  3. Assign the audio block to insertion points throughout your upcoming and recent episodes. 

Get more information about using dynamic insertion here.

Thanks for your support and being a vital part of the RedCircle community. Now more than ever, we’re extra thankful for all the amazing podcasts on our platform that are a much-needed respite from the challenges of social distancing.

Podcasting Tips

What Makes a Really Good Podcast Ad? 7 Tips to Improve Your Ad’s Performance

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Podcast advertising has helped countless creators turn their passion project into a profitable business. For podcasters that are just starting to sell ads on their show, we created a guide to understand how podcast advertising works and what to expect from the process. 

But finding and negotiating an ad deal is just half the battle. How well your ad performs is equally important. It determines whether an advertiser chooses to continue running ads on your show. It could affect future opportunities with other advertisers. And don’t forget how it affects listeners’ overall experience of your show.

Podcast ads are authentic and have more impact than any other form of advertising today. Advertisers have realized how well podcast ads perform, which is why podcast ad revenue is growing exponentially. That said, not all ads are created equal. Only good podcast ads work.

What makes a really good podcast ad? 

When a host-read ad is done well, it doesn’t feel like an ad at all and flows seamlessly into the rest of the episode. The whole goal is to keep listeners engaged, so an ad should never feel like an interruption or nuisance. Which is why it’s important to treat your ad content with the same thought and consideration that goes into the rest of your show. 

Many resources focus on helping creators find advertisers, but there’s not much out there to help them execute a great performing ad. If you haven’t advertised on your podcast before, the brand or agency typically gives you suggested ad copy or bulleted talking points and a checklist of instructions, but not much guidance on how to make the ad perform well.  

Even if you’ve been advertising on your show for a while, there’s always room for improvement. Ever accidentally uploaded the wrong episode file? We’re only human and occasionally something is bound to fall through the cracks.  

So we reached out to brands, advertising agencies, and podcasters for their expertise and advice for creating ads that not only perform well for the advertiser, but also resonates with your listeners.

1. Be authentic 

The most important thing is to simply be yourself when reading an ad. Let your personality shine. Your listeners tune in because of you, they want to hear about products in your own voice that feels genuine. 

“At the end of the day, the best performing podcast ads are ones that are true to the content and the personalities on the show. Whether it’s a read that ties into an inside joke on the show, or calls upon host’s personal experience in explaining the benefits of a product, truly personalized podcast reads will always outperform those that utilize generic copy.”

Will Flaherty, VP of Growth at Ro.co

Podcast advertisers gravitate to podcasters who are able to personalize the ad message and relate it to their unique show and audience. Advertisers realize that you are the expert on the audience they are spending money to reach, so they trust you to inject your own voice when sharing their message.

2. Get creative 

Don’t be afraid to step outside of the box and take a creative approach to your ads.  Think about what podcast ads grab your attention as a listener, it’s likely something that made you laugh or included a relatable anecdote. When it comes down to it, good podcast ads are entertaining. 

The best part about podcast ads is the fact that they can be fun and don’t have to be commercial or formal like radio ads. So have fun with it. While the advertiser will have talking points they want you to hit, feel free to rephrase them into your own voice and make it personal. Whether you choose to write your own script or wing it and rift off the copy, the most effective ads sound unscripted and natural. 

3. Keep things flowing

When you cut to your ad break, a good segue helps make it sound less intrusive and more natural. Whether you use a clip of your theme music or simply tell listeners that “we’ll be right back”, you want your ads to flow naturally in and out of your episode. 

4. Publish episodes consistently

When an advertiser is vetting a new podcast, one of the first things they’ll do is check out the show on iTunes. If they see a podcast hasn’t published an episode for 6 months, they likely won’t be interested in advertising on that show. Advertisers want to allocate money to podcasts that publish on a consistent basis because they are reliable. Shows that are consistent continue to grow their audience and are ultimately most successful. Which is why consistency is always a best practice, whether you are looking for advertisers or not. 

5. Follow instructions 

Be sure to follow the advertiser’s instructions to the letter. If the advertiser marks a line of copy as required, include it in your read verbatim. If it’s a 60 second spot, then your ad read must be at least 60 seconds long. Don’t worry about going over 60 seconds, in fact some of the best performing podcast ads are 90 seconds or more. 

Always double check that you’ve hit all the advertisers requirements before uploading your ad. If you miss a required point or the read is too short, you may receive an email with the most dreaded four words in podcasting: “We need a makegood…”. If the advertiser isn’t satisfied, they may want you to give them a free spot to make up for the error. Obviously you’d rather have to ability to make more money from a new ad instead. 

6. Be selective

Don’t be afraid to be selective about what you endorse, your listeners should come first and foremost. Only choose brands and products that you’re passionate about and would use yourself. Your listeners trust you, they’re going to trust your recommendations and it’s crucial to protect that relationship. 

“Creating and recording ads for The Trauma Therapist | Podcast, for me, really comes down to one question: am I excited about, and do I believe in what I’m doing? Am I psyched about my mission to get the word out about the prevalence and effect of psychological trauma, and the podcast I’ve created around that? Because if I’m able to answer yes–which I am!–then everything flows from there. That excitement allows me to get up the guts to even approach relevant sponsors I want to work with and which I feel are going to benefit my audience. That excitement also allows me to share my genuine belief in what I’m trying to do with the podcast through the query letters I send to potential sponsors, and then finally, it gets translated into the actual recording of the ads, whether they’re live reads or recorded pre- and end-rolls.“

Guy Macpherson, Host of The Trauma Therapist Podcast

Advertisers want you to be able to talk about the brand from your personal experience. Most (if not all) advertisers will send you free trials or products before the ad runs. Just be sure you take the time to take the product for a test drive ahead of time. 

7. Repeat the call-to-action 

Generally host-read ads are direct response and end with a call-to-action. This unique code or vanity URL is required and it’s the main way advertisers measure an ad’s performance. The more listeners that hear the ad and use your code when they make a purchase, the better your ad performs. 

Which is why it is very important to clearly and accurately recite the call to action two to three times. Repeating the promo code or even spelling it out may seem like overkill, but it is helpful for listeners and will make a difference in the ad’s performance.

Here are few other best practices for the call-to-action:

  • Double check the direct response URL or promo code is valid 
  • Make your promo code is unique and keep it consistent across all advertisers
  • List promo codes and links you mention in your show notes
  • Keep a running list of all active promo codes on your website 
  • Share promo codes on your social channels 

If you aren’t quite ready to advertise on your podcast or you want to add other monetization strategies to the mix, RedCircle can also help you make money with donations and subscriptions to exclusive content

Just starting out advertising? Check out our Podcaster’s Guide to Advertising for everything you need to know about selling ads on your podcast. 


Introducing Dynamic Insertion

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Starting today, you can insert any audio clip into your content on demand using RedCircle’s new Dynamic Insertion technology. When your listeners download or stream your episode, RedCircle will stitch together a unique version of your episode on the fly. Like our other features, every RedCircle creator can access this technology for free.

How to use Dynamic Insertion 

Dynamic Insertion gives you more control over your listener’s experience and the flexibility to easily swap out timely content. Whether you advertise on your podcast or not, there are many ways that technology can be useful. For example, you can use Dynamic Insertion to: 

Dynamically insert ads

Instead of “baking in” your ads, you can record your spot ahead of time and choose exactly where it gets inserted in your episode, as well as insert the same ad across multiple episodes. Once the ad expires, you can remove it and open up that advertising space for another buyer and continue to earn ad revenue on your back catalog. This also ensures listeners are served relevant ads and current offers when they download an old episode. You can even A/B test two different versions of an ad using Dynamic Insertion to help improve your ad performance. 

Move around Cross-Promotion campaigns 

If you’re currently running RedCircle Cross Promotions, they are inserted pre-roll by default. But now, with Dynamic Insertion you can specify exactly where you’d like your cross promotions to play within your content. 

Run your own promotions

Dynamic Insertion makes it easy to run your own promotions across your entire show. Do you accept donations or sell subscriptions? Record a promotion reminding listeners to donate or subscribe to the show and easily drop it into your most recent episodes. Or run a promotion that you can reuse every episode encouraging listeners to review the show or follow you on social media. When a promotion is no longer relevant, you’re able to quickly swap it out for an updated version, or just remove it entirely. 

Drop in repeatable content 

You likely have elements of your podcast that remain the same episode to episode, such as intro music, fallback audio for empty ad spots, or your outro credits. With Dynamic Insertion, you can insert the same audio clip across multiple episodes and if needed, you can easily update the clip later and change the audio file across all those episodes at the same time. 

Learn more about how to use Dynamic Insertion for your podcast, here.  

Get started using RedCircle’s Dynamic Insertion

To get started, you’ll first need to create an audio block. An audio block is a collection of audio clips (i.e. a host-read ad, a cross promotion, a self promotion, etc.) with rules about how they get played. Once you’ve named your new audio block, you can upload new audio files or select an existing cross promotion from the drop down. 

To change the order of audio files within an audio block, simply drag and drop the files. Next, select the play style: do you want the files to be played randomly or in order? Finally, you can limit the number of audio files that are played when the audio block is inserted using the “play up to” field. For example, if you are running two ads, but you only want to play one ad at a time you can limit the insertions to only play up to one clip and select random ordering. You can learn more about how audio blocks work here.

Once you’ve created an audio block, you’ll need to add some insertion points which mark the exact point where the audio block gets inserted into the episode. First, choose an episode to add or edit your insertion points.

You click directly on the waveform to add a new insertion point marker, then zoom in and pan around the audio to adjust it as needed. Or just manually enter in a time stamp. You can add multiple insertion points using our editor to any point in your episode — pre-roll, mid-roll or post-roll. Find more info on how to configure Insertion Points here

Once you’ve added your insertion points, you can assign audio blocks to multiple insertion points across any number of episodes.

From the ‘Insertion Points’ page, you can see at a glance which episodes have insertion points and quickly swap audio blocks in or out.

Dynamic Insertion opens up a world of exciting possibilities for independent creators to operate their podcast with the same technology as the big networks. Here’s a few of the benefits of using dynamic insertion: 

  • Keep your podcast’s back catalog fresh and relevant 
  • Streamlining your workflow and save you time 
  • Open opportunities with new brands and advertisers
  • Gain control of your listener’s experience 

We can’t wait to hear how you use Dynamic Insertion in your podcast!

Podcasting Tips

The Podcaster’s Guide to Advertising

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Like any other form of media today, there are two main approaches to podcast monetization: a consumer-supported approach or an ad-supported approach. Better yet, you can combine the two strategies and leave the choice to your listeners. Hulu is a great example of this—you have the option of paying to watch their content ad free, or you can watch the ads and enjoy the content for free. 

Podcast ads are here to stay

As podcasting has evolved and become mainstream, donation and subscription models have proven to be effective ways to monetize. But one thing is certain: the ad-supported approach isn’t going anywhere. Advertising is the most popular way to monetize podcasts for a few reasons….

Advertising is typically the most lucrative monetization method for large podcasters and represents the largest chunk of many of these creator’s revenue. Ads also keeps your podcast free for listeners and provides everyone access to your content. Making your podcast widely accessible is key to retaining and growing your audience.

Advertisers want in on podcasting 

There’s also more money than ever before being poured into podcasting advertising. Which is great news for podcasters. In the past five years, advertisers have come to realize just how relevant and effective podcast advertising is. NPR’s podcast revenues will overtake broadcasting for the first time next year and according to IAB, podcast advertising revenue overall is expected to exceed $1 billion by 2021. 

It’s clear why podcasting has become such an attractive channel for advertisers. One third of Americans, about 90 million people have listened to a podcast in the past month (Edison Research) and 75% of podcast listeners not only pay attention to podcast ads (adweek), they also follow the calls to actions. 

The ins & outs of podcast advertising

All that said, advertising is more complicated than other monetization methods. You first need to find an advertiser that’s a good fit (or they may find you), then agree on the length and terms of the campaign, and once the deal is in place, you’ve got to read an ad that performs well so you can rinse and repeat. If you are just getting started advertising, it can be challenging to know where to start. 

What are the different types of ads? 

The majority of podcast ads are Programmatic ads or Direct Response ads. There are a few major differences between the two. 

Programmatic ads are similar to traditional radio ads. They’re pre-recorded ads that are supplied by an agency or network in bulk to automatically fill designated open ad inventory on your show.

This offers a low-effort way to make some ad revenue or sell unused inventory, though the CPM rate is modest in comparison to direct response ads. The main drawback is that you lose the creative control over what ads are running on your show, although there is a lot of new technology that’s improving the targeting of automated ads.

Direct Response ads that are host read are the most common type of podcast ad (IAB). This type of ad is read by the podcast host and tracked by the advertiser using a call to action, which is a unique code or vanity URL that gives some sort of exclusive offer to listeners.

Advertisers prefer host-read ad spots because they outperform programmatic ads. The fact that the ad is read directly to a highly engaged audience by a voice they trust is the reason advertisers have fully bought into podcast advertising. It’s powerful. It’s also the least disruptive and most organic way to advertise on your podcast. Which means your listeners prefer host-read ads, especially when you have fun with it and make the ad feel a part of your show. 

How are ads inserted? 

There are two ways to get ads inserted into your episode:

Baked in ads are a part of your actual podcast and are either read live by the host or directly edited into the episode. Baked in ads will always live within the content and everyone that downloads that episode will always hear the same ad. 

Dynamically inserted ads are served to the listener at the time the ad is requested, which means that people may hear different ads when they download the episode.

The industry is increasingly moving towards dynamic insertion, but the advertiser may have a preference. Baked-in ads live in your episode forever so when listeners download an old episode, they may come across stale ads that are promoting expired offers. Dynamic ad-serving technology enables you to seamlessly switch out ads into old episodes, which allows you to potentially resell ad spots and keep your catalog fresh for listeners. 

This technology isn’t limited to ads, you can also use it to insert your own timely promotions into your show. For example, you could promote an upcoming live show or remind people to support the show by donating or reviewing the show on iTunes. 

RedCircle’s Dynamic Insertion technology makes it easy to insert any audio clip into your content on demand. When listeners download or stream an episode, RedCircle stitches together a unique version of your episode on the fly.

How do advertisers select shows? 

The advertiser’s goal is to make the biggest impact with the budget they have to spend and what inventory is available to them. While a podcast’s audience size is a factor when advertisers are deciding what shows they want to advertise with, it’s not the only consideration. What’s more important for advertisers is the content and finding shows with audience demographics that align with their current or target customers. 

When looking for shows to advertise on, Brooklinen told NYT that “they tend to make “efficient” plays for smaller, but more committed, audiences. ‘It doesn’t really matter what genre their podcast is in. Whatever they buy, their listeners will buy, for the most part.’”

It’s difficult to get perfect demographic data for podcasts, especially if you are an independent creator. The best way to learn more about your listeners is through audience surveys using tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey. Surveys are helpful for both you and potential advertisers to decide what kinds of brands and products will resonate with your listeners.

How do advertisers buy podcast ads & what’s a CPM rate?

Advertisers pay podcasters a CPM rate or the cost per 1,000 listeners. For a direct response ad, the average CPM rate starts around $25 for a 60 second spot. Programmatic ads pay much lower CPM rates and average just a few dollars. Once you’ve ran a few successful campaigns with advertisers, you can start to raise your CPM rate incrementally and gain the leverage to negotiate higher CPM rates with future advertisers. 

How do advertisers measure audience size? 

Advertisers base the size of your audience on the number of unique downloads per episode. This can be challenging for podcasters to calculate because your downloads may fluctuate episode to episode. Plus, you are having to make an assumption about the number of downloads you’ll be receiving in the future. So what’s the best way to accurately calculate your downloads? 

President of Sonic Influence Marketing, Jenni Skaug tells us when SonicIM buys ads on a per episode basis, they “expect podcasts to provide the average number of downloads they’ve received over a 4-week period on episodes that have been live for at least 30 days.”

It’s important to be as accurate as possible when reporting your downloads to advertisers. If your reported downloads fall short, the advertiser may require you to do a redo at no cost. If your downloads are much higher than reported, you will not be paid more for those additional downloads. RedCircle helps you avoid this pitfall by only providing the most accurate data for your podcast.

How do advertisers measure ad performance? 

How well your ad performs determines whether an advertiser opts to renew your show and could potentially affect future opportunities with other advertisers. 

Since direct response ads always end in a call to action, advertisers track how many of your listeners that heard the ad and completed the action, which is typically making a purchase. Advertisers will also often make the assumption that some percentage of new customers come from the podcast ad indirectly. For example, if there’s an increase of new organic users over the same period that a podcast ad campaign ran, advertisers will assume this was an indirect result of the ad. 

→ Want to improve the performance of your podcast ads? Check out our tips from industry experts for recording podcast ads that not only perform well for the advertiser, but also resonates with your listeners.

More ways to monetize

When executed the right way, podcast advertising can be a win all around— for the podcaster, the advertiser, and the listeners. RedCircle helps podcasters that are ready to advertise by getting their show in front of potential advertisers. That doesn’t mean advertising is easy, there’s a lot of time and energy that goes into finding, planning, and executing an ad campaign.

If you aren’t ready to advertise yet, RedCircle offers other great ways to make money podcasting. You can ask your listeners to support your show by making a monthly donation, or set up a paid subscription that paywalls access to exclusive content, whether that’s ad-free listening, bonus episodes, exclusive interviews, or full access to your back catalog.

However you choose to monetize your podcast, RedCircle’s monetization tools and dynamic insertion technology will support your show and revenue goals, whether your podcast is well-established or only just emerging.

Be Heard

Podcasting Tips

How to Monetize Your Podcast

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There are many reasons to start a podcast: to share a story, share your expertise, share knowledge, share your hobby or passion. Podcasting is an incredible medium that empowers you to share your voice with the world and entertain, inspire, motivate, and educate listeners around the world. 

For many creators, podcasting can also turn into a full-time job doing what they love. It’s important to value your creative work and all the time and expense that goes into making a successful podcast. Your podcast is your creative outlet, but you shouldn’t shy away from the opportunity to make money.

Most podcasters want to monetize their show at some point. Which brings us to the question — How do I make money podcasting? Before we get to the different monetization strategies, first make sure you’re ready to start monetizing. 

When is the right time to start monetizing my podcast? 

If you are new to podcasting, don’t expect to start making money right away. It takes a lot of hard work and some time before you can start monetizing your podcast.

Establishing a trusting relationship and engaging your audience is key to successfully monetizing your podcast. Which is why it’s crucial to prioritize producing quality content and growing your audience. 

What’s the best way to grow your audience? We recommend you team up with a complementary podcast and cross promote each other’s shows. Over 75% of listeners discover new podcasts from cross promotion on another podcast. Cross promotion is arguably the most effective ways to grow your podcast audience and with RedCircle’s Cross Promotion Marketplace, it’s easy to execute a campaign (and completely free). 

How many downloads do you need to start monetizing? There’s no magic number of downloads, it’s about choosing a monetization strategy that fits your unique audience and goals. Are you trying to cover your costs? Or are you trying to turn your podcast into a full time business? 

Strategies to monetize your podcast

 As your podcast grows and evolves, you’ll be able to adapt your strategy and increase your earnings. Whether your downloads are in the 100s or 100,000s, there’s a path for you to directly monetize your podcast and start earning revenue. 

Ask listeners to support you with donations 

Take a page out of the playbook of an institution like NPR and ask your listeners to support your podcast. Accepting donations is great monetization approach if you’ve built a small, but dedicated group of listeners. You can start accepting donations from your listeners from the very beginning without having to produce any extra content, making it the easiest way to get started monetizing your podcast. 

Donations are also the simplest way to monetize from an operations standpoint. RedCircle’s Donation feature is a great alternative to Patreon. It  only takes a few clicks to set up and then listeners can easily sign up for a monthly donation or give a one-time donation using Apple Pay or Google Pay. 

Some creators feel uncomfortable asking their audience for money or worry that it will damage their relationship with fans. Don’t shy away from asking your listeners to support you. As long as you’ve built a foundation of trust, you’ll find that listeners will happily donate a few bucks a month because they value your content and want to hear more. 

How much money can you make with donations? 

Depending on the size of your audience, donations can generate a nice income each month. To estimate how much you could make with donations, consider the percentage of listeners you think will donate. 

Podcasts with niche topics are more likely to have listeners that are very engaged and it’s likely they’ll have a higher percentage of listeners donate. If you have an audience of about 2000 and 10% of those listeners donated $5 you’d generate $1000. If the same listeners subscribed to a monthly donation, you’d have $1000 of recurring revenue each month.

Sell sponsorships and ads 

When you think of podcast monetization, sponsorships and ads are probably the first things that come to mind. There’s a lot of ad revenue up for grabs right now. Over the last 5 years brands have realized the effectiveness of podcast advertising. NPR’s podcast ad revenue just overtook broadcasting for the first time ever. And podcast advertising spend is only continuing to grow, by 2021 it’s projected to be over $1 billion

If you have the audience to support it, advertising is often the most lucrative way to monetize your podcast. Finding sponsorship deals can be challenging when you first start to advertise. Large advertisers often require a big audience, while small-to-medium sized businesses will be more likely to work with you directly.

When searching for advertisers, it’s best to find those that resonate with your content and audience and have marketing budgets that align with your audience size. RedCircle has a broad network of advertisers and agencies that can quickly and easily get you in front of brands to monetize with.

How many downloads do I need to attract advertisers? 

Advertisers pay podcasters a CPM rate or cost per 1,000 listeners for direct response ads (that’s when the host reads the ad copy). An average CPM for a 60 second spot is around $25. The more listeners you have, the more ad revenue you can earn. It’s also important to note that your audience may be worth more or less depending who the advertiser is and what they’re willing to spend to acquire a customer.

You don’t need 20,000+ downloads an episode to start advertising on your podcast. We’ve helped shows with a couple thousand downloads find advertisers, but the more of an audience you develop the more consistent you can become securing advertisers. Many podcasters also bring in additional revenue by featuring 2-3 brands each episode, which can add up quickly. 

Sell subscriptions to exclusive content 

There are now a few podcasters that have turned away from advertising in favor of a subscription-based model. Although we wouldn’t recommend throwing out the ads entirely, offering your listeners the option to subscribe to exclusive content is a great way to engage your most dedicated listeners and generate recurring revenue. 

With RedCircle, you can offer your listeners a monthly subscription for access exclusive content. It’s up to you what content goes behind the paywall, whether it’s specific episodes or your entire library. The paid subscription could give listeners early access to content, ad-free listening, bonus episodes, exclusive interviews, or full access to your back catalog. 

As with donations, exclusive content doesn’t work without first earning your listeners trust. it’s important you’ve proved the value of your free content before offering any paid options. You don’t need thousands of downloads to monetize with exclusive content. Let’s say you have 500 downloads an episode, but 200 of those listeners are super fans and are willing to subscribe to your show for $10 a month, you’d earn $2,000 dollars a month in recurring revenue. 

Distribute your podcast to YouTube 

YouTube’s massive audience and built-in search engine make it a great channel to distribute and monetize your podcast. Building a Youtube channel for your podcast allows you to further monetize your content beyond traditional audio distribution channels and gives you a new way to find and engage with listeners. 

RedCircle’s YouTube Integration converts your audio file into a video with your show’s cover art and a dynamic soundwave, then automatically distributes it to YouTube. Even if you don’t have a large YouTube presence, more and more users are turning to YouTube to find and listen to podcasts. YouTube may not be the most lucrative channel to begin with, but it can be a great tool to find new listeners. Of course the more listeners and distribution you have, the easier it is to make money from your podcast. 

A hybrid approach to podcast monetization

There are many other creative ways to monetize your podcast, both directly and indirectly that you should consider adding to the mix. You could sell merchandise, sell tickets to a live event, sell your own services or products, and the list could go on. 

There is no one right way to monetize your podcast. The question is what strategy, or combination of strategies is the best fit for your podcast and audience right now. As your podcast evolves and grows, you’ll be able to experiment with different strategies and find what’s right for you and your audience. RedCircle is here to support you through the journey.

Sign up for RedCircle to start making money podcasting


Build Subscription Revenue with Donations and Exclusive Content

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We don’t have to tell you how much hard work goes into producing each and every episode. Whether you set out to make money in podcasting or it’s your passion project (or both!), having cash flow is key to sustaining your show long term. It can take a significant amount of time and energy to build your audience to a size where advertising is a viable option. 

Donations and subscriptions are a great way to generate revenue starting from a dedicated group of initial followers at the earliest stages of your show’s development. Already advertising? Add exclusive content to reward your most dedicated followers and diversify your revenue streams.

Build subscription revenue for your podcast

At RedCircle, we realize that a one-size-fits-all approach to monetization doesn’t work, which is why we built tools that give creators multiple ways to make money with their podcast that align with their goals.

We created powerful monetization features to provide every podcaster, big or small, the opportunity to generate recurring revenue directly from their audience through donations and exclusive content.

Introducing Exclusive Content 

RedCircle’s latest monetization tool helps generate subscription revenue for your podcast by placing some, or all of your content behind a paywall. Your listeners have the option to pay a monthly subscription fee for access to exclusive content. It’s up to you what content is designated exclusive, whether it’s specific episodes, additional bonus content, your back catalog, or your entire show. 

You choose the amount your users will be charged monthly and create a description that tells listeners what the exclusive content will be and why they should subscribe. Once you’ve enabled exclusive content, RedCircle automatically adds a link to your show descriptions to make it easy for listeners to access your exclusive content.

Monthly Donations

We released our one-time donations feature earlier this year, which lets your listeners directly support your podcast by donating an amount of their choice. Today, we’re excited to share that we’ve added monthly donations.

Now, your listeners can choose to make a one-time donation, OR make a long-term commitment by subscribing to monthly donations. Splurge on that new microphone or book some studio time. With donations, it’s easy for your listeners to support you. They can subscribe to a monthly donation to show their ongoing support of your content. 

Donations will automatically be enabled when you connect your bank account to RedCircle and set up your Stripe account. A donation link will appear in your show’s description or notes, as well as on your podcast’s public RedCircle page. As always, you are in control and can choose to turn the donation feature on or off at any time through the donations tab.

Transfer revenue directly to your bank account

We pride ourselves in being a champion of creators, so you can be sure you’ll keep the majority of the revenue you earn using RedCircle. We’ll also always be transparent with you about how we make money. 

Here’s how it works. When you use RedCircle’s monetization tools to generate revenue, we do take a small share. We take an industry leading 4.5% share on donation revenue and 12% share for exclusive content—some of the lowest rates you can find in the industry. 

You can track and manage your Donation and Exclusive Content revenue using RedCircle’s Money page. Our partnership with Stripe makes it super easy to process payments and transfer funds to your bank account quickly and securely at any time. 

Get started making money with RedCircle 

Subscriptions and Donations are powerful methods for building deeper relationships with your listeners. Here’s a few key benefits of directly monetizing your podcast: 

  • Generate additional recurring revenue streams 
  • Build a direct relationship with your listeners 
  • Gain the flexibility to adapt and test monetization strategies as you grow

Every podcast and audience is unique and both continue to evolve and grow over time. The best part about using a direct monetization strategy—it’s effective for podcasters of all kinds, at every stage. 

We set out to build a product that streamlines monetization for all podcasters and we’re excited to see how Donations and Exclusive Content help you reach your goals.

Sign up for RedCircle and get started monetizing today!
Podcasting Tips

Read This Before Choosing Your Podcast Host: 6 Features That Will Help You Reach Your Goals

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If you google some variation of “what is the best podcast host”, you’ll find an overwhelming number of options and a lot of contradicting opinions out there. 

Whether you are a first-time podcaster researching which host you should use to launch your new show, or you’re looking to find a better podcast host for your established show, deciding which option is actually the best host is a difficult task in this crowded marketplace.  

What’s a podcast host?

A podcast host is a place in the cloud for your podcast to live. It uploads and stores your audio files and then generates an RSS feed that enables you to distribute your podcast across all the major apps like Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts where people can access and listen to your show.

When your listeners download your show, your hosting service sends the audio file and all the metadata (e.g. your show title, description, etc) about your content directly to the app they’re listening from. Voila, your podcast is out there for people to listen to and enjoy. 

In order to distribute your podcast to all the apps and directories where people listen, you must first host your podcast somewhere. That said, hosting and distribution are the bare minimum any podcast technology platform should provide. 

A great podcast platform will….

What features actually matter in a podcast platform? A great podcast platform will offer you much more than a hosting service. It will support you as you grow your podcast and help your reach your goals, whether that’s growing your audience, directly monetizing your content, or finding advertiser partners. It’s easy to get distracted by features that are nice to have like a mobile app or audio editing tools, but make no real impact when it comes to achieving your bigger goals. Think of the big picture by asking yourself if a platform will do the following: 

1. Make your life easier

As a creator, any technology you rely on should make your work less complex and time consuming. After all, you want to maximize the time you spend on creative endeavors, like creating and producing new content. A few things to look out for… 

  • Switching or signing up for a new host should be dead simple and you shouldn’t have to jump through any unnecessary hoops to redirect your feed. 
  • The platform should be intuitive enough for a new user to navigate right away, yet sophisticated enough to provide value to a seasoned pro. 
  • Running all aspects of your podcast business from one place should be an option. That includes: content management & hosting, distribution, analytics, monetization, advertising, and growth.

2. Provide free & unlimited hosting

It doesn’t matter if you have 100,000+ listeners or you’re just launching your first episode and your mom is the only listener…. there’s no good reason to pay to host your podcast. 

You’ll find people on Reddit and other podcasting blogs telling you to beware of free podcast hosts because there’s always a catch. Some people will tell you the catch is that you, the creator, are the product and you’ll be forced to insert ads into your show. Others think that if hosting is free then the company won’t be around for long because they don’t have a means of making money. Or, they’ll warn that you’ll “get what you pay for” because any free host must be providing an inferior product. 

These are generalizations by no means apply to all free podcast hosts. At RedCircle, we strongly believe that all hosting should be free. We recently wrote an entire blog that digs into the reason we’re able to make RedCircle free and our business model.

4. Help grow your audience

Continuing to build listenership can prove challenging for podcasts at every stage. A podcast platform that offers tools to help you grow has obvious advantages.

Cross promotion is an incredibly effective tactic for acquiring new podcast listeners. Many popular podcasts use this strategy, partnering with like-minded hosts to promote each other’s podcasts, whether it’s in the form of a recommendation to their listeners or swapping entire episodes. 

These campaigns can be complicated and time-consuming for podcasters that aren’t part of a network to pull off, which is why RedCircle’s cross promotion marketplace is unique. It makes it easy and free to pair up with a similar podcast on RedCircle and create cross promotional ads that are automatically inserted between shows.

 Depending on the size of the audiences and the duration of the campaign, RedCircle podcasters have used cross promotion to generate thousands of new listeners. There’s more about how RedCircle’s cross promotions work here

5. Help you make money

With all the time and energy that goes into creating content and building an audience, most creators want to generate revenue from their podcast. Your monetization strategy will likely evolve as your podcast and audience grows, so it’s important for a podcast platform to provide flexibility and multiple options to monetize your podcast. 

With RedCircle, you can accept donations directly from listeners that want to support your show or paywall exclusive content that listeners can access by paying to subscribe. When shows grow big enough that advertising makes sense, RedCircle will get them in front of potential advertisers. 

6. Provide total ownership of your show and content

Before you switch to a new podcast platform, make sure you’ll have 100% ownership of your content and your points of distribution. Platforms that automatically distribute to Apple Podcasts or Spotify for you end up owning those points of distribution and can make changing to a different host a total nightmare. 

To ensure that you’re the owner of all your distribution points, RedCircle guides you through setting up distribution on your own. You’re in full control of how you manage monetization for your show. RedCircle will never insert unapproved ads into your show and won’t make you sign any exclusive deals.

The right podcast platform for you…

We realize we are biased, but we truly believe these are all the core aspects of a great podcast platform and we built RedCircle to check all these boxes.

Returning to the initial question, what is the best podcast host? There’s no one “best platform”, ultimately the right platform for you depends on what you are trying to achieve. It’s about finding a service that aligns with you and your goals. As you evaluate your options, focus on the core features of a podcast platform that provide value and will make a direct impact on your business.

If you’re serious about growing your audience and earning money from your creative work, we believe RedCircle is the best choice out there. Partner with a fast-growing innovative platform – sign up for RedCircle!


Distributing Your Podcast to YouTube? Why You Should Be & How RedCircle’s Integration Makes It Easy

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Being where listeners live is fundamental to growing your podcast. It’s likely you are already distributing your podcast to all the usual suspects… Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, etc… Then there’s YouTube — which may not be as obvious, but is extremely relevant.  

When you think YouTube, video is usually the first thing to come to mind. Yet, as it has become people’s go-to source for all entertainment, more and more of its users are listening to content, not watching. Which has led to YouTube to becoming a dominant destination for podcast listening.

If you aren’t already distributing your podcast to YouTube, there are quite a few good reasons you should be. 

The benefits of distributing your podcast to YouTube

YouTube has always been an incredibly successful platform for creators to build and scale their audience. Now, podcasters have started to realize the potential of YouTube’s massive audience and recommendation algorithm to build new audiences. 

By distributing to YouTube, podcasters have the opportunity to gain listeners they would miss out on with traditional podcasting apps. In fact, many first-time podcast listeners are discovering podcasts on YouTube and Facebook Live.

Tapping into an audience size that’s far larger in comparison to any podcasting apps isn’t the only benefit for podcasters. YouTube’s recommendation algorithm is also a powerful tool for discovery. Because YouTube automatically recommends content based on subjects you’re  interested in, podcasters can reach listeners that may have never been exposed to their content on other channels. 

There’s also the benefit of being able to create additional ad revenue with YouTube. Depending on the size of your library and the number of subscribers on your YouTube channel, podcasters could bring in significant monthly revenue just from YouTube. This is especially lucrative for influencers starting a podcast that already have built a sizable following on YouTube. 

Today’s audiences want to have a personal connection to the creators and the content they consume. Unlike podcasting apps, YouTube is also a great platform for building community and being a part of a conversation that deepens your relationship with listeners and provides you with valuable feedback on your content.  

RedCircle’s YouTube integration 

The best news is distributing your podcast to YouTube doesn’t require any additional work. If your podcast is large enough, RedCircle will automatically convert your audio file to video and distribute it to your YouTube channel! 

Publish your podcast to YouTube with RedCircle.

Once you sign into your YouTube account on RedCircle, whenever you publish an episode you can check the box to convert your podcast file into a video file and publish it on your YouTube Channel with your show’s cover art and a dynamic soundwave. This feature, like the rest of the platform is completely free to use.  If your show is smaller (but growing!), RedCircle will still generate a video file for you; all you have to do is login to YouTube and upload it in!

It’s up to you how you choose to publish your show on YouTube. You can publish full episodes so that people can listen directly on the platform. Or, consider creating short shareable clips to draw listeners in and drive them to listen on other platforms. 

Join other creators finding new listeners on YouTube and #BeHeard