When I sit down with podcast clients at Tink Media for our initial kick-off call, they often think I’m going to want to talk about how to spend money. It’s okay if you don’t have money — I believe there are probably tons of untapped things you can do to promote your podcast for free. For example, finding partners to work with, growing your show with promo swaps, and trying out feed swaps. But those things take time. Plus, launching something new often means you don’t have a lot to work with when it comes to partnerships, since you don’t have any downloads yet!
So for some campaigns, money is a great way to kick things into gear. There are right and wrong ways to spend anywhere from $50 to $50,000. Here are some of those ways.
The wrong way to spend ad dollars
My biggest tip about spending money on podcast promotion is about where not to spend it: that’s on social media. Social media is good for the audience you already have, not the audience you want. Twitter in particular can be an echo chamber. Your content gets shown to people who already follow you.Your friends like you but might not listen to your show. And they likely already know about your show. People on social platforms don’t like to leave their platforms to subscribe to a podcast. And Twitter ads in general are not that effective. Spending money on an ad for your podcast on social media is like throwing your money away.
A few more things to keep in mind:
- Don’t spend until your podcast is top notch and something you’re super proud of.
- Spend once you’ve considered your entire budget. Don’t just start spending all willy-nilly.
- Don’t waste money on anything that isn’t perfectly aligned with your ideal audience. A perfect match has the highest value, no matter the reach.
Now let’s talk about where you should spend money.
The right ways to spend ad dollars
Paid in-app placements on listening apps
It’s easier to advertise to people who are already listening to podcasts. (It’s very hard to convert someone who doesn't.) Podcast listeners spend time in the podcast apps. So if you can pay for space there, you’re connecting with people actively looking for something new to subscribe to. You’re also hitting people in a listening mindset. They might be in search of exactly what you’ve got!
To figure out which app to focus on, look at your analytics and see where your listeners are coming from. Maybe you want to hit an app where you’re already doing well, or maybe you want to grab people on an app that hasn’t truly discovered you yet. There is no wrong answer!
This is a free podcast app that’s great for discoverability. They put recommended playlists all over the place: a curated top banner, a staff favorites section, a top shows area, etc. Castbox has over 2 million users in North America and Europe.
- A rotating banner ad on the homepage and podcast will be shown to users onboarding the app. Ads are sold based on subscriber uplift. Price: About $2,100.
This is another free podcast app, but this one is iOS only. It’s best known for visual ads and allowing users to share clips to social media. It features shows in a “suggestion for you” section, recommendations section, and genre suggestions section.
- Ads appear at the top of each category and are marked as "ad." Ads are sold based on impressions. Price: Ranges from $170–$1,375.
Another free podcast app that’s available on both iOS and Android, this one is also great for discoverability. It features shows in network highlights, guest-curated lists, and a featured top banner.
- Ads are marked as "sponsored," and located below the fold. Ads are sold based on impressions. Price: One week placement from $1,700.
This isn’t a listening app, but it’s still a powerful way to get your podcast into people’s ears. mowPod is the largest driver of engaged listeners to many of the most prominent podcasts in the US. It places a visual podcast player on websites related to your content. Visitors just click play — if they listen for more than a minute, it registers as a download. mowPod has certain programs within their ecosystem that guarantee stickiness.
- Price: A few thousand dollars. Click to schedule a demo.
Classifieds in podcast newsletters
This is my favorite way to spend money. It’s pretty affordable (rates range from around $30–$200 per newsletter), so if your budget is small, it’s a great place to start. People who are subscribed to podcast newsletters read them because they want to find new things to listen to.
Check out the list of podcast newsletters below. (You should be subscribed to them, anyway.) Email them (or hit reply on their most recent issue) and ask to see their rate card. If they don’t have one on hand, they’ll probably come up with one lickity split!
If the price is too high or they don’t have space, see if there are any other ways they can include you. Maybe instead of a full ad, it’s a short mention or a link.
Or get creative by offering them content. Podcast newsletter writers are always in need of content (I know because I’m one of them). You might be able to get the price knocked down if you can think of something valuable to write for them that could also drive people to your show. Bonus: you’ll be supporting the industry you’re now a part of!
- Earbuds Podcast Collective
- Inside Podcasting
- Pod the North
- Podcast Bestie
- Podcast the Newsletter
- Podcast Brunch Club
- Shreya’s Audio Affairs
Quick note: all of the newsletters mentioned here also welcome pitches for podcasts, and those are free. Try sending them a pitch before you spend on ads.
Podcast ad marketplaces
Advertising marketplaces within the podcast industry allow creating targeted campaigns to advertise your show across the platform’s audience network. These include:
Keep a close eye on The Podscape, which keeps tabs on updates in ad-serving technology.
Find podcasts that have good overlap with yours and approach them to place a 30- or 60-second promo on their show. Remember to ask the number of downloads each episode gets. A magic number for advertising impact seems to be 10,000 downloads per episode, but a show with a perfect audience match could have great results, even if the audience is very small. Give a show with perfect audience overlap extra points.
With all of these spends, don’t forget to ask how your promo has performed once the campaign is over. Compare results. Did you see a bump? If something works, do it again.
Last on the list, and maybe the least, would be Google Search Ads. You can create a Search Campaign to target listeners searching specific keywords in Google. This might require talking to an expert or taking a course. For a more niche podcast, targeting on Google can be tricky, so you want to make sure you’re spending your money smartly.
If you have a little bit of money — not quite enough for an ad, but bit enough to be burning a hole in your pocket — consider:
- Paying yourself or someone on your team
- Setting up a podcast newsletter
- Making and sending homemade thank you gifts to your most dedicated listeners. (Going on vacation? Ask for their mailing addresses and send them postcards! I think this can make a loyal listener even more loyal.)
- Saving it for a rainy day
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