Buzzsprout aims to change the growth and monetization question with a new product they've just released called Buzzsprout Ads. And interestingly enough, they're tackling both of those challenges—growth and monetization—with the same solution.
Buzzsprout is the Branded Benefit Sponsor of this week's episode. And I recently sat down with Alban Brooke, Head of Marketing at Buzzsprout (and a good friend of mine) and I asked him what it is about Buzzsprout Ads that makes podcasting better?
Alban Brooke: The things podcasters always want to know about are 1) how do I actually grow my show and 2) how do I monetize my show? Over the last few years, we at Buzzsprout have been looking at solving these problems at scale for indie podcasters. Our solution is Buzzsprout Ads.
Buzzsprout Ads is the easiest way to grow podcasts by running podcast promotions. Any podcaster can quickly set up a promo, and our system will drop that promo into episodes of many of the 115,000 podcasts hosted with Buzzsprout.
For podcasters looking to get massive reach with promos for their podcast, Buzzsprout Ads is a great way grow your show. On the flip side, it's a great way for Buzzsprout podcasters to start monetizing their podcast.
Evo Terra: Interesting that Buzzsprout combines the solution of those two wants—growth and monetization—with the same product, Buzzsprout Ads. How does it work?
AB: Podcasters who want to promote their shows go to buzzsprout.com/ads and sign up for an advertiser account. We collect a little bit of information—title, description, and the audio file of an up to a forty-second promo. They then place an order based on how many promos they want people to listen to, And then we match those promos with podcasts similar to the promoting show.
We know podcast promos are most effective when the shows are similar, so we find shows with the same podcast categories and then reach out to them with the offer. Once the podcaster agrees that the promo is a good match, that promo starts dropping into all their episodes—not just the most recent!
We think it's important there are no surprises. Recently a hiccup caused Spotify to drop a bunch of Wild Turkey ads into random podcasts. Weirdly, that happened on the day that we started the beta for Buzzsprout Ads. That solidified how we feeld about podcaster safety: it's very important for podcasters to opt-in to the ads that they want to be on their shows. That's an integral piece of Buzzsprout Ads.
ET: Once the ad is accepted, how much work does it take for the Buzzsprout-hosted podcaster have those ads start running across all the episodes of their podcast? Do they need mark pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll positions across dozens or hundreds of episodes?
AB: We do all that for them. It's almost no work on the podcaster's side. We know that mid-rolls are by far the best ad spots for podcasts, so all promos from Buzzsprout Ads run in mid-roll slots.
The problem for many indie podcasters that don't get tens of thousands of downloads every month is the pain of going back through 50 episodes, adding the mid-roll locations, and then not being "big enough" to attract sponsors. So... why do the work?
That's why we're doing it for them, automatically finding the very best spots for mid-rolls for each episode, with the ability to be adjusted by the podcaster if they so choose. So our system goes through every episode and automatically finds the right mid-roll position. When the podcaster accepts ads, we stitch them into the episode files automatically.
ET: That covers how the podcasters on Buzzsprout get paid—by other podcasters using Buzzsprout Ads to promote their shows. Will you open Buzzsprout Ads up to advertisers who just want to run ads for products and services?
AB: Right now, we're focused on solving this problem of podcast promos. It's really hard for podcasters to try to strike deals with other podcasters through Twitter threads as they attempt to pair up with another podcast to find a fair and equitable trade. They're putting in so much work for sometimes a promo spot that only nets maybe 200 downloads.
With Buzzsprout ads, you can get 200 downloads on Buzzsprout for something like $4.
ET: Oh, wow.
AB: We're making this much easier for podcasters on both sides of the equation. But we're just getting started. I'm sure there are thousands of ways we can make this even better. One of them would probably be opening it up to more types of advertisers. But right now it's a hundred percent focused on podcast promotions.
ET: And what CPM rate are you buying and selling?
AB: the CPM—how much you pay for a thousand impressions—is set at $20. 70% of that goes directly to the podcaster. Buzzsprout keeps 30% to run the marketplace. But 70% of the CPM we charge the promoter goes directly to the podcaster who owns the show where the ads run.
ET: And that's in line with what industry standards, only without a bunch of middlemen taking percentages along the way. Nice.
Speaking of the industry, what is it about Buzzsprout Ads that is better than what the competition is offering?
AB: Let's look at both pieces. On the monetization side—for people who host shows on Buzzsprout and now want to monetize their podcasts with Buzzsprout Ads—it's a completely transparent process. You see how much we are charging the advertisers, and you're also seeing how much comes to you. By the way, we make those payments quickly, so you're not waiting for months sometimes to get your money.
Also, we do all the heavy lifting to mark all of those mid-roll spots for you so you can monetize your back catalog without any additional work. And we're making sure that any ads are brand-safe. It's not appropriate for a children's podcast to have alcohol ads in them...
ET: Or even to have a true crime podcast promo dropped into a kid's show, right?
AB: Right. And we're doing smart things like we're normalizing all the audio so that inserted ads don't come in at like 3x the volume of the rest of the episode's content. We making sure to normalize everything so it sounds really good. We're trying to improve the experience for people monetizing podcasts by solving each of those problems individually.
Then, when we go over onto the promos side, the main thing that we're doing differently is making it very easy for people who want to experiment with podcast promotions. All you need to do is signup your podcast, create a forty-second promo, and you're able to start running podcast promotions right away. And not just on an individual podcast. Depending on the size of your order, you could have your promos running across hundreds of different podcasts. That gives you a really good opportunity to experiment. And then when you find an ad that does work for you, you can double- or triple-down on it to significantly grow your show without a ton of added effort.
ET: What's the minimum buy for someone who wants to run promo ads to grow their show?
AB: Minimum buy at launch is $100, which gets you 5,000 plays of your podcast promo. This is a level where we can comfortably say a lot of people are going to hear your podcast promo. People who are already interested in podcasts like yours, so likely interested in your show as well.
It's a low enough cost, we feel, to let you experiment to get the ad working. Do you need to change up the copy? The tone? We think it's great that podcasters will be able to start run experiments to find something that helps them grow their show over the long-term with sustained success.
ET: So what's on the roadmap? What's next with Buzzsprout Ads that people might be looking forward to... eventually? Where you wanna go next?
AB: The next step is telling everybody about what we've built! We've been working on this for the last eight months or so, going through the ideas and really working on some of these features like that automatic identification of mid-roll spots so we could get this out to the world.
I'm sure there are tons of other improvements we'll be rolling out in the coming days and weeks. But the way that Buzzsprout has always worked is that we don't plan anything more than six weeks in advance. And so I don't have an actual next planned step I can announce. But we're always open to feedback—especially from Buzzsprout podcasters—and would love to hear what everybody thinks and how we can improve what we've already released.
ET: Well, I'm going to wrestle up a hundred bucks and write a promo and start running it, this weekend and see if I can grow even my show, Podcast Pontifications.
AB: Awesome. We would love for you to do that. And I would love to hear your experience once you've done it!
ET: Great. Alban Brooke, thank you very much for being on the show today.
AB: Evo, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
I wasn't kidding when I said I was going to put $100 of my own money where my proverbial mouth is. I literally just did it. I wrote an ad, produced the audio, And then I spent maybe ten minutes uploading it to Buzzsprout Ads. It was really simple. And when I see what happens with those 5,000 sweet, sweet impressions I'm paying for, I'll post it on my Twitter account if you want to follow along.
And if you want to try it for yourself, go to buzzsprout.com/ads and give it a shot for your own podcast. Let me know how it goes.
With that, I shall be back next week with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
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