The top 10 things I've learned about podcast advertising

It's as unique of a media channel as there is in advertising, but if you put in the time and effort it can be a powerful channel.

As you could imagine, I’ve learned A LOT about podcasts in the four years I’ve been at Incremental Media. I was in podcasts before this for five years at Vox Media, but this is my first time on the agency side, getting a first-hand look at the performance of podcasts.  Here's my condensed list of the top 10 learnings I've had running the podcast division of Incremental Media.

Top 10

#1: Some podcasts just consistently work.  The audience has a strong connection with the host, and almost anything we put on a show hits conversion goals.  We see the same thing in other niche channels we specialize in for brands like package inserts.   Some audiences just love some hosts.  There’s no reason to overthink it.  Just lean into it.    

#2: Podcasts show the most impact for a brand who isn’t a true startup or a large Fortune 500 company. It’s those mid-size, 50-500 person companies that can best feel the impact of podcast advertising.  

#3: eCommerce brands have the easiest time proving value for podcasts.  Other brands can work, but lead generation, drive to app, or B2B campaigns are just harder to prove the value of the channel.  

#4: Dynamic with back catalog ads just doesn’t convert for brands.  You need baked-in or faked-in ads that run in a specific episode of a specific podcast, so you can space out the ads appropriately and generate the appropriate frequency.

#5: Podcast hosts don’t have enough visibility into how their podcast performs with brands. We’re looking to share more anonymized charts so they can understand how their podcast compares in performance to other podcasts.

#6: I still believe podcasts are the best ads with influencers.  Studies have proven that to be the case. Where else can you get top-tier talent like Bert Kreischer, Steve-O, and Busy Philipps to endorse your brand, and more importantly at prices that are very reasonable.  Podcasts don’t need to break the bank to “legitimize” your brand and get endorsements from top personalities.  

#7: Promo code usage is getting harder and harder to track.  Tools like Honey and Capital One Shopping are getting more prominent, so more people are leaking codes to these tools.  It’s beyond frustrating for our industry and makes it very challenging to properly evaluate performance based on promo codes alone.

#8: With that being said, attribution has gotten much better, thanks to companies like Podscribe and post-purchase survey companies like Fairing.  These companies are becoming even more crucial to proving the value of podcasts.  

#9: Sending hosts samples, while very manual and time-consuming, is critical for host-read ads. Listeners are smart, and they can tell when a host has truly tried and enjoyed a product.  Plus, in speaking with podcast hosts, they like to physically try products before giving a true endorsement.  

#10: Podcasts aren’t the easiest channel to test, but if you have the patience and set up a test properly, podcasts can become a core part of your media mix.  It's not a few clicks in a platform.  It's a very human channel, and you need to treat it that way.


Eric Smith is the SVP of Growth at Incremental Media.  Want to share your thoughts or pick the brain of the author of this piece?  Email Eric Smith at

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