How do I launch a paid media campaign for my podcast?

It starts with finding the right audience


. 7 min read


Written by Audience Development Specialist Elizabeth Hames and Media Buyer Russ More

Paid media can be a great way to reach intended audiences who are unavailable to you through your existing owned and internal channels.

What is paid media? It’s paying for the promotion of your podcast. This can include things like paid promos (with or without host-read endorsements), feed drops, in-app placements, and entirely original custom segments or episodes.

Types of podcast ad inventory:
  • Promo spots are short audio units that appear in other podcasts. Pacific Content recommends host-read ads that may include a personal endorsement from a known and trusted voice.
  • Feed drops are episode releases that occur in another show’s podcast feed — an arrangement we make with other shows to promote a client’s episode to a specific audience. These are effective because they’re built on a listener’s existing relationship with a show, and built-in to be effortless for new listeners to sample.
  • Custom segments allow your brand to appear within some of the world’s most popular podcasts. Longer and more tightly integrated than a promo spot, these placements include:
  • Branded mini-features: your message comes to life through short-form stories, interviews, or profiles.
  • Special themed episodes: a customized episode where your brand is integrated into the framework of an existing hit show.

So what makes a successful paid campaign?

First off, it’s about finding the right audience for your campaign. Once you understand your target audience, it’s time to go hunting for other podcasts they might be listening to. Pacific Content uses powerful network graphing tools to zero in on shows with comparable audiences. From there, we do a lot of listening to winnow down the list even more. When we’re listening to a podcast that we’re considering for a paid campaign, we’re listening for;

  • tone
  • subject matter
  • production quality

Does this sound like a show my listeners would enjoy? Is the subject matter relevant to them? Would the production quality (if poor) turn them off? Another factor is the size of the audience. This one is a little more difficult to gauge. Most podcasts and podcast networks aren’t eager to share their download numbers publicly.

Recently, the Pacific Content audience development team set out to increase the listenership of the Headspace children’s podcast, Goodnight, World!

In a previous campaign, we employed our usual strategy of securing a mix of promo, feed drops, and in-app buys. Using the measured results from our first campaign we found the absolute best course of action was to focus on Children and Family Storytime podcasts, which made sense for a bedtime story podcast featuring your friends from Sesame Street.

As we began this new campaign, we narrowed our focus to finding bedtime stories or general storytime podcasts and asked the shows we were interested in to consider a feed drop of Goodnight, World! In almost every case, we were successful in securing this specific inventory. Where we were unable to secure feed drops, we purchased a promo spot.

Below, you will find a top-level report for Goodnight, World! At the beginning of a paid campaign, we set metrics to hit, which almost always include a cost-per-download. That is the measurement of how much it cost per converted download or the total ad spend divided by measured downloads within our clients’ owned RSS feed. In this report for our client, we showcase what is working well, and in this case particularly, what is working INCREDIBLY WELL.

Top-level reporting for Goodnight, World! Paid campaign

CPD Target: Cost-per-download Target (set at beginning of the campaign)

PCPD: Projected Cost-per-download (at end of the campaign)

The hyper-focused targeting of an audience combined with this paid media campaign resulted in one of the highest conversion rates (dollars-in-downloads-out) for Headspace and Goodnight, World!, far surpassing our target of an average $5 cost-per-download.

Once you’ve found the right shows for your campaign — and confirmed they can offer inventory and attribution — it’s time to come up with the right messageLike your podcast, the right message is one that is creatively brave. This means that your ad shouldn’t sound like an ad. People don’t want to be sold. Especially, when they’re enjoying their favourite podcast. But they will accept an interruption for a recommendation from a friend.

From the Super Listeners Study 2021

That’s why we always strive for personal host-read endorsements. We want the host to talk about your show favourably, and in their voice. To do this, we do not provide a script for the host to read. Rather, we provide talking points (interesting facts and summaries of episodes) and sample audio. We encourage the host to listen to an episode of the show and tell their audiences what they think about it.

In the case of our client, Rocket Mortgage, we secured an opportunity to become one of two unique advertisers (including pre, mid, and post rolls) promoting their show Home. Made. on the new season of the podcast Seizing Freedom.

The target audience was a bullseye match and the host of Seizing Freedom shared in our excitement to promote Home. Made. to their audience. The values and vision of these shows are so in line that the results of the campaign were stellar.

In her endorsement, the host of Seizing Freedom, Dr. Kidada E. Williams, talked about themes in Home. Made. that she believed would resonate with listeners of Seizing Freedom and she encouraged them to go listen.

Another similarly effective promotion tool is a feed drop in which a podcast with a comparable audience drops an episode of your podcast in their feed. There is usually a host-read intro explaining why this episode is appearing in their feed (“I think you’ll like this new show”) and encouraging their audience to listen.

We also recommend clients consider in-app promos for their campaigns. These usually take the form of display ads in a podcast app like Pocket CastsOvercast, or Castbox.

We helped our client Red Hat create paid campaign strategies for the last few seasons of Command Line Heroes that included all of these types of promotions. Some of the most successful promotions, by far, have been the in-app promos on Castbox.

For Season 8 of Command Line Heroes, we ran two back-to-back campaigns on Castbox. Each campaign was about a week-long and featured a different newly released episode at the top of users’ feeds during each of those weeks. Instead of using generic series-level artwork, the Red Hat team created stunning episode-specific artwork so each campaign looked a little different.

If both campaigns had used the same artwork, app users would likely have only clicked on the ad once, and thus only downloaded one episode. But in creating different artwork for each campaign, Red Hat gave users who clicked on the ad during the first campaign a reason to click again during the second: a new episode in the feed. This was an incredibly powerful approach, and it resulted in some of the lowest Costs Per Download and Costs Per Subscriber we’ve ever seen. It was a major reason why that overall paid campaign was among the most successful we’ve ever run.

The right measurement

So you’ve found the right audience and the right message for your campaign. How do you know if it’s a success? That’s where the right measurement comes in. We always strive for 100% attribution on the paid campaigns we run for clients because we want to ensure that the money is being spent effectively and as efficiently as possible.

Utilizing third-party tools, including programs like Chartable and Podsights, our team tracks and solidifies the results of our clients’ campaigns based on earlier research. This provides us with additional knowledge for current and future campaigns, including:

  • Conversions of impressions purchased to downloads of your podcast
  • Total converted users
  • Highest performing promoted podcasts in your paid campaign

So how do you start a paid campaign for your podcast that features a custom-fit marketing plan with measurable results to you and your company? It all starts with the right audience, the right message, and the right measurement.

You can learn more about our paid media services here.

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