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SPI 462: Everything about Podcast Advertising: Growing Your Business and Making More Money with Podcast Ads with Heather Osgood

The cash flow between advertisers and podcasters recently has been insane — some projections say over $1 billion will be spent on podcast ads in 2021. So where do you start, whether you’re someone with their own show or an advertiser with a product or service you want to spread the word about? If your curiosity is piqued, you’re in the right place.

Here to help answer your questions about podcast ads — whether you’re a podcaster or an advertiser — is Heather Osgood of True Native Media, the agency we use at Team SPI to book podcast ads for this show (and AskPat). Maybe you have a brand-new show and you’re wondering well, when do I reach out to an agency? Do download numbers matter? Or maybe you’re amassing five figures of downloads a month and want to make big moves. What do those deals look like? How long do they take? Who do you talk to?

Podcast advertising is a massive opportunity and Heather has a ton of wisdom to share on the topic. Don’t miss this one.

Also check out Heather’s blog post, “5 Tips to Turn Your Side-Hustle Podcast into a Profitable Business.”

And if you are just starting out with your podcast, don’t miss Heather’s The Podcast Moneymakers course, which will teach you how to go out and book advertisers on your own. And if you want to go deeper with Heather, check out her podcast: Podcast Advertising Playbook.

Today’s Guest

Heather Osgood

Heather has owned, operated, and sold several highly successful businesses. With a background in radio advertising and love for podcasting, she founded True Native Media in January of 2016 with the hopes of helping everyone find a bigger piece of that advertising pie. Heather has placed over 50K ads for two hundred brands with her exclusive podcast portfolio in the last five years. She is a sought-after speaker for the podcast industry and is in the process of writing a book about podcast advertising. Heather has her own podcast — The Podcast Advertising Playbook, and a podcast monetization course — The Podcast Moneymaker.

The Podcast Advertising Playbook
True Native Media

You’ll Learn


SPI 462: Everything about Podcast Advertising: Growing Your Business and Making More Money with Podcast Ads with Heather Osgood

Pat Flynn:
Today we’re talking about podcast advertising and sponsorship. And this is really important whether you have a podcast or not, because you might have a business right now or one day, and you want to do podcast advertising, you want another podcaster to mention your product. And we’re going to talk about all the ins and outs about this little world of podcast advertising. Because guess what, there are millions and millions and millions of dollars being spent between podcasters and advertisers. It’s crazy. It’s going wild.

And we have none other than Heather Osgood from True Native Media to give us the lowdown on exactly how all this works. Her and her agency have actually helped us book sponsors for this podcast. And for AskPat. We’re going to talk about that relationship, what working with an agency is like. If you don’t have the ability to have enough download numbers to have an agency, we’re going to talk about how to do this on your own. And we’re also, like I said, at the end going to talk specifically about well, what can you do if you have a company and you want to advertise? Who might you look toward? And what kinds of deals might those look like?

And again, this is really, really key because there’s a lot of money being spent between podcasters and advertisers right now. And the more you know about this, the more and better prepared you will be. I get specific with my questions, like how many downloads do you need to even attract an advertiser? All that kind of stuff and more in this episode. Welcome in. Let’s do this.

Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it’s all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host – he dips sour cream and onion chips in vinegar – Pat Flynn!

What’s up everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to session 462 of the Smart Passive Income podcast. My name is Pat Flynn, here to help you make more money, save more time, and help more people too, appreciate you being here. You know what this episode is about, I don’t need to tell you again. Let’s get right into it. This is Heather Osgood from She’s helped us out so much. And I know she’s going to help you out too. Here we go.

Heather, welcome to Smart Passive Income. Thanks for being here with us today. How are you?

Heather Osgood:
I’m doing great. Thanks so much for having me, Pat. I’m excited to talk about one of my favorite topics, which is podcast advertising,

You have a passion for podcast advertising, I know. How did this even start for you? Before we get into a lot of the how-to’s for everybody listening.

Yeah, for sure. Well, I started my career in advertising just in general, I actually started with radio advertising. And I really have always been passionate about what businesses can create through advertising. And I had a company that I’d owned for about 10 years. I sold that company and for the first time in my adult life, I didn’t have anything to do really, which was kind of crazy. So I started listening to podcasts. And the more I listened, the more I was like, “Gosh, there’s all these great shows that don’t have ads in them, which seemed really bizarre to me.”

So I kind of dug in a little bit deeper. And I found that really the top 1 percent of podcasts were being represented super well. They had lots of ads, but then there was everybody else. And I thought, gosh, most of the shows I was listening to that I was super passionate and excited about didn’t have any ads in them, which seemed strange.” So I found a True Native Media actually five years ago now, which is kind of crazy, in January of 2016, because I wanted to help those podcasts out there that weren’t being serviced. And I knew that there was so much we could do with the power of podcast advertising. So I wanted to bring that both to the advertiser as well as the podcaster.

Awesome. Well, thank you for that. And make sure you stick around and listen. Even if you don’t have a podcast, we’re going to talk about a lot of things that are going to be beneficial for you principle wise for whatever business you might have. And also, if you have a business, how might we utilize existing podcasts to spread the word of our business and get in front of newer audiences too? So we’ll talk about all those kinds of things today. But I’d love to ask just a question that I know is on everybody’s mind. And when it comes to podcasts advertising, I know that the number one question I often get is, “Well, how many downloads do I need?” It’s always coming down to download numbers. Is that in fact, where we start? And if there is a number, what is that number?

That is such a great question. And it is certainly one that I get asked a lot as well. And I don’t personally love it when I hear people in the industry say “Oh, you don’t need to worry about your downloads, downloads aren’t important.” They are important, especially if you are looking to monetize your podcast through advertising. And the reason that they’re important is because the advertiser has to know that they’re reaching a large enough group of people to really move the needle. If they’re not going to reach enough people, then it’s not going to be beneficial to them, and it has to be a win-win situation.

Now the question, which is the hardest one to answer, is how many downloads should you be getting? And what is that correct number? First, I always think that it’s so important as podcasters that you understand your numbers. So make sure that you understand how many downloads you’re getting. And if you’re going to be running embedded ad reads, you need to look at how many downloads you’re getting per episode in a 30 day period.

Oftentimes people come to me and they’ll say things like, “I get 100,000 downloads a month.” And it’s like, well, that’s great, or “I get 20,000 downloads per month.” That’s great if you’re set up to do dynamic ad insertion, but if you’re doing embedded ad reads, the advertiser is only going to get in front of the people who listened to that one episode. So you need to make sure that you understand, are you going to be doing embedded ad reads? Or do you have the technology and capacity with your hosting provider to do dynamic ad insertion?

So if you’re looking to do embedded ad reads, I would say that depending on the type of podcasts that you have, you can start anywhere from about 1,000 downloads up into 5,000. If you’ve got a podcast where it’s super, super niche, and you’re reaching a really targeted group of people, at 1,000 listeners that can be great.

If I’m looking to reach government contractors, or physicians, or veterinarians, those 1,000 people are super valuable. However, if you’ve got a comedy or entertainment podcast, and you’re getting 1,000 downloads, that’s not really going to be enough, if your listenership is very broad. So when you hit about that 5,000 downloads per episode range, that’s a really good number, I think, to start really kind of looking to explore advertisers. And if you are getting a lot of downloads, because you’ve got a really good back catalog, then dynamic ad insertion can be a good option for you as well.

And embedded ads are when you record the ad in the actual file that you upload to your host. So it’s kind of embedded into the episode, which you can’t easily remove and then replace with something else like you could with dynamic ad insertion. And just for you listeners who are out there who might be considering dynamic ad insertion for your podcast, it is a lot more expensive, for sure, to have access to that technology. And so definitely understand your numbers, whether or not there is an ROI there for you.

For us, we do – and many of you listening might know this because you hear different and updated ads within our current episodes and our back catalog as well, which is the cool part about it. But it is definitely a little bit more of an investment. So 5,000 is sort of the baseline number. I definitely also want to have people realize that okay, you don’t have to wait till 5,000 to start generating an income, there’s several different ways to generate an income. And there could be other cases where maybe there’s just a really amazing, perfect company who realizes that okay, those 1,000 people, like you said, are right up their alley, they’re just the exact target market.

And I love the examples you use, like physicians or what have you, especially that ,which comes with a higher… You consider physicians, they have money, they want to spend money. This is why their ads on Google AdWords are more expensive for target keywords like physician, doctor, lawyer, anything business or money related. Often you can find advertisers with less downloads, but in general, I think 5,000 is great. Now I know that, and of course, we’ve been working with you and your company, True Native Media, and you’ve been helping us to sell ad spots, which has been amazing. What’s the minimum requirement for you? And I know you know other agents out there, but like, if I have 5,000 downloads per episode, is that enough to work with somebody to help me sell those spots? Or am I going to have to do that all myself?

If you have 5,000 downloads per episode, your show’s a little bit small for what we would be looking for at True Native Media. So typically, we’re looking for 10,000 downloads per episode, if you’re going to be doing embedded ad reads. If you’re set up to do dynamic insertion, 20,000 downloads per month, collectively across your entire catalog works for us. However, there are of course, other options besides just True Native Media. There are good options like AdvertiseCast, which is an online platform where you can go and list your podcast, and you could list that at any size.

I would say I probably wouldn’t recommend it if you’re doing less than 1,000 downloads per episode. But you can use AdvertiseCast. There are other resources. I know Podcorn is one of the space that’s really been knocking on some doors. And really, the ad space in podcasting right now is just exploding. So there are going to be lots of other options. You have to really determine as a podcaster, as well as an advertiser, what kind of ad is going to be appropriate for you.

So if you’re looking to do a host-read endorsement ad like you do, Pat, you do really great… I know this morning when I was listening to the show we heard Headspace, which is an app that I believe you personally have used for a really long time. So if you’re looking to do these host-read endorsement ads like Pat does, then you have to be clear about what you’re looking for. A lot of the platforms are going to look to maybe put more of a programmatic-style ad, which is something that’s been pre-recorded. Think about maybe those GEICO ads getting in there.

So determine as a podcaster what is going to be best for you. Are you looking to do host-read endorsement ads, are you okay, if hey, GEICO’s going to pay you $20 to put an ad in your broadcast, and you’re totally cool with that. So just determine what is going to be best for you. But if you are looking for representation, typically, I would say most firms like True Native Media are at about that 10,000 downloads per episode range, but the platforms you can start much lower.

Awesome. Okay, so let’s start with those maybe who aren’t quite at that level yet. And then we’ll kind of get to that point. But those who can’t yet work with an agency to help them sell ads, obviously, they can sell ads on their own. And obviously, I’d love to ask how do we go about doing that? No matter the number of downloads, like where do we even start with reaching out to companies to see if they’d even want to advertise on our show and what do deals look like?

Yeah, for sure. So I always recommend that people first start by getting a really clear understanding of their target audience. So who is listening to your show. If you don’t know who’s listening to your show, it’s going to be really difficult for you to go out and sell that to an advertiser or a business. Because that business is going to have a core demographic that they’re looking to reach. And you want to make sure that those really align.

So get very clear on who your target audience is and who’s listening to your show. That means you have to run a survey, if that means you need to maybe dig in more to your social media stats, but determine who’s listening. Next, you really want to think about putting together a nice media kit for yourself. And I feel like when I say things like that people get really overwhelmed. Like “What’s a media kit? And what should be in a media kit?” And certainly there are resources out there, we try to post them as frequently as possible.

But essentially, a media kit should answer that who are you? Why should somebody advertise, who is listening? It doesn’t have to be super in depth, it can be just a really nice one sheet that talks about yourself as the host, your audience. And then of course, you want to talk about rates, right, how much you’re going to be charging for ads in those. So get those basics down first. The other thing I always really encourage podcasters to do is – I’m shocked by the number of podcasts that don’t have a website. So if you don’t have a website, just build one. If you’re thinking you want to get advertisers, having that is going to be a really nice digital footprint for you, that’s going to allow the advertiser to dig into what it is that they’re going to be connecting with.

They’re going to connect with you the podcaster. And they’re also going to connect with your digital footprint. They are going to essentially partner with you. So they want to make sure that they are partnering with somebody that they want to be partnered with. So have that information out there. And if you have a section of your website that talks about advertising, when someone is interested, they can very easily find the information they need.

So really kind of try to start with a good foundation, before you even make that first phone call or that outreach. Once you have the foundation set, then really, it’s a matter of determining the types of businesses that would benefit from your audience. I notice that oftentimes, people go right to the top, they say things like “Nike’s got deep pockets, I want Nike to sponsor the show.” Or “Amazon would be great. Amazon’s killing it right now.”

Even though those companies have really large marketing budgets, they are the hardest sales to get, because there’s a bazillion layers between you the podcaster and the person who’s going to say “Yeah, that seems like a good plan.” So it is better oftentimes to identify companies that are in a similar position to you the podcaster. If you’re a really successful podcaster and you’ve got millions of downloads, then bigger companies are going to be interested. If you’re a smaller podcast, and you’ve got 2,000 downloads, take a look around, maybe even in your local community. Can you find somebody at a chamber mixer or at a networking event that has maybe an ecommerce store?

And those are the types of people that you can really connect with, that you can benefit from. And so once you identify those companies that are going to be a good fit for you, then you’re going to want to outreach to them, whether it’s an email, whether it’s a phone call. I know that things are difficult in person nowadays, but even going into a business and saying, “Hey, have you thought about podcast advertising?” And really, that’s when all the real work begins. Nurturing these leads to try and get advertisers. So I know that there’s a lot there. But there are certainly lots of steps that podcasters can take to monetize their podcasts on their own.

Perfect. Okay, so let’s go down the line here. You said that one of the first things you need to do is understand just who’s in your audience and find out more info about them. What exactly is the kind of information that advertisers want to hear? Is it age, demographic? What is it exactly that we want to search for?

Perfect. Age is really important. So how old are the people that are listening to your show? Gender is also important. If your audience is 90 percent male, you’re probably not going to want to sell to a female-skewing company. So age, gender, important. Income level is also important. That can be more difficult to get. So really doing a survey is the best way to get that information. College, education: so do they have college education?

Those are typically I would say, the building blocks of where most companies are going to look for demographical information. Beyond that you could dig in more to what their lifestyle is, like do they have children? Are they self-employed? Are they a business owner? Do they have a professional-level position or job? So those are all of the fluff type things when you get into more of the specifics that you don’t necessarily have to have. But if you can get that information, it’s helpful.

Great, thank you, that helps provide me some thoughts as far as who we’ll be speaking to and just the exact information they’re looking for. That’s super helpful.

When it comes to rates, I do want to help define for those who are going to be doing this on their own, sort of like ballpark, where do we even begin with that? And might there be other things? Or how might we be able to increase that rate with other assets? I.e. Email list or website? Like you said, it does surprise me too, that people don’t have a website, but they have a podcast, to be honest. But let’s talk about rates. I don’t know, how do we even begin to calculate this? I know the answer. But I want to hear from the expert.

Sure, sure, sure. Yeah, really, if you are looking to work with a representation firm, if you’re kind of trying to compete within the podcast ad sales space, you can find very typical CPMs or cost per 1,000, which essentially is the language of how much does it cost to reach 1,000 people. So if you’re trying to kind of play in that arena, you could say that typically rates in the space right now are somewhere between I would say 15 to 50, depending on the size of your audience, and the quality of your listener and how targeted it is and things like that.

However, if you’re selling on your own, throw those out the window, really, I don’t think that they’re relevant to you. Because it doesn’t matter what the industry trends are, because the businesses you’re going to be talking to don’t know anything about the industry trends. They just know that your podcast seems like it could be a good way to get them customers. I think the most valuable way of doing it is like you said, Pat, is don’t just sell your podcast, package this together. If you can package it together, it has so much more value.

So can you include them in your newsletter? Can you put a banner ad on your website? Can you do social posts for them? Can you do – gosh, I’m working with a really creative podcaster right now where they are creating playlists, and they’re having their sponsors… They’re, of course, within the music genre, but they’re creating playlists, they’re titling their playlist after their sponsor. They’re doing interviews on their podcast, they’re wearing their sponsor’s merch, their merchandise with their logos and stuff in their videos.

So yeah, you can do so many creative things with these packages. So if you just have a podcast, you can just sell it, but most people have other things, too. So get creative and think about how can you make it a real win for the advertiser. So at the end of the day, they feel like they just got so much value. And then you could charge really, whatever you want to charge. What does the customer see as being valuable in that and what are you getting them? And what could they expect to get in return from that?

I typically always say I don’t like to charge less than $100 for anything, because who wants to get out of bed for less than $100? If you’re going to sell an ad, start at $100 at least. But if you’ve got more to it, then look at that. The other mistake I do see people making though, is oftentimes they go into advertisers, and they say, “I want a year commitment. So this is a $2,000 package, but you have to commit to the year.” That’s a lot harder to sell.

So if you’re just getting going and you’re trying to kind of get your footing with rates, try it out. Create a package and see what kind of value you can bring, do create some tiers. So create maybe an option one and an option two. And there’s nothing wrong with asking for a big buy. It’s a good place to start. But just make sure you’re not over asking. Because I see that a lot, truthfully, where podcasts overvalue, what they can deliver. And then what ultimately ends up happening is that if the business doesn’t see a return on their investment, they’re not going to continue advertising with you. So you want to make sure in everything you do that it’s a real win-win between you and the advertiser.

I’m remembering what it was like to sell ads for the first time, not on my podcast. This is before I started a podcast. It was on a website, the architecture website that I had that started my career online. And a company had reached out to me and they wanted to advertise on the website and just put a little 150 by 150 pixel square on the sidebar, and literally having like no idea what I was doing. And of course I made some mistakes and I undercharged to start because I just wanted some money coming I realized that I was under-charging myself by about 1,000 percent. Eventually I got to where it should have been.

But that comes with experience and you’re going to fail, you’re going to make mistakes. But I’m just grateful that we have sort of a starting point here. When it comes to the advertiser, and maybe this company is a perfect fit, you just have this feeling that it’s a great fit, and you know that you could provide value and you’ve given them some options, like you said. The company comes back and goes, “Well we haven’t really done podcast advertising before. I don’t know if it’s going to be that valuable.” How do you step up and sell this thing? Like, what are the words that you say about podcast ads, and how it’s different than Facebook and Google ads and a classified ad in the newspaper? What words do you say to actually sell this thing?

That is such a good question. And influence, influence, influence is what I always look at. And I always look at engagement too. Because when you compare podcasts to almost any other media out there, the time spent listening is through the roof. So if you look at YouTube, people spend minutes on YouTube, if you look at social, people spend seconds on social, if you look at podcasts, people spend like over 30 minutes on average listening to a podcast, and it’s such an intentional activity. Nobody ever says, “Gosh, how did I end up listening to this podcast? How did this end up in my ears?”

It’s like, how many of us have had these experiences with YouTube where we’re watching it – I know, my kids have the experience all day long, where they’re watching it and next thing you get the next video and the next video, and how did you get there? Or the same thing happens on social media where all of a sudden we’re watching this video or this ad comes across? And we don’t know, we’re like, “Wow.” But with podcasts, it’s such an intentional activity. And what that means is that means that there’s a high level of engagement.

Because nobody’s going to listen to 30 minutes or an hour or I mean, in the case of Joe Rogan, like four hours of podcasting, if they’re not intentionally listening, if they’re not engaged in what’s happening. And the other big, big power of podcast advertising is that host-read endorsement ads. People know, like, and trust hosts. And when you recommend a product, that is so much more powerful than all of the other forms of advertising out there. Many forms of advertising are essentially, like, somebody shouting at you. Somebody standing on the street corner saying, “Hey, look at me, look at me, look at me, I’m awesome.”

And with podcast ads, the person that you listen to that you take advice from that you get entertained by, they are saying, “Hey, you should check this out. It’s an amazing product. And let me tell you how.” That has so much more power than almost any other form of advertising, which is why the industry is doing so phenomenally well. And why we don’t have ad blockers in place to block podcast ads. Like, we want these messages and statistically, listeners like host-read ads, because we all like to buy products and services, we just want to know which products and services we should sign up for.

And if we can, as podcast host really bring products and services to our audiences that we know are going to benefit them, it’s got so much power. So I know you asked for some key phrases. But really, those are the basis of what I sell on is the power of engagement, the power of influence, and the host right endorsement ad.

How might one prove that?

Prove the effectiveness?


So in terms of what is happening in the podcast space right now, typically what we’re looking at is creating some sort of a unique URL or a promo code. And as a podcast listener, I’m sure that you all have heard that before. It’s nothing new. But talk to your advertiser. And I think one of the lessons I learned early on in my career is understand their expectations. Because everybody has a different interpretation of what success is.

I had a client that I was working with once that I did not set expectations with. And at the end of an event I said, “Gosh, how did it go for you?” And he’s like, “It was horrible.” I’m like, “You’re kidding. What happened? Like, it seemed busy. It seemed like you were talking to people.” And he’s like, “Well, I only got 300 leads.” And I was like, “That’s amazing. You got 300 leads.” And he’s like, “Well, my goal was 3,000.” And I was like, “There were 4,000 people at the event. Did you really think 3,000 were going to come to your space?”

The mistake I made was I didn’t create clear expectations upfront. If up front, he had said, “I want 3,000 leads from this event,” I would have said it’s not going to happen. Like, that’s not going to happen, 300 is a success. So before you go out with an advertiser into a campaign, set those expectations. Find out what does a win look like for them? What does success look like for them? It might be that they’re interested in really just getting more exposure, maybe they’re looking for brand awareness, maybe they don’t have a certain goal of how many conversions they want.

But maybe they do have a conversion goal, and then talk to them about what that looks like. And then as the campaign is progressing, check in with them and find out, are your ads working for them? Are they getting the leads that they had hoped for? And if they’re not, what can you do as the podcaster? Can you put additional things out there? Can you tweak the ad, can you bring in your spouse to do an interactive ad read so it sounds more interesting to the audience, get creative. But first, start with that expectation. And then put those elements in place, like the unique URLs and the promo code so that you can do the tracking. But make sure that you have expectations clear upfront.

That’s so key. And I love how you’re asking the person that you’re going to be serving these ads for what is their goal, that in and of itself is different, and it makes them show that you actually care about making this work for them. And I think that’s such a smart thing to do. And a great way to just set the relationship upfront, because what I found is that if I can serve this company who’s advertising on the show, they’re going to want to continue to come back. Some don’t ever want to leave. They couldn’t imagine it because it’s such a good driver. And just remaining authentic and honest along the way is always great. So thank you for setting that tone.

I want to ask you, when we reach out to companies, who do we need to speak to? Are we speaking to the CEO? Are we speaking to the HR person, the manager? Like how do we best get to the decision maker on who can either pay us or work with us for ads?

It depends entirely on the size of the company. So if you are going for a relatively small company, then I would ask to speak with the owner. If you are going to a more established company and you know they have a marketing department, then I would go to the marketing department. Podcasts are really interesting, because they kind of straddle the line between online and offline. So online marketing tend to be any sort of digital ads, so social media, Google search, banner ads, or any sort of web website ads, that’s going to all be digital, whereas TV, radio, newspaper, that’s all offline.

And I found that it can be a little bit tricky sometimes because podcasts feel like digital since obviously you have to have technology to get them. But because we don’t have the depth of metrics that are provided in most digital spaces, a lot of companies will classify podcast advertising as offline. So as you’re approaching the company, depending on the size of their organization – take a look. LinkedIn, hands down the best resource. If you’re trying to get to somebody within the company, what I typically do that I think works super well, is you just go on LinkedIn and you find their company page. So once you find their company page, it’ll tell you how many employees work there.

So if you just click on employees, it’ll bring a whole list of their employees up. And then you can kind of get a sense of how their marketing department is set up. So really, usually like a marketing coordinator, marketing manager, sometimes the CMO, but depending on the size of the company, the CMO might be too high up in the ranks. Oftentimes, too, if you can find somebody that isn’t the highest, you can reach out to them and say, “Hey, I want to talk to you about podcast advertising, who’s the right person?” Chances are a marketing assistant’s going to have a little bit more time on their hands to respond than the CMO will. But see if you can look at the structure of the company and find the right person that way through LinkedIn.

That’s perfect. Thank you, Heather. I want to move on to those who may be qualified to have an agency support them or are almost or will get there eventually. And talk about what that experience is like. And I do have to give a shout out – and thank you to Eric Fisher, who is the one that introduced us together at an event. I’m not even remembering where this event was, it perhaps was in San Diego or I don’t even know.

It was in Orlando.

It was Orlando. Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. So Eric, thank you. He had heard that I wanted to do more ads, just didn’t have the time. And this is one of the reasons why you might want to work with an agency because they’re going to take the time and have the knowledge and the connections and the relationships to sell ads on your behalf. Obviously for a price and there is a commission and all that sort of stuff plays a role. But for somebody who is at that level, what are the big things to look out for whether they work with True Native Media or some others? Can you set the expectation for the person who’s going out looking for an agency, what to expect when working with an agency when it comes to serving ads? I’m guessing there’s a lot of questions about well, how much of that money am I going to need to share? What’s that relationship like? This is your realm. I’d love for you to set the stage for us.

For sure. So there are two, I feel like, separate entities when it comes to representation. So oftentimes people are part of networks and networks will a lot of times bring advertisers to you. And there’s a lot that goes into being part of a network. And most of the time, a network is going to have a 50/50 split on ads. Now True Native Media works and represents a number of networks, as do some of the other representation firms in this space.

So your network might be also working with a representation firm. So there can be several layers in there. But usually, with a network, it’s about a 50/50 split. But hopefully, they’re helping you with a lot of other things, not just ad sales. If you’re looking to just work with a representation firm right now in the industry, a 70/30 split is very common. So the podcaster will receive 70 percent and the representation firm keeps 30 percent, which is what we do at True Native Media.

And I would say that my recommendation is, as you’re looking at representation firms, look at a few things. So first of all, find a rep firm that specializes in the genre of your podcast. So for whatever reason, it could just be because I’m not super into sports, sports podcasts haven’t worked really well for us. We’ve tried in the past and they just don’t work, we’re not able to get the traction that we want with them. So we really turn down sports advertisers a lot, because they’re not a perfect fit for us.

If you’re a sports podcast, find a representation firm that has had a lot of success with sports. So identify the genre that you’re in. And then as you’re interviewing different rep firms, talk to them and find out where their specialty is. I know there are certain genres that we can sell really well. And so I want to take on podcasts within those genres because they work well. So first and foremost I would think of that.

Next, I do really feel like size is so important. And size in a couple of different ways. So there are firms out there that literally represent thousands of different podcasts, they have a big staff of people, I am sure that they do provide excellent customer service. But I know from having many conversations that a lot of podcasts fall in the cracks. If you’ve got 2,000 to 3,000 podcasts you’re working with, how you can possibly service each of those is beyond me. So what ends up happening oftentimes is that your show doesn’t actually really get pitched that often.

So if your show isn’t being pitched, you’re not going to get advertisers. So I do think the size of the firm you go with makes a difference. The other piece that I have seen is the size of your show makes a difference. And what I mean by that is there are some larger firms out there who will take on smaller shows sometimes. I’ve had two conversations in the last three weeks with podcasts that are with large firms who say, “They’re not selling our show at all.”

And I’ve looked at them and said, “I don’t see why not.” In my book, they should be selling your show, your show should be very sellable. And the only conclusion I can come to is that their shows are too small. So if I’m a rep firm and I’ve got, let’s say 100 shows to sell, and 50 of them are getting over 500,000 downloads and then 50 of them are getting 10,000 downloads, which one am I going to pitch? At the end of the day, I’m going to pitch the bigger shows because I know I’m going to make bigger dollars. So I do think it’s really important that you find a rep firm that is suited well for your specific needs and can really bring you the type of relationship you’re looking for.

That’s amazing. Thank you for sharing that. What does the rep do specifically? Walk me through how you help sell SPI, for example? What does that look like? What does that mean?

Yeah, that’s a terrific question. So in terms of… And really, I think the other thing that is important that I always want to bring up: very rarely, when we sign a show on, are we going to have advertisers for that show the next week, or the next month, or sometimes even the next two months. Because what happens is we’ve got these conversations that are happening with agencies, with direct advertisers.

And if I talk to somebody… for instance, gosh I was emailing with a woman this morning. I’ve been talking to her for probably two months. And she’s very interested in buying ads. And I think she’s going to buy ads, but she’s got 100 questions between the first meeting and when the campaign launches. And so what happens is that your show has to really get put into the pitch rotation. And that can take a while. I have to present your show today. But then it might be two months before that advertiser says yes. Now granted, of course, there are people who say yes tomorrow, but that doesn’t always happen.

So there are definitely a number of agencies out there in the US that specialize in podcast advertising. So True Native Media and all of the other rep firms work with these agencies. So our process is building really strong relationships with those agencies because they want to come to a company like True Native Media, because they know, “Hey, True Native Media’s got 70 shows that could deliver well for me,” that we’ve done a really good job vetting that we know they’re going to publish their episodes on time, they’re going to actually run the ads when they say they’re going to run the ads

So we have good relationships with these agencies. And we’re always looking to expand our relationship with agencies. So getting in front of them, making sure that when they have a client that has needs that they think of us. So that’s a big part of what we do. And then the next part of what we do at True Native Media, which doesn’t, I think, always happen at all rep firms is that we are actively going out and soliciting advertisers. So if somebody’s really interested in… One of our podcasts is really interested in a specific shoe company, or maybe a clothing company or a software company, we’ll go out to that company and try to sell ads specifically to advertisers and companies who oftentimes have never run ads in the podcast space before. And that is the process of identifying who the right person is, creating, having a needs analysis call with them, creating a proposal for them and walking them through how we’re going to make podcasts advertising successful for them.

As far as payments are concerned. Do payments go to the rep and then the rep then distributes to the podcaster? Or tell me a little bit about the flow of cash in this situation?

I think that that’s another thing that’s really important to think about with rep firms in particular, is that what happens a lot of times is we’ve got a company, so let’s use Zip Recruiter for instance. So Zip Recruiter places a ton of ads in the podcast space. Zip Recruiter works with an agency. So Zip Recruiter says, “Hey, I want to place ads.” Their agency says, “Great, let me talk to True Native Media.” They call True Native Media, we call the podcaster, we get the ads placed.

Then what happens is we send the agency a bill, the agency sends the client a bill. And then it all goes the opposite direction. So it can take a really long time to get paid sometimes. And often times the podcaster is like, “Hey, what’s going on with this?” And it’s because there are so many layers. And the other thing to consider, especially when we’re talking about agencies, is that… Zip Recruiter is placing millions of dollars worth of ads in a year. So it’s not just “Oh, your podcast and our rep firm.” It’s 15 rep firms and 1,000 podcasts. And so everything has to be reconciled and added up and there’s a bazillion people between that buy and it actually happening. So now, the nice part about direct advertisers is that it’s much simpler. I can work with the direct advertiser, and I can say they need to pay me up front. So first time I’ve ever worked with you, I want to collect cash upfront. And that can happen within a week sometimes.

Send an invoice and you’re good.

Yep. That’s the beauty of direct advertisers and a lot of other things. But yeah.

Hypothetically, could a podcaster just go directly to Zip Recruiter or is a company like that always just going to use their sort of agency slash rep flow to run ads usually?

My experience has been that they’re always going to use that flow. Occasionally, you will have someone who is okay working around. But if you’re a bigger show, I never recommend it. Because what happens is the agency in particular gets their feathers ruffled. And they’re like, “Hey, how come you’re not working with us? Why are you going directly to our client? Are you trying to supersede our power?” So if you do know the agency that a client is working with, it’s much better usually to go to the client.

Unless, like we had talked about earlier, if you’re selling ads on your own and you’ve got a package that isn’t just podcast advertising, but maybe has a lot more depth to it, then maybe it’s not even the marketing person that’s going to make a decision. Maybe it’s the human resource person, because you’re trying to do something more creative. Or maybe it’s the events coordinator. So depending on the type of package you put together, there might be some cases where you could go direct, but I would say in my experience, most of the large companies out there advertising have an agency of some sort they’re working with.

Cool, let’s flip the switch a little bit and let’s talk about it from a company’s perspective wanting to get on podcasts, advertise there. Who’s it for, who’s it not for? Is it really any company? Or is there specific kinds of companies that this works better for? And then how might we get the process started? Obviously, we could go to you, right, to help find podcasters. Is going to the agency model typically the best for a company?

Yeah, so the direct to consumer brands are the number one advertisers in the space right now. So the IAB, or the Interactive Advertising Bureau, put out a report about six months ago. It was a report from 2019 that really just showed who’s advertising in this space, who’s doing well. And what they found is the direct to consumer brands in the health and wellness space in particular are just killing it.

So if you’re a company in that space, podcasts would definitely be a good fit for you. Financial Services also have been doing really well within the podcast space, I would say any sort of software. So if you’re a SaaS company, they work terrific in this space. The biggest, I think most important thing right now in podcasting is that it’s ideal if you are a company that is looking to reach a national consumer. So if you are an ecommerce store, or if in some way your customer can come from anywhere, then podcast ads are good for you. I have a good friend in the agency space here locally and had a conversation with him about a week ago. And he was like, “What is up with podcast ads?” My car dealers and my mattress companies really want to run podcast ads, and how do they do that? And I’m like, “Well, they don’t, really.”

You just heard podcast ads were working and then want to get behind it, right?

Exactly, exactly. But really, I would say the space hasn’t matured enough and Spotify, and we could talk forever about that. But Spotify just has made several very large acquisitions within the podcast space. And my suspicion is that there are certainly going to get to a place here probably sooner rather than later where an average small business could just log on to Spotify, just like you buy Spotify or Pandora ads, and buy those pre-recorded ads on podcasts.

I think there certainly is a space for that, I don’t think that they are going to be nearly as effective as host-read ads. So really the best thing for you to do, I think, as a business owner, or somebody in marketing, if you’re considering podcast advertising, is really to invest in that host-read ads. So if you’re a national company, host read ads are the way to go hands down. And you don’t have to work with an agency. I would say, if you’ve got a budget of $100,000 or more, an agency is probably a good way to go. If you have less than $100,000, I recommend usually that people look at either networks or rep firms, because they’re going to help you… A company like True Native Media, we can help you if you’ve got a budget of $10,000 or $20,000, to make a good decision about where to go and place your ads, as opposed to you trying to do it on your own. Because going individually to podcasters is a lot of work. And just from personal experience, it doesn’t always garner the results you’re looking for.

Yeah, I mean, I obviously have a podcast, and I get a lot of people asking me directly to sponsor the show. And like 99.99 percent of the time, I could tell it’s just the boilerplate ask and I don’t even know who you are. So I’m not even going to entertain this at all. It’s all coming from True Native Media right now. So yeah, that’s really interesting. And then as far as tracking, to make sure that I am getting results as a company doing podcast advertising, what’s the best mechanism to do that? What’s the best call to action, if you will?

Yeah, I think if you are looking for a direct response, there’s a couple of things to consider. Number one, it’s really important to make sure that you’re okay with discounting your product. I’ve had some really companies that are more in the brand space, who sell really high end products, who have come, and they’ve wanted to test a campaign like it’s a direct response campaign… when in all actuality, if you’re not going to give a discount, or if you’re not going to put an offer out there that’s going to entice people, you really shouldn’t be running direct response, you should be running branding ads.

So think about that. And really, the other thing that just gets me: I actually purchased some headphones from a company that’s been advertising with us for my husband for a Christmas gift. And I went on their website, big banner at the top says “Sign up, and put this promo code in,” which was like “SAVE15 and get 15 percent off. And I’m like, “Oh, that’s interesting.”

Well, of course, I use a promo code from a podcaster and I got 15 percent off. So from a user’s perspective, why in the world did I want to dig up a promo code to get the same discount that was right on their website? It was much easier for me to take that promo code off the top of their website. So make sure that you’re putting out a unique and compelling offer. It doesn’t always have to be a discount. It can be additional services, it could be additional products. But it has to be something compelling enough that people are going to want to remember the promo code, they’re going to want to put it in. So really think about that and think about what that win looks like for you. So those are the basics. We could also talk about attribution if that’s something we want to get into.

Yeah, let’s just chat about that a little bit before we end up here. What does that mean exactly?

So there are definitely some new companies, I shouldn’t call them new because they’ve been around for a couple years. Newer companies within the podcast space, where we’re able to actually see who has listened to a podcast and then who is making a purchasing decision. So essentially what happens is, the listener listens and the advertiser put a tracking pixel on their website. So tracking pixels are very common. If you’re in marketing you know all about them. Lots and lots of companies use them.

And essentially, we know, hey, Pat listened to this podcast, then he went over and he purchased these headphones. You don’t have to put a promo code in, you don’t have to go to a unique URL, they just know that, hey, there was a conversion that happened. They don’t know Pat was the person. They don’t know your name. They don’t know any of your personal information, but they do know you listened to the podcast.

So I do really encourage advertisers to think about attribution software, because it takes a lot of the guesswork out. The other thing is, is when we’re looking for results from podcast ads, ideally, we are also looking for varying degrees of information. So we want to see that people did use the promo code, we do want a call to action. But putting in an attribution tracking pixel can also be a layer of information that will essentially prove to us that our podcast campaign was successful.

Can that track if a person plays the podcast on their Apple podcast app and then goes to the website? How does it know that?

It’s all through your IP address and user agent. So that’s how they track it all. So they know, hey, Pat, listens to his iPhone, but then he buys things on his laptop, or he listens on his iPhone, and then he goes to work and buys stuff on his work computer. So it’s kind of crazy.

If you want to share the names of those companies that we could look at for attribution . . . do you have those names in mind?

Yeah for sure. So we use a company called Podsights, there’s also a company called Chartable and then a third called Claritas. So those are, I would say, the three biggest players within the space right now. And I know we kind of touched on some privacy things. So there definitely is a lot of privacy conversation that is happening around this to make sure that people’s privacy is really being protected. And I would say that, like all privacy issues, while maybe it should be black and white, it’s definitely more in the gray space right now. But it is something as an industry that we are talking about a lot. Because privacy issues are important. Nobody wants to feel like their privacy is being invaded. As a marketer, you like to see results and all that stuff. So it’s like, where’s the balance?

Well, I feel like we could talk for hours more about this kind of stuff. And it’s stuff that obviously we at SPI are very much involved with and are staying on top of. And we have you to thank for helping us with not just filling in ads, but also filling in our heads with information and what’s relevant right now, especially here in this episode today. So thank you, Heather, for coming in. I appreciate it. I know you have a resource for those who perhaps aren’t quite at agency level yet, who could perhaps still gain some further value from you in terms of how to actually get ads on your own. Where might people go to find that?

Yeah, for sure. So I have a course called the Podcast Moneymakers Course that walks you step by step through how you can go and get advertisers on your own. You can go to to find that information. And then also, we’ve been putting a lot of effort into our Podcast Advertising Playbook. So that podcast is specifically designed to be a show to talk about everything advertising within the podcast space. So the Podcast Advertising Playbook. If you are interested, either from an advertiser perspective or a podcaster perspective, come and check that show out.

Cool. Thank you. And then for those who may be qualified and have enough downloads to potentially work with you, how might they start that conversation?

Yeah, if you go to, you can fill out a form there. I will say right now we are kind of in a waitlist period, just because we’re in between years and really strategizing about the shows we want to take on. But please come and feel free to fill out that form because we’d love to connect with you and see if we could be a good fit for you. So the app, for that.

Awesome. Thank you so much, Heather, we appreciate you. Thank you for the insight and insider information. Looking forward to our normal meetings and stuff.

Yeah. For sure. Well, thanks for having me on, Pat. And I hope that this information has been helpful.

It definitely has been. Thank you so much.

All right, I hope you enjoyed that episode with Heather Osgood, again, you can find her and her company at And again, big shout out to her and the entire team over there for helping us manage our advertising to help take a lot of the load off our backs and to help us honestly just make more money and do it in a very genuine way. So thank you, Heather. Thank you True Native Media. And thank you the listener for listening all the way through. I appreciate you so, so much. And I hope that you take some valuable information from this episode and apply it in one way or another into your business.

Speaking of applying in your business, we have a lot of things coming up this year that you can definitely apply to help you grow your business, maintain it, and scale it, have more of a team, generate more income, get more email subscribers, all those kinds of things. If that sounds great to you, please make sure you subscribed. If you’re not subscribed, I would love to help you, hit subscribe so you don’t miss any other episodes. Thank you in advance for all the reviews that have been coming in. They come in every single day. And my team and I, we read them, we review them. I appreciate them so, so much. And I look forward to serving you in the next episode as well. So hit subscribe and I’ll see you then. Cheers, take care, and as always, Team Flynn for the win. Peace out.

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