Will Podcasters Learn From Radio’s Mistakes?

Thanks to our good friends at YouTube, the algorithm served up a Marc Maron interview on the Mayim Blalik's Breakdown show. I've followed her from the days of Blossom and loved her on the Big Bang Theory (where according to Uncle Google said she earned $200,00 per episode). Why did I research that?

Too Many AdsBecause here were my initial reactions:

  • Mayim Blalik has a podcast? (of course she does… )
  • I think it's cool that she is makeup free.
  • The first 2 minutes have a jingle and a commercial.
  • By the time we get to the 13-minute mark, I've heard four and a half minutes of commercials. That is 34% of what I'm listening to is commercials.

I mean, this, THIS, is what you will use to “Hook me in??” At least on TV they take a one-minute break (“This is us will be back in exactly one minute”) so we can get back to the story – which hooks me in. Do you think these ads are hooking me? Do podcasters somehow think, “Man, I hope they do Blue Apron today!” This isn't a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, and ads are not Freebird.

Now, the advertisement-filled episode was the one with her Big Bang Co-star Simon Helberg (not the Maron interview), and I see that this interview is over 2 hours long. There is PLENTY of time to throw these ads in later and spread them out.

This is the one other thing that really got me.

Get Comfy When They Go to a Break

You better get comfy when Mayim goes to commercials because she's not returning anytime soon. I may sit through yet another Better Help ad followed by (oh my God, no!) Athletic Greens. This made me long for the classics (can I hear Harry's Razors or Stamps.com?). Every podcast (big enough to run ads) seems to be running the same ads. 

So when you hear the first ad, you're like, “Oh, OK, she has sponsors. Then the second ad comes on, and you're like, “OK, just one more, hang in there, no need to fast forward.” When the third ad rolled in, I didn't press fast forward.

I Pressed StopI pressed stop.

Then I pulled out my calculator and started doing math.

If someone is going to waste my time, it better be me.

The first 13 minutes of the show were 34% ads. I went back and pressed play to continue the episode, and as there was a smaller onslaught of ads (i.e. more content), we were down to 22% after the 29-minute mark.

Radio Plays 18 Minutes of Ads Per Hour

In this article, they state that radio plays 18 minutes of ads per hour which calculates to 30%. But please don't look at that number as the benchmark to hit.

It is the benchmark we want to avoid.

Jacobs media had an article that showed why people are leaving radio, and one of the top items in green is “too many ads.”

Going forward, we may encounter an issue with the “Large” popular shows. They have received their proposals and signed contracts. This has worked fine for years, but now what if the podcaster wants a raise? What if supply and demand kick in, and they need more income?

So what can they do to make more money?

  • Profit From Your PodcastDo more episodes (making room for more ads). This requires more time, or if they “slap something together,” they risk putting out mediocre content that might lose some of their audience (resulting in fewer downloads on which is the base of their income).
  • Cram more ads into the current content (i.e., “The Radio Model”), in my opinion.
  • With 40-80% fill rates, advertisers may not have to pay top dollar to carve out a place on popular shows. Due to supply and demand, advertisers might want lower pricing. If you pass on their offer, the advertiser has plenty of options that are coming on board. In 2020 the average CPM (price per thousand downloads) was $23.37. In January 2023 it is 22.21. While podcast advertising pricing is fairly consistent, we will see what happens with more and more hosting platforms offering dynamic content options. There will be plenty of available spots, with potentially not enough inventory. So the podcaster that is expecting X amount of money per month may keep their same pay, possibly by adding more ads (So again, get comfy when they to commercial break. It will take you back to, well, US RADIO).

Obviously, there are many other options (swag, live shows, etc) for earning income with your podcast. See my book Profit From Your Podcast.

There Are More Profitable Strategies

The Tilt (marketing newsletter) interviewed over 1000 entrepreneurs, and their report stated that the most profitable strategy was selling your own product and service. If you're a podcaster with products and services, make a show about your industry and be your own sponsor. Less than 10% of podcasters get enough downloads to get a “big” sponsor. This doesn't stop you from getting sponsors, but you may not get a return phone call without 10,000 downloads per episode after 30 days. 

I'm not bashing advertisers. Bless them for coming into the space. I'm just throwing up a red flag saying, “For me, three ads in a row is enough – thank you.” It is not the ads; it is how they are being added and the number that is being added.

Make Money From Day One?

More hosting companies have programmatic options where you earn money (kind of…)

Here is a real-life example of that. I am making .0036 downloads per episode. If I had 300 downloads per episode, I would make $1.08. And, yes, I would be making money from day one. Maybe after the next episode, I will have enough for a bottle of soda (if it is on sale…). Are you still jazzed about advertising?

What About Value For Value?

There is this whole “Podcasting 2.0 Thing” where people can stream cryptocurrency to you. Yes, it is ahead of its time and may not be ready for “Aunt Sheryl,” but I had Sam Sethi from Podfans.fm send me 100,000 Satoshis (a satoshi is one, one-millionth of a bitcoin) in the last episode. In English, according to kraken.com 100,000 Satoshis is worth $27.88 (at least today).


However, I split this (automatically) with my co-host Daniel J. Lewis. I got 51000 Sats or $14.22.

How Many Downloads Would It Take to Make $14.22 Using Programmatic Advertising in a Podcast?

At the .0036 rate, I would need to have 3950 downloads. The “all-time” total number of downloads for the Future of Podcasting (currently) is 1776.

This Future of Podcasting show is fairly new and recently rebranded. My last episode, “Listeners Support From the Listener's Perspective,” has had 113 downloads so far see here.

So $14.22 / 113 = $126 CPM (so .125 per download vs .0036 for programmatic ). Now,  if I can only get Sam to donate every episode. That would mean I would need to deliver value.

Screaming Bravo! In the Digital Age

I listened to The Twitter Files episode of Congressional Dish. When I was growing up, I was under the impression that people called journalists did this thing called “reporting” (see Watergate). Now I turn on the news (brought to you by Pfizer) to hear riveting stories about the Kardashians or the big reveal on the Masked Singer…

I might hear one SUPER RIGHT channel and then turn on another SUPER LEFT channel. In the immortal words of John Lennon, “Just Give Me Some Truth.”

Jen Briney watched HOURS and HOURS of CSPAN (where the US government will say – in public – cause they think nobody is watching – things that should anger every American – except no news channel covers this information).

Well, Jen watches CSPAN, so you don't have to, and her episode WAS AMAZING. Every month I send Jen a check (so there are no fees taken out), and after this episode, I went to her website to get her Venmo address and send her an additional $20 to say BRAVO!

But it turns out I wasn't the only one.

Congressional Dish Fans

I double-dog dare you (if you are an American, and maybe even if you're not) to listen to this episode and not want to give back (it's hard to listen to in a way when you hear your government admit – on tv – to spreading propaganda to their own citizens (but they did. Don't believe me? Again, I double-dog dare you).

It's Not Mediocre for Value – It's VALUE for Value

Many moons ago, I said the phrase, “You get the audience you deserve,” and looking back, that sounds a bit harsh. But on the other hand, it has hints of truth. I see so many shows with subpar audio, a cluttered introduction, and in need of DRASTIC editing, doing a podcast with dreams of getting an advertiser (oh, and using Linktree for their website). We all start somewhere. That show is not “there” yet.

Podcasting is fun. Starting a podcast is easy. Starting a good podcast takes effort. It takes dedication.

If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.

When you do make it to the top of the mountain top, and you deliver amazing content that entertains, inspires as it educates and entertains,

please make sure 34% of your content isn't ads.

Daily Podcast Tips

Daily Podcast Tips! Put Your Inbox to Work

About the Author
Owner of the School of Podcasting. Also produces the "Ask the Podcast Coach." He is also the author of the book "More Podcast Money" and is a regular speaker at podcasting and media conventions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *