Not every podcast includes ads. Those that do often include the advertisement close to the middle of their episode. The New York Times has an article titled: Ads for Podcasts Test the Line Between Story and Sponsor. It got me to thinking about the way I’ve presented ads in some of the podcasts that I’ve been involved with.
The article talks about advertising in podcasts, and points out that more and more companies are seeking to place ads into the episodes of the most popular podcasts. The thing is, they want more than placement. They are seeking ads that come across as less like advertisements and more like an entertaining story.
This, to me, is problematic, especially when the ad is being delivered by a podcaster who is already known as a serious journalist. How is the listener to differentiate between the advertisement and the true content of the episode, when the person delivering it is someone they expect to provide news and story? The lines are becoming a bit blurred.
One thing that makes this possible is the fact that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has no oversight on podcasts. There are rules regarding how ads are presented on commercial radio. Ads are not allowed at all on public radio. Currently, there are no boundaries in place that limit how ads are presented on podcasts.
It makes me think of the really early days of television, when hosts of children’s programing literally told the children viewing the show to ask their parents to buy them a certain kind of cereal. The kids, of course, weren’t able to identify that as an ad. They just knew that the TV person, whom they liked, told them to get their parents to buy the cereal.
I have been involved in two podcasts that each had Audible as a sponsor. In each show, the audible ad was prefaced by something similar to “Audible is the sponsor of our show”. We tried to make it clear that what we were about to say was an ad.
That being said, the two shows handled the ad differently. The gaming podcast I’m involved in clearly states the sponsorship, and gives details of what Audible offers. That’s it. The music podcast that I was involved in, that has since “podfaded”, did the same, but added more. My co-host and I honestly enjoyed talking about the books we read, and we chose to include a discussion about one of those books into each ad. Each book was available on Audible.
Did we unintentionally make things confusing for our (admittedly few) listeners by handling the ad that way? My co-host really did have an Audible subscription, while I did not. It probably appeared as if I did, though. Was I being dishonest with my listeners? I’m not entirely sure.
Anyway, the point I’m making is that podcasters should be aware of how their ads are being perceived by their listeners. There is a fine line between including what is obviously an ad, and producing what amounts to a “segment” that just so happens to be about a product from a company that sponsors your show.