"You can move downstream to smaller shows for more inventory, and it also allows you to test more cost-effectively and then scale." - Todd Gallet, Head of Partnerships at Podcorn,
I had one of the most open and honest conversations with Todd Gallet, Head of Partnerships at Podcorn, about how brands (if they are strategic about it) can book tons of inventory on smaller shows and get better results than trying to run on one or two huge well-known shows.
"Not every brand is an excellent fit for the biggest shows. So if you're a new brand getting into the space and you're going to go after Joe Rogan, it could be a huge miss, quite frankly. You're going to get the audience, but it's not necessarily going to convert. You can move downstream to smaller shows for more inventory, and it also allows you to test more cost-effectively and then scale."
Todd and I discuss how he is helping smaller podcasts and brands find an easy way to connect and partner together, and how advertisers with larger budgets can scale with smaller shows.
Todd comes from an influencer ad sales background then successfully transitioned into podcast ad sales. "Influencer marketing and podcast advertising are almost an exact parallel. We were a marketplace for YouTubers, and all of that was about finding the host who had the right personality, the proper connection with your brand, and who could authentically deliver an endorsement. To me, podcasting is the exact same thing."
We also cover why setting expectations upfront is critical to campaign success, and also why no ROI is not necessarily a loss.
To learn more about Podcorn, you can visit the website - https://podcorn.com/
Reach out to Todd at email@example.com.
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[00:00:15] Heather Osgood: Hello and welcome to the podcast advertising playbook. I'm your host, Heather Osgood. And today, I am joined by Todd Gallet. He is Head Of Partnership at Podcorn. Welcome to the show, Todd.
[00:00:28] Todd Gallet: Hello, thanks for having me.
[00:00:29] Heather Osgood: We've worked together for several years now. How long have you been in podcasting?
[00:00:37] Todd Gallet: Yeah, I come from the influencer world, so a similar marketplace opportunity, and I have been in podcasting for almost two and a half years.
[00:00:51] Heather Osgood: One of the things I love about your website is you talk so much about influencer marketing. I feel like that's near and dear to my heart. What separates podcast advertising from so many different forms of advertising is that it really is influencer marketing, right?
We've got these hosts that are endorsing products. Not everyone can see that connection, which I find strange sometimes. But what made you look into the podcast space and say, man, I've been in influencer marketing, and I see that influencer marketing is happening in podcasts?
[00:01:36] Todd Gallet: It's almost an exact parallel. So strange for you to say that some advertisers don't see the comparison. We came from the YouTube world. We sold our first company to YouTube specifically. And we were a marketplace for YouTubers, finding hosts who had the right personality and connection with your brand. Someone who can authentically deliver an endorsement.
[00:01:59] Todd Gallet: To me, podcasting is the same. You're connecting your brand with a host that already likes and uses your product when done successfully. They can give an authentic endorsement and reaches the right audience. A relevant audience will care about your product.
[00:02:41] Heather Osgood: I love that. And I really appreciate you sharing that story because I wholeheartedly agree with you. Do you see parallels between the way ads are delivered on YouTube and podcasts?
[00:03:20] Todd Gallet: There's an opportunity for host-read endorsement and programmatic ads. There are pros and cons to running both. Obviously, the scalability and the control you have on dynamic, certainly with shorter flights. And in comparison, you have YouTube, which does TrueView ads. So if you want to create your own and run geo-targeting in very specific timeframes, you could do that with TrueView.
People are often trying to sell you one way or the other. But I think there is this opportunity for both to have the programmatic and host-read ads. There certainly are advantages of leaning into more of that host endorsement.
[00:04:14] Heather Osgood: Yeah, absolutely. So tell us about Podcorn. What made you start the company, and what does Podcorn do?
[00:04:22] Todd Gallet: Absolutely. Our first foray into influencer marketing was in the early days of 2014, and everything was siloed into networks.
[00:04:34] Todd Gallet: It was all about the most significant talent. And that evolved into micro-influencer strategies. As you fill up and saturate the top of the funnel, you will have to move downstream to like mid and long-tail talent and the future stars that come along.
[00:04:50] Todd Gallet: I see a similar podcasting progression. There's this kind of arms race of all these networks, trying to consolidate and "own" those huge shows. But I think eventually, those spaces will be saturated. And just because the show is enormous, it doesn't mean it's a great fit for every brand.
[00:05:22] Todd Gallet: Advertisers want to find relevant shows. And most of the ecosystem is that mid and long-tail talent. So we saw this opportunity where we could come in as a third-party marketplace and go after the independent space. Allow those tens of thousands of shows to monetize.
[00:05:43] Todd Gallet: We have over 60,000 podcasts and the ability to curate based on keyword searches, audiences, or topics and work with brands. We started building relationships with networks like yours and other big networks because it's a similar ecosystem in those networks. The big shows obviously get a lot of attention. But sometimes, you have those mid and long tails in your network that need love, too, and it doesn't make sense for a brand to buy them individually. But we have this opportunity to pick certain podcasts from different networks, and everyone gets to win.
[00:06:32] Todd Gallet: So that's kind of been the evolution of our marketplace. Not trying to be a network or have exclusivity podcasts but rather be agnostic, and that's been received well because every brand has a different budget. Sometimes a brand can come to us with a relatively small budget, and we're not incentivized to go on one big show with that budget. So instead, let's do 10 or 15 small shows. Let's test small and then grow together. And then brands can spend huge budgets, and we can come to your network and book your biggest shows.
[00:07:01] Todd Gallet: So it's been a great opportunity. And I think as the ecosystem continues to evolve, you see this kind of evolution. There are a lot of big independent podcasts that have their own sales teams. People will look for new opportunities to bring in revenue. We will fit nicely in that space and not be competitive with the networks.
[00:07:38] Todd Gallet: In March of last year, we were acquired by Odyssey, which allowed us to continue to grow. We can build out our tech for new monetization opportunities, continue to add shows and provide Odyssey a pool of talent that they could build into their programs. So it's been a great integration so far.
[00:08:05] Heather Osgood: Absolutely. Podcasts have a limited number of ad spots. So you can't have everyone advertising on one podcast, like Joe Rogan, because once his inventory is complete, it's filled. And what I have seen is the top tier of podcasts are getting booked. Many of our shows sold out at the beginning of the year, forcing advertisers to look at smaller shows.
[00:09:50] Todd Gallet: Absolutely. That's the natural progression of things. Eventually, those shows fill up. But advertisers realize that not every brand is an excellent fit for the biggest shows. So you move downstream for inventory and an opportunity to test more cost-effectively. So if you're a new brand getting into the space, going to go after Joe Rogan, it could be a huge miss. You're going to get the audience, but it doesn't necessarily convert. Many of our advertisers are direct responses, so that's a big bet for brands. It makes more sense to test comparable podcasts in the same genre.
[00:10:27] Todd Gallet: Many comedian podcasts do conversational interviews that reach a similar audience. It makes more sense to go downstream where there's a lot of great talent and test. So when, and if you miss on a particular podcast that doesn't convert, it's not as devastating to brands from a cost perspective.
And we can really start to tweak what - is the right show? What is the right messaging? What is the right frequency? I think that it makes a lot of sense to do it downstream, and then if you are curshing it, invest in the larger podcasts. That's very similar to what I told people six years ago with YouTube. You don't want to go buy Kim Kardashian out of the gate. There are advantages to that, but not necessarily from an ROI perspective. That's a branding play.
[00:11:22] Todd Gallet: The early adopters have already locked up so much inventory that you are really forced as an advertiser to go downstream. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, rather a way to find the shows that will become the next trending podcast.
[00:12:03] Heather Osgood: What are the advantages of going downstream? I know one that I see frequently is ad clutter. So when you talk about bigger shows, there can be a substantial number of ads in a program. And what I have seen is that when you go downstream, those podcasts aren't filled a hundred percent.
[00:12:23] Heather Osgood: So let's say maybe a podcast will accept three or four advertisers per episode. They're not going to fill up all three or four of those spaces. You might be the only advertiser in that episode, or maybe you're one of two. So I see that as being a real advantage. What are some other benefits you see to going downstream?
[00:12:42] Todd Gallet: Yeah, I think that certainly is one. Those hosts tend to be eager and accommodating to brands. They add value or give a more engaging ad read.
[00:13:02] Todd Gallet: Their audiences tend to be really engaged and active listeners of the podcast with 5,000 downloads. These people are really leaning in and listening. And I think when they give authentic endorsements, it tends to work quite well. It's no different than many brands that test influencers. Not all 10 out of 10 influencers will crush it. A percentage of them will knock it out of the park, and it covers the cost of the others that might not deliver on impressions. There's an awareness play, not necessarily an ROI or conversion.
[00:14:29] Todd Gallet: The pool of podcasts will continue to grow. And that's an exciting opportunity for brands. And like you said, they can grow their spending as they learn and optimize. So the brands that have done that quite well are doing that at scale. They're constantly testing new shows as cost-effectively as they can.
[00:14:45] Todd Gallet: When they find a big show that works, they book it for the year. It's an exciting position to be in when you can own category exclusivity for an entire audience. I mean, that's already what's happened. It's kind of the wild west still where there's this exhilarating opportunity for brands to own an entire category. And those brands that have done well have invested in that.
[00:15:09] Heather Osgood: Let's talk about testing. I was on a call with a potential new advertiser a few weeks ago. And I said, we really want to test. We want to create this period where we look at these different shows and see which ones will pull on and which ones will get a good return. The advertiser was very shocked by that. He's like, "You think that we should test it? I would've thought you would have said we should book the whole year." And I'm like, "No, I really think you need to test first."
I was looking at some of the FAQs on your site, and you talked about how you don't put all your eggs in one large show but spread the wealth around and buy multiple shows. So what does a good test look like when you're working with someone?
[00:15:57] Todd Gallet: We try to diversify the number of shows and the number of episodes. So we believe that there's a level of frequency you'll get, depending on how the show is set up. Some shows are sold monthly, so that might mean a couple of months. It may be for selling it monthly, or if it's episodical, we might do three or four episodes. That, to me, is plenty of time to see if a show is engaging the right audience. Is it driving conversions? If there's a response, you'll see website traffic increase or conversions. That gives you insight into an opportunity there to build a partnership and tweak your messaging. If it's not driving any conversion or website traffic in a few months or episodes, move that money elsewhere.
So for us, it is all about diversifying that initial spend across many shows. Instead of putting X amount of dollars into one podcast and doing two or three episodes, we would do 10 shows. Similar, but maybe just smaller audiences so we can really learn as much as possible.
There's so much you could test, especially for a new advertiser. We want to test discounts and attribution. There are so many different things you can learn in those initial few months that it is important. I think a lot of advertisers come in and test. And when you ask them what did they test? And they tried a big podcast, it didn't work, and they think it isn't a great opportunity, or it didn't really make any ROI. So I don't think that's a very effective test. You really didn't learn very much. For me, if you walked away with a lot of learning, that's an effective test. Even if it wasn't ROI positive or it didn't hit our KPIs a hundred percent, we can get as much data as possible. It gives you something to take back with the team and reevaluate. So that's kind of our goal with every one of these programs.
[00:17:55] Heather Osgood: Podcast ads are similar to social media ads because most advertisers, especially if they're like a direct-to-consumer brand, wouldn't say like, "Oh, is Facebook going to work? Or is Instagram going to work?" They would say, "Do I have the right audience targeted? Do I have the right messaging? Do I have the right image? Do I have the right offer?" They're going to tweak all of the elements. They're going to do split testing to see what actually does work, as opposed to saying the medium just doesn't work at all for me.
[00:18:30] Heather Osgood: What we want to do with podcasts is something super similar. I love everything you're saying, but being in conversations with advertisers and saying the goal isn't actually a positive ROI; it's learning during the test period. Most advertisers are going to be a little bit squeamish about that. So what do you tell someone when you're talking to them? How do you overcome that objection with an advertiser?
[00:19:11] Todd Gallet: Of course, that's our hope, right? We've had clients who turn 400% ROI and totally crush it. I think we go in trying to do the best we can. This isn't performance marketing. So again, as you said, this isn't Facebook where it's just cost per conversion. And there isn't awareness play to this. And if this is your first time getting into it, there is some learning. You're telling me your audience is X, Y, and Z, but those audiences could be listening to many different podcasts. So a lot of it is finding the right audience, messaging, and voice. Not every host will be as good as others in delivering the message.
[00:19:48] Todd Gallet: So there's so much involved. I just try to set realistic expectations. If I tell everyone they're going to sell 400% ROI, we would be a lot more successful. The whole space would, right? It's no different from influencer marketing or any advertising for that matter. So much of it is about optimizing and minimizing the misses. That's what I tell them. I'm trying to set expectations. Of course, our goal here is to go out, hit your KPIs, and crush them. And I think we've done quite a good job for many of our clients. Not every client is ROI positive, but many, ironically, even those who did not come back. Because my goal was to learn. Often, two of the 10 shows were absolute rock stars, and in the long run, those shows might turn an ROI for them that would cover the cost of even our initial testing. So again, you have to look at it at the macro level.
[00:20:39] Todd Gallet: If our one-month test is not ROI positive, that doesn't mean that podcasting at large won't be. There was an awareness play, and you don't know when and if those listeners will convert over, over the long run. I guarantee that we will find some shows, typically mid and long-tail, because they're less expensive, that will turn into an excellent conversion. And they quickly realize that the fans of those big shows are very hard to turn ROI for any brand because they're so expensive. So it's just a realistic perspective on the space, and you have to go in with those expectations.
If a client is concerned about the cost per acquisition, then maybe we're going after too large of an initial budget. I should probably set realistic expectations of an initial budget because every brand is relative, and a hundred thousand dollars to some brands are not a lot of money. For some brands, that's their entire marketing budget. So I'm not trying to convince you to spend your total marketing budget on an unknown return. Then everyone is more open to that test and learning strategy.
[00:22:42] Heather Osgood: On your website the first budget range you had was $0 to $10,000. We have a $5,000 minimum spend when working directly with an advertiser. I don't really think that anyone should spend less than that. But what's your take on it?
[00:23:14] Todd Gallet: We have the self-service marketplace, so every brand has an opportunity. Most of the spending under $10,000 are brands leveraging our self-service.
Our managed services, which I run, start at $25,000 to $30,000. I think that some spending is just a little bit too small for learning. So how much can you learn from spending five grand? Are you moving the needle enough with overall impressions? Even with a reasonable conversion percentage, hiring a host with a few hundred downloads is that enough?
[00:24:03] Todd Gallet: You have to have enough shows and impressions to get a good understanding. And test some of the shows with different size points. Test shows with a thousand downloads, 15,000, 25,000, and a hundred thousand. You might realize there is a specific amount of impressions, which can vary by product.
[00:24:25] Todd Gallet: I tend to push people towards a slightly higher budget and smaller than $25,000 use the self-service.
[00:25:01] Heather Osgood: Podsights, one of the attribution companies in the space, recently released a benchmark report that shared conversions happen most in terms of the number of impressions you've purchased. And seems to me, like they were saying between 200,000 and 400,000 impressions was like a really nice sweet spot. It's important to ensure that you're doing enough when you're running a test because if you're not doing enough, it will not perform as well. Even with the second-tier podcasts, it is important to ensure that the audience size is large enough to get some traction.
[00:26:15] Heather Osgood: What are some metrics that advertisers should be looking at?
[00:26:39] Todd Gallet: Coupon codes and unique URLsgives us a baseline. Everyone would agree that it's not perfect attribution. I think that also comes back to your idea of KPIs. It might be hard to get a hundred percent attribution in this space.
[00:27:09] Todd Gallet: You have to understand that there probably is a little bit of an uptick from what you're seeing. And some of this attribution of people that are actually converting because it's just not perfect attribution. I think most advertisers understand that. Beyond that, those third-party attribution sites, Podsights, Claritas, Chartable, etc., doing pixel tracking. It's an extra layer of attribution to sell it internally to leadership and see if it's a valuable medium. So I certainly think that those are valuable.
[00:27:59] Todd Gallet: For our clients that are direct response it always comes down to that. What's the cost per acquisition or the individual campaign ROI? And I think both are reasonable and effective metrics. We don't go in guaranteeing everything. But with our most successful people, see a relative CPA to other mediums or the possibility of it growing.
[00:29:18] Heather Osgood: Have you successfully run split tests on a CTA or an offer? Because I liked the idea of doing that. We haven't, at True Native, executed a campaign like that. But I'm curious if you have, cause it seems like a good idea. I get frustrated with advertisers because you go to their website, and they have a better offer. Or they have an identical offer. So there is no incentive to enter the promo code from the podcast? Have you had any advertisers willing to do some split testing?
[00:30:05] Todd Gallet: Split testing is tough because you're missing the message in the marketplace. If listeners hear one ad and it's $50 off, and then the next ad is $25 off, it gets a little confusing. If anything, we would at least do it at different times. Maybe this campaign, we run a dollar offer, and we run a percentage offer the next time. So there are opportunities for that. I definitely agree that the most successful ones have created unique discounts and, or purchase opportunities or whatever that incentive is that are not available anywhere else.
[00:30:48] Todd Gallet: I think that certainly is important because I agree many brands will just offer the same discount in the CTA, as you could just go to the website and again, a purchase is a purchase, but it's hard for attribution. The whole goal is to show that. There's really no reason for someone to take immediate action, or they just go to your website because they are interested, but then they see that it's the same discount. So they're like, "I'll just buy it later. It's always available."
I like the opportunity of trying, let's say, dollar versus percentage and different messaging. But I also like it when brands offer a unique package or product that's only available to podcast listeners. We've had outstanding success when brands do that.
[00:31:35] Heather Osgood: What do you see in terms of brand advertising in this space? How do you think that might be affecting what's going on?
[00:31:58] Todd Gallet: Any spend is good spend in the space. The bigger brands are continuing to get into podcast advertising. The only negative would be the inventory. You have brands who have big budgets and will come in and spend a million dollars or $5 million. And that buys up a lot of inventory from direct response clients.
But, they are an impression game, right? So I think the only downside potentially is that their necessity to drive down the cost of impressions does so in the marketplace. So if you come in with a lot of money and you're driving down the individual cost of an impression, that's not good for everyone. It's not good for talent. It's not good for everyone.
[00:32:33] Todd Gallet: But, for the most part, I think overall I've seen costs going up because inventory is going down. So it kind of counterbalances as big brands have come in, and they're spending big dollars. They are getting discounts on the impressions, but also they're buying a lot of inventory. So the overall cost is going up. We work with a lot of entertainment and auto. They also tend to prefer dynamic. So again, I see it playing out that you have these two silos - big brands who are open to dynamic because they want produce spots, or specific timeframes they want to run. So those are great for dynamic. Geo-targeting, so those actually fill a lot of that dynamic inventory where they're really happy about that.
[00:33:21] Todd Gallet: It's cheaper impressions. It's more scale. I think that's a great play. And then the direct response that leaves them all this opportunity for like the personal endorsement and the baked in, and a little more freedom in the messaging because they want it to be organic.
[00:33:54] Heather Osgood: I thought it was interesting that the prices increased. Still, Advertisecast has been publishing its average CPM data for a little while now. And truthfully, every time I look at it, it seems low to me. We're selling it at a higher CPM than that, pushing to sell it at a higher CPM. But I feel the space is edging downward, which no one really wants to happen. So we can look at other mediums out there that really have had that race to the bottom, and nobody wants that.
[00:34:34] Heather Osgood: That's why there is a ton of value in host-read endorsement ads. And it shouldn't be apples to apples. Instead, an announcer-read, dynamically inserted ad shouldn't be priced at the same amount as a host-read ad becuase it is more work. That should cost more. What is your take on it?
[00:35:10] Todd Gallet: You get what you pay for in the sense that if you're looking for a producer-read spot to buy an audience and inventory, it's less expensive. It makes sense that that would be less expensive. You're buying inventory on back episodes, et cetera. At scale, that makes sense. Similar to Spotify, you can get a cheaper CPM because it's less high touch as far as getting products and getting hosts to personally endorse. Suppose you're leaning into personal endorsement, sending them products for an organic, engaged ad-read. In that case, I think that will come at a premium.
And also you see it all the time. It's really show-specific. It comes at a premium if you're a celebrity with a built-in audience and a massive social following. And that's kind of across the board. So, it isn't necessarily plug-and-play. So I think where it's the most plug-and-play is dynamic, right? Where you're just selling an audience. You can reach 25 to 34-year-olds on a mass scale. So we'll just buy impressions, and of course, that's going to be cheaper.
[00:36:15] Todd Gallet: I still think that is a net positive because you will still fill up all that extensive inventory. Then the rest of the brands will have to spend more. So as an ecosystem, the prices continue to go up. Over the last two and a half years, I've seen that prices are inching up. And a lot of that comes down to inventory, and also more brands are coming, so it's more competitive.
So if you have a parenting show, it will be really in demand. So I think it's fair to raise the pricing. I mean, that's what we tell clients, depending on your targeting. If you have a broad target, it's easier to get a reasonable cost. Really narrow targeting is going to be more expensive. That's, again, no different than any medium. So, I always think it's a net positive. I think the biggest thing for the space is that the mid and long-tail continue to grow in size, right?
[00:37:00] Todd Gallet: That's how the ecosystem at large grows. You can't just keep selling the biggest shows at the cheapest CPM. I agree that that's like a race to the bottom that I don't think anyone will benefit except for the people that buy out all the inventory at a really cheap cost, will win. Still, then it doesn't allow the space to grow.
[00:37:23] Heather Osgood: If you were to tell an advertiser your top three tips on succeeding in podcast advertising, what would those be?
[00:37:37] Todd Gallet: Finding suitable podcasts with the audience demographic, the host personality, and brand alignment. That's a great kind of place to start.
Secondly, setting reasonable expectations of what success is in a new medium. The brands that are the most effective are scaling big budgets into this, but they're seeing the most significant results.
And the third one is to think long-term about this strategy. Don't come in with; I will test a few shows and a one-month campaign. There will be a lot of long-term opportunities, and I think if you go with a long-term strategy, it's going to be more effective for you.
[00:39:03] Heather Osgood: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Todd, thank you so much. It's been great chatting with you. If people want to know more about you, where can they connect with you?
[00:39:10] Todd Gallet: Todd@popcorn.com. Always feel free to check out our website.
[00:39:17] Heather Osgood: Well, thank you so much for listening to today's episode. I hope that there were some great nuggets of information in there. And if you haven't tried out podcast advertising and are thinking about jumping into this space, I would highly recommend that you do, you can head on over to truenativemedia.com, and we would love to chat with you.
[00:39:37] Heather Osgood: Have a good day, and we will talk to you next time.
Head of Partnerships
Todd is a serial entrepreneur with a string of acquisitions in the creator space. His first was the sale of FameBit to YouTube (as a top seller and Head of Partnerships) and next Podcorn sold to Audacy in March of 2021 (as the only seller and Head of Partnerships).