For Podcasters: Using Episode Analytics to Deliver More Impactful & Lucrative Advertising

June 12, 2017

While this post speaks directly to podcasters (they’re the “you”), hopefully it will be edifying to anyone who’s interested in the evolution of podcasting as a craft and a business — and the role analytics will likely play in that evolution.

Entering the Analytics Age

We were excited to learn that Apple will be rolling out episode engagement analytics for podcasters later this year. The reason is that we’ve already seen firsthand how useful they are to artists; we’ve been making similar analytics available to select partners since October 2016. In fact, they’re a big reason that some heavy hitting comedians and podcasters decided to partner with us. We see Apple’s announcement as validation that Laughable is on the right track, and we welcome with open arms anything that benefits artists. This certainly qualifies.

Our technology allows us to generate a “timeline” showing what parts of an episode Laughable users actually listened to vs. skipped. See below for a blinded example. If every listener had been tuned in to every second of this episode, the red area would take up the entire chart. But that never happens in reality. Dips correspond to where people fast forwarded or tuned out altogether.

Why Episode Analytics Matter: A Brief Primer

This data has myriad applications. For example, it can help answer questions like:

Episode Structure & Length. Is your intro too long? How about the overall episode? At what junctures do people press that fast forward button or bail entirely?

Guest Selection. Which guests did your listeners pay attention to, and which ones bored them? Not all guests are created equal!

Advertisements. Not all ads are created equal, either. Are you delivering them in a way that keeps people listening? And for the people who are listening, how impactful is your messaging? Is it spurring people to transact?

The emergence of technology — ours and others’ — that can answer these questions is undoubtedly a positive development for podcasters, listeners, and advertisers alike. You’ll finally have the tools you need to continually refine your approach. Upshot: you’ll do an increasingly effective job of capturing listeners’ attention with words that resonate meaningfully. And it’s high time the industry moved beyond the download, anyway; why should someone who listens to 1 second of an episode be counted the same as someone who listens to all 2 hours of it?

Delivering More Engaging, Impactful Ads: 5 Rules of Thumb

For the past few months, we’ve examined timelines like the one above for thousands of episodes, often listening to the audio as we follow a chart’s corresponding progression. By doing this over and over — linking what’s happening in an episode to what’s happening with listener attention — we’ve observed some patterns.

And from these patterns, we’ve developed some best practices vis-à-vis how you can create more impactful advertising. Two key things to focus on:

– Maximize actual listening time by minimizing how often people fast forward or bail from an episode altogether.

– Once you’re commanding someone’s attention, maximize the impact of the words you’re transmitting into their head.

Note: We define advertising as anything that is intended to influence someone’s purchasing/consumption behavior. This includes not only messaging that an advertiser pays you to deliver, but also anything you’re promoting on your own behalf, e.g. merchandise and upcoming performances.)

We expect that it won’t be long before these guidelines are second nature to podcasters serious about maximizing listener engagement and revenue. You may as well get a head start!

1. Starting an Episode

DO NOT: Start your show with ads. Listeners have a tendency to fast forward past them.

DO: Start your show with a hook. For example:

– Pull out the most interesting 30-60 second snippet from later in the episode and use it as a cold open (so long as it makes sense without any preceding context). Ari Shaffir does a great job of this.

– Create a crisp, interesting introduction that doesn’t drag on very long. Get right into things.

2. Ending an Episode

DO NOT: End your show with ads. People are inclined to bail if they surmise that nothing’s coming after them. More generally, don’t drag out your ending. No ads, no “ummms” or “uhhhs”.

DO: End your show as soon as the interesting stuff is done. Make it clear to your listeners that you respect their time and aren’t going to keep talking just because you can.

3. Ad Placement

DO NOT: Put your ads at the same point of an episode week after week. People will start identifying them more readily and become more likely to skip them.

DO: Mix up where you place your ads.

4. Ad Style

DO NOT: Play music or other sound effects that make it easy for people to discern exactly when an ad starts and stops.

DO: Make your ad as similar to your core content as possible. Quickly verbalize that you’re doing an ad by saying something like, “This episode is brought to you by…”. That’s enough disclosure. Then get right into the read, and do it with the same vibe/style you embrace during the rest of the episode. 

5. Ad Length

DO NOT: Deliver an ad for more than 30 contiguous seconds. Stopping after 20 seconds is even better. Any longer and people are inclined to fast forward. 

DO: Break up an ad read into segments read throughout the show.

It’s a Golden Age! It’s a Renaissance!

Podcasting is growing up fast as a medium and a business. The age of analytics that we are about to enter will only accelerate the industry’s growth. To be sure, there will be inevitable growing pains. And anytime new technology is introduced to a market, things can feel uncertain, unfamiliar, and maybe even a little scary. But the net effect of a more data-driven ecosystem is that WAY more people will benefit than not.

We feel lucky to be playing a small part in ushering in this new and exciting era, and are here to support artists every step of the way.

Thanks for reading — you’re welcome to email us if you have any questions or feedback: