How many ads or sponsored messages are too many ads or sponsored messages in a podcast episode? Any might be your answer. I know a lot of podcast listeners bristle at being forced to listen to any ads in a podcast episode. As is their right as a consumer!
Or maybe you haven't noticed an imbalance in the ad-to-content ratio in the podcasts you listen to. We know that, compared to other forms of media, podcasting has one of the best ratios, which means fewer annoying ads for every minute of content enjoyed on podcasts.
But as you've no doubt noticed, I made the decision to make this a season of Podcast Pontifications sponsor-supported. If you listened to this episode, you just sat through (or perhaps you skipped through) a message from this month's sponsor. If you're reading this article on my website or on Medium, you had to scroll past the sponsor message to get this far. You'll see another sponsor message block a few paragraphs down, and listeners of the episode will hear another sponsor block in a few minutes. Even people who subscribe to the newsletter—it's free to subscribe to Podcast Pontifications In Your Inbox, by the way—see the same sponsored messages. It's been that way for 85 episodes of this season so far, with another 50 or yet to come.
Not-So-Secret Ways To Avoid My Sponsors' Messages
Only a handful of people have discovered how to "escape" from those sponsor messages, simply because I haven't talked bout them all that much. And in hindsight, that was obviously a mistake. Because yeah... these sponsor messages are a lot!
Only recently have I activated those escape routes. One of them is only available to those who have signed up for a membership on BuyMeACoffe.com/evoterra. They get both the audio and the article in a sponsor-message-free format well in advance of anyone else—like almost a full day early, as they drop at midnight GMT.
I also make a premium, sponsor-message-free version of the podcast episode available to those who pay for a subscription on Apple Podcasts. That drops at midnight Eastern, I think? I do something similar on Spotify, though no one has paid for a subscription there, where I'm able to schedule the episode drop at the normal time of 10:00 am PHX time.
Got all that? A little confused, maybe? Yeah... me too. Which is partly why I really haven't talked up these options.
What's important to me is that serious podcasters like you listen to (or read or watch, I don't really care) the thoughts I have about the present and future of podcasting. If I can do that in a format that includes relevant sponsor messages that matter to you in the audio and text, then so be it.
But I also know that having too many sponsor messages in an episode causes a massive imbalance that can turn off listeners. And does turn off listeners. I know it's already happened at least twice.
So what am I going to do about it? Well, I'll tell you. Right after this second sponsor block. (You saw that coming, didn't you?)
I know the sponsor load in my audio has been too much for two listeners because they told me so. The first was via Twitter—hi, Patrick!—and we had a nice and respectful discussion. The second was via a two-star review on Apple Podcasts—hi, April. Apple doesn't give me a chance to engage with reviews, so there wasn't a chance for us to dialog. But no worries!
Now, I'm smart enough to know that those two public complaints were probably just the tip of the iceberg. If those two took the time to say something, at least 10x as many of my listeners are feeling the exact same way. Maybe you're one of them. Or more likely, I've already lost listeners and will never get them back.
I understand that and acknowledge that reality. Just like I understand and acknowledge both Patrick's and April's feedback. I appreciate their candor and honesty. We need more of that.
This next part may surprise you, but I completely agree with their sentiment! I did the math, and I'm putting in about three minutes of sponsorship or calls-to-action in the audio of my episodes. And my episodes are rarely more than six to eight minutes of actual content! That's an extremely heavy ad load. An ad load that was much worse for the month I was also including in the boostagram corner, racking up another couple of minutes of not-really-the-content-of-the-episode content. So yeah. Too much.
But is it really?
Loading an episode so that 20–30% is dedicated to sponsor messages and calls-to-action seems like a lot, but that's on par with broadcast TV and commercial radio. (Yes, I recognize that many of us have stopped watching broadcast TV in favor of streaming services and only rarely listen to commercial radio in favor of podcasts. But still...)
Also, podcasting has a superpower over its broadcast media cousins: that nifty fast-forward button built right into the apps we use to listen to podcasts. And also unlike broadcast TV and ad-supported radio, podcasts often have premium options that let select listeners escape all sponsor and CTA messages. This podcast offers those options, as I just described above.
And then there's this. It's a reality that long-term listeners of this show are well aware of: I experiment with this show. A lot! That's part of me practicing what I preach and trying out things so that you, the serious podcaster can hear, read or see how those choices play out in the real world, without having to do the experimenting yourself.
For now, you should expect to continue to hear sponsor messages—though perhaps not sucking up quite as much time—for the remainder of this season. And remember, you can always pull the rip-cord and choose one of the sponsor-free options, either on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or via Buy Me A Coffee.
At least that's how I'm feeling about things right now. Like everything that I do on Podcast Pontifications, this is a work in progress. Who knows when I'll decide to change my mind and do a different experiment?
So thanks for sticking with me as I keep tweaking the nobs. I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.