#GrowthGoals: One content creator’s forage into the podcasting space. A blog series exploring the well-intentioned attempt of a content creative to learn about a new trade.

The different opportunities podcast creators have with advertising.

I knew very little about podcast advertising when I sat in on a candid talk between two women who claimed they lost sleep over how to make advertising in podcasts better, more relevant and seamless.

While listening to Caila Litman, senior manager, audio revenue operations at Vox Media Podcast Network and Katie Sprenger, supervising producer, branded audio at Vox Media Podcast Network, converse at the Werk It 2019 Festival, I absorbed things the way one does while traveling a foreign country: learn the lingo on-the-go, listen strategically for context, and wing it (KEEP LISTENING EVEN IF YOU DON’T YET UNDERSTAND).

They projected a few lists onto a giant screen that had this on it:

Direct response (makes up 70 percent of the podcast advertising market)

  • ZipRecruiter
  • Casper
  • Stitch Fix
  • The Great Courses
  • Blue Apron
  • Everlane
  • SimpliSafe
  • Quip

Brand advertising increasing in the podcast space

  • Verizon
  • HBO
  • McDonald’s
  • Chase Marriot
  • Dell
  • Audio


  • Oxford
  • Podsights
  • Barometric
  • Nielsen
  • Veritone
  • Ad Results Media
  • Megaphone
  • Adswizz
  • Spotify
  • Pandora
  • Right Side Up

Amidst their very lively exchange, one of the ladies threw out a number something like $500 million in 2019 for podcast advertising.

My ears perked: Say what?

But $500 million just wasn’t jiving with the sobering statements I heard other podcasters made: Less than 1 percent of podcasts currently on the airwaves actually make money. So, where is this money going if not to the creatives involved in making and creating podcasts?

Understand what listeners want in terms of podcast advertising.

Understanding what listeners want with podcast advertising

There was a lot to consider that I hadn’t even thought about when I first thought I’d start a podcast. Besides programming, an emerging industry of podcast advertising was burgeoning. I got that tingly feeling similar to when I am traveling in a foreign country, and I learn a new turn of phrase, which opens up an entirely new way to see the world.

I had come to WerkIt 2019 defining “podcaster” in very limited confines: host, sound engineer, script writer, or producer. There were enormous opportunities in the podcasting space, I had no idea could exist.

Before I let myself consider these boundless newfound frontiers of what we call a “podcast creative,” I had to remember like a listener. What do I experience when I listen to a podcast advertisement?

Flashback to me in my car driving to Trader Joe’s:

  • I’m listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Revisionist History’ in an episode called the “Queen of Cuba” where interspersed into the content Gladwell reads with gusto advertising content about Parachute Quilts. The content is hilarious, over-the-top loaded with campy-cat-ness (because it stars Pushkin, Gladwell’s cat). Direct response content is a call to action to click on a landing page, to make a purchase, and take that action now. In other media, like YouTube, I skip the ad. Yet now, because I love the host, I listen to the whole thing with bated breath. Ad research finds that host-read ads continue to be the most used ad format, and an audience’s connection to hosts increased attention to podcast ads.

Flashback to me in my living room:

  • I’m listening to a podcast called ‘Open Account’ with host Suchin Pak (formerly an MTV News correspondent) and the episode is called “The Tradeoff.” It sounds like any other podcast, but its sponsored by Umpqua Bank and is a branded podcast focused on money and the choices people make around it. Ad research says branded awareness ads increased exponentially from 25 percent to 38 percent over the last three years. But this podcast goes to a whole new level: essentially there were no ads interspersed in the podcast. At the end of the podcast, there’s a plug for the community to engage right at Umpqua Bank’s website.

Flash forward back to me listening to Caila and Katie and what’s keeping them awake at night:

Their last slide flashes before me:

  • New advertising creative
  • Produced reads
  • Custom content
  • Branded podcasts

Now my brain zinged with so many more questions and ideas:

  • What makes a new creative possible? Could this mean me shapeshifting into a podcast advertising creative?
  • Could I make a branded podcast on climate change and lovers of the outdoors for Patagonia?
  • Could I find that sweet spot where I get to create content that buyers want and explore ideas I care about?
  • Could I find a sponsor who shared my concerns and perspectives to help me get the podcast off the ground?

Yes, it was then when I understood why Caila and Katie couldn’t sleep. To infinity and beyond!