Spotify Podcast Ads: The Pros & Cons of Promoting to Premium

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Promoting your podcast with Spotify podcast ads is simple and reaches millions of users, but comes with controversy.

Spotify is comfortably either the top podcast directory or one of the top three, depending on who you ask. They claim to have 220 million “ad-supported” listeners and 172 million premium subscribers. If you're considering buying advertising for your podcast, you might want to buy Spotify podcast ads. With that many committed users, it's a busy marketplace.

But, not all advertising spaces are right for every podcast. Let's take a look at some of the pros, cons, and controversies of Spotify podcast ads. This way, you can decide what's right for you.

Before we begin: I want to clarify the difference between two different kinds of podcast ads. In this article, we won't be talking about host-read advertising. That's where the host talks about a sponsor as part of the main audio recording. The advertising we'll discuss in this article comes in dynamically inserted audio files, provided either by the podcast's media host or the directory (in this case, Spotify).

Spotify Podcast Ads: The Positives

The good things about this are obvious. You can create an ad that will play for people who are already interested in podcasts. It's not like advertising pancakes to a bunny. The target audience will already be using a podcast app. When they hear the Spotify podcast ad, it's easy to try the podcast. The “Learn More” button on their screen helps.

Additionally, Spotify can target the podcast ads by region, age group, and gender. You can set the budget and date range. Then, Spotify Ad Studio tells you how many times they will run your ad. It's very similar to Podbean Ads Marketplace, or Facebook advertising.

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Spotify Podcast Ads: The Negatives

Notice how I said this, about Spotify. “They claim to have 220 million ‘ad-supported' listeners and 172 million Premium subscribers.”

When it comes to Spotify and podcasts, these are not two different groups.

Spotify Premium users, at all levels, get ad-free listening to music. If you read their pricing page, Spotify promises “ad-free music listening,” or that users can “listen to music, ad-free.” They don't say anything about an ad-free podcast listening experience.

The result: Many Spotify users pay to combine their music and podcast listening on one app, and avoid ads. Then, they listen to podcasts, hear ads, and they're not happy.

The Independent was able to get an explanation from Spotify in January 2021. “All Spotify users receive an on-demand podcast listening experience that may include ads or sponsorships. Spotify Premium offers users an ad-free music listening experience. However, Spotify offers all listeners the ability to pause, rewind and fast forward through any part of a podcast episode, including advertisements,” the company told The Independent.” Spotify said that they have to have ads on podcasts because advertising is “an integral part of the podcast industry.”

That's funny. Advertising and music have gone together for over a hundred years, but, Spotify is willing to sell an ad-free music experience.

As Paul Resnikoff of Digital Music News describes, “Spotify is double-dipping by first charging Premium users $9.99-a-month, then serving ads to those paying customers. That sounds a bit risky, though Spotify may be betting that paying subscribers won’t care. Unfortunately, the cost of being wrong is that paying customers will flee to rivals like Apple, Amazon… all of whom have ample podcast (and music) selections.”

podcasting skeletons: Spotify podcast ads

What Does This Mean for Podcasters?

Let's say you sign up and create a Spotify podcast ad. Some who hear it will be casual Spotify users. They expect to hear ads whether they like it or not. They probably fast-forward through any ad before listening. Other listeners will be committed Spotify users, paying a premium to avoid ads. Then, they hear yours.

I'm no mind-reader, but I'm willing to bet a dollar that the first feeling they experience is not joy. Any resentment about ads they experience, they're very likely to associate with the sound of your podcast ad.

Now, imagine that your podcast is available on Spotify. Imagine that you monetize your podcast with ads (whether host-read, or dynamically inserted ads from your media host). Spotify is going to add their advertising as well.

How much of your podcast's content is going to get through to the listener?

Spotify Podcast Ads: Great In Theory, But What About in Practice?

Again, only you can decide what's right for your podcast. No two podcasts are alike. No one strategy or combination of tools will work to promote every single podcast. You can target your podcast advertising with Overcast, or a cross-promotion partnership. Our Podcast Growth Book has loads of strategies and tools to help you get your podcast in front of a wider audience. Buying Spotify Podcast ads isn't a bad idea. But, be aware that their reputation isn't always stellar. This is a good thing to bear in mind with any advertising scheme.