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Disinformation and Ad Accountability w/ Claire Atkin

Disinformation and Ad Accountability w/ Claire Atkin

The Sounds Profitable Podcast

Season 2 • Episode 13

Claire Atkin, co-founder of the brilliant non-profit Check My Ads, talks with Bryan about disinformation, ad accountability, and the steps you should be taking to make sure your brand is being seen where you want it to.


Arielle Nissenblatt: What can podcast publishers learn from radio and other legacy media? That's what we're talking about on this week's episode of Sounds Profitable Adtech Applied with me, Arielle Nissenblatt.

Bryan Barletta: And me Bryan Barletta.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Thanks to Pod Sights for sponsoring this week's episode. Pod Sights, podcasts, advertising insights, and attribution built for advertisers loved by publishers. Go to for more information.

Bryan Barletta: Special thanks to our sponsors for making Sounds Profitable possible. Check them out by going to and clicking on their logos in the articles.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Bryan, hello, how are you?

Bryan Barletta: Hi.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Hi.

Bryan Barletta: I'm great, I'm getting ready. I'm packing. We're all going to New York tomorrow as we're recording this.

Arielle Nissenblatt: The Big Apple.

Bryan Barletta: And so by the time this is out, I'll already be on my way home. Yeah. Lived there for 10 years. I don't miss living there, but it'll be nice to visit people and go to Hot Pod and On Air Fest and see you in person for the first time.

Arielle Nissenblatt: I know, I know. I'm scared. How tall are you?

Bryan Barletta: 17 feet tall.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Okay. Good to know.

Bryan Barletta: No, I'm 5'8". I'm not that tall.

Arielle Nissenblatt: It's just a thing that we don't think about anymore. You know?

Bryan Barletta: Well, we say that and then Treya Sharma who's one of the hosts on the download now, we talk all the time and she's just like, "I'm very tall." I think she's taller than me. So I'm really ...

Arielle Nissenblatt: I did not know that.

Bryan Barletta: That's going to be really exciting. I don't think she'll be at this one. She'll be at Podcast Movement, but ...

Arielle Nissenblatt: Yeah, this is what I like about finally seeing people in real life. I would've never guessed that she was a tall person because it's a personality. It's beyond the physical stature.

Bryan Barletta: We all have to just be in chairs the entire time. It's only from the waist up or the midsection up that we can know each other. Everything else is just too intimidating.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Yeah. Well, Bryan hard pivot for you here. Do you have a favorite terrestrial radio station?

Bryan Barletta: Gosh. I mean, I guess the ... I grew up in Massachusetts, Kiss 108FM was what we listened to, which was really 107.9.

Arielle Nissenblatt: And do you remember it?

Bryan Barletta: I remember it because it was such a big part of my mom's life. We listened to it in the morning on the way to school or wherever we were going. And there was a talk show Matty in the Morning, which I think is still going on and now it's even more than Massachusetts and yeah, it was just such a big thing. Living in Massachusetts was such an interesting thing because so many things happened there that I was like, "Is this what every city is like? Is Boston what every city's like?" And it's not, but yeah, Matty in the Morning, Kiss 108 and that's the talk shows that we'd listen to in the radio station for the hits of today and yesterday.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Wow. Yep. See you remember it very well.

Bryan Barletta: What about you?

Arielle Nissenblatt: I loved and continue to love 107.1 The Peak WXPK. I know it well because it is so good. It literally never misses every single song that is on The Peak, is incredible. And I really am a podcast person. I'm usually just an audio person. I mean, when it comes to share of ear, I am all about the spoken word, not so much the music, except for The Peak. And when I was in college, 104.5 The Drive, which later changed to 100.5 The Drive, which does not have the same ring to it. Incredible Binghamton, New York radio station. I remember these so well because they just do such a great job. And the reason I'm bringing up radio on podcast, Bryan, do you know why?

Bryan Barletta: Could it be because of this episode?

Arielle Nissenblatt: It could be.

Bryan Barletta: And what we dig into? Did I just blow that? Was that a law ball or was I supposed to act shocked?

Arielle Nissenblatt: No, you did a great job. You did a great job. You did exactly-

Bryan Barletta: Okay, cool. Just checking.

Arielle Nissenblatt: ... as I intended. Today's episode of Sounds Profitable Adtech Applied is a conversation between you and Pierre Bouvard.

Bryan Barletta: Yeah.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Who is the Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus Media. And I've heard of Cumulus for a long time. I've seen them at podcast conferences, but I thought I should just give a quick description just so everybody's on the same page. Cumulus Media is a leading audio first media and entertainment company that delivers premium content to over a quarter billion people every month. There are 406 owned and operated radio stations across 86 markets. That's a lot. It's a lot of people, a lot of stations.

Bryan Barletta: I'd say so. Pierre is one of those people that actually was part of the inspiration for Sounds Profitable. I look at James Cridland, I look at Tom Webster, I look at Pierre Bouvard, all these people-

Arielle Nissenblatt: Arielle Nissenblatt.

Bryan Barletta: There you go. But all these people are talking about research, talking about educating the space in their own way. Some of them Pierre and Tom were part of specific companies and it's hard when you're not working with that specific product or that team to take their information and use it neutrally. But I think Pierre, he does the insights. There's at least one, if not more, email a week that you can get from Cumulus and Westwood One. And he even does videos of them where he walks through the data. They're great sources, even if it's not the type of stuff you want to take and put in your own deck, it's directional, it's valuable and it's insights from as Ariel just listed out, a giant network in both radio and podcasting. So Pierre absolutely was part of my inspiration for Sounds Profitable. The big difference for me is I think I'm a little bit louder. And I think that on my end is I'm not a part of a big company, so that's the biggest difference, but I try and highlight these people that I'm learning from. And he's a great example of that.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Today, we're going to be talking about what the podcast industry can learn from radio and from these vast networks as it relates to advertising. Why did you want to talk to Pierre about this specific subject?

Bryan Barletta: Well, somebody sent me a air check with seven ads in one slot and it got me thinking, "Is that bad?" And it turns out it depends. And Pierre and I had a conversation about it in that radio and how radio is set up for ads in a 30 minute slot or 60 minutes, how many ads there are in that time period, how many breaks there are, what is the best response. And radio has been figuring this out for a long time and we can learn so much for it.
Podcasting is still stumbling over ourselves. If we need a 15 second or a two minute long ad, how many ad breaks, how many ads in a break. So my goal here was to talk to Pierre and have him teach us a little bit more about what we've already figured out in radio to give people confidence, to try that in podcasting and get more standardized because while there is a value for being organic and there is value to flow, having things that mimic other audio ad styles is going to be really important and planning out how you put your ads into a show is just as important as planning out your segments.

Arielle Nissenblatt: I thought that there was a lot of important information in your conversation with Pierre. So why don't we get to it?

Bryan Barletta: So Pierre, in radio advertising, which you have a great background in as well, what's the norm for ads? How many ads per hour, how many per ad break, how many breaks can there be total and how much time per break?

Pierre Bouvard: So we did a pretty in depth analysis using data from a company called media monitors that monitors thousands of radio stations and electronically captures all the ads. And we looked across their data set in the typical hour of American radio. The average station is running about nine minutes of ads, which is about 15% of kind of program time. And they're typically doing it in two breaks.
Now, the reason why they do that in two breaks has to do with the Nielsen methodology. Nielsen credits audience and it gives people five minutes of listening for every quarter hours. So the broadcasters kind of put their ads around the quarter hours. Realistically, they could be running a lot more breaks. They don't need to be clumping them as much. And I think if you listen to a spoken word station, which I think is the closest parallel to podcasting, like a news talk station, they're running breaks every six or seven minutes. They're not running more ads, but you get a minute ad or two and then you're back, you know? And so the audience retention is very strong on these spoken word news talk stations, because they're never breaking for ... The ads, each break is only a minute or two at most.

Bryan Barletta: And are ads normally 30 seconds or 60 seconds in radio, or I guess two minutes too?

Pierre Bouvard: First of all, nobody does two minutes.

Bryan Barletta: Okay, good to know for podcasters who really need to stop doing two minute reads.

Pierre Bouvard: Yeah. I think one of the places where we've been over generous is two minute ads.

Bryan Barletta: They're awful. You lose me. There's no way you don't lose the listener after the first minute.

Pierre Bouvard: Yes. And somebody once said that the first thing you should do when you're creating advertising copy is create the billboard because you can only put three to five words on a billboard. And so that forces you to crystallize what is the essence of what you want to say. And then you can go from there. So I would say probably in local radio, it's probably 50, 50 thirties and sixties. Network radio is 80, 85%, thirties. And what Nielsen and a bunch of folks did a deep analysis of audience retention, how well does radio hold people through commercial break and they studied 62 million ads looking at the minute by minute data from the portable meter.
And it's about 93% of the lead in audience is held through the average commercial break. What's interesting about radio and podcast is we have the lowest levels of ad skipping of any media. We just did a study recently where we asked Americans like, "Here's a whole bunch of media. For each do you skip frequently, occasionally, rarely, never?" The stuff that people skip the most, it's all digital. Popup ads, online video, banner ads, people can't wait to get past that. The ads with the least skipping, radio and podcasts. So we are brothers and sisters in the world of really holding on to folks and having them actually listen to the ads.

Bryan Barletta: Right. So my first question here is how do you skip a radio ad? Is that walking away, changing the station?

Pierre Bouvard: It's all of the above. So the Nielsen meter hears what you hear. So if you're in the car and the phone rings, you turn the radio down that would be considered commercial avoidance or if you punched to another station. Interestingly, Nielsen looked at all of the channel changes, when people change stations and two thirds of the time when there's a channel change, it's radio on or off.

Bryan Barletta: Gotcha.

Pierre Bouvard: In other words like, "Hey, I got to go to work. I got to turn off the radio." So there's much less commercial skipping than perceived when you look at the hard data.

Bryan Barletta: Okay. So we're talking 10 minutes, nine or 10 minutes of ads, it's easy enough to say that most of them are going to be 30 second ads. So we're talking about up to 20 ads. You said about a two to four and a half minute break depending?

Pierre Bouvard: No. So most stations are running those in two breaks. So if it's about nine minutes of ads, it's about a four or five minute break.

Bryan Barletta: So we're talking, it could be nine consecutive ads?

Pierre Bouvard: Yeah. But remember there's sixties in there.

Bryan Barletta: Sure.

Pierre Bouvard: They're not all thirties.

Bryan Barletta: But it could be, right? It could be five ads for one minute and a 30, but it could be five to nine ads in one break twice per hour.

Pierre Bouvard: Correct. Correct.

Bryan Barletta: Wow. Okay. And so in podcasting, what are we seeing? Now, you said that you worked with Signal Hill Insights to do a lot of reporting with Cumulus. Is that right?

Pierre Bouvard: Yeah. So we hired Signal Hill and we wanted to ask folks are there too many ads and not enough ads. And one of the questions we've been asking for the last five years, it's an agree, disagree question. I wouldn't mind a couple more ads per show so that my favorite podcast could continue and consistently over the last five years, about 60% of weekly podcast, listeners said they wouldn't mind a few more ads. So right now 5% about of podcast content is advertising. 5%. Radio is about 15%, TV, depending upon the network could be 20 or 25%. So podcasting is under commercialized. It's under commercialized for a couple of reasons. One, there are a lot of medium or smaller podcasts that simply don't have ads or don't have a lot of ads. So that's one reason, but it's a new medium and listeners are saying the content is so good, I'm learning so much. It's entertaining. I wouldn't mind a couple more ads.

Bryan Barletta: Because the alternative is pay for it or it doesn't exist.

Pierre Bouvard: I think more than any other advertising medium, podcast listeners are intensely aware that if it wasn't for the ads, their favorite show wouldn't exist. And that is unlike anything we've ever seen with any other media. People watch TV and they don't think like, "Oh my God, my show, if I didn't have these ads, so I really need to participate. I need to support these advertisers." So we are very unique in that listeners truly understand how their show is made possible, which is the ads. And therefore actually, they want to support the show and they'll want to engage with the advertiser, buy the products or services. They really see the connection.

Bryan Barletta: It's such a powerful thing. And I think that public media did a really good job of making that resonate for many in podcasting, with two young kids, we listen to things like Wow in the World often. And the ads would say like, "Support for this show is brought to you by," or similar with NPR or all these shows. And it really resonates to me that this ad in this kid's show will say, "Hey, grownups, this is for you." And they'll say, "This show is made possible by sponsors like," and then they'll bring in the ad and I'm not offended. I'm not upset because it didn't target my child. It's not showing them some super cool action figure or sugary cereal that I had to buy. It's targeted to me. And it's respectful. And it's asking me to consider supporting the show. I completely agree with you on that.
I think that that's really interesting. Another thing that you said that everybody really needs to hook onto. Pierre said podcasting is a new industry. It doesn't matter that we've been doing this for almost 20 years, the advertising side of it and even still just looking at the whole scope compared to TV and radio and out of home and magazine and everything, is incredibly new. We haven't figured it out. We don't have our banner yet. Right?
The fact that we're talking about how many ads can be in a show when radio, Pierre can tell you exactly how much the tolerance is, what they can work with, why they haven't pushed it in X amount of years, we need to figure that out in podcasting. And it sounds like this advice right here is that we can add more. Now it's about respect, right? It's about fitting the right ads in there. And so Pierre, is it fair to say that if the ads are contextually relevant to the show or a host read or mindful of time, that things like this do work, but if it's announcer read ads targeted to the user, not relevant to the content necessarily, that's where some of this can fall off? That's where we can get user listener pushback.

Pierre Bouvard: I don't think listeners pay that much attention, are that analytical to say, "Now is this ad relevant to the content?" They don't think about stuff as much as we do. And what's the definition of relevant to the content. I mean, ads are about me. So if it's an ad for another podcast, a movie or book, it's interesting. And especially if it's in the voice and listeners can't determine whether the host read ad was prerecorded or whether it's live or baked in. But when that talent is reading that ad, it has so much more value.

Bryan Barletta: Yes.

Pierre Bouvard: And that's why our CPMs, you never watch a TV newscast. And the news anchor says, "Let me tell you about my wife and I were having trouble sleeping. And we got a Casper ..." That dynamic doesn't exist in most other media. There are some things that, like for instance, ads that make you feel something, emotion based ads versus rational ads, emotion based ads perform a lot better in terms of long term sale success for the advertiser, brand building ads perform far better than sales activation ads. And I think this is why we see so many brands pouring into podcasting.

Bryan Barletta: Because it's an emotional touch point.

Pierre Bouvard: Correct.

Bryan Barletta: Anybody who's just advertising on podcasting and focuses on direct to the sale, I get it. It works. It does work. And it works pretty well on the association. But if I'm seeing these ads in other places and now someone I trust, someone I choose to entertain me, someone endorses, it's so much more valuable than next place I see it. I might not convert there. I might not convert in this month or the next month. But that brand is now tied with that host that I trust and I put the value in.

Pierre Bouvard: If you think about it, 98% of all ads on podcast are brand building ads.

Bryan Barletta: Really?

Pierre Bouvard: So what do I mean by that? Well, Pod Sights just put out its Q4 report. And it says that the average conversion rate for the typical podcast ad is 1.4%. So what that means is the other 98.6% of that impact is on the brand. So all advertising is brand building. Despite the fact that you might have a product code or, "Hurry, order now, get 10% off," only 1.4% will convert.

Bryan Barletta: So that's for every salesperson listening to this, for every operations person, please update all of your reporting and material. Pierre just gave you a gold mine. It's not 1.6% conversion. It's 98.4% brand building. And 1.6% conversion. That's the a hundred percent. Now we don't have to throw away the lion share of that. That's such a good way to look at it. Right? I thought you were going to tell me something about podcast ads that don't even have a drive for an action that are just about branding. But instead, what you did was you showed that everything is branding and some of branding can directly convert.

Pierre Bouvard: Correct. And remember that the job of advertising is to help the advertiser be known before they're needed.

Bryan Barletta: Yeah.

Pierre Bouvard: No one is in the market for something being advertised. Very few people are in the market at any point in time for something. So what you're really doing is trying to create awareness and interest for that future time, could be a year away where somebody might actually need that thing.

Bryan Barletta: That's my favorite example, when people used to push back that podcasting can only track conversion and attribution about a household and not an individual. And I said, "Think about it this way. I listen to a show and the host that I choose to put value and tells me about a product. That product's not relevant to me, but it is the answer to a problem that my wife has been having. Now I get to tell my wife about this thing that can solve a problem for her. I'm an endorsement to my wife because an endorsement worked on me that power amplifies." Right?
I'm excited about it because I've been giving a tool to solve a problem. Our household converted, that's killer, but you're right. Sometimes you just need to lodge that in your mind to remember. We moved into a new house and I don't think Pod Save America was actively working with Simply Safe or anything, but we absolutely bought Simply Safe and used their promo code because my wife listens to Pod Save America every week. So those things do work. They stick with you and that's really cool. Ideally in podcasting, what would your guidance be? Let's say a 60 minute show, how many breaks? And what's the maximum amount of time we could push in a break?

Pierre Bouvard: I think all of the research when you look at how the metric is, how well am I retaining my audience through the break? And the best data for this is the minute by minute data from the portable meter. It says that the shorter the break, the more you hold people through the break. So using that hard data, it would suggest it's better to have more breaks, more commercial breaks and have those each break be of shorter duration. So if I had an hour show and I had two breaks and I'm looking to grow revenue, and the question is, do you make each break longer or create more breaks?
I would say, come down on the side of more breaks and try to keep each break as short as you can, because over time, if we hold to that, then the consumer will be saying they have ads, but it's amazing how quickly they get back to the content and to the show. And I think the hard data from the meter in radio shows that it's better to have more frequent breaks and try to create each break having to be as shorter as you can duration.

Bryan Barletta: The talk radio example you gave versus the nine minutes spoken to two spots.

Pierre Bouvard: Yep. When you look at the meter data, there's very little switch away because-

Bryan Barletta: Because it's fast enough that-

Pierre Bouvard: Correct.

Bryan Barletta: ... you might miss content if you do that.

Pierre Bouvard: Correct. Correct.

Bryan Barletta: Gotcha. Okay. And do you think that an advertiser, if they're any longer break, let's say there are four ads in there. How should advertisers feel about being ad three or four in a four ad break in podcasting today?

Pierre Bouvard: I think they should feel fine because the reality is podcasting is the most powerful ad medium we've ever experienced. People pay incredible attention. Think about what are the needs states that podcasting satisfies. To be entertained. A lot of media do that, but then the next need state is to learn something.

Bryan Barletta: Yeah.

Pierre Bouvard: How many other media is the need state satisfied to learn something? Most of it is just past the time, be entertained. Social media has the lowest engagement and the lowest attentiveness because it's-

Bryan Barletta: You're barely reading the content that you're there to look through. But you're right. When you think about education, I think about a book and I bought it and it doesn't have an ad. I think about a documentary and I paid for a streaming service that got me to it without ads. Where else can you learn without ads or where else can you learn with ads, I guess is the real question?

Pierre Bouvard: So given all of that, if I'm the fourth ad in a podcast ad, I'm not concerned. Now, can we be more to the point? Can we me be more brief? Yes. And one of the things I think historically we were getting pages and pages of information for our poor hosts to say, "Okay, read all this stuff. And then you come up with something on your own." And I think that's laziness. I think our industry has to get back to copywriting. You can't expect a host that has five, 10 live reads in a podcast to go through pages and pages of background material, and then try to come up with a synthesized version for an ad. That's crazy. That's laziness.

Bryan Barletta: I agree with you. It's the biggest failure in podcasting right now if podcast advertising is the lack of creative because of the fact that it's an afterthought, here's some bullets points to the host who's going to read it. We assume that the show failed if the ad didn't fail, but it's not the copy. It's not the creative, we're not AB testing. We're not scripting things for them because we want it to be, and you guys can't see me making air quotes, "organic." And that's a problem because that is not sustainable.

Pierre Bouvard: Yeah. It's laziness on the part of the brand.

Bryan Barletta: Yeah.

Pierre Bouvard: The reason why God created copywriters is to create well crafted communication that communicates key attributes and does it in an entertaining manner. So bring on the copywriters, do not send the hosts seven pages of stuff that they're supposed to wade through and give them a well done piece of copy that they can then riff off of and inject their authenticity into it.

Bryan Barletta: Yeah. Yeah. No, I agree with you there. Now the last question I want to end with is this mindset that we're talking about, you gave a little bit of a formula and people should test it, will the appetites for advertising change if that becomes templetized? I can go by radio now. And I know what the talk radio format is like you said, and I know the FM radio format, like you said, I know what to expect. Four and a half minutes of ads twice in an hour, or every five or 10 minutes on talk radio. If podcasting starts to follow a format that's way more linear and not completely unique per show, but maybe we divide it and divide it into quartiles over an hour. Will that make it more accessible? Will that lose any of its originality because it'll be forced to a format? Is that a direction we should be considering?

Pierre Bouvard: I don't think we need to have a quote format. I mean, look at what the cable networks do with a movie. When they put a movie on, like T&T, let's say it's a two or three hour movie, the first hour, doesn't have a lot of commercial breaks. They're hooking you in. And then as you get deeper in the movie, there's more and more and more commercial breaks. So that's an approach. It could be to say, "I got an hour show. I'm going to hook people. And in the first half of the show, maybe there's not as many interruptions then maybe once I hooked you, maybe I'll ..." So I think there's room for a lot of creativity. This is not like saying, "Look, we're going to have one format." The good news is there's opportunity for experimentation. And you know, you can kind of move things around.
I think where the ads, a good ad break occurs at a natural break point. You listen to the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times they'll say, "And that came to the real surprise. We'll be right back." I mean, they're smart about looking at their narrative and saying, "Okay, there's a real cliff point here, or there's a real transition here, or ..." And that's the beauty. You can't do this in TV. The way TV is shot, you have to have the breaks at certain point in time. But in audio we could move them around based upon kind of the narrative flow. So I don't think we're ever going to get so systematized like TV.

Bryan Barletta: And that brings me back to my favorite point. Advertising is content. If you're making a podcast and it has ads, you can't throw your hands up. It's not a black hole where you go, "I apologize. This is where we make money. Please forgive us." And then put in whatever you want there in ads. You build your show with your ad breaks in it. You build the story with room for ads, or you don't build it with ads. That's fine, but stuffing ads and anytime you take too long of a break, too long of a pause and just deciding that's where an ad break go isn't good. It isn't what drives the value that Pierre's talking about here and the tolerance that we're talking about to add more ads into a show.
Pierre, this was all super fantastic. I want to give a plug here. So Pierre does often with the Cumulus emails and YouTube account, he does deep dives into tons of data. Cumulus commission's a crazy amount of data, Pierre breaks it down, makes it into blog post, makes it into videos that he walks through and everyone really should be checking those out. I'm a huge fan of them. And I make sure that I watch all of them. So I would love for you to check them out and let Pierre and I know your thoughts on them and ask us any questions on them.

Pierre Bouvard: Yep.

Bryan Barletta: Thank you so much for joining us.

Pierre Bouvard: Thank you, Bryan. Thanks so much for having me.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Bryan, I loved this conversation. I think that there is so much that we can learn from the radio space when it comes to the copy that you write for your ads, when it comes to how long your ads should be. There's so much here and I'm excited to break it all down in the post game chat. Shall we?

Bryan Barletta: Yes, because I'm such a big sports guy. I love it. The post game chat. Let's do it. Okay. What did you like the most about this?

Arielle Nissenblatt: Well, there's a lot of data and I lately love data because generally speaking, I'm an anecdotes gal and I've lately been thinking, let me back it up with some data. So let's do it. 5% of podcast content is advertising. That is not so high, but I wonder what other folks would think of that. I wonder if I tweeted that stat out, what people would say. Is it high? Is it low? What's your sense?

Bryan Barletta: I think that in podcasting, we're terrified of advertising. I think that things like Super Listeners and Share (inaudible) and Infinite Dial all the Edison research that comes out so much of it is just like, "Hey, we could do more ads." Where it's about the format. It's about the style and all that. But being in the industry 5% seems terrifying to people. But to me it's low. It's low for a medium that gives you so much that you can really dial for whatever type of content you want. I don't know. I definitely feel it's low. And that's what the conversation really highlighted, how low it is compared to other mediums.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Yeah. I think it's super low. And Bryan, I encourage you to tweet about this and I would love to see the responses. Pierre says that podcasting is under commercialized because there are smaller and medium shows that don't have many ads on them. And that could be why that 5% figure is so small. So some of the bigger shows do have minutes and minutes of ads. If you go to Joe Rogan, if you go to some of the shows that have two minute ads for Manscaped, that's going to cut into that percentage a little bit more, but then of course, there's all the indie shows that are not monetized via ads and all the shows that are monetized via Patreon, but not through ads. So there's lots of ways to break it down. But I think another big point that you and Pierre seem to agree on was no more two minute ads. Let's go 30 seconds. Let's go 60 seconds. Two minutes is too much.

Bryan Barletta: Yeah. There's just not much more you can say. If the product takes that long to describe this, isn't a great format anyways, it's probably not a great product either. If that's your hook, if it takes two minutes to explain it.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Or just bad ad copy.

Bryan Barletta: But what Pierre said there that really resonated the most with me was the billboard example. Right? How few words you get-

Arielle Nissenblatt: I was just going to bring that up.

Bryan Barletta: I love it. Right? Why don't you dig into what you liked about that? Because that really resonated with me.

Arielle Nissenblatt: I love this. Yes. Pierre said that when you're starting writing out copy for your ad for your product, you should think about what you would put on a billboard because when you're writing a billboard, you can't have more than a few words on it. So what is the essence of what you want to say, break it down and then write your ad copy based on that.

Bryan Barletta: Yeah. In the words of Kevin Malone, why waste time say lot word when few words do trick. Right?

Arielle Nissenblatt: Very good.

Bryan Barletta: That's the truth of it. I mean, you start with the smallest, most condensed thing that you can say and you allow it to organically build, it's going to help, but realistically I can see the value in a 60 second. I can see 90 sometimes. I think two minutes have to go, but I think 30 is smooth. I think 30 is almost unskippable. I think the amount of effort it takes to skip is really just a lot when, by the end of that 30 seconds, we're done. We're out of that content. I risk too much skipping.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Yeah. I have to get my face ID, have to pick up my phone, make sure my face ID actually logs me in. Or sometimes I don't because sometimes the player is right then and there and I could just hit skip. But by the time you've done all that is over.

Bryan Barletta: Pierre also pointed out how few people were skipping, right? The data that they got from the surveys and from the participants in this showed that the skipping "was really more focused around turning the car or the radio off," right? Changing a channel was more associated with turning the thing on and off than it was flipping around on different stations. Now, podcasting is different. You can't fast forward in radio. You can exit a show and play another one, but you bought into podcasting more than you bought into radio. You turn on radio and you listen to what's on and you pick a station and then you lean back. With podcasting, you're picking a specific show, right? We're not talking about turning on a channel shuffling and saying, "I like anything that comes here." You said, "I want to listen to this content right now." So we got to assume that skips are going to stay low. Especially if we respect people's time.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Cumulus works with Signal Hill Insights on gaining data around ads. And they found out that on an agree, disagree scale, most people are down to have more ads on their podcasts to make sure that their favorite shows can continue. And as a creator and as a listener, I definitely agree with that. I am very happy to have more ads on the shows that I listen to. If I hate the ad, I will skip it. If I don't hate it, I will listen and I will be influenced by it and everything will be okay. And then as a creator, yes. The more products that want to advertise on my podcast, the better for me, I can make a little more money to buy that next microphone upgrade.

Bryan Barletta: Do we have to get you a new microphone?

Arielle Nissenblatt: No.

Bryan Barletta: No, but it's true. I mean, I think it sounds okay, but we'll probably get you a new one soon. The fun gadgets, but no, I mean, look, as a giant nerd, I've been listening to Dungeons and Daddies. As I like to say, not a BDSM podcast. It's about dads and a dungeon and dragons world. And their ads are long. Some of their ads are very long and they go on for a while, but I listen to it the first time. And even as I'm binging it, and it's the same ad over and over again, I still listen.
I check what the advertiser is. Then I skip if it's the same copy. If it's different copy, it's exciting because it is content. It can still be entertaining if it's an ad, but I want them to succeed. So the more I skip personally, the more I'm interested in their Patreon, do they have an ad free version or anything like that? Can I tip them if I feel bad about it? I don't know. I think ad engagement is really easy, I think it's really easy to keep people from skipping ads and keep them listening. Even if they're binging, even if they hear 10 impressions, as long as it's a different copy, as long as it's fresh, as long as it's exciting, as long as it's not two minutes long.

Arielle Nissenblatt: I wanted to reiterate this really important note that Pierre brought up and you really echoed. And one more time for me, sales people, please update all of your reporting material. It's not that ads have a 1.6 conversion rate. It's that brand building is the goal. And then there's also a 1.6 conversion rate. 98.4% of advertising is brand building. And then there is some conversion built into that. And that's great. But for the most part, it's about getting your product out there. I really love this line. The job of advertising is to help a brand or a product be known before it is needed.

Bryan Barletta: That was so smart. And it's so funny because at Claritas, when I worked on the attribution side, we'd have to defend that. And anything over a half of a percent conversion rate in most media is considered pretty solid. So when people would look at these and say, "Why couldn't it be higher? Why isn't it better?" It would be real tough. It'd be real tough trying to figure out the story and in the narrative. Pierre in one sentence blew my mind. If I could shoot that one sentence back in time, seven years, my life probably would've been significantly easier. And that's really something that I need to echo to this space. We absolutely have to be educated on these things and hold the lines on these things. That piece of information right there is accurate. It is a powerful tool for telling the story with your advertisers, with your inventory, with your campaign strategy. And it's something we really need to consider because even if it doesn't convert, you're very likely not the only place they're running ads. It adds to the overall brand recognition that will eventually drive conversions.

Arielle Nissenblatt: So after this conversation, after learning from Pierre about radio, both music stations and talk stations, how will podcasting learn from different ad formats?

Bryan Barletta: My hope is that we take this to heart. My hope is that some of the major radio networks that are in podcasting as well use that and apply that logic into podcasting. I think probably many of them do, but we probably have to peel back those two minute ads. And I think that the smaller companies should explore that. Smaller publishers should feel comfortable exploring that. I think figuring out your strategy is important, but building that template, providing it to your editors and producers to make sure that your shows are built around these ad break mindsets is really where that success is going to come from.

Arielle Nissenblatt: And I think it's also about testing different ad formats. Pierre brought up at the beginning, or you talked for a while about how some commercial radio stations will have nine minutes of ads throughout one hour. And those will be broken up sometimes at the 15 minute mark. Who's to say podcast would not be successful doing that? We don't really know because we don't hear it very often. So let's hope that podcasters try out different ad breaks at natural break points. And one of my favorite things that has been recurring throughout this podcast is that advertising is content. Publishers should treat it like content, build your show with your ads in mind, make sure that they're not an afterthought. Hey listeners, what do you think about the show? We want to hear from you. Please reach out if you have any questions or comments. We're on Twitter at Sounds Prof News, @Bryan Barletta, or at Arithisandthat. And if you want to send us an email, that's

Bryan Barletta: This show is recorded with Squad Cast, the best place to record studio quality audio and video for content creators. I use Squad Cast for every single interview and product deep dive, and I encourage you to check it out as well. If you go to for a free seven day trial, let me know what you think.

Arielle Nissenblatt: Do you want more from Sounds Profitable? We have two more podcasts that you can explore. First up is Sounds Profitable The Narrated Articles and next The Download our podcast about the business of podcasting. You can find links to them in the episode description.

Bryan Barletta: Thank you to Evo Tara and Ian Powell for the help on this episode.