Podcasts have evolved from a makeshift, awkward medium to the trendiest of platforms. Generation Zers and Millennials are especially infatuated, but really, all ages and demographics have caught the podcast bug. Today, there are well over 600,000 podcasts available on Apple’s platform alone, and at least 17% of Americans tune in on a weekly basis.

Naturally, this rise in popularity has caught the attention of advertisers everywhere. The diversity of the listening base gives marketers the chance to deliver hypertargeted messaging to new audiences. It seems like anybody who’s anybody has a podcast, and eager advertisers are feeling compelled to leap into the unknown territory of podcast advertising before they’ve even developed a fundamental understanding of how to generate real results.

This failure to look before they leap is getting them in trouble with underwhelming returns on investment and missed opportunities. With podcast advertising, brands can zero in on a particular audience and engage it deeply — but only if marketers can master the basic economics.

The Biggest Mistakes Advertisers Make With Podcast Campaigns

Despite the popularity of the medium, getting podcast advertising to produce impressive ROI isn’t effortless.

The first thing advertisers seem to miss is that quality doesn’t trump quantity. The high targetability and niche appeal are some of the best things about podcast advertising. Unlike broadcast, it allows you to hit a very specific audience with tailored messaging. But the cost of delivering those highly targeted impressions isn’t likely to produce a positive outcome if the overall audience is simply too small.

Advertisers would never buy placements on programs or shows that are too small, but they seem to forget that podcasts are no different in this way. An audience that’s too narrow to work in one medium isn’t going to work in podcasts, either. The same basic rules apply.

In general, advertisers also seem to ignore the price tag on podcast placements. I’ve seen seasoned vets make placement purchases on podcasts at ridiculous prices. They’ve somehow fooled themselves into believing that the basic rules of advertising economics don’t apply.

Podcasts can give your ad a spotlight that’s nearly impossible to find in other audio outlets. After all, it won’t be surrounded by multiple spots. And yes, that will help your message stand out. But those benefits are not priceless. It’s not all about how the message is being delivered. It also has to be about how much that kind of limelight is worth. Frankly, the price tag for a spot on many podcasts is hard to justify.

3 Questions to Ask Before Initiating a Podcast Campaign

When advertisers make these mistakes and their campaigns flop, they tend to blame the medium rather than their own methodologies. But podcasts themselves aren’t to blame. Advertisers just need to understand why they’re investing in podcasts — and “because everyone else is” is not a good reason.

To see any real ROI, they need to have a sustainable strategy that will help them capitalize on the medium’s benefits. Ask these three questions before buying in to podcast advertising.

1. Why am I interested in podcast placement? If your answer has more to do with it being the shiny new object of marketing, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board before investing. To make an effective campaign, your message should be designed for sound, and it should speak to an audience of podcast listeners. If another medium will do, step away from the podcast rabbit hole.

2. How many downloads will this earn me? If your answer to the first question is about a podcast’s highly targeted and efficient placement, great! But you need to make sure you can actually achieve those weekly or monthly downloads. In other words, can you get onto a large enough podcast (or collection of podcasts) to access a sizable audience — one that will push the needle? If not, why waste time and resources on a strategy that can’t be scaled?

3. What’s it going to cost, and can I justify that investment? Too many marketers “go with their gut” when it comes to investing in a trendy platform, forgetting that getting a good deal is simple math. Yes, podcasts generally earn higher-quality impressions, but if your radio campaign is barely working at a $5 CPM, how are you able to justify a $30 CPM for a podcast? Be smart. Only pay a premium for an initiative you know will deliver.

Even if you’re in a good spot to try out the podcast world, you have to keep tracking results. Discover the quantity and quality of the response and determine whether they offset the premium you paid. You can use this insight to make a better deal next time. Podcasts themselves are a great channel for advertising — there’s no question about that. But whether podcast advertising is the right strategy for your company is another thing entirely. Examine the areas above to determine whether you’re getting into podcasts for the right reasons.

For more information on podcast campaigns, download this free whitepaper.