The event featured a variety of marquee speakers, including “Serial” host Sarah Koenig, Marc Maron of “WTF,” and Roman Mars of “99 per cent Invisible.”
If there was one common theme in their keynotes, it was that no one should get into podcasting to make money. And yet, also on hand were attendees who do just that: representatives from a variety of podcasting companies, including Panoply, Midroll Media, Gimlet Media, WNYC and Buzzfeed. Aside from the lofty ideals of the keynotes, other panelists gave presentations on podcast monetisation methods and the best ways to find advertisers.
The tension at the intersection of art and commerce is hardly new, but podcasts can present an extra challenge: podcasts are largely monetised through so-called native advertising, when the show’s host gives a shoutout to the sponsor. This increased interest in podcast monetisation, according to a recent report in The New York Times, “has led to a clash between those coming from public radio and those with a commercial radio background, with some expressing concern that journalists, who rely on trust, are using their position of confidence to push products.”
In print, sponsored or native ad content can be clearly labeled as such. One of the unique challenges of audio is that the “live read” ad method can sound like an endorsement. The concern that it will somehow break down the level of trust listeners have for the host came up frequently at the conference. For example, Benjamen Walker, the host of Radiotopia’s history podcast “Theory of Everything,” usually reads an ad about the mattress company Casper. At first, it was a basic scripted live read, just like all other shows that Casper has sponsored. However, as time went on, Walker began to talk on the show about how he enjoyed Casper’s products. This led some people to worry about whether Casper’s endorsement of the show affected Walker’s judgment of the mattress.
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