Podcasts have surged in popularity over the last few years, expanding their focus from pure entertainment into important areas, including healthcare.

It is no coincidence that podcasts are becoming a more prominent communication tool within patient and caregiver communities given the unique qualities of the channel. As a result, the medium is rightfully gaining more attention from healthcare marketers, but where and how do we begin and how do we engage? 

Most organizations’ first thought with podcasting as a media channel is, “How can we start our own podcast?” While operating a podcast can be immensely valuable over time, it’s a long-term investment. On the other hand, advertising within existing popular, or highly targeted podcasts, can deliver value from the medium quickly. 

While navigating podcasts is not yet as simple as executing a digital programmatic buy or as structured as radio, the market has coalesced around three primary structures, each with their own distinct considerations:

  1. Emerging Programmatic: Over the last two years, the foundation for a real programmatic podcast market has taken shape. What started with a few niche providers is now advancing with larger players like Spotify and iHeartMedia making ad spots available across their networks. This works much like any other digital programmatic buy with pre-recorded audio spots that air within several programs based on desired targeting parameters.

Even with the ability to layer in third-party targeting data, this approach requires a message with broader audience appeal as it is harder to select individual shows. Also, it is important to note that scale is often achieved by running across both podcasts as well as digital radio.

  1. Brokered Placements: Many popular podcasts work with a handful of brokers who coordinate between producers, agents, and industry to setup podcast advertising agreements. This is typically the path followed to place an original host-read message on air. Within the healthcare space, this approach can work well for partnering with more mainstream or broader health-topic shows. 

With an intermediary involved, brokered placements can be relatively expensive and slower to execute. Beyond that, the more niche the show topic the trickier it is, given long-tail creators are less likely to have an existing broker relationship. 

  1. Individual Agreements: There’s nothing stopping any advertiser from working out an advertising agreement with virtually any podcast on an individual basis. This is a critical pathway for many of our partners who serve cancer and rare disease communities, as it’s the best way to partner with relevant and popular endemic podcasts.

This approach requires the longest lead time by far, but individual agreements offer the most customization and granular targeting for those willing to invest the time. Perhaps more importantly, partnering with individual podcast producers builds relationships, which may create programming opportunities much more valuable than the advertising itself.

Each approach offers benefits and drawbacks, specifically around speed and cost. Ultimately, as with any channel, the most appropriate path or combination of tactics will depend on the audience size and composition as well as message considerations.

Alex Lindroth is Media Manager at Guidemark Health and can be reached at [email protected]