Opinion

Why we bought tram ads to promote our podcasts

In a world of dodgy programmatic and complex Facebook algorithms, co-founder of the Nearly podcast network, Courtney Carthy, explains why he decided to use a distinctly analogue method to promote their digital products.

Yep, bought some tram ads in Melbourne for two of the podcasts we, Nearly, produce – The Debrief with Dave O’Neil and The Clappers, hosted by Karl Quinn and Andrew Young.

From what we can tell it’s the first time an independent podcast show, network or production company has done this in Australia.

We hope it’s a tipping point — big claim! — akin to the early 2000s when billboards for internet companies started to appear.

Remember that? They made the leap backwards from digital to analogue.

Outdoor ads crossed a digital-IRL (in real life) divide, a sort of meta-loop from the core digital product experienced solely in front of a screen and onto to a greater public consciousness. All the while saying “head back to that screen before you see anything else, ok?”

With the momentum in Australia for great podcasts we want to make this jump.

We’re willing and able to figure out what works for podcasts. Trying new ways to promote them is in the interests of the fledgling local industry.

Jostling with bigger money media isn’t affordable for podcasters (yet, hopefully) and word of mouth remains the holy grail of discovery in conversations I’ve had with others harbouring similar growth ambitions.

Facebook’s algorithm fails to reward page likes these days and it doesn’t reward audio like it does video.

Pages have been twisted into leverage for Facebook to seek rent money. Links posted to podcasts that take audiences outside to another platform (usually a podcast app) seem to have an even lower priority in newsfeeds. No word on this changing soon.

From a simple communications angle, it’s particularly tricky saying to a wider audience that they should get a podcast by doing X. There are so many ways to find a mp3 file or RSS feed right now.

With so many engagement points it’s confusing for the audience, while being time consuming even for larger organisations like the ABC to make sure all these engagement channels are serviced.

How do podcasters/publishers/networks say “find our podcast here…” when you can’t fit the myriad of ways we see audiences finding our content into a sentence? Or even a paragraph?

“Find us where you get your podcasts” is probably the most efficient one so far. But it highlights the uninitiated people who, for the time being, aren’t listeners and don’t have a place to “get your podcasts” from.

Even if Google Play (the Android equivalent to Apple Podcasts / iTunes) was available in Australia it doesn’t solve the “if you want us go here” discovery problem. But that’s another issue for another piece.

Car manufacturers have been dragging their feet too, seeming relying on the connectivity and capability of peoples’ phones to be the content source for the car’s speaker system. Again, another issue for another piece.

Pod, break out!

Serial (listen if you haven’t. Where have you been???) was a break out success but had they the might of This American Life behind it. TAL is a show with a fantastically talented host and team working away on routinely producing fascinating stories on the other side of the world. It’s been available since 2006, on podcast.

The show under its original name, Your Radio Playhouse, first aired in 1995 (then change to TAL). It was also available as mp3 or Real Player a couple of years later. TAL has been in the millions of downloads per episode for years before Serial or the latest sister show S-Town.

Migrating those listeners to something of similar or arguably greater standard would grow the audience further through word of mouth (IRL & online).

How do you get to Carnegie Podcast Hall? Produce over a decade of compelling audio stories (and have a huge US public radio audience).

If the trams don’t work we haven’t lost anything. We’ve only gained the knowledge that it doesn’t work at the moment.

We’ll increase our reach, get some brand recognition and hopefully have more people listening to our shows.

With a steadier CPM rate for podcast ads (in Australia) this year we’re able to make a call on whether it’s worth buying again.

What if you don’t have the money for outdoor ads? We’re working on the same problem. Hope it doesn’t take too long. Will let you know.

We’re putting time and effort into content, using proven ways of incrementally increasing a podcast audience (social, SEO, guest spots, forums etc) while trying something new when possible, and affordable.

Tram ads are a seemingly natural fit. A large segment of the podcast audience listens to and/or from work. On trams, or trains, people already have their phones in their hand, they know the route to their podcast apps and finding a new one to listen to. We’d feel guilty if we were asking people to get their phones out while driving.

Speaking of driving, Shebah – a ride sharing service for women and kids  –  sponsored the ads. They continue to sponsor ours and other podcasts.

Omny Studio also helped. They’re an enterprise platform for podcasters and radio stations.

Both are based in, but not exclusive to, Melbourne.

It’s fun to think about the layers upon layers of what we’re doing here. Advertising to get more listeners so we can sell more advertising. And in selling more advertising we’ll probably spend more on advertising. It’s the circle of li… no need to get the song going.

Courtney Carthy is co-founder of Australian podcast network Nearly.

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