Housty, how do you pitch a podcast to clients expecting reach in the millions?

Each month we pose a question to the brilliant Peter Houston, co-host of the Media Voices podcast, who will answer in his fabulously inimitable way. This month’s question comes from publisher of Singletrack Magazine, Mark Alker.

Housty, we have a problem

How do you pitch a podcast to a client used to seeing reach numbers in the millions?

Tell them to get real (but nicely).

The bane of modern media is unrealistic expectations of scale. Blame Facebook, blame Buzzfeed, blame anyone that’s bought into the bogus notion that because you can reach everyone online, you must reach everyone online.

Like Compassionate Conservatism, unlimited reach is a myth. Of course, you can’t simply tell your clients they’re stupid for believing the myth. You need to wean them off the idea that for next to no money they can put their brand in front of the entire global population.

The starting point has to be asking them if they would actually want the whole world knocking on their door? Focus them on the customers they really want and get them to put a size on that cohort. Even if it’s thousands, it certainly won’t be millions.

From there, you can start to have a realistic conversation about what your publication can do to bring them that group. And just like a good old-fashioned print sale, bring it all back to the value your brand can bring.


The client is talking to you for a reason, otherwise they would have put the phone down or deleted your email.

If you’re an established publication, you have a reputation in the markets that they work in. Remind them of your credibility with their customers. If you’re brand new, explain how you plan to build your presence in their market.


New or old, hone in on the relevancy of your content for their customers. Demonstrate how it creates the ideal context for their advertising message.

Any idiot can make a podcast about the culture wars and the madder it is the bigger the listener numbers are likely to be. But those audiences are prepping for Armageddon and buying MAGA hats*, not making sensible purchases.

Readers Listeners

Podcast metrics are notoriously rubbish and it’s not always easy to say exactly who is listening in, but you can introduce some useful proxies.

It’s easy to get download numbers and location data, but identifying individuals and even broad listener demographics is difficult. Use magazine or newsletter data as a way of showing who your broader audience is and why they are ideal for your client.

The final piece of the podcast pitching puzzle is to zero in on the unique properties of streaming audio. Podcasting is different from other digital formats. It’s intimate. You are inside someone’s head and that’s a great place to be for an advertiser.

Superfans are serious listeners

Podcast listeners also tend to be pretty serious about what they listen to. They are deeply interested in the subject matter and very loyal to the shows they follow. Ask your client to imagine a theatre setting where you’ve assembled an audience of 300 superfans all set to pay attention for a solid 40 minutes. How much is that worth to them?

This isn’t casual conjecture – publishers are making money from niche podcasts.

Media Voices, regularly charges clients more than £3,500 for an episode that will bring 500 listens. Last Year, DC Thomson’s oil and gas industry podcast, Energy Voice Out Loud, was, “comfortably pushing towards six figures… in sponsorship revenue” with average downloads under 300.

The word podcast itself has probably done publisher audio no favours. People associate the form with broadcast when actually its future is narrowcasting. Most podcasts get fewer listeners than people think: the average number of first-week downloads for a top 25% podcast is 111.

In an excellent post on What’s New In Publishing last year, my co-host Esther summed the problem up beautifully.

‘Only’ 1,000 listens

Calling for a ‘reset’ on how publishers view podcast metrics she used the example of a website that gets 10,000 website visitors, each spending an average of a minute each on the site. That’s a respectable 10,000 minutes spent with your brand. Now, compare that to a half-hour podcast which ‘only’ gets 1,000 listens.

Those 1,000 people are spending 30 minutes of their day each with your brand. That’s 30,000 minutes. Advertisers should be biting your hand off to get in that podcast.

*If your client makes MAGA hats, ignore everything I’ve said. You’ll be fine… those eejits will buy anything.

Peter Houston is one third of the Media Voices podcast, a magazine publishing consultant and trainer, freelance writer, and co-publisher of The Grub Street Journal, a magazine for people who make magazines.

Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

Back to top of the page