Book author doing podcast interview

Podcasts for Book Publicity: Hip or Hype?

Podcasts are booming, but are they really a windfall for book publicity? The numbers are impressive:

  • There are currently over 800,000 podcasts and 30 million episodes.
  • In 2019, weekly podcast listeners totaled 62 million.
  • Fifty-one percent (144 million) of Americans have listened to a podcast.
  • Podcast listening has increased by 122% over the past five years.

Now that podcasts have gone mainstream, major media companies are jumping in:

  • In 2018, iHeartMedia acquired Stuff Media.
  • January 2019, Spotify acquired podcast company Gimlet Media and other properties making it the second largest podcast platform after Apple.
  • May 2019, Sony Music announced a collaboration with podcast developers Adam Davidson (co-founder of Planet Money) and Laura Mayer (veteran podcast producer).
  • In July 2019, Apple announced it would begin producing its own podcasts.

What accounts for this increase in popularity? The combination of easy, portable access, the ability to listen on demand, and the wide variety of diverse, niche programming means it’s easier than ever for listeners to find and stick with shows that reflect their interests.

Not All Podcasts Are Ideal for Book Publicity

On the other hand, although podcasts are a great new vehicle for publicizing your book’s message to an engaged targeted audience, there are a few things to keep in mind.

We’ve had authors acknowledge that, while podcasts are really hot, they only want their book publicity campaign to include the “big ones.” However, a quick reality check reveals that of iTunes’ top 20 podcasts, only four have guest interviews, and then only with household names.

Some podcasts with the largest audiences have become so inundated that they no longer accept guest suggestions. For example, The Tim Ferriss Show, often ranked as the #1 business podcast, no longer accepts unsolicited books. (All books are immediately donated to libraries).

At the other end of the spectrum, many small podcasters also have day jobs and don’t book guests or record interviews on a regular schedule, or they may have very few downloads.

The Requirements for Podcast Guests

As of this writing, January 2020, this medium is in its infancy. Podcasters are still figuring out the best way to monetize their shows, experimenting with advertising, subscription, and “sponsored guest” models. We’ve also noticed an emphasis on reciprocal booking (“You book me on your show and I’ll book you on mine.”), and many are requiring guests to have large social media followings to help promote the interviews afterward.

Podcast advertising rates are currently ranging from $20 for small shows to a whopping $100k+ for the big ones. Tim Ferriss says, “Per-episode sponsorship is currently $54K, and we ask for a minimum of 2 episodes to start.”

Podcast or AM/FM Shows?

Even though podcast listening is exploding, it has a way to go before catching up with traditional terrestrial radio. While 62 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly, 227 million adults tune to AM/FM radio each week. Radio still offers excellent interview opportunities for authors and we recommend including both radio shows and podcasts in your book tours.

The lines are also blurring. AM/FM radio finds enormous additional listenership when released as podcasts following their initial airdates. Radio companies NPR and iHeartRadio are two of the most successful podcast publishers in the world, each boasting around 150 million global downloads and streams.

However, successful radio and podcast campaigns aren’t necessarily all about audience numbers. Terrestrial radio needs to program for as wide an audience as possible, whereas podcasts are more niche. They can delve deeper into their subject matter and, even if their audiences are smaller, they typically have better audience engagement than radio shows.

The Podcast Search

As you can imagine, there are many book review podcasts, for example, BookRiot; the New York Times’ The Book Review Podcast; The Guardian Books; and Just the Right Book; as well as specialty review podcasts like Read to Lead (business and leadership); Science Fiction Book Review; AAWW Radio (New Asian American Writers & Literature); and Black Chick Lit.

Your book may have appeal to other genres as well. With nearly 200,000 new podcasts launched in the last year alone, it can take a tremendous amount of research to find all of the potential targets for your campaign. Some authors think they can simply scroll through the Apple Podcast and Stitcher rankings and send an email blast to the top handful of shows.

If only it were that easy. Many of the podcasts don’t have guests, only record sporadically or are on hiatus, or don’t list any contact information anywhere. And there aren’t many searchable podcast lists online, although I think we’ll see more in the future.

Carney & Associates subscribes to Cision’s expensive online media database, but when it comes to having more information on podcasts, shockingly their response is, “At the moment our vendor does not monitor podcasts.”

I compare it to trying to find blogs 10-15 years ago. Everyone was launching blogs, but there wasn’t an efficient way of finding relevant ones for book promotion. That’s why the podcast research is so slow at this stage. You can find some by googling—for example, 21 of the Best Book Podcasts to Listen to When You’re Not Reading, but they only scratch the surface.

The Podcast Pitch

If you want to pitch podcast hosts, remember you are often approaching individuals, not professional radio show producers, and they require a much more personal approach.

I’d suggest the following:

  • Let them know you’ve listened and are familiar with their podcast.
  • Explain why you think their audience would be interested in a conversation with you. Emphasize the expertise that you have to offer, not the other way around (“Your listeners are perfect customers for my book!”).
  • Include your social media following (many podcasts hosts give preference to guests with large followings) and assure them you will promote your episode heavily.
  • If possible, offer something reciprocal. If you have a blog or podcast of your own, offer to feature them as well.
  • Be prepared to fill out a lot of online contact forms. They typically don’t include hyperlinks so you’ll need to type out URL addresses for relevant links you’re including in your pitch.

In the end, even though podcast research and pitching can be a challenge, you’ll be rewarded by reaching engaged, loyal listeners who are interested in your specific knowledge or book. If you have the time to invest in research, or you can hire a professional publicist, I highly recommend adding a radio and podcast tour to your book publicity campaign!

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About Carney & Associates

For more than 20 years, Carney & Associates has been providing publicity services for authors, experts, products and services that improve our world. We specialize in providing earned media coverage for clients whose mission aligns with our values, with an emphasis on sustainable living, lifestyle topics, thought leaders and books. We share their stories through strategic placements in radio, podcasts, TV, print and digital media.

We originally wrote this post for Nancy Christie’s A Writer’s Place, “Where writers share their tips, thoughts and observations on writing and the writing life, and toss in their “two cents” on the topic of the month.”

John Oliver on the Decline of Journalism

John Oliver has some bad news about the state of the industry that gives us our news. He really nailed it in this clip from Last Week Tonight.

Forbes posted: “On Sunday, John Oliver used his platform on HBO’s Last Week Tonight to lament the current state of journalism. He discussed the decline of local- and state-based newspapers and mocked news organizations for replacing in-depth journalism with fluffy click-bait. But Oliver placed the blame squarely on readers like you and me, unaccustomed and reluctant to pay for our news.”

Are you trying to get news coverage for your book, product or organization? To find out how our publicity services can help spread the word through the remaining newspapers as well as the explosion of online media outlets, radio, podcasts, social media and more, please contact Kathlene Carney at Carney & Associates.

NPR memo discourages promotion of podcasts on member stations

In another example of old media vs. new media, NPR is discouraging its member stations from promoting NPR podcasts and the new NPR One app.

Nieman Lab broke the story last week. In a nutshell, “NPR can’t promote NPR One — the lauded, loved app that is basically the future of NPR — to what is literally the group of people that would be most interested in it, NPR radio listeners. NPR is investing substantially in developing podcasts — but it isn’t allowed to tell radio listeners where to find them or how they can listen to them.

“NPR is an entity based in Washington, D.C.; ‘public radio’ includes it, but also other radio distributors like PRI, APM, and PRX and, most importantly, the over 900 NPR member stations that dot the landscape. And these players don’t always have the same interests. A local station’s greatest asset is its connection to the local community, symbolized by the broadcast tower that, uniquely, lets it reach radio listeners in cars and homes. NPR’s greatest asset is the value its audience sees in its content and brand, which might be delivered via a radio signal, a website, a mobile app, or a podcast.

“This tension — between the local stations who pay the largest share of NPR’s bills and the network that sees a future beyond terrestrial radio signals — is basically everywhere you look in public radio. (NPR’s board is majority station managers, which is at the root of it all.) And it’s the right frame through which to view this new “ethics” policy from NPR. Here’s Chris Turpin, NPR’s vice president for news programming and operations:

As podcasts grow in number and popularity we are talking about them more often in our news programs. We are also fielding more and more questions from news staff and Member stations about our policies for referring to podcasts on air. To that end, we want to establish some common standards, especially for language in back announces. Our hope is to establish basic principles that are easy to understand and allow plenty of flexibility for creativity. These guidelines apply to all podcasts, whether produced by NPR or by other entities.

— No Call to Action: We won’t tell people to actively download a podcast or where to find them. No mentions of npr.org, iTunes, Stitcher, NPR One, etc.

GOOD: “That’s Linda Holmes of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast and our blogger on the same subject and Bob Mondello, NPR’s film critic. Thanks so much.”

BAD: “OK, everyone. You can download Alt.Latino from iTunes and, of course, via the NPR One app.”

— Informational, not Promotional: When referring to podcasts, and the people who host, produce, or contribute to them, we will mention the name of the podcast but not in a way that explicitly endorses it. References should not specifically promote the content of the podcast (e.g., “This week, the Politics Podcast team digs into delegate math.”) If you feel a podcast title needs explaining (e.g. Hidden Brain), some additional language can be added (e.g., “That’s Shankar Vedantam, he hosts a podcast that explores the unseen patterns of human behavior. It’s called, Hidden Brain”). Just to repeat: Be creative in how you back announce podcasts, but please avoid outright promotion.

— No NPR One: For now, NPR One will not be promoted on the air.”

At Carney & Associates, we excel in radio media tours and have placed our clients on thousands of radio shows and podcasts. For a free consultation on how our publicity services can help promote your book, product or service, please contact Kathlene Carney.