The issue of podcast advertising (podvertising) has become a veritable battlefield. There are those that feel that amateur media isn't worthy of carrying advertising and doing so lowers its worth even farther. The other side feels that if a show generates a big enough audience or has a profitable niche market, then it's irrelevant who produced it. A Google search for "podcast advertising service" yields the names of 10 distinct podcast advertisers and they all do business in slightly different ways. Not too far back such a search would have yielded two or three names. It seems that regardless of what side of the fence you're on, the podvertising market is growing. There are many listeners who say they will stop listening to podcasts if they start to carry advertising. In my opinion, those listeners are not only naive, they're also lying. Many podcasts have started carrying advertising and sponsorship spots yet podcast listenership continues to rise.
If you decide to carry ads, then it's not likely that advertisers are going to want to deal with you as a one-of unless you're in a really tight niche that they can't find anywhere else or you have massive listenership. To date even a podcast with 140,000 listeners like Tech Nation can barely get $1,500 for a month's spot. That leaves most of us with using advertising services.
Regardless of the mechanics surrounding how ads are placed into the show, there are some things to think about. One of the great strengths of citizen media is that it has a low barrier to entry. That's fancy marketing talk for "anyone can afford to do it". Since anyone can afford to do it, all of those topics that were hitherto unavailable to the public because main stream media found them unprofitable are now excellent podcast fodder.
I've often talked about my Three-Legged Dog Sweater business. If I make sweaters for three-legged dogs where would be my best place to advertise those sweaters? In a national dog magazine? On television during a dog show? Those options are going to hit tons of listeners and viewers but how many of them have three legged dogs? The best place to advertise my sweaters would be a three-legged dog podcast. Is there one? Maybe not, but I can start one. As a potential advertiser, I would be willing to pay top dollar to hit a couple of hundred three-legged dog owners. Why shouldn't a podcaster avail themselves to that money?
That's a good example of a one-of deal that works well for highly-targetted shows. What about the more common general technology, entertainment, or music podcast? Those are good candidates for the podcast advertising services.
Since these shows are more general in nature it's not likely that advertisers are going to want to strike a deal with each individual podcaster. They will be more likely to go to a podcast network or advertising service where they can have their ads run on many shows at the same time. Again, since those services are available why shouldn't a podcaster take advantage of them? There are some vocal podcast listeners who state that they will stop listening to podcasts if they carry advertising. They feel that citizen media is amateur and these listeners feel that only professional media is worth sitting through commercials for.
There is another side to carrying advertising that has little to do with the show itself. If you start making money from your podcast, you may be looking at a whole lot of extra tax paperwork at the end of the year. I think you'd be lucky to make so much money from a podcast that it became a tax return, but it could happen. How much is your time worth? Podcasting is maturing much faster than blogging did, but it has different challenges in advertising. Web advertising existed when blogging came about so it was a relatively small leap to turn existing ad programs from 'web' programs to 'blog' programs. Not so with podvertising. Audio ads didn't exist on the web for the most part, and it's a long slow climb to a working model.