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Jeff Umbro

Jeff Umbro

· Time to read: ~10 min

This interview was first in the Podcast Business Journal newsletter, with the latest podcast news and data. Subscribe free today.

Jeff Umbro is founder and CEO of The Podglomerate — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability

JU: The Podglomerate is a podcast services agency - that’s a fancy way of saying that we produce, distribute and monetize podcasts. We create shows for third party brands, and we also make shows for ourselves. We run audience growth campaigns for some of the largest podcasts out in the world: publicity, marketing, cross promotion, pitching the podcast apps, paid acquisition. We also have an ad sales agency in house where we sell on behalf of about 70 different podcasts.

JC: We see an awful lot of people who launch new shows and they will send out maybe a press release and that’s kind of it. Why is podcast marketing important?

JU: At its most basic level, a podcast marketer will connect a publisher and an audience. They do that through publicity, marketing, cross-promotion, pitching the apps, paid acquisition, word of mouth and a million other techniques. But it’s important because you have all of these shows that are putting a lot of energy into creating this content that sometimes people aren’t really hearing. So you really need to go in with a concerted effort to try and find that audience.

People who are publishing a podcast don’t always know how to market it. They’ve come to the table with a great idea and the production chops to really create something great, but they don’t always know how to use their marketing muscle to put that in front of their audience. So somebody like us will come in to help them do that. We have a lot of different methods that we use in order to do that.

JC: How bespoke is what you do? Are all clients different, or is there a playbook that you normally run with in terms of getting a new show out there?

JU: We do customize every campaign a little bit differently, but at its core, they’re the same kind of levers that we use in order to get a show in front of the right audience.

Step one is really identifying who that audience is, where they exist and how to drive them to your podcast. There’s a lot of different thought processes behind doing that. Some folks will really take a data driven approach. Some will take a content approach. What we like to do is kind of a mix of all of those where we understand where an audience exists, what they’re listening to, what social media platforms they may be on, what they’re reading in the media.

We’ve devised our five tier approach in order to take the audience demo that we’ve already identified and put the show in front of that audience. So publicity at its core is really building a press kit and then identifying the targets of who might be interested. So that could be websites, newspapers, magazines, blogs, TV shows, radio shows, other podcasts - and putting the show in front of the folks who may be interested in listening and writing about it. We do this primarily through relationship building across the industry, so that when we do reach out to a journalist about a show, it’s not the first time they’re ever hearing from us.

The marketing lever is the idea of taking your owned and operated properties like your social media, your email newsletter, your website, and directing them towards the podcast while trying to convert them to listeners of the show. Once they have hit play on your podcast, we can look towards how they’re consuming the show. Do we need to tweak any aspect of the experience within the feed? Is the intro too long or the thesis of the show no apparent? While we don’t always have the ability to change these things, we like to pay attention to them. Once we have some data sets to work with, we’re able to measure the attribution: what’s working, how effectively is it working, and how you can we iterate on the process to do it better or more of the same.

The third lever is cross-promotion: pitching interviews on other podcasts, feed drops, and audio promos. The same system applies of tracking attribution on that to see what works effectively and how you can do more of the same.

Some of the podcast apps have editorial curation, some are algorithmically curated, and some have paid promotions that you can place on the platforms. But the idea is that a listener who is already on the explore page of one of these apps, or is already listening to other podcasts, may be primed to listen to a new show. We work with all of the various podcast apps on the best ways to connect their users and listeners to our shows.

The fifth tier is paid acquisition. If the client has a budget, can we use that budget to place ads in apps, on other podcasts, on social media, display ads, newsletters, etc? We have a deep data set from the work we’ve done over the years, so we’re able to identify what will be effective for our clients, and how we can optimize these campaigns through things like art, copy, audio, CTAs, etc.

And we have a whole bucket that we call miscellaneous, which are kind of new tools that are being put out every few weeks or months across the audio space. We run through what makes sense editorially and curate that. And then we take the data from those campaigns and see what has been effective and what hasn’t. And oftentimes we’re surprised by what we see there.

What is really interesting for the work that we do at The Podglomerate is that we have run these campaigns across hundreds of shows from dozens of different publishers. So we have all of that data for what’s worked and what hasn’t based on timing, genre, publishing quality, and content for all of those shows.

JC: In the Podnews newsletter we run a section called “Podcast Advertising In The Wild” - advertising on billboards, or the back of a plane, or someone’s t-shirts. What are the ways you’ve used out in the wild?

JU: Years ago I was talking to another marketer - and he made a comment to me that he often wonders what the difference is between spending $5000 on Facebook or spending $5000 to print out fliers and hand them out in Grand Central station. I think the one difference is that you can’t often measure how effective something like a billboard or a flyer may be. There are ways: QR codes, vanity URLs; but the idea is really inbound versus outbound marketing. Are you able to establish a way to bring people back to what your you’re selling, or are you just kind of putting this out in the world and hoping people pay attention?

I’ve seen some interesting website ads for shows that try and put contextual copy out in the wild - even in podcast apps, it’s been interesting to see how people are doing that. I think I saw an Overcast ad a year or two ago where somebody said: “listen to this at Thanksgiving while you’re cooking your meal”, for example. But it didn’t necessarily give any context for what the show was about, outside ofthe art.

What is the best ‘In the wild’ podcast advertising is an interesting question, because no matter how well some of this advertising is executed, you’re not necessarily going to be able to measure the impact of it.

Even a billboard in Times Square - you don’t know if that’s converting anyone to listen to the show, although it may be really cool to take a picture of that and post it on your social media.

JC: You know, I’ve lost count of the amount of ads that I’ve seen for shows in real life where it’s not really very clear that it’s a podcast or how to listen. But I’m sure it makes them feel very happy and glowing inside.

JU: People are trying to get too clever with some of the ads that they’re running. I can’t tell you how many campaigns or press releases I’ve seen where the first draft of a release doesn’t have the launch date, or the title of the show, or something like that. The most basic “who, what, where, why and when” sometimes doesn’t exist, let alone what you may see on a sticker in the Subway.. I think a lot of people are trying a lot of different things and some of them are working really effectively and some of them aren’t. But at the end of the day, I respect somebody for trying to get their show out there.

I share your article constantly, James. The one about the metadata that appears in search results across the different directories, because it’s so funny to me that there’s so many opportunities for people to grab the low hanging fruit out there that they don’t take advantage of. I think we sometimes forget that a lot of the people outside of the podcast space don’t live and breathe this stuff; so a lot of the knowledge that we do to bring a showis not necessarily something that is second nature to a podcaster who may just be entering the space. I think a lot of the work that you do is is really amazing for that because you’re helping people figure out what may be table stakes elsewhere.

JC: Well, thank you! You started in July 2017. You must have seen a fair amount of changes in the podcast world over the last six years.

JU: I actually have been podcasting since 2014, but I started the company in 2017.

I think a lot of the changes that we’ve seen in the space over the last few years have ultimately been good ones, that sometimes have been a little bit painful to watch. I think a lot of these publicly traded companies are slightly more concerned than they used to be about hitting their bottom line, and I think at any point where there’s a lot of shareholders that are involvedit gets more difficult.

I do think that at the end of the day, the podcast space is in a really interesting and good place. We’re still very early on in the evolution of the industry. Ten years from now we’re going to be looking back and saying “remember how crazy 2023 was?” in the same way that we look back and say, “You remember how great it was in 2014 when Serial came out?” There’s going to be some painful moments that happen and and there’s going to be some great ones. And I’ve been enjoying the journey so far.

JC: And you’ve just launched a podcast?

JU: At Podglomerate we work with a lot of larger companies with more resources, staff, and budget. We also work a lot with independent producers who may be bootstrapping a passion project and hoping to make a few thousand dollars a year. In every instance, we spend a LOT of time walking people through the mechanics of the industry. It doesn’t matter if it’s a CMO or someone recording on weekends, there’s still a large gap in the industry when it comes to the mechanics of doing what we all do. And no wonder, either, as there’s a lot of change happening every week in this industry.

With Podcast Perspectives, we’re hoping to provide resources for anyone and everyone to learn about what’s happening in the industry and how it will effect them specifically. I’m trying hard to put myself in the place of a listener and ask the questions they’d like to ask. It’s very fun, too, as I’m able to chat with friends, mentors, and people I’m just fans of about what we all do every day. There will be direct interviews, panel discussions, and whatever else we may feel like doing along the way, and hopefully we’re putting something out there that is going to be helpful to a lot of people.

And on the same note, this is also a fun way for us to get to experiment with new tools in the space. You know, we haven’t really done that much with YouTube, for example, so we’re publishing everything on YouTube. It’s a little bit of a challenge for us, but it’s been pretty rewarding so far. Hopefully it’s something where we can get something out of it and we can give something back to the industry that has given us so much.

JC: The podcast is called Podcast Perspectives, and it’s available wherever you get your podcasts. Jeff, thank you very much.

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