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The iTunes Advertising Enigma

There’s no question in my mind that Apple has done more to advance the medium of podcasting than any other company. For that, I will always be grateful.

Nevertheless, I am still shaking my head in bewilderment about one thing I recently learned related to Apple and podcasts: nobody can buy advertising to promote their podcast on iTunes.

Sure, when you go to the iTunes podcast directory there are all sorts of banners and buttons promoting the virtues of various podcasts. I, like many people, had assumed that the producers of those podcasters had paid to have their podcasts promoted in this way. After all, this type of advertising model exists on a number of other podcast directories, and it’s something many of us are familiar and comfortable with.

But get this: I assumed wrong. (Yeah, yeah, I know the old saying about making assumptions…)

After several weeks of investigating this, I have discovered that what I thought were paid ads for various podcasts are, in fact, freebies that the iTunes team creates and runs. According to the various podcasters I have talked to who have been lucky enough to have one of these "ads" put on iTunes promoting their podcast, this happens out of the blue. One moment they’re scrounging for subscribers with all the rest of us pod-mortals, the next thing you know they’re signing up subscribers by the truckload thanks to a big honking "ad" on the iTunes podcast directory home page. iTunes doesn’t even notify them that the ad is running; it just appears one day.

On the one hand I love the eccentric nature of this and the fact that low-budget, independent podcasts are getting free advertising and profile alongside bigger budget "corporate" podcasts.

On the other hand, I am a little frustrated that if I wanted to boost the profile of a client’s podcast on iTunes (through the use of paid advertising) I would not be able to.

Finally, I can’t for the life of me figure out why Apple is walking away from the chance to generate significant advertising revenue. Then again, Apple’s always done things its own unique way. Think different, indeed.


  1. Duane Brown
    Duane Brown May 9, 2007

    I think you hit the nail on the head about why Apple doesn’t charge for the ad space. If they did, all the corporate companies would buy up the space and none of the independents would get any attention. This way everyone gets a liitle attention and the best can truly rise to the top, or at least I hope so. Also I find this to be an interesting piece of news.

  2. Dave O
    Dave O May 9, 2007

    Shhh, … don’t give them any ideas! Really though, Apple are probably running the impromptu ad hoc ads as a trial balloon and one day you will (magically) have your dream of yet another way to give Apple your money – not because they are great, but because they are uhh … different.
    Careful what you ask for (though i would like to ask for a free itunes ad ;-)).

  3. Diana Tamblyn
    Diana Tamblyn May 10, 2007

    We’ve been lucky recipients of iTunes’ editorial highlighting our podcast (Scotiabank Find the Money Podcast), and it did make a huge difference in our downloads.
    It’s true that we were happily surprised when it went up, and sad when it went down. It ran for a good few weeks over RSP season though…
    They seem to pick fairly topical ones on the most part (like highlighting ours at the peak investment season).

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