What’s Fueling America’s Podcast Ad Growth?

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(by Renee Cassis) As podcasting attracts more advertising dollars, everyone in the space is trying to pinpoit exactly where opportunities for growth are the greatest. A panel of podcast executives discussed their views on the topic at the NAB Show New York, Thursday afternoon.

Sarah van Mosel, Chief Podcast Sales & Strategy, Officer Market Ingenuity attributes much of the success podcast advertising has already experienced to the low spot-loads and the authenticity of host-read ads, which, so far, have been the driving force in podcast advertising. “It’s like a recommendation from a friend,” she explained. “Most buyers historically have been direct response. Direct response is very measurement based and if it doesn’t work, they’re out of there!”

Brendan Monaghan, CEO of Panoply, noted that brands are starting to see the value of podcast advertising. According to Monaghan, “That’s why we’re staring to see stats that show revenue is increasing.” Sarah van Mosel also agreed with that point, adding that there was a diversity of products in the space, as well.

Since a podcast is digitally delivered content, tracking listeners to a point of purchase goes directly to the issue of attribution. Panoply recently conducted a study for an insurance carrier that tracked a listener from the podcast ad to the insurance carrier’s website, where that listener filled out a quote form. The individual listener was not identifiable as to who they are, but they could be tracked to the insurance carrier’s quote form.

“We measure 3 billion podcasts a month through our systems,” added Mark McCrery, Founder and CEO of Podtrac. “People tune in to podcasts from the beginning and listen all the way through,” he said. “We can track the listener retention and they’re not dropping out. That’s different to radio. Podcast is a structured experience and optimized for advertisers.” According to Monaghan, advertisers are paying more per listener in podcasts because of that high engagement factor.

“You can have a host create a branded podcast for an advertiser,” said van Mosel. That’s an interesting prospect for radio — with built-in production studios and on-air talent, one has to wonder if that could be a new revenue stream.

“When shows are tiny, it’s hard to sell them one at a time,” van Mosel pointed out. That’s where ad networks come into the monetization process. By aggregating audiences, an ad platform can deliver critical mass, while retaining the benefits of high targetability. “We’ve been creating audience channels,” she explained. Market Enginuity is the ad sales arm for PRX and Radiotopia. Van Mosel shared that they conduct an audience survey for each show to identify the listener profile. The audience of health and wellness shows, for example, are more likely to have gym memberships and take vitamins and supplements. “So now we can give advertisers the audiences they want.”

Panoply CEO Brendan Monaghan chatting with an NAB attendee

Monaghan presented a hypothetical situation to showcase how granular the targeting can be. In his example, an advertiser might be looking to reach 20 CEOs — tiny but very targeted. By spreading across numerous titles, an advertiser can reach women 18-35 who drink coffee — a strong brew for a brand like Starbucks. “You have to have a big pool to pull from,” he explained.

Sara van Mosel also touched on the value of creating show content extensions, by taking one element of interest from the podcast and going deeper in an off-shoot. “It’s easier to introduce something to an existing audience than to find an audience from scratch,” she said. This is another area that seems tailor-made for radio. There have been success stories with morning show sidekicks developing their own podcast for the station’s website.

In closing, the panel addressed the all-important question of how podcasts can be better for advertisers. The answer? More data, particularly across all major listening platforms. As advertisers clamor for targeted reach and attribution, data is king.

Renee Cassis is owner of RC Communications Marketing, a PR and marketing consultancy for broadcast and entertainment companies. She can be reached at cassis2@msn.com.

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