iHeart Among Major Podcasters Trading Follows For Extra Lives


iHeartMedia has called it the company’s “growth engine” and is pouring more resources and artificial intelligence capabilities into podcasting, but the broadcaster has been seeking a new audience in a unique ad push – trading podcast follows for extras in mobile games.

MowPod, a company assisting podcasters and networks in expanding their reach, has become a more sought-after solution for enhancing podcast visibility and audience engagement in recent months. The company is offering a service that drives followers on Apple Podcasts by placing targeted ads in mobile video games, where gamers are incentivized to follow podcasts on Apple Podcasts in exchange for in-game rewards.

Clients are charged $5 per new follower, with a minimum spend of $5,000.

Despite the innovative strategy, there are varied opinions on the long-term effectiveness of such marketing efforts. According to Bloomberg, some marketers have observed a temporary surge in followers, which may not always translate into sustained listener growth.

iHeart isn’t the only major company to use MowPod’s gaming service – podcast powerhouses Lemonada, Wondery, and Alex Cooper’s Unwell Network have all had series boosted by the service.

MowPod also offers a Boost service that sells programmatic ads on websites that load and play individual podcast episodes when clicked, counting toward total episode download count for the buyer. iHeart has reportedly used similar services in the past. A 2022 article from Time said iHeart was the largest podcast client of Jun Group, a company renowned for embedding these types of advertisements within mobile apps.

While controversial to some, the move underlines the complex strategies established podcast brands are employing to navigate the increasingly crowded on-demand audio landscape and stay on top by potentially reselling audience attention to advertisers.

The latest Market.us study forecasts widespread growth in the podcast industry, with an estimated value of $43 billion by 2032. This expected surge reflects an annual growth rate of 14.5%, driven by the effectiveness of engaging and targeted advertising aimed at an attentive audience. Over the coming years, the bulk of this revenue is anticipated to originate from host-read advertisements, with programmatic spots also contributing substantially to the industry’s expansion.


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