One area of the media landscape we see taking off in 2019 is Podcasts as an advertising option for media buyers and planners. According to HowStuffWorks, Podcasting was developed in 2004 by former MTV video jockey, Adam Curry, and software developer, Dave Winer, with a program called iPodder. This program enabled Curry to automatically download Internet radio broadcasts directly to his iPod.
Fast forward 14 years and there’s unlimited podcast content available on several streaming services and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual advertising revenue being generated.
Podcasting’s growth spiked in 2005, just one year after its inception, when Apple offered more than 3,000 free podcasts on iTunes. This push from Apple meant that millions of listeners were able to discover podcasts for the first time. According to Wired, Steve Jobs explained that podcasting was like “TiVo for radio”.
Since then, podcasting has continued to see phenomenal growth. The number of Americans listening to podcasts has nearly doubled in the past nine years and doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. What does that mean for podcast advertising? Well, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoppers (PwC), podcasting ad revenue is projected to grow 110%, to $659 million, by 2020.
What does this mean for a media buyer? Despite the rapid growth, there are some setbacks that could affect the continued growth of podcasting and should be considered in the media planning and buying process.
Setback: Lack of Measurement
One of the biggest factors for advertisers is the lack of measurement and analytics to guage the performance for any campaign. Tutuwa Ahwoi, ad operations manager at NPR’s sponsorship sales division, National Public Media, spoke with eMarketer about improving measurement. He stated, “Podcasting is a relatively new medium, so attribution or measurement is still in its infancy. Because it's so new, not many systems have been created to serve podcast ads.”
This is all due to the fact that apart from streaming shows, podcasts are mostly downloaded. After the download, we have no way of knowing if that person listened to the entirety of the episode or if they listened at all. In order for advertisers to accurately determine success, metrics such as downloads, impressions, percentage of episode listened to and engagement are crucial.
Solution: IAB’s Measurement Compliance Certification Program
Luckily, this could all change with IAB’s new podcast measurement certification program, a program that attempts to apply measurement standards. To gain certification, organizations must go through a four-step process in which the IAB Tech Lab audits data samples, validates data queries, evaluates business processes and performs annual validations. This advancement established a common set of metrics for downloads, listeners and ad delivery for all advertisers to not only agree upon, but measure and optimize campaigns with.
Setback: No Government Regulation
Podcasting is free of government regulation and doesn’t have to conform to the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) broadcast decency regulations. This means that podcasters are free to talk about what they want and say what they want without any government interference. When working with podcast networks, you don’t always have the ability to choose which programs you advertise on or whitelist. Therefore, you risk your brand going up against content that might not be appropriate.
Solution: Consequences and Time
Although there is no government regulation for podcasts, this does not mean there aren’t consequences. There have been instances where people are fired from their jobs for saying certain things during their shows and advertisers have pulled their support due to content. So, although hosts have the freedom to discuss topics and say things openly, there are still consequences outside of government regulation.
Setback: Ad Formats
Another challenge every media buyer faces is choosing the appropriate type of ad for clients. Typically, podcasts are endorsed, dynamic or embedded/backed-in ads. With an embedded/baked-in ad, the advertisement will live within the episode forever. You can’t take it out, which makes the ad results harder to track and a poor choice for any time-sensitive promotion. Dynamic ads can only be inserted automatically into an episode and removed on a specific date or when the ad reaches a download guarantee. So it can be removed from episodes as to not live past a campaign timeframe.
Solution: Strategic Media Planning
Be strategic in your media planning as to selection of podcast ad formats. If you have a retail client wanting to use a promotional code that expires, embedded ads will not be the best long-term choice. Even though episodes are downloaded the first day of release and within your campaign promotional window, the listener might not play them for another month when the promotion is over. Choose your ad formats wisely.
As a media buyer, program content is something we must carefully consider when planning for any client. Due to the issues surrounding the current non-regulation of podcasts, we must weigh our decisions with increased insight.