Business Technology

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Better data proves podcasting's potential

"Podcasts are highly mobile and very engaging, offering compelling opportunities for marketers looking for highly effective and creative ad options," says Anna Bager, IAB's senior vice-president and general manager of mobile and video. Stock image
Steve Dempsey

Steve Dempsey

Media outlets put on a good show when launching new seasons and programming. In the US the TV networks have the upfronts, a showbiz extravaganza that aggressively courts advertising dollars. Closer to home we've seen RTE and TV3 launch their autumn schedules in recent weeks with slightly less glitzy events.

But many media formats - especially digital ones - fail to generate demand and desire. However, this is changing for the humble podcast. This September the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) will hold a podcast upfront in New York. The aim is to introduce brands and agencies to the latest that the podcast landscape has to offer and rub shoulders with podcast producers and advertising firms such as ESPN Radio, NPR, iHeart Radio and Midroll Media.

Alongside the event, the IAB has created a podcasting playbook to help marketers understand how they can reach consumers through podcasting. The playbook features US-focused research, but the overall message - that podcasts are a cost effective way of reaching audiences - holds on either side of the Atlantic.

"Podcasts are highly mobile and very engaging, offering compelling opportunities for marketers looking for highly effective and creative ad options," says Anna Bager, IAB's senior vice-president and general manager of mobile and video.

"Recent IAB research conducted by PwC forecasts that podcast advertising revenues will top $220m in 2017, an 85pc leap from $119m in 2016," she says.

"The playbook features other research that confirms the mainstreaming of podcasts, showing that nearly a quarter of the US population over the age of 12 listen to podcasts on a monthly basis and, on average, they subscribe to six podcasts a week."

The IAB podcast playbook also reports that 85pc of podcast listening occurs on mobile devices. Audiences often listen while commuting, at work, while doing chores at home, or during exercise. The playbook also notes that podcast listeners are more likely than the average US citizen to have a college degree and a high household income.

Podcasts and talk radio are obviously similar in nature. But Bager is unaware of any research that shows a correlation between podcast listenership and radio listenership in regions where talk radio is prevalent, such as Ireland. "In fact, in the US, talk radio demographics are often over 35, while podcast listeners skew younger - 44pc are under 34," she says.

Aside from demographics, it is statistics - or rather the lack of them - that seem to have hampered the commercial evolution of podcasting. But that is set to change, thanks to Apple.

Apple's mobile podcasting app and iTunes are the most popular platforms for accessing podcasts. And the upcoming iOS update will feature data on listening behaviour for podcasts for the first time. These analytics will use anonymised data to tell podcasters - and advertisers - how many people listen to each episode, where they stop, and what they skip.

The IAB believes that this data should provide valuable insights on how listeners consume podcasts, and increase the appeal of podcasts to advertisers.

Notwithstanding the lack of analytics, advertisers should be familiar with podcast media buying. A host of ad types are available on podcasts from pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll audio ads to endorsements and custom segments. These can be bought on a flat rate, giving an advertiser a 100pc share of voice of the content, or on a more typical CPM, or cost per 1,000 basis, where an ad in an episode that's downloaded 100,000 times can be considered to have 100,000 impressions.

The playbook points out that direct response advertisers make up the majority of podcast revenue, and says this is evidence of the high return on investment in podcast advertising. Direct response advertisers typically track podcast ad effectiveness through custom offer codes or vanity URLs, allowing them to attribute sales to individual podcasts. While brand advertisers typically rely on recall studies. And these studies have shown an impressively high recall rates. According to Midroll Media, 67pc of listeners to podcasts in their network could name an actual product feature or special promotion mentioned in a podcast ad.

Podcasts offer an opportunity to engage audiences interested in particular, niche content. As listening continues to grow, as improved data becomes available, and as other digital advertising formats become increasingly commoditised, progressive advertisers should be testing the waters of online audio.

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