Podcast Rundown

The Rundown: Podcast production companies and platforms pitch diverse audiences and ad targeting improvements at IAB’s Podcast Upfront

Improvements in podcast ad technology, as well as the diverse audiences and creators in the audio space, were the focuses of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s three-day Podcast Upfront this week, which wrapped on May 12. The IAB forecasted podcast ad revenue to surpass $2 billion in 2022.The podcast industry is fully embracing dynamically-inserted ads.On the…

Improvements in podcast ad technology, as well as the diverse audiences and creators in the audio space, were the focuses of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s three-day Podcast Upfront this week, which wrapped on May 12.

  • The IAB predicted that podcast advertising revenue would surpass $2 billion in 2022.
  • The podcast industry is fully embracing dynamically-inserted ads.
  • On the other hand, some podcast companies touted the benefits of longer-form branded ad segments.
  • Machine learning can help advertisers target specific content and conversations in podcast episodes.
  • Upcoming programming being pitched to buyers ranged from true crime to comedy.
  • Industry execs touted the diversity of content, creators and audiences in podcasting — and the need for advertisers to back them up financially.

Podcast ad spend continues to grow

The IAB’s annual U.S. Podcast Advertising revenue study was released Monday. It found that

  • Revenues increased 72% year over year to $1.4 billion in 2021.
  • The IAB forecasted podcast ad spending to exceed $2 billion in 2022 and almost triple by 2024 to over $4 billion.
  • Pre-roll advertising increased its share of podcast ad revenue to 32% in 2021, from 22% in 2020.
  • The share of podcast ad revenue served via dynamic ad insertion (DAI) — i.e. ads inserted at the time a podcast is downloaded or streamed, versus “burned-in” or “baked-in” ads, which are embedded in the podcast file and part of the episode’s content — has almost doubled in two years to 84%.
  • Both host-read and announcer-read ads are largely being served via DAI (84% and 85%, respectively).
  • Announcer-read ads grew its share of ad revenue to 40% from 35% in 2020.

The industry fully embraces DAI

With the industry shifting to DAI quickly, more advertisers are looking to podcast media because they can use same data they use to target their audience on social and connected TV and apply that to their audio strategy. Andre Swanston was svp for the media and entertainment vertical at TransUnion during a panel discussion on Wednesday. This is in contrast to embedded ads, which are listened to by everyone regardless of where or who they are. TransUnion is, it should also be noted, a provider of this data. Acast, which claims it invested dynamic ad insertion back in 2014, touted its DAI tech and programmatic ad arm during its presentation.

Eric John, vice president of the IAB Media Center on Tuesday said that

DAI also opened up podcast advertising to other categories. In the same panel with Swanston, Ken Lagana, evp of digital sales at audio company Audacy, said the flexibility of being able to “put [dynamically-inserted ads] up and take them down in periods that are important” has opened up the podcast medium to advertisers in categories like automotive and for those promoting TV shows or selling tickets (the arts, entertainment & media category in IAB’s report grew from 9% to 11% year over year — auto grew from 2% to 4%).

Longer-form branded ad segments

However, not all are behind dynamically inserted ads’ rapid adoption. Gary Coichy (founder and CEO of multicultural podcast network Pod Digital Media) spoke on Wednesday. He argued that embedded ads allow hosts the opportunity to connect with the advertiser, which has resulted in a high brand lift in research conducted by his company over the past year.

” I personally don’t like dynamically-inserted ads in podcasts. Coichy stated that although I am not yet there, I believe I will.

“We’re starting to really steer away from pre-recorded assets in the 15-second pre-rolls and the six-second mid-roll,” Coichy said. “We started creating two- to three-minute segments in each show and creating custom moments within each episode .”


Slate seemed to be focusing more on custom, longer-form ad segments than the shorter preroll or midroll formats. Lily Butler, director of creative strategy at Slate, told advertisers at IAB’s Podcast Upfront about the publisher’s “branded mini features,” which are 60- to 90-second segments she described as “fully custom, highly produced micro-documentaries that run in the middle spots” of Slate’s podcasts. Podcast hosts can also create a “preroll tease spot” to signal listeners that a mini-feature from their brand will be appearing later in an episode. Butler stated that custom-length segments “outperformed” traditional host-read ads. However, she didn’t provide any stats during Slate’s presentation.

“Spots are and will continue to be done,” Coichy stated during Pod Digital Media presentation on Thursday.

Focus on diversity, and international/multi-language podcasts

The Podcast Upfront featured a lot of diversity in creators, producers and programming within the audio space.

Coichy said brands increasingly looking to “allocate [their] dollars toward the minority-owned, minority-operated company” has led to 40% revenue growth at Pod Digital Media year over year.

SXM highlighted recent partnerships with Latino podcast network Pitaya, and Spanish-language podcast network Revolver. Wondery stated that its podcast, “Dr. Death” has been translated into 11 languages, and its first original podcast series for the U.K., “British Scandal.”

On the last day of the event, Uforia, the Spanish-language audio network owned by TelevisaUnivision; Black podcast networks Pod Digital Media and Mocha Podcasts Network; and Asian-American podcast “They Call Us Bruce” presented their existing and upcoming podcast slates for Black, Asian American and Spanish-spea

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