An introduction to podcast advertising

Our latest Croud Academy Live session took a look at the world of podcast advertising. Croud’s Director of Strategy & Planning, Duncan Nichols, was joined by Senior Programmatic Manager Omri Kedem to explore the growing popularity of podcast advertising, and how advertisers can tap into the opportunity.

A brief history of podcasts

Setting the scene, Duncan first took attendees through a whistlestop tour of podcasts, taking us back to 2004, when former MTV video jockey Adam Curry and software developer Dave Winer coded a program known as iPodder, which enabled them to download Internet radio broadcasts to their iPods.

Fast-forward to today, and podcast popularity is growing all the time – with 36% of survey respondents from across the globe having listened to a podcast in the month preceding a Q1 2019 survey. Looking specifically at the UK, much of this growth has been driven by 15-24-year-olds; however podcast listenership still centres on those aged 35 and older.

When it comes to podcast consumption, native apps such as Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts still dominate the market; however Spotify’s rapid growth is disrupting the space – with Founder and CEO Daniel Ek stating back in February 2019 that he predicts that “over time, more than 20% of all Spotify listening will be non-music content.”

The advertising opportunity

With Duncan having set the scene, Omri then took listeners through an overview of podcast advertising. Despite the recent drastic reduction in commuting caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, podcasting ad revenue is continuing to grow, with brand advertisers drawn in by podcasting’s simplicity and its on-demand nature. But how can advertisers get involved?

At a basic level, there are two podcasting ad formats available:

  1. Sponsorship ads are created by podcast hosts specifically for the brand. These are native and bespoke to one particular podcast, with your brand message being personalised to reflect the host’s personality and the flow of the podcast.
  2. Dynamic insertion ads, or airtime ads, are dynamically inserted into pre, mid and post-roll ad spots across various different titles relevant to your target audience.

And the podcast advertising landscape is also fairly straightforward, with the content creators – from Joe Rogan to Peter Crouch – at one end, and the so-called podcatchers – such as Stitcher, Spotify and Google Podcasts – at the other end. In the middle, we have ad networks such as Acast, DAX, and audioboom, which bridge the gap in much the same way as in the wider programmatic ecosystem. The ad networks’ role is two-fold:

  • They publish podcasts on an RSS feed, which podcatchers can dial in to. This RSS feed has ads natively or dynamically inserted into it.
  • Secondly, they act as a monetisation platform. They have agreed deals with thousands of content creators to form a content exchange.

When it comes to buying podcast advertising, direct buys cover all sponsorship ads, which need to be manually set up with content creators. However, airtime ads are becoming increasingly programmatic, meaning that these deals can feed into our programmatic platforms and be bid on in real time, which enables a more targeted approach, consolidated measurability and more flexibility with budgets.

Key considerations for podcast advertising

Taking the three key principles of modern digital marketing – whereby all activity should be audience-led, measurable, and accountable – Omri and Duncan then looked at the capabilities and limitations of podcast advertising. In summary:

  • Audience: Audiences are currently contextually led, with audience segments being modelled demographics based on podcast profiling. Currently, there are no capabilities for the overlaying of third-party audience data, nor any mechanisms to leverage an advertiser’s own first-party data.
  • Measurability: Similarly, podcast advertising is measurable, but with several limitations – due to both the downloadable nature of podcasts, and the lack of data sharing between different platforms. For instance, Apple Podcast, which accounts for 60% of podcast usage, does not pass any listening data back to any third-party platforms. As such, advertisers must rely on tactics such as vanity URLs to track the impact of their activity.
  • Accountability: Given the above measurement limitations, accountability is naturally flawed, and we are limited in terms of tying out performance to media investment, which can make it tricky to compare the performance of podcasts to other channels.

Despite these limitations, we are seeing continued progress in the podcast advertising space, through integration and consolidation. The consolidation of activity within a Programmatic Demand Side Platform – or DSP – provides better insights into measurement, including advanced capabilities to tie back device IDs to media across certain podcasts that are streamed by certain platforms.

While this set-up offers the most accurate delivery metrics, it currently represents a very small percentage of the podcast industry – but the good news is that it’s increasing all the time. Spotify’s recently launched Ad Studio is leading the way, and looks to be the future of measurable, consolidated podcast ad buying.


You can view Duncan and Omri’s full presentation here, including a look at how to plan for podcast advertising, and you can watch the full webinar recording here. Contact us to find out more, or to get started with podcast advertising today.

by Croud
15 April 2020



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