There’s buzz and activity around podcasting these days. Podcasting isn’t new, but I think it’s become reinvigorated of late with a few players moving things forward. Organized access to content that makes it easier for listeners and producers to connect and easier for advertisers to purchase and track ads, is the force behind this new momentum.
A key company in the space is Podcast One, owned by Norm Pattiz. Founder of Westwood One, Pattiz has the know-how to build a content network, and he’s now applying that skill, and his relationships with celebs, to build a network of podcasts. Launchpad Digital Media is a sister company that sells ads for the network. According to a recent article in Bloomberg News, Podcast One hosts 200 shows in its network and averages 100 million downloads a month.
There are other players in the space as well — Earwolf is a comedy network that also offers producers the tools they need to connect with advertisers through sister company The Midroll. WNYC in New York offers a substantial suite of downloadable audio including Freakonomics hosted by author Stephen Dubner, Radiolab, and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin. Stitcher’s been around for a few years, organizing access to content and offering a mobile app that has been downloaded 12 million times, and is integrated with several car manufacturers and both IOS and Android phones.
Meanwhile, the elephant in the room when it comes to podcast networks is iTunes, which offers a huge library of downloadable audio but no monetization opportunities for the producers. Which creates a nice opportunity for the other companies who are willing to figure out the measurement and monetization piece.
We’ll be discussing that aspect of podcasting, and a lot more at RAIN Summit NYC on February 5th in New York City on a panel called “The Download on Podcasts.”
The all new RAIN News site has launched, and I’m sure you will want to check it out and then use your social media tools to tell your friends about it. There’s a new url, a new site, and a lot more content there which will be updated throughout the day.
With more than 200 million registered users, Pandora’s collection of user data is substantial. Now they are beginning to use that data to create marketable audience segments that advertisers can use to target their campaigns.
The first of these “proprietary audience segments” created by Pandora are Hispanic and Spanish speaking users of the service. To create these segments, Pandora cross referenced their registered users with zip codes that have a high population of Hispanic and Spanish speaking listeners, using publicly available census data. It’s still inference based targeting, meaning that the buyer has to agree to make assumptions about the consumer based on where they live, but it’s an improvement over cookie-based technology, which makes inference based assumptions as well – usually assuming that someone visiting a certain site matches a certain set of established criteria.
Critics will argue that users often give false registration data as well, and that is certainly a factor, but probably not a significant deterrent for buyers who are looking for any improved ways of reaching more of the people they want to reach, fewer of those they don’t.
Studies have shown that listeners are quite tolerant of targeted ads online, especially when they are targeted to offer products that the listener might find useful.
In fact, Pandora’s capable of slicing up their audience by market, zip code, age or gender, or the kind of music they listen to, and has been doing that for a long time. These new customer segments are available in media buying software that makes it very simple for agencies to identify, price and purchase. It’s a smart way to market their large audience to advertisers and showcase their targeting capabilities. This video features Heidi Browning, Pandora SVP of strategic solutions, discussing the streaming service’s targeting capabilities.
Programmatic buying will capture nearly 20% of the display ad spend this year, according to eMarketer, and that’s a number that is growing more quickly than anticipated. In general, display advertising is growing more quickly, thanks to increased demand for mobile ads. Advertisers are becoming more adept at using real time buying systems, attracted to the cost effectiveness and increased targeting capabilities. Meanwhile, as mobile usage continues to expand, publishers are releasing more inventory to the programmatic buying platforms. More buyers, more inventory, more revenue.
Meanwhile Triton Digital continues to announce enhancements to their programmatic exchange for streaming audio advertising, a2x. They recently announced a partnership with Lotame to integrate its unifying data management platform (DMP) into a2x, enabling a2x publishers such as Entercom, CBS, and Univision to to collect, understand and activate audience data from any source, including online, offline and mobile.
Essentially, Triton’s a2x platform is enabling publishers to transform their largely unidentifyable inventory into units that can be targeted and sold as targetable inventory in a real time buying platform. As advertisers and their agencies become more and more interested in platforms that offer greater flexibility in targeting and real time pricing, publishers are wise to have these options in their arsenal. However, as AdAge was quick to note in this article, it’s also smart business to compliment this selling strategy with one that offers custom and sponsored ads that net a higher rate.
Last week CBS Radio introduced Audio Ad Center, a self-serve platform that enables small businesses to promote and target their products and services to their online and mobile radio listeners with customized messaging and creative copy. Small business owners can visit the website to purchase ads to run on any of the online CBS Radio stations. “Streaming audio is a very effective form of advertising and does not have to be limited to the companies with the biggest budgets,” CBS Local Media president Ezra Kucharz added. “With AUDIO ADCENTER, business owners can align themselves with the most trusted radio brands with millions of listeners between them to choose from.”
Innovative online platforms that enable advertisers to easily purchase, track and manage their ad inventory. These are the components that will drive more revenue to streaming audio platforms…
Amid all the iTunes Radio hype in September came an announcement from Songza that they have secured $4.7 million in funding. Among the investors was Amazon.com, which bought Amie Street, founded by Songza founder Elias Roman, in 2010.
Songza’s not the biggest streaming service, but they’ve been quietly innovative in the past few years, catching my attention a few times. Eric Davich, the other co-founder of Songza, recently joined the Streaming Music Trends panel at RAIN Summit Orlando and turned out to be a great addition, smart and spunky, with plenty of opinions.
Songza will use the new funding to develop its native advertising solution. “With this funding, we’re scaling our native advertising solution to make brand-to-customer interactions more engaging for customers and more successful for brands,” said Elias Roman, co-founder and CEO of Songza.
Songza’s approach to streaming music is to offer music based not on genre or artist, but on activity or mood instead. Going for a run, getting ready for a date, having a party, Songza’s got options for all of those and a lot more. The plan is to develop high impact 7 second ads that work well for both listeners and advertisers within the context of the programming.
Recent info says that Songza has 4.8 million active users. They have 24 million songs in their database, as well as a slick interface and a unique approach. And they’re concentrating on monetizing their audience in a way that benefits advertisers and listeners. All that makes Songza one to keep an eye on. For more, check out an interview that co-founder Elias Roman did on CNBC not too long ago..
Pandora hosted a 2Q earnings call last week, giving investors news of increased listening and revenues, and continued disappointing profits. The highlight of the call was the news that mobile ad revenues are up 92% over last year, with Pandora now claiming to be the third largest generator of mobile ad revenues in the US, behind Google and Facebook.
Other big news included the fact that just months after a move to cap listening at 40 hours per month, Pandora is removing that cap. No doubt, this decision has to do with the impact that move had – Pandora’s numbers dipped about 10% this spring after the cap was instituted, and at least one competitor, Slacker, saw simultaneous growth. Meanwhile, it did appear that the cap spurred subscription sales as well – although whether those subscribers will stick now that the cap is lifted remains to be seen. Non-GAAP subscription and other revenue was $33.5 million for the quarter, a 153% year-over-year increase, including $4.7 million in revenue relating to our subscription return reserve which has to be held separately since they collect the fees upfront, but subscribers may cancel for a refund.
Advertising revenue was $128.5 million, a 44% year-over-year increase for the quarter.
Pandora also announced that they will for the first time be running back to back ads in listener’s streams, increasing the potential number of ads a listener can hear from about 4 per hour to 5. Since these are mainly 30 second ads, the ad minutes may climb to 3 minutes per hour.
My take on the listener hour cap and commercial units per hour tweaking is that Pandora is growing up and turning its attention more to profitability. They’re demonstrating a willingness to try different things in their attempt to make money per listener. The fact that they are connected to identified listeners gives them the ability to watch their tweaks closely, and they are obviously not afraid to change course if they don’t like what they see. And since they are a public company, these are experiments that the entire industry can watch and learn from..
Are you coming to RAIN Summit Orlando on Tuesday September 17th? Join attendees and speakers from Pandora, Slacker, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Spotify, Univision, Greater Media and so many more for a great conference with excellent panels and networking. Click here to register, and use the code Audio4cast to save a bit.
- Pandora Shows That A Media Business Can Grow Around Mobile Ads (businessinsider.com)
- Pandora scraps 40-hour mobile limit ahead of iTunes Radio launch (digitaltrends.com)
Digital revenue is the bright spot for radio according to the newest revenue data out late last Friday from the Radio Advertising Bureau. Digital revenues grew 16% over last year’s second quarter and are up 13% for the year. Serious attrition continues for network dollars which are down 4% for 2Q and the year. Digital is now poised to overtake network’s share of radio’s revenue pie.
The big elephant in the room is spot radio, which was only flat for the quarter but is still off 1% for the year. Of course this is not a good trend in the face of a modestly recovering economy. Ad revenues continue to shift to online and mobile media, as evidenced by the growth of radio’s digital revenues.
In a move that is likely a reaction to news like this, Clear Channel, which owns Katz Radio, the sales firm that controls the lion’s share of national spot revenues, has just signed on with IPG, one of the largest ad agencies, to build an automatic buying platform for radio inventory. According to Mediapost, “The initiative, which was developed by Interpublic’s Mediabrands unit, is dubbed the Magna Consortium, and is part of the agency holding company’s mission to automate 50% of its media-buying by 2016.”
More than 70 million folks in the US listen to music on their smartphones, says eMarketer. That number represents about 22% of smartphone users, and includes people who stream from their smartphones or download to their phones and listen at least once a month. By next year more than 25% of the US population will be listening to music with their smartphones.
Advertisers are missing the boat though, according to a blog post based on a new report for sale from Forrester Research. That report by Anthony Mullen says that downloading is a transitional stage for the music and audio industry and that consumers’ personal libraries of mp3s will dwindle as CDs, tapes, and vinyl did before them.” The streaming audio audience is “mushrooming”, with Google, Twitter and iTunes all jumping in in 2013. Meanwhile, in-stream audio advertising is showing signs of going mainstream as well – gaining spots in more and more standard ad campaigns. Streaming audio ads are data-rich, meaning that they enable great targeting and tracking opportunities, but it’s a market that remains under-invested in by advertisers.
In-stream audio advertising offers a great opportunity for advertisers, but it deserves quality creative that recognizes its unique attributes. Educating the ad community on both the benefits of the streaming audio audience, as well as the need for strategies that recognize its unique targeting and ROI abilities is the job at hand for streaming services, and reports like these two from Forrester and eMarketer are good things to have in your toolkit.
In North America, mobile advertising revenues grew 111% from 2011 to 2012, while at the same time netting 83% growth globally. Growth in Asia just slightly outpaced North America during the same period. Contributing factors to the growth are easy to identify – widespread smartphone adoption and more time spent on mobile devices, along with increasingly better monetization of mobile ad services.
Mobile ad services are figuring out better ways to optimize the advertising experience for advertisers. This is obviously the key to growing revenue. Something that Apple understands, as they are about to launch iTunes Radio as an ad supported platform. So here’s what I would do if I were in charge of monetizing that platform.
- iTunes has 500 million users across the globe. Those users are mobile, and they like to consume content, mostly music. But over the past few years they have decided that they don’t have to own that music, they’re happy to stream it instead.
- iTunes also has lots of information on those users – who they are, where they live, what devices they use, how old they are, and what they like to watch and listen to. That’s the stuff that advertisers really want. But that’s not the holy grail.
- iTunes has a credit card on file for all those users. Because they buy songs, video and apps from the ITunes store already. So if you are an advertiser, and you are selling something online, how would you like to sell it in Apple’s store, where users can purchase it with just one click? Sure, you’ll pay them something for that, but it’ll be worth it because it makes it so easy for the customer.
That’s how I think Apple could revolutionize mobile ad monetization…
An interesting new study by GroupM Next compares broadcast and internet radio listeners. GroupM Next is the “forward thinking, innovation unit” of GroupM, the largest conglomerate of Ad Agencies in the world. The unit studies consumer use of new platforms and provides insight to agencies on usage of such.
The study reveals several positive facts about the Internet radio audience. The average age of an Internet radio listener is 34 years old versus the average age of a broadcast radio listener which is 47 years old. Since the average income was found to be similar in both groups, the Internet radio audience is more affluent given their substantially younger age.
86% of Internet radio listeners listen to free services and have never paid to listen. They don’t mind ads, and don’t try to avoid them, and are twice as inclined to make a purchase after hearing an ad. In fact, 29% of Internet radio listeners have purchased something they heard advertises, versus 14% of broadcast radio listeners.
The study comes to some very strong positive conclusions about both Internet radio and the future of audio, pointing out that we are in the middle of a major shift in the way that music is delivered. Concluding that the greatest opportunity for brands lies with Internet radio services such as Pandora and iHeartradio, the research emphatically concludes that a “continuously growing user base, a swell of compatible devices and a consumer that is both receptive and responsive to advertising makes Internet radio a compelling marketplace to reach consumers.”Now that sounds like a statement that Internet radio can take to the bank..
I’ve been away on vacation for the past week and a half or so – a vacation where I barely got online and didn’t check my email at all. After the first few days, it was surprisingly easy to do, and very relaxing. It turns out, last week was a big news week for Internet radio, with Apple giving the first preview of it’s nicknamed iradio product, and Pandora purchasing an FM station in Rapid City, South Dakota. I spent my first day back reading a lot and trying to get some perspective on both announcements.
iTunes Radio, it appears, will simply be Apple’s entry into the space, long awaited. After reading about it and talking to a few developers who have seen the interface, I guess it’s an Apple-esque, graphically interesting web radio interface that does the same things that Pandora does. Not a lot of innovation, but a well done product – possibly less than I would have expected from Apple, since I’m aware they have been actively working on this entry into the markeplace for at least a year and a half, when they contacted me.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there will be innovation with this product, and I’m hopeful that it will expand the marketplace for everyone. According to one thing that I read, Apple is planning to sell ads on its streaming radio platform using iAd, its mobile ad business. Consider that Apple knows about its users, which provides for effective targeting, and has a credit card on file for each one of them, which most of them are accustomed to using already to purchase songs and apps. That’s a system that could translate to expansive online revenues for lots of advertisers.
I don’t think Apple will mean a lot of trouble for Pandora, although certainly they will begin to share audience. Pandora’s got a large user base and a lot of happy customers. They may lose some share, but the number of people using Internet radio will continue to grow, and they’ll still gain listeners. Meanwhile, they’ll benefit from another major player in the marketplace who will help build advertiser investment. Look at it this way: it would appear that Apple’s game is to solve the conundrum of how to monetize the mobile audience, in particular the streaming audio mobile audience. I’d say that’s good news for the industry.