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IAB Announces Podcast Upfront

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) will host its second annual Podcast Upfront on September 7th and expand from a half to full day long program. The Second Annual Podcast Marketplace will feature 12 podcast companies, selected from a larger group based on their proposals to participate. Attendance is by invitation for advertisers and media agency executives.

Selected sponsors will each have a 20 minute presentation that will spotlight marketing opportunities for advertisers in podcasting. Last year’s event was very successful, and the expanded format for this year promises to be just as exciting.

Selected presenting sponsors include:

  • AdLarge
  • Authentic (formerly Podtrac)
  • CBS Radio’s
  • ESPN
  • HowStuffWorks
  • Midroll
  • NPR
  • Panoply
  • PodcastOne
  • Time Inc.
  • WNYC Studios
  • Wondery

The content of the presentations will feature an impressive list of some of the most popular podcasts:

  • The Adam Carolla Show
  • Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast
  • Entertainment Weekly: Game of Thrones
  • ESPN: Fantasy Focus Football
  • TED Radio Hour
  • Jim Breuer’s The Metal In Me
  • Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History
  • Radiolab
  • Stuff You Should Know
  • This American Life
  • WTF with Marc Maron

No word on which presentations will include their personality hosts, but I do know that the intial RFP encouraged companies that were interested in participating to make their pitches as appealing as possible in order to be selected, so I’m guessing quite a few podcast personalities will be on stage. It’s bound to be a great day for podcasting. Read more about it here.

Why Millennials Like Podcasts

The study showing that Millennials listen to less radio than older generations is hardly news. Other studies have shown similar trends, and you need to look no further than your favorite Millennial to know that they’re all about connected consumption of all their media.

Meanwhile, we have the growing body of data showing that the very same folks like podcasts. The Podcast Consumer study released by Edison Research shows that 35% of podcast listeners are in the 18-34 demographic. In fact, comScore data shows that same demographic is 44% more likely than the average smartphone-owning adult to listen to podcasts on their device at least once a week. And podcasts are even more popular with younger demos – while 18-34 year olds are more likely than the general population to be podcast listeners, 12-17 year olds are almost twice as likely to listen.

Just this morning I had a conversation with my favorite Millennial about podcasts. She listens at work, and she works in an environment where she can’t be connected all day long. Each day, she downloads her daily diet of podcasts and brings them with her. She says playlists get too boring.

The most fascinating part of this is that Millennials – as well as folks in the younger 12-17 demographic – are listening to podcasts, which are primarily talk programming. The very same programming that on broadcast stations is relegated to the AM dial and listened to mainly by 35+ demographics. How can that be? I’m thinking there are a few things that make podcasts so attractive to younger demos:

  1. It’s all about the device. The younger you are, the more attached you are to your device. If the content is available on your device, it’s worth your attention.
  2. On demand content is the everything. No matter what they’re consuming, younger demos are consuming it on their terms: what they want, when they want it.
  3. Shared content is important. Not only do Millennials like to share, they like to like what others share. Listen, and share with your friends.
  4. Non-fiction and reality content is a thing with Millennials.

Back to the Millennial that I live with. When she’s home from college I really enjoy an evening in front of the tv with her. It used to be easy to pick a movie that we both wanted to watch. But more and more, our tastes diverge, with hers preferring shows about cooking competitions, or brides picking dresses. If it’s fiction, she’s looking for crime and thrillers. The latest Jane Austen novel remake? Not so much.

Offering appealing content in a form that this age group likes to consume is the key to the success of podcasts with younger demos.

Podcasts have struck a chord with Millennials, and it has to do with several things, not the least of which is audio content that they like. While broadcast radio assumes that what they want to hear is the latest hits, it turns out they also want to hear great non fiction programming, on their phones, when they want it. If you podcast it they will listen..



Is YouTube the Next Frontier for Podcasts?

Podcasters are finding YouTube a friendly place to distribute their content. With a billion monthly users, YouTube’s an attractive place to woo listeners. Libsyn, a podcast hosting company, recently introduced a feature that enables podcasters to easily turn their audio files into video and send them to YouTube at the same time they send them to other distribution services such as iTunes and GooglePlay.

But YouTube is a video platform, right? Although it’s often disregarded in a conversation about streaming audio listening, YouTube is by far the largest on demand streaming audio service. It makes sense the podcasters would offer their content on the giant on demand streaming platform as well. YouTube also has some other features that make it a great platform for podcasters – such as search and sharing.

This American Life offers all of its content on YouTube, as do many others. Some, like The Moth, and NPR podcasts like The Hidden Brain and Invisibilia, have organized all of their content into YouTube pages that you can subscribe to, while others, like 99 Percent Invisible and Reply All, are not quite as organized, but easy to find through search.

YouTube also offers recommendations – when I subscribed to Modern Love, produced by WBUR and the New York Times, I got recommendations for a Ted Talk, and a podcast by The Minimalists.

From the looks of the numbers of subscribers to some of the podcasts, it’s early in the idea that YouTube is a podcast distribution platform. The Moth’s 47,000 subscribers seems huge compared to This American Life which has 8562 subscribers. Meanwhile Serial has only 216(!). But Youtube sure seems like a ready-made distribution platform for podcast content. Maybe it’s the next frontier..




Branded Podcasts Come in Several Flavors

Brands are getting serious about podcasts as a content marketing strategy. Podcasts lend themselves well to branded content – their storytelling nature is engaging, appealing to brands seeking a better way to connect with consumers.

Branded content strategies in podcasts can vary greatly, from subtle approaches where the sponsor is barely mentioned, to shows where the sponsor is prominently featured within the editorial, with several alternatives in between.

Branding by Association – A subtle approach to content branding relies simply on a connection with clever, innovative and appealing content to establish a brand’s connection. GE’s The Message is a best in class for this type of content marketing. The podcast was hugely successful and very innovative. The sponsor branding was very subtle – GE Podcast Theater was the producer of the show along with Panoply Networks. GE’s presence in the podcast is very understated, which in this case may well have added to both the success of the series and the effectiveness of the branding. It is really artful branding for sure.

Editorial Branding – A more overt type of content marketing is employed by eBay in the recently launched Open for Business by Gimlet Media. This type of branded podcast features the sponsor’s name and company within the podcast, and in fact, features an eBay partner business within the episode. The editorial content of the podcast is focused on entrepreneurship, and reportedly, the company had input into and final say over the direction and content of each of the six installments. It’s well done, with strong and interesting reporting elements that exemplify Gimlet’s expertise in the space.

Sponsor Produced Podcasts – In this approach to branded podcasts, the sponsor produces its own content, with or without the help of outside resources, and focuses entirely on the sponsor’s business. The McKinsey Podcast, produced by the inhouse McKinsey Publishing, focuses on educating its audience. It’s a well done B2B podcast that discusses topics like the customer experience or the Chinese consumer. It’s a great example of using podcasts to expand a customer base by positioning the sponsor company as a thought leader.

Sponsored Content –  This most common approach to content marketing in podcasts is the one that familiar podcast advertisers like Mailchimp and Squarespace employ. Those companies employ native ads within popular podcast series like Serial to establish their brand. The native ads, often done by the podcast hosts, are personal and effective. I think the branding for Squarespace in the podcast series Reply All is particularly good. Hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman create quirky websites using Squarespace, and then talk about them. (Has PJ met Alex’s son yet is one, and is the other). It’s funny and, as I am demonstrating right here, memorable.

Podcasts as branded content can take many different forms and create really great exposure for advertisers. These deeply creative approaches add enormous value and impact for the brands, and generate both quality content and great buzz that is no doubt part of the momentum driving expanding interest. May they thrive..



Podcasting’s Tipping Point

A few days ago Slate’s Panoply Network launched a new series with best-selling author, speaker, and quirky, insightful social scientist Malcolm Gladwell called Revisionist History. The day it launched it hit number one on the iTunes Podcast Chart. The podcast series of ten episodes will be released week by week and examine past events that were mis-interpreted the first time around – Gladwell will attempt to “correct the record.”

This is a big score for Slate’s Panoply Media, and for the podcasting industry. Panoply’s Andy Bowers thinks Gladwell’s big name will bring new listeners, who haven’t already listened to a podcast before, not to mention new advertisers.

The launch of the program came with a live reading at the iconic 92nd Street Y in New York by Malcolm Gladwell. Attendees were given a handout with instructions on how to download to a podcast on Apple’s purple podcast app – the Revisionist History podcast series is sponsored by Apple’s iBooks, another remarkable aspect of the show. Apparently, Gladwell was thinking about writing a book about these misunderstood historical events, but was convinced to do the podcast series instead.

Everyone is hoping the new series will see the same kind of blockbuster success that Serial saw in its first season. In addition to the live reading, Gladwell’s been tweeting about the series to his 373,000 followers – “My mother says it’s amazing!” Meanwhile, his motives for producing the series are characterized as kind of a lark, more of a challenge than producing another bestselling book.

It just might be a social experiment as well. Gladwell just might be hoping his new series hits at The Tipping Point for podcasting. In his book The Tipping Point, Gladwell examines “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” Podcasting is arguably at its Tipping Point – as Tom Webster of Edison Research pointed out in his presentation on the Podcast Consumer a few weeks ago. Podcast listening has been growing modestly for a bunch of years, but this year things have taken off, says Webster, citing the 24% growth in monthly listening and referring to a possible hockey stick pattern in growth. (All hail to Gordie Howe)

When a product reaches the tipping point, “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point,” it can spread like wildfire with a few simple factors, which Gladwell calls “agents of change.” The podcasting pot is arguably ready to boil. I’m thinking this new show Revisionist History is both a new podcast and a social experiment, where Gladwell is looking to be one of the agents of change that propels podcasting into epidemic status. Read the book and see what you think…

This week I listened to the intro and first episode of Revisionist History, and also listened to Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour. 




Why Binge Listening to Podcasts is a Thing

Podcasters have an episodic approach to content that lends itself to binge listening. People that listen to podcasts weekly listen to more than one – 64% of those that are listening weekly listen to more than two a week, according to Edison Research. This is not surprising, given the “serial” nature of some of the more popular podcasts, such as the popular Serial  (there’s a reason they were not allowed to trademark that name!)

Bridge Ratings confirms not only that more people are listening more to podcasts than ever before, but also that they are listening for an average of 33 minutes per session. This data, which is based on a year-long study of podcast listeners, confirms a healthy time spent listening trend that Bridge says has already “helped some ad agencies take the leap” into investing in podcast advertising.

Podcasts’ long form audio consists of several approaches:

  • Episodic programs, like Serial, where one story is told over a series of episodes -usually released week by week. While week by week releases can put a damper on bingeing, that only applies to listeners who are keeping current with the material. Listeners that are coming to the party mid-stream or later can consume more than one at a time.
  • Theme programs, which have new subjects each week, but tied together around a central theme. These are also compelling and often clever – listeners want to stay with the theme of the podcast and listen to several. WNYC’s Death, Sex and Money, about the topics we need to talk more about, and the New York Times/WBUR’s Modern Love, which covers lots of angles on love, take that approach.
  • Personality podcasts use the host as the consistent element from week to week, and topics cover whatever the host wants to talk about. Marc Maron’s WTF, Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour, and The Adam Carolla Show for example.

All three approaches are compelling, and I find myself wanting to stay with many of the podcasts I try and listen to more than one. That’s why Netflix-like consumption of podcasts is a big thing, one that is good for the listener as well as the advertiser.

Long form, compelling audio programming isn’t new – in fact broadcast radio’s roots are in that type of programming. The famous “War of the Worlds” was a Halloween episode of a regular weekly radio drama called The Mercury Theater on the Air. Amos and Andy was a personality driven one-hour weekly broadcast. Somewhere along the way that kind of programming disappeared and radio turned its attention to capturing quarter hours. Now we have “news and traffic every ten minutes” but the unique and creative storytelling approach to audio has in many cases left the broadcast building…

This week I’ve been listening to the podcast Modern Love, produced by the New York Times and WBUR. 

comScore: Podcast Ads Are Compelling

New data from comScore says that people listen, like and act on ads in podcasts more than ads in any other digital media. As highlighted in Audio4cast a few weeks back – podcasting has taken a native ads approach that is reinventing audio advertising by integrating the ads into the program and creating a live-read, endorsement feel to the ads that is both memorable and inspiring to the consumer.

comScore Wondery

The new comScore study was commissioned by Wondery and also tells us that two-thirds of the respondents have acted on an ad by researching a product or making a purchase. Not surprising – ads in podcasts are remarkably compelling. Like the ad for Eero, “the world’s most innovative wifi system” in this episode of 99% Invisible. Roman Mars chats the product up at the beginning, “I love these little things, unreliable wifi has been my nemesis.” and “My whole family is happy I’m not stomping around the house…muttering about not being able to watch Netflix.”  He’s even tweeted about the product to his 60k followers:

What’s more compelling than that? The comScore/Wondery study adds strength to the concept that podcasts, and podcast advertising, are creating valuable opportunities for advertisers to connect with listeners with messaging that is innovative, integrated and impactful.

There’s an incredible dedication to crafting great content in podcasting, and it extends to the ads as well. It’s a holistic approach that makes the advertiser part of the program rather than an interruption to be tolerated. The end result – satisfied listeners who listen to, like and react to ads, translating to happy advertisers. That’s the secret sauce driving the energy and success in the podcast space..

This week I have been listening to – you guessed it – 99% Invisible. Still loving my Overcast app..


Podcast Listeners Click and Listen

Last year more people listened to podcasts than ever before, and that number will continue to grow. That’s info we’ve had for a couple of months from the Infinite Dial annual study from Edison Research. Last week we got a bunch of new specifics to go with that info. Some of it is rather predictable – podcast consumers are more affluent and educated than the population at large, they are more male than female, and the bulk of the listeners are 18 – 54 years old.

The survey asked people about their “method of listening to podcasts”, and from that we learn that 59% of regular weekly podcast listeners usually “Click on podcast and listen immediately.” The other choices are “Download manually to listen later” and “Subscribe to and download to automatically to listen later.” It’s tempting to conclude that 59% of weekly listeners are now streaming podcasts. Not so fast. “Click on podcast and listen immediately” does represent on-demand behavior, but it does not equal streaming.

Say you want to listen to Serial. You have a few choices of how to do that. You can go to Pandora, and “Click on podcast to listen immediately,” or you can open your podcast listening app on your smartphone, where you have the choice of streaming it, downloading it, or subscribing to it. Streaming it is a fine choice if you’re planning to stay connected while you listen, but if I’m planning to listen while running, or walking, or getting in my car I choose download so I can have offline listening if I want it. I’m still clicking and listening immediately, but I’m not streaming. This isn’t a meaningless nuance. Part of the appeal of podcasts is that you can download and listen on or offline.

The bottom line of course is that podcasts are consumed more and more in an on-demand fashion. Click and listen immediately includes two different technical options – streaming or downloading, but it does translate to on-demand behavior. It would be nice to know the data within that segment, but it’s possible that trying to get more specific with that question would only confuse casual podcast consumers. As an additional data point we have this chart tweeted out during the data presentation last week, which shows that most listening is still via downloads rather than streaming (this is the activity of one podcast, not the industry):


The immediacy of listening is a selling point for the medium, since advertisers like to buy placements for their ads that are going to be heard within a certain period of time. A transition to streaming is certainly beneficial to the ad supported model – it’s easier to count connected listeners, monitor session length, and confirm that a listener heard an ad when they are continuously connected. But knowing that they clicked and listened immediately, either by streaming or downloading, makes ads at the beginning of the podcasts a lot more attractive to advertisers as well.

Podcast consumption is moving to on-demand. Immediate consumption in any media is a good trend, which lends itself to greater time spent listening. By introducing the “Click and listen immediately” phrase, Edison Research has given the industry a nice way to represent on-demand listening that merges downloading for immediate listening and streaming into one behavior that’s appealing to advertisers.

This week I’ve been listening to StartUp Podcast using my Overcast app. 


Print’s Loss is Podcasting’s Gain

Podcasting is the audio hotbed of the publications industry. The driving force behind the growth in popularity of podcasts is the diverse and very high quality of the content. The reason behind this expansive selection of excellent listening options lies in the fact that journalists and publications – creative, talented writers – are producing it.

Media companies have seized the podcast opportunity. The New York Times just launched a new audio unit focused on podcasts, Slate’s Panoply is a “podcast network that connects sophisticated listeners with top publishers and thinkers” – among them, WSJ, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Inc.. Check out any newspaper’s site and you’ll find a selection of podcasts.

The shift from print journalism to podcast journalism makes a lot of sense economically. Publishers, from large and small newspapers, to magazines, have suffered huge losses in readership and revenues over the past decade. Meanwhile, consumption of Internet media keeps growing and growing, taking bites out of all forms of traditional media, according to this chart from Pew Research (BIA Kelsey data). Bad news for print, but good news for podcasting.

newspaper ad revenue

With all of this great content comes the need for more innovation, particularly in the form of podcast discovery. Last week PRX’s Jake Shapiro announced the formation of RadioPublic, a company backed by several large media companies, that intends to “reinvent radio” by focusing on podcast discovery, as well as special offers and fan engagement.

Companies are focusing their investments in the space and with that will come better data and increasing revenues. Another big media company, EW Scripps, bought Midroll Media, which includes both the Midroll sales network and Earwolf podcast network. Technologies are improving as well – podcast listening can be a pretty seamless experience these days with an app like Overcast.

It’s early days for the podcast industry. The marketplace is flooded with great content, and working hard to organize and monetize. No doubt that effort will benefit from the focus of the traditional media industry looking to reinvent its online strategy..

Written while listening to Anna Sale’s podcast Death Sex and Money


Podcasting’s Pickle, Apple’s Indifference

Last week, the New York Times published an article about Apple’s indifference toward the podcasting marketplace’s need for more and better data. It’s a very interesting read that spawned several other articles, and lots of discussion. At issue is the fact that Apple, having basically birthed the podcasting industry back when it was primarily selling non-connected ipods and wanted downloadable content to drive those sales, holds the keys to the best data on listening, but doesn’t share that data with content providers.

There’s some debate among podcast platforms as to whether the data is important, but most of the larger companies driving revenue in the industry understand that there’s a need for uniform standards and measurement that’s verified by a credible third party measurement service. In the streaming industry that’s Triton Digital’s Webcast Metrics, which is accredited by the Media Ratings Council. Ad Agencies thrive on that data, and the amount of revenue that will flow into podcasting will be limited until it exists.

Apple’s iTunes has the largest share of listeners of any podcast platform, so getting them on board is important. However, the financial incentive for Apple to provide data is limited. They drive lots of traffic to podcast content through iTunes, and sell devices that access that inventory. They don’t make any other money from podcasts. In his recent take on the industry, Nick Quah referred to Apple as an “indifferent steward” of the podcasting industry. But, some say, Apple has a soft spot for podcasting that may spur them to help the revenue side of things grow.

I think the idea that Apple will assume a benevolent protector role toward the industry and start sharing data so others can make money is wishful thinking. If they start sharing data, it will be because they are going to monetize it, as in the App Store model where they get a piece of anything sold through their apps.

One interesting and relevant side note: a few weeks ago, Apple invited some folks from the industry to a little round table at Apple HQ. Apparently, that select group, which included a kind of quirky selection of businesses, got an audience with a group of Apple people who then met with Cue after the meeting and gave him the run down. It all happened under Apple’s typical cloak of silence, so there’s not a lot that we know beyond that. I don’t think anyone came away particularly hopeful that data will start gushing their way.

Whatever Apple does, it will be because it’s the best thing for them. And I do think they have to do something. Lately Spotify, Pandora, Audible (Amazon) and Google (Google Play) have all jumped in to the podcasting pool. This year iTunes’ share of podcast listeners is down from 70% to 65%. I’m sure that 5% drop in one year got Apple’s attention. Any or all of those other services could decide to make the water a little more enticing for podcast producers and start to grow their audience, maybe with exclusive opportunities for podcasters who align with them. The podcast industry is at this point eager to see iTunes’ dominance dissolve.

No doubt Apple is remembering their misfire on streaming music. When the company started selling iphones, Pandora jumped on the opportunity early and quickly became one of the most popular apps in the App Store. In fact, Apple actually featured the Pandora app in a television commercial for iphones early on (there’s an app for that!). Last year Apple finally launched their own streaming music service, which has a fraction of the number of subscribers that either Spotify or Pandora have. However, Apple took a really long time to launch its service, and along the way the iphone helped Spotify and Pandora get a very strong foothold in the market.

Data or not, the best thing that could happen for the longterm prospects of the podcast marketplace would be for iTunes’ share of listeners to continue to drop. It’s already happening – Apple’s dominance is dropping while the marketplace is expanding. Last year iTunes lost 5% of the listener share while the marketplace grew almost that much – according to Edison Research, weekly listening grew from 10 to 13% of the 12+ population, while monthly listening grew from 17 to 21%. Maybe that’s enough incentive for Apple to start turning over some data…


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