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Big Name Podcasts Gets Big Numbers + 5 other stories for Mar 4, 2022


Today on The Download from Sounds Profitable; big names in podcasting are pulling down big numbers in ad revenue, Meta and Mozilla have teamed up to change advertising privacy, and TikTok might not be the #1 place to take short-form podcast content.


On a sober, world-news note: Advertisers are weathering unintended consequences from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ryan Barwick of Morning Brew wrote a brief rundown of the situation last Friday. According to a Business Insider report, Google AdSense has been found on publishers of Russian state propaganda.

“While on those sites, BI observed Google-served ads from Best Buy, Progressive, and Allbirds, and a handful of other brands. Marketing Brew also saw ads for brands on these two sites, but a banner ad atop several stories was blocked by Integral Ad Science, a brand-safety firm.”

Barwick then pairs this evidence of brand safety kind-of working with the infamously-timed Applebee’s promotion that aired in a split-screen ad break with footage of Kyiv under siege. The ad, featuring footage of a man in a cowboy hat gyrating his butt in glee over $1 boneless chicken wings, went viral on social media for its grim pairing with footage of burning buildings.

“What do these stories have in common? Funding journalism. Advertisers often don’t want to fund inflammatory, hateful, or controversial content. While brand-safety tech might help marketers avoid having their ads showing up on propaganda sites, it can also direct their ads away from legitimate coverage of political or other sensitive topics, inadvertently hurting newsrooms as a result.”

Both the propaganda site ad serves and Applebee’s pulling from CNN serve as evidence of extremes of what could happen in similar spheres of podcasting. To ignore brand safety and the messaging of associated programs is a recipe for being associated with disinformation and propaganda. To overcorrect and leave the space entirely could leave journalism podcasts without the stability of CNN in a financial pickle.


Continuing the Morning Brew coverage: last week Alyssa Meyers rounded up the earnings highlights of some giants in the podcasting industry. SiriusXM, Spotify, Acast, and iHeartMedia all show significant growth. Both Spotify and Acast posted a 40% year-over-year increase for ad revenue while SiriusXM-owned Pandora experienced a 30% growth. The biggest headline-grabber of the bunch, though, is iHeartMedia

“Q4 revenue grew 59% in iHeartMedia’s ‘Digital Audio Group’ division, which encompasses iHeartMedia’s podcasting business, digital service, and ad-tech companies. Podcast revenue alone increased 130% YoY. The company said the growth was partly due to ‘general increased demand for digital advertising’ and ‘the growing popularity of podcasting.”

It appears the industry-wide trope of saying podcasting ads are fast-growing is less of a marketing pitch and more a truism as more companies rake in those fast-growing profits.


Up next we have a story shuffled into the digital stack of news and left by the wayside: Spotify appears to be better at announcing podcast deals than actually publishing podcasts.

While a Business Insider article was published on February 18th, much of the original reporting on the subject was done by Podnews’ James Cridland in the December article Missing: the shows from these big Spotify announcements.

As Cridland and others report: a great deal of splashy Spotify projects announced since December of 2020 have yet to come to fruition. Some announcements were vague deals akin to a popular actor signing a multi-picture deal with a prominent movie studio. Others, however, appear to have died on the vine.

Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment’s celebrity-studded Batman audio fiction series has fallen off the radar since announcing its cast last June. British royalty power couple Meghan and Harry signed up in December of 2020. The most concerning is Kim Kardashian West’s partnership with Spotify and Parcast. Cridland writes

“In March 2021 she hinted she was ready to release her episodes. Where are they?”


eMarketer’s Sara Lebow shared some fascinating data last week with a chart of the day post titled TikTok isn’t the No. 1 US app for shorter videos. In fact, the data gathered by CensusWide in late January puts TikTok in third place with 53.9% of respondents sixteen and up. The top two are Facebook and YouTube with 60.8 and 77.9% respectively.

As podcasters explore video podcasting, or simply video clips promoting their shows, TikTok is constantly brought up. The format of what makes a successful Facebook or YouTube video are far different than what pleases TikTok’s famous algorithm, making it difficult to reuse assets. The results of this study seem to imply that while TikTok is valuable, those new to video as an advertising medium would have a better shot at developing content and skills that are useful in the long run.

Another interesting facet of this story is CensusWide got these numbers before YouTube launched their TikTok competitor YouTube Shorts, effectively cloning Tiktok’s endless stream of short-form content in the existing YouTube ecosystem. But then news dropped to complicate things further: Monday TikTok announced they will be allowing users to post videos up to ten minutes in length, more than doubling the original limit of three minutes.


Sara Fischer, writing for Axios, broke the news of German publishing company Axel Springer investing in a new podcasting company Spooler. Working with Insider, Spooler will co-produce daily news podcast The Refresh from Insider with a special trick: Spooler’s proprietary tech will allow the hosts to add new segments to that morning’s episode as the day’s news progresses.

“For news companies, the expectation is that producers could build ‘playlist programs’ that Spooler automatically stitches together to make the podcast sound seamless, even though it's being repeatedly updated. The bespoke player on Insider.com and Insider's app will allow users to skip over segments they've already heard.”

Meanwhile, last week iHeartMedia announced Talk Back, an in-app feature allowing podcast-listening audiences to send voice messages to show hosts. There must be something in the Spring air as podcast companies seem to be in the mood to experiment and innovate, pushing the limits of what podcast tech can do.


A social media network and an internet browser have teamed up to make ads less intrusive. Trey Titone writes for Ad Tech Explained:

“When Meta and Mozilla team up to improve digital advertising, you should probably pay attention. The two companies joined forces to create Interoperable Private Attribution or IPA, a framework for attribution measurement without tracking users.”

The teamup shows changing times and attitudes between the companies. Back in 2018 when Meta was still Facebook, Mozilla developed an extension for their Firefox browser with one goal: keep Facebook from watching users’ web activity outside of Facebook. Now the two are teamed up with a proposed framework that could follow pro-privacy trends formed by Google and Apple to find a way to provide useful advertising data while protecting the individual’s privacy.

Titone’s breakdown of what Meta and Mozilla have proposed IPA will be, as well as what its constituent parts might actually do, is incredibly thorough. Thorough enough to necessitate a table of contents. Check it out.

For more thoughts on the subject of podcast advertising and a quality-over-quantity approach, The Download recommends Brian Morrissey’s Substack newsletter piece “End of an era of ad targeting: Publishers will need closer ties to their audiences.” We should know, we covered it last week.


The Download is a production of Sounds Profitable. Today's episode was hosted by Shreya Sharma and Manuela Bedoya, and the script was written by Gavin Gaddis.

Bryan Barletta and Evo Terra are the executive producers of The Download from Sounds Profitable.

Special thanks to Ian Powell for his audio prowess, and to our media host, Omny Studio.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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