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The business of podcasting

US Podcasting Revenue Is Up + 5 more stories for May 13, 2022

This week on The Download: US podcasting revenue is up, Google launches new way to collect data, and a new partnership aims to bring ethics to advertising.

One of many podcasting social media staples is sharing platitudes about how the industry is always growing, always doing better. This Monday offered a wonderful moment where one gets empirical data to back them up. The United States podcast ad revenue market hit a billion dollars for the first time in 2021 and shows no sign of slowing down. Anthony Vargas writes for AdExchanger: 

“At $1.4 billion – up 72% from roughly $840 million in 2020 – podcasting is now one of the fastest-growing digital media channels, and it’s growing twice as fast as the internet advertising market as a whole, according to a report on podcast ad revenue released by the IAB and PricewaterhouseCoopers on Monday.” 

Growth has developed so quickly just the US market’s 2021 revenue matched podcasting’s global 2020 revenue. Vargas attributes a bulk of this growth to the increase of dynamic ad insertion leading to better ad placement. Regardless, things are looking good on the business side of podcasting. 

This Tuesday Rain News’ Brad Hill reported on the Q1 earnings call of audio distribution platform Audacy. CEO David Field cited strong growth in digital revenue but as far as The Download is concerned, we’re interested in their reported 37% podcast revenue increase 

Audacy’s apps offer a generational divide-bridging service, offering a place to access both terrestrial radio stations and on-demand audio in the form of podcasts in the same place. And it appears Audacy is aiming to take advantage of their broad audience. Brad Hill reports from the earnings call: 

“A key forward-looking emphasis of the call was the Audacy Digital Audience Network, a scale-and-reach initiative which was launched during the quarter. Field described it as ‘an addressable and aggregate of over 60 million listeners across our app, streaming content and podcast lineup, enabling precision targeting at scale, coupled with real-time optimization and reporting.’”

Up next: a bit of nostalgia looking back at the world that allowed podcasting to exist. Last Thursday Ben Thompson of Stratechery posted an interview with Tony Fadell, the designer known as the father of the iPod. 

On the off chance there are members of The Download’s audience who aren’t old enough to rent a car: the very word podcast is a portmanteau of iPod and broadcast, originally created specifically as a way to share spoken word to Apple’s wildly successful MP3 player via their iTunes digital media platform. With Wednesday’s announcement that Apple has officially discontinued the iPod Touch, a vestigial remnant of the iPod brand, it’s a good time to be nostalgic for the early days of the industry and reflect on how much has changed. 

Thompson’s interview with Fadell gleefully partakes of nostalgia, rehashing key moments from both Fadell’s career and that of the iPod’s development. Steve Jobs’ leadership style from Apple’s 2005 flash memory gambit, the interview evokes memories of a time when touch screens were still exotic futuristic technology. 

Last Thursday Olivia Morley, writing for Adweek, covered the announcement of Havas Media Group partnering with the Institute of Advertising Ethics. According to Havas, they intend to offer an advertising ethics certification course to over 9,000 clients and employees. 

A quote from the founding COO of IAE, as reported by Morley: 

“‘Our industry, astoundingly, is virtually the only professional industry—unlike law, medicine, architecture, engineering, et cetera—that doesn’t have any sort of industry code of ethics or certification for ethics,’ said Andrew Susman, noting that this will now change.”

As Susman said, the IAE has identified a marked lack of training and focus on ethics in advertising. This has a trickle-down effect on the podcasting industry, as we’ve seen before with various sticky situations companies and creatives alike create with brand safety or unintentional side effects of unethical systems. 

“Ethics, according to Downing, can extend to many things. Some include issues of brand safety and ensuring that clients are not using discriminatory ad filters that impact minority creators. For example, putting “LGBTQ+” on a blocklist.”

One needs only look at the tech industry’s laundry list of issues with their army of engineers with no ethical training creating wildly unethical digital ecosystems. A more ethical advertising industry, if it takes advantage of the IAE and whatever competitors might arise, is a better one. 

Speaking of weird ethics: The Download is going to take a brief moment to report on someone reporting on our mothership Sounds Profitable. Tom Webster is leaving Edison Research to join Sounds Profitable as a partner. Webster goes into detail on his motivations and goals for the new position in Tuesday’s edition of his newsletter I Hear Things. Quoting Tom:

“On June 1st, I am joining Sounds Profitable as Partner, teaming up with Bryan Barletta to help build something to make the podcasting space better for everyone. As a part of that, I Hear Things and its companion podcast will then be under the umbrella of Sounds Profitable, where I’ll be a regular contributor.”

Webster aims to pursue his and Sounds Profitable founder Bryan Barletta’s common goal of making podcasting better. Being a veteran of research and presentations, he’s broken it down into an easily-digestible four pillars: insightful content, industry-leading research, unmissable events, and peerless advisory services. 

Welcome aboard, Tom.

This Wednesday Google announced a new service titled My Ad Center during their annual I/O event. Greg Finn covered the announcement for Search Engine Land. 

"All Google users will now have the ability to choose the brands and topics most germane to them that they want to see. This is much different than the Topics targeting within the Privacy Sandbox now being tested, as the inputs are dictated directly by the user.”

At launch My Ad Center will only be compatible with Google’s search results, YouTube, and Google Discover. On its surface the service promises better transparency with users receiving more granular information as to why they’re being served a particular ad, and giving them the ability to fine-tune what topics they would prefer Google cater to.

Of course, that’s the corporate line. One of the recurring stories that’s changing the industry and keeps appearing on The Download is that of advertisers adjusting to stronger privacy on mobile devices and desktop browsers. People serving ads simply don’t have access to the hyper-specific data they once did, and conveniently Google has now put out a product designed to get users to give them similarly hyper-specific data points for free under the premise it’ll make their online existence better. 

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.

Evo Terra edited today's episode. Special thanks to our media host, Omny Studio.

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