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Reflecting on IAB Podcast Upfront, & 2 Other Stories

Reflecting on IAB Podcast Upfront, & 2 Other Stories

Season 3 • Episode 96

Manuela: This is The Download from Sounds Profitable, the most important news from this week and why it matters to people in the business of podcasting. I’m Manuela Bedoya. 

Shreya: And I’m Shreya Sharma.

Manuela: The Download is brought to you by Magellan AI. Track the trends in spend, ad load, podcasts on YouTube, and more with Magellan AI’s advertising benchmark report for Q4, available now. You can find a link in the description or visit Magellan dot AI.

Shreya: This week: Lessons from the Podcast Upfront,the Spring 2023 MIDAS report is here, and SXM Media leaders see podcast advertising maturing.

Let’s get started.

So, Podcast Upfronts Were Last Week. 

Manuela: In a rare development for The Download, news happened on a Thursday. Here we are, a week later, ready to break down what happened at the IAB Podcast Upfront last week. Fun was had, music was played, people in the chat for the live stream had a lot of fun posting animated GIFs. Now let’s check out coverage and info from the event. 

The Upfront featured a regular focus on representing diversity in podcasting. From Sara Guaglione’s coverage for Digiday:

“iHeart touted shows that focus on sports, comedy, Black and LGBTQ audiences. Sony is working on a new podcast with Michael Harriot on the “little known stories” in Black history, launching on Juneteenth. The Alive Podcast Network and Futuro Media had sessions devoted to touting their ability to reach Black and Latinx audiences, respectively — with stories told for and by the community.”

In addition, NPR and SXM Media also provided similar announcements and spotlights.

A common thread amongst coverage of podcasting in the wake of the Upfront is that of ad spending slowdown, despite podcasting growing faster than any other digital medium. According to the IAB’s report, released just before the Upfront, ad revenue for 2022 only reached 1.8 billion, not reaching the IAB’s forecast of 2.1 billion. Podcast ad revenue grew 19% in 2020, 72% in 2021, then fell to 26% last year. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter’s J. Clara Chan, IAB Media Center VP Eric John provided some context to this growth slowdown: 

“The pandemic is receding, so we’re returning to in-person life, and so you’re seeing an uptick in, in society and culture and comedy and sports — all that stuff is driven by face-to-face life. It’s not that news is not important, but I think people are probably expressing an interest to not engage in a minute-to-minute cycle that we all lived through in the pandemic.”

While on that theme of providing important context to otherwise concerning data, we’d like to take a brief moment to address a misconception spotted in some reporting on the Upfront. Last Friday Hana Yoo, writing for AdExchanger, published a piece about the Podcast Upfront framed around the concept of podcasting’s “pullback,” citing recent layoffs and content cancellations. We’d like to address the following quote:

“In a sign of the podcasting pullback, Thursday’s IAB Podcast Upfront took place over one day, versus last year’s three-day event.”A vital piece of contextual information that is missing from this: the two Upfronts were fundamentally different events. The 2022 session was a three-day online-only event, while this year’s sessions were held in-person in New York City. To directly compare the two is to compare apples to oranges. One had more panels over more days, one got dozens of industry heads to all travel to one location to be in the same room as Conan O’Brien and Kelly Ripa. 

Whether or not one attended in-person or online, some interesting data and presentations came out of this year’s Upfront. Podcasting’s growing and we love to see it. 

RAJAR releases Spring 2023 MIDAS Report

Shreya: This Monday, UK-based research company RAJAR, which stands for Radio Joint Audience Research Limited, released the Spring 2023 edition of their MIDAS report. For those in audio-land, that’s also a five-letter intialism standing for Measurement of Internet Delivered Audio Services. 

The survey was conducted over two weeks in March of this year with a sample size of 1,886 respondents aged 15 and up who collected data for seven days in an online diary. 

For weekly reach, radio takes the lead with 89% of adults 15+ listening. Podcasting comes in third with 23% overall, with a steady distribution showing respondents 55+ are least likely to listen, while 15-34 has the largest percentage of listeners. The industry’s kindly grandfather, vinyl records, are still holding on with 4% of weekly reach. Funnily enough, both the youngest and oldest of the three demographic groups equally enjoy listening to vinyl. 

Back to podcasting: in the past five years the percentage of people listening has doubled. The Spring 2018 MIDAS report had podcast reach at 11%, while this newest report sports 22.8% of listeners. CDs, on the other hand, have lost that much reach since 2018. 

93% of respondents listen to podcasts alone. 20% reported listening to podcasts while working or studying, 20% during relaxation time, and 18% while driving or otherwise traveling. Exercise brings up fourth place with 14% of the share. 

As far as share of device goes, phones still reign supreme with 78% of share with laptops in second place with 9%. The back of the pack consists of smart speakers at 3% and the MP3 player bringing up the rear with 3%. 80% of podcast listeners consumed 1 to 3 episodes each week. 

While not directly focused on podcasting, this MIDAS report does show that things are trending upward in a good way, and it reaffirms findings from earlier studies in a relatively consistent way. People like podcasts, they’re listening to them more, and incorporating them into weekly habits. We love to see it. 

SXM Media leaders talk about how podcast ads are still maturing

Manuela: In this week’s issue of Hot Pod writer Amrita Khalid interviewed SiriusXM Media SVP of B2B Marketing and Ad Innovation Lizzie Widhelm and SVP of Ad Platform for SXM and AdsWizz Scott Walker. From the newsletter:

“Widhelm and Walker gave me a chance to pick their brains about podcast ads — as well as what makes companies shy away from them. The main thing on my mind: despite its rapid growth, podcast ad revenue makes up a very tiny percentage of the total digital ad spend in the United States. Podcast ad revenue in the US reached $1.8 billion for the first time last year, out of $209.7 billion total digital ad spend. The two execs helped to shed some light on what it’ll take to close that gap.”

Khalid opens the interview by asking Widhelm her take on the idea that podcast ad revenue has yet to catch up to listenership. Widhelm points to a bottleneck in advertisers’ ability to purchase inventory as fast as expected elsewhere, and improvements that continue to be made in podcasting to facilitate this. 

Another facet, according to her, is advertisers getting a handle on the intimate nature of podcasting and the direct connection shows build with their audiences. A quote from Widhelm in the newsletter:

“But the leaned-in nature of some of these […podcast shows] — you take Ashley Flowers, for example, and her audience and how obsessed they’ll be about a one-hour show, and how leaned-in they are. They’re not just channel surfing. It’s just a totally different intent behind why someone is listening. The audience and the audience experience are so far from terrestrial radio that I have trouble drawing too many parallels between the two.” 

Walker points out the fundamental difference in distribution mechanisms between podcast and broadcast. Radio’s premise of one broadcaster reaching out to a wide audience means programming has to be appealing to as much of that audience as possible. Podcasting’s “one-to-one” delivery method means those listening have specifically chosen that podcast to listen to. A quote from Walker: 

“The ad load is fundamentally different. There is a lot more clutter and a lot more ads per hour on broadcast radio compared to podcasting. The technology and measurement and what you can do from an advertiser perspective — to really understand how to find your audience, reach them effectively, measure, refine and optimize your ad campaigns. To Lizzie’s point, night and day.” 

As Walker and Widhelm said, podcasting has the advantage of a more intimate relationship with its audience than other forms of media. Advertisers are also growing more comfortable and confident embracing podcasting as we prove more effective year after year. 

While there is utility in keeping aware of fluctuations and negative trends in podcast growth, it’s also very much worthwhile to regularly take stock of the big picture. The industry, as a whole, is trending in a positive direction. Good things are happening.

Shreya: Finally, it’s time for the round-up of industry news and happenings we’ve titled Quick Hits. These are the articles that didn’t quite make the cut for full coverage, but are worth including in your weekend reading. This week: 

  • New from Recordical: Audio Currents, a twice-weekly audio industry newsletter written by Shreya Sharma. Tuesday issues will focus on audio news, industry expert interviews, and resources for brands, while Friday episodes will feature creator spotlights.
  • Barometer and ArtsAI have partnered to “bring new solutions to market delivering unprecedented in-flight transparency of brand safety and suitability for podcast advertising.” 
  • Podcasting gets a new magazine with Good Tape. The new print magazine aims to capture the conversations happening in the audio industry. The first issue is available for pre-order and slated for Fall 2023 release, with an open call for writers to pitch content. 

Manuela: And that was The Download, brought to you by Sounds Profitable! Today’s episode was built using Spooler and hosted on Art19. Find out more at and

I know we went through today’s stories fast, so be sure to check out the links to every article mentioned, right in your podcast listening app, or on And thank you for sticking with us as we bring you the top stories you might have missed from the past week. I’m Manuela Bedoya.

Shreya : And I’m Shreya Sharma. Our producers are Bryan Barletta, Gavin Gaddis, and Tom Webster. Special thanks to Art19 for hosting The Download. And thanks to you for joining us.


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