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Buying vs Building Unique Podcast Adtech

· By Bryan Barletta · Editor: Evo Terra

Podcast adtech is still quite new, with plenty of forward-thinking agencies building tech to set themselves apart from the competition. But that’s not the only way to make a truly unique product offering that lets you carve out a nice niche for yourself while leaving the tech debt on someone else’s shoulders.

On the podcast this week: Shreya Sharma of Inside Podcasting expands on her fantastic article The Influencer Marketing Advantage. And don’t forget to check out our latest Product Deepdive for SGrecast from StreamGuys.

Introduction

The one question that companies looking to get into or expand their podcast advertising offerings ask me the most is: “should I build my own adtech?”

It’s compelling, right? To build and own something tangible that your company can use to have a competitive advantage over the rest of the podcast advertising industry. 

But that age-old question of to build vs buy is not simple to answer.

Being in podcast advertising is hard. Being an adtech company is even harder. Being a podcast adtech company means not only dedicating all of your efforts to build and maintain a product that meets the needs of your clients, but it also means always staying ahead of the competition. It means constantly marketing your services to everyone you can get in front of who could ever possibly use your nifty adtech solution. Whatever you build has to have a very specific focus, filling a very specific role that other businesses rely on every single day. 

But if you’re successful at making a great bit of adtech that is used by more and more companies, the entire industry becomes comfortable with your product. That makes it easier for anyone to get benefit out of using your adtech, regardless of where it’s used and by whom.

Adtech companies aren’t just selling themselves; they’re selling the whole category that their product fits into, to an entire industry, and hoping that their specific offering is the most compelling. That’s a lot of pressure.

So before you decide to start hiring engineers and a product manager with experience in both podcasting and adtech (good luck!), I’m here to convince you of the immense cosmic power that comes from utilizing all of the amazing adtech already built and publicly available in this space.

Truly Unique

I’m vegan (not the ethical kind). I’m sure this shocks half of you because I live in Texas and the other half of you because it’s the first time I’ve told you, but I promise, there’s a point to this.

When I go to a restaurant for the first time and they’ve got two burger options on the menu, one a homemade patty and the other an Impossible patty, it’s a tough choice. While I absolutely want to try this restaurant’s creation, I’m not always sure I want to gamble on whether I’ll enjoy the meal. 

So, 75% of the time I absolutely pick the brand.

Why? Because that brand puts such powerful marketing out into the space to remind me that they have one job: making tasty, albeit meatless, burgers. I’ve tasted the product from that brand before and I’ve enjoyed it. I trust it enough that I’m even willing to order it at a fast-food restaurant (thanks BK and Dunkin!).

When you create your own adtech, you’re the homemade patty. And that’s not a bad thing. You just have to understand where you stand. You have to know that you’re the only person selling your own burger, carrying the full weight of that offering on your shoulders.

When non-adtech companies build something only for their clients, they invest a lot of upfront cost into something with limited reach. One product built and used by one single company will always have less reach than a product that any company can choose to use. And while the product might be compelling, one of the biggest selling points of adtech is for a brand to be able to use that product everywhere. 

Authentic, a podcast rep firm owned by analytics company Podtrac, utilizes a lot of the features built by their parent company. But Authentic never requires any of their advertisers to use that ad technology. So even when the technology side comes first, it’s still crystal clear that the best success in getting advertisers to adopt adtech is to not limit them to your unique option.

Shared Credibility

Continuing on the vegan burger train, I’d like to introduce you to Slutty Vegan, a burger joint that was so popular the last time I was in Atlanta (pre-pandemic), that for the entire week I was there they maintained a multiple-block-long line and Theo was not interested in waiting.

Their amazingly delicious and highly-coveted burgers all use Impossible patties.

Everything that makes the burgers at Slutty Vegan unique is in the presentation and preparation of those patties, combined with other products they buy from notable vegan companies, plus a few things they make in-house. It ultimately doesn’t matter that they’re using the same product that I can buy in the grocery store because I can’t get my burgers to come out like theirs.

And that entire concept is what we need to embody in podcast advertising: taking full advantage of everything that’s already built to create your own unique offering without building everything from the ground up.

Your company’s unique value prop can easily be created by picking a specific partner for each adtech offering, understanding what they do best, and mastering the ability to combine all their benefits into something uniquely created for your clients. Where you can and absolutely should stretch your technology muscles is in creating efficiencies in how you use all these tools together. Automations for your teams to make the operations more efficient. Custom reporting that aggregates the data from each source and displays it in a way that’s completely unique to you.

By taking this approach, every marketing effort that these companies individually take to promote themselves directly helps you with client recognition. And every point of differentiation you create by using their tools separates you from all your competitors.

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It’s Already Happening

Want to know how successful the methodology is of using existing technology to build your company?

A non-trivial number of podcast adtech acquisitions in the past few years have been for companies that didn’t build their entire product. And while it might be fun to think about who those companies are, it’s far more important to realize that not only did they sufficiently differentiate themselves from their competitors and the technology company they used, they also provided enough of a unique value proposition to build a client base and revenue.

Building an operational interface for your clients and your internal teams can provide immense value and offer ultimate flexibility. Any of these acquired companies are now in a situation where they could choose to build their own offering or migrate from one third-party to another completely behind the scenes. It allows for you to add and remove partners at will, changing your offering without changing your process. Some of these relationships might have minimums due each month, but I assure you, even those minimums are cheaper than building it yourself.

A perfect example of putting this all into action is when I talked about using VAST tags a few weeks back. In the same amount of time it takes to get multiple publishers configured for a single campaign, those publishers could be aggregated into a private marketplace. Networks and rep firms could create accounts with Adswizz and Triton Digital and slice up their inventory however they like for programmatic buyers to access.

An agency could sign relationships with Artsai, Chartable, Claritas, LeadsRx, Loop.me, or Podsights and pull their data directly into their own platform, choosing to change things as trivial as the styling of the reports or expanding as deep as layering unique data on top of it to provide a view only the agency can offer, with a base layer powered by their partner of choice.

Podcast hosting platforms who haven’t yet built out adserving capabilities can also take advantage of this, working with partners like Kevel to handle everything adserving related while you simply house it inside of your tried and true user interface.

Or imagine that you’re really fantastic at selling podcast advertising to local brands and agencies. Build a front end for your clients to set up their campaigns and view reporting in, all while making API calls to purchase the campaigns with your very specific targeting filters through any of the programmatic platforms.

There are truly enough options here that I wouldn’t be surprised if a savvy seller, a top tier account manager, and a motivated ad ops individual couldn’t do very well for themselves just through winning a few moderate-sized contracts and licensing a lot of great tech.

Wrapping It Up

Jim Gaffigan has this skit where he explains the woes of working as a waiter in a Mexican restaurant, answering questions about the food.

“What is nachos?”

“It’s tortilla with cheese, meat or vegetables”

“What is a burrito?”

“It’s tortilla with cheese, meat or vegetables”

“What is a tostada?”

“It’s tortilla with cheese, meat or vegetables”

Every adtech company is actively focusing on building a new combination of the same ingredients we have in podcasting or in the greater adtech space. But what matters most is how each company uniquely presents those ingredients.

If you want to pivot into a company that makes unique combinations of those ingredients, I highly encourage it, but you can’t look back. You can’t dabble in adtech and hope that you’ll be the one gas station that actually sells good tacos, you’ve got to commit fully to becoming a taco stand.

Or, you can take my advice, and focus on being more like a food truck park, a unique offering of multiple different pieces of adtech, served up uniquely to your clients, and with the flexibility to add and remove partners as you like.

New Segment!

I’m so excited to announce that starting this week, Arielle Nissenblatt will be sharing her top pick for what podcast you should listen to. She’ll be collaborating with artist Jake Crowe to combine her pick with his great artwork, to get you excited. Here’s her pick for this week: Scam Goddess.

Laci Mosely is extremely quick-witted and up on pop culture references and will keep you laughing for the entire episode. On this show, Mosely and her guests share stories about famous scams and scammers. She starts off every episode asking her guests, “what’s your relationship with scams? Are you a fan?” You’d think the answer would always be no. But you’d be surprised. Scam Goddess is a real delight.

New Sponsor

Sponsoring Sounds Profitable enables me to stay fully connected with all aspects of the podcast industry, focusing on educating the entire space as well as making connections and collaborating on ideas that will better the industry. So today, I’d like to introduce you to our latest sponsor:

Each sponsor receives one hour of consulting time per month as a way to say thank you for supporting Sounds Profitable. If you’re interested in coming on as a sponsor, please hit reply!

Homework - with Yappa

I truly mean it when I say I want to interact with each and every one of you more. I’m really enjoying the idea of Yappa overall and I think it’s a great tool to have back and forth conversations with all of you, exploring audio (and video if you like as well). I hope you’ll click on the image below and leave a question. And, with your permission, we’ll start adding these questions to the podcast.

Market Insights - with ThoughtLeaders

A graph showing data from ThoughtLeaders

Social Media Influencers and Podcasters have a lot in common and a lot of crossover. More and more are straddling both lines. Tik Tok is mentioned by a substantial number (3k) of the podcasts that ThoughtLeaders covers (12k) and it’s not surprise. From the governmental drama to the massive success that many have found using it as a marketing tool. Definitely interested to see how much further the lines blur and what we can learn from it.

Things to Think About

I kick off every single day reading Podnews so I thought I’d share some of the highlights from the past week or so that you should definitely be aware of:

Sponsors

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Bryan BarlettaBryan Barletta (He/Him) is the voice behind Sounds Profitable. He started in the adtech industry so long ago that they used to ask, “Mobile advertising? Like on taxis?” (2008) before shifting into podcasting in 2015. His goal is to make in-depth adtech more accessible for readers and listeners. And, yes, it is sunny and warm in Austin today.

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