Hello and welcome to 2022. It’s still winter, all of you. Haven’t seen the sun in seemingly weeks, but we persevere, surviving on podcast news for warmth and glee.
Now let’s go to the news. There isn’t much to talk about today, but I do have a new report that I’d like to share with you. Let’s start there.
EXCLUSIVE: Podcast ads went wrong
This morning I published a story on Custom Hour about the ongoing push to make programmatic advertising work in podcasting and the problems podcasters are already experiencing. The idea behind the transition is to allow advertisers to easily and automatically bid for podcast ad inventory and target those ads to specific audiences. That’s why we’ve seen podcast platforms not only buy up advertising and hosting platforms, such as Amazon with Art19 and Spotify with Megaphone, but also agree with podcasters for the exclusive rights to sell ads against their programming. For this to work, platforms need not only a lot of advertisers, but also a lot of podcast inventory.
However, that is only part of the challenge. The second, and probably the more difficult one, is to familiarize podcasters with the idea that software will insert ads into their shows without agreeing to each individual ad. This is especially tricky with podcasting, as it has traditionally been an industry where audiences appreciate and act on the ads they hear. (I’m sure some people would even argue that this is the “magic” of podcasting and a critical selling point.)
All of this context leads us to my story, which highlights a few situations where ads were showing in places they shouldn’t have. For example, a science podcast received ads for oil companies, despite blocking those categories. Meanwhile, American Public Media has completely disabled programmatic from its children’s programming after an incident in which an ad for The Sex Lives of College Girls was inserted. Both problems come down to miscategorization, or ads being categorized under one collection genre that is either inaccurate or not robust enough. In the case of Sex Lives of College Girls, for example, the ad was categorized under “television,” but could have included some sort of rating or adult label to avoid this exact situation.
In both incidents, Spotify took care of the advertisements. I have reached out for clarification on how the platform classifies ads and what it does to prevent such situations from progressing and I have not yet received a response. Still, Spotify has been most vocal about its steps into podcast advertising and presumably needs programmatic to work to recoup all of its audio investments.
However, I have questions about this reporting. For example, does the industry want to move towards a programmatic future? Is it the best move to opt out of personalized host-read ads? Can podcast ads be automated while maintaining a high-quality bar? Will the public soon learn to turn off podcast ads, as they do TV ads, radio ads, and web ads?
I don’t have the answers, although I do have my thoughts, most of which yes, the industry, where the industry is defined as large companies, wants this, as long as it’s not a requirement for smaller shows to participate, but that it’s paired involves a sacrifice of public engagement. I think we will also end up in a world with no skip button. However, some intrepid platform can make its selling point by skipping ads, and while I’m thinking deep, these decisions are what the industry is working towards.
Phew, that was a long one. I have a few more bullet point news notes to list, mostly stuff we couldn’t yell for the holidays. Starting with some ad-centric news.
SiriusXM Signs Content Development and Ad Sales Agreement with Tom Segura’s YMH Studios
SiriusXM continues to close deals. This time it is signed with comedians Tom Segura and Christina P in front of their YMH Studios. The two companies will work to develop new content, content will become ad-free within Stitcher Premium, and Sirius will retain exclusive worldwide ad sales rights. This follows Sirius’ deals with The Last Podcast on the Left, Audiochuck and 99% Invisible, among others. It’s all about the ad sales, baby!
Deadline ICM’s Caroline Edwards profiles, focusing on “activism and advocacy” content
Before Christmas, sorry for the delay, Deadline profiled ICM’s Director of Podcast Initiatives Caroline Edwards. The piece is mainly about Edwards taking stock of the industry so far and giving us an idea of what she and the team are focusing on in 2022. They look at ‘different voices’, children’s programming and politics – especially advocacy and activism.
“I am very excited about educating, cultivating and supporting this next generation of people who are talking about what is going on in our world and what we can do about it. It’s not the easiest of sales, but 2020 has been all about the celebrity show, and the fallout from that isn’t all hits, so we need to focus on people who are native to this medium. People are now looking at people who are just really good [at podcasting],” she says.
Here we are again with ad sales 🙂
Spotify’s Chief Legal Officer and Head of Global Affairs Leaves for Disney
A small note here, but Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s chief legal office and head of global affairs, is: departure to Disney, where he will be senior executive VP, general counsel and secretary. Many words, one title. He will take over that role on February 1. Gutierrez usually appeared in our world as the primary spokesperson for Spotify’s fight against Apple. My editor-in-chief Nilay Patel interviewed him for Decoder in June, in which Gutierrez argued that Apple not only acts as a monopoly, but is “unfair” and deserves government regulation.
That’s all folks. I hope the podcast news gods bless us with more this week as we’ll be back Thursday and Friday for you Insider subscribers. For the free people, we’ll see you again on Tuesday. Bye!