The Wall Street Journal has a thorough piece on the challenges of advertising on Podcasts. Namely, there’s no real way to track whether an ad has been heard, or even if a downloaded podcast has been listened to. And podcast advertising budgets are relatively small fries, compared to the big potatoes that are traditional media:
Advertisers are expected to spend about $35.1 million on podcasts this year, up about 2% from last year…Meanwhile, marketers are still investing some $18 billion a year in radio and $67 billion in TV.
In order to track ad performance on podcasts, the usual advertising suspects – MailChimp, Squarespace, and other compound-named internet companies – are promoting the use of promo codes, that allow brands to measure where they’re traffic is coming from. But it’s quite a bit harder for Toyota to offer 10% off the purchase of your next Camry with the offer code “MARCH.” As I’ve written before:
What makes it such a curious format is that, unlike online video – where Netflix can see where exactly a viewer stopped or started watching – or online reading – where content publishers live and die by pageview and click metrics – podcasts have no intrinsic way to track audience engagement. Podcast apps are glorified mp3 downloaders-and-players, whose ability to track user metrics isn’t substantially better than the ways that TV and radio survey companies compile their user-reported data. It’s odd that a format whose rise has been dependent on the internet doesn’t have access to the same sort of data-mining that the rest of the internet publishers utilize…The paucity of data – for the time being – may lead podcast producers to make their own apps (NPR put a lot of effort into NPR One), or to develop creative solutions for the podcasting world more broadly.
The WSJ goes on to quote Steve Mulder, an NPR executive, who refers to the podcast advertising space as “the Wild West.” There is undoubtedly a need for ad-tracking standardization – if quality broadcasting is to continue – or else audiences will be asked to fund programming. Which, for the quality content that exists now, just might be worth it.