By Sanjeev Mehta
Much noise has been made of the podcast boom, with both genuine insights and some speculation. As per a KPMG report, India was found to be the third-largest podcast-listening market globally, only after the US and China. So if podcasting is only growing, are we about nearing the peak?
While the tables have undeniably turned, it would be unfair to look at this rise without some caveats.
Today, one of the most important pillars of survival for podcasts is advertising. Many from the Ad and Marketing community are in agreement of the distinctive advantages that advertising in podcasts bring, however the real question here is – Are ad budgets matching the success of the medium? Brands still need to evaluate how to effectively use podcasts to reach their key consumers.
Here are some of the key challenges pla what we can do as an industry to better educate marketers around the medium.
To Measure or Not To Measure
Measurement has been the oldest rule in the ad and marketing rulebook to understand the impact on ROI. When it comes to podcasts, there needs to be an effective measurement of ROI to understand the impact of a podcast ad.
The podcast community is making inroads in coming up with various ways to navigate this challenge. Measurement solutions like looking at the number of downloads, use of podcast ADN (ad networks), and authentic profiling of listenership are steps being taken towards closing this gap. The scenario is not discouraging, with industry veterans and innovators creating turnarounds working towards decoding podcasts and its effectiveness as an ad tool.
Authenticity V/S Uniformity
Host read ads vs. conventional uniform ads for spots in podcasts is a hot debate topic among podcasters and advertisers. While podcasters argue for maintaining authenticity and stand for host read ads as an intimate way to connect with audiences, advertisers who are custodians of brand uniformity are not impressed. Usually small scale activations are dealt with by advertisers in the same way they deal with social media influencers creating content. But this means, podcasts are left out from big leagues advertising dominated by Digital, TV and Radio.
Another issue is ad production for podcasts, goes beyond the comfort zone for advertisers and brands. Production requirements to fit the varied styles of podcast properties, seamless integration and additional production costs, are discouraging factors for advertisers.
These are everyday common challenges in the podcast and advertiser push and pull relationship . Today there are middle grounds being found including ads placed in the beginning, middle and end (pre-roll, mid-roll and end-roll), options for live read ads by hosts or pre-recorded host read ads to help assert the control over narrative.
Escaping ‘The Testing Stage’
Despite legitimate statistics and data pointing to the immense success of podcasts , it is often used as a ‘test medium’, being offered ‘token’ support. The pricing of spots in podcasts is seen as a ‘bubble’ and ‘highly volatile’. While buying TV spots at shocking rates is completely acceptable, the industry expects podcasts to be a rather tame, static medium. High value podcast shows with great listenership and content still find themselves being challenged when it comes to valuation.
Alternate methods of methods – in-depth listener profiling data, navigating unique ways of distribution of ads; all of the work put in by the industry is yet to bear longstanding benefits. Though significant, the mindset shift is slow and is in need of picking up pace.
The Need Of The Hour
Increased proactiveness on part of the podcast industry is the need of the hour. Tech and data need to be harnessed, skilled teams should be empowered to build the operations and the lens needs to go beyond just creating good content. The focus should be on setting valuation benchmarks, identifying and supporting measuring tools and harnessing automation to increase momentum. All of this warrants a need for consolidated efforts across the industry.
On the other hand, advertisers investing time on multiple mediums, need to be more open to alternate means of ROI. The time to talk about this is done, podcasting has the potential today to rise beyond a mere testing ground and become a high impact ad medium and active revenue mechanism.
The author is business head at IVM Podcasts. Views expressed are personal.