Podcast measurement attracts investment, but content risks becoming stale
If 2021 was the year in which podcasting was taken seriously by publishers, this year has seen audio platforms double down on demonstrating advertising effectiveness to brands. But those changes come with risks. Chris Sutcliffe rounds up the year in audio as part of our Media Moments 2022 report.
Podcasting has been a mature editorial medium for years. It almost arrived fully formed in that respect, with top-quality podcasts having been a staple of publishers going back well over a decade. But if the gold rush for podcast revenue began in 2020, and 2021 saw a rush to grab podcasting talent, then 2022 was the year in which everyone strove to demonstrate its suitability for advertising.
If you were a podcast analytics platform in 2022, chances are you’ve already been snapped up by one of the big players. According to Muck Rack, the top three most popular podcast success metrics are downloads (46%), followed by listens/streams (37%) and consumption rate (34%). To that end, podcast platforms including Spotify and Acast spent time this year shoring up their ability to demonstrate the effectiveness of their podcast advertising.
In February Spotify bought both Chartable and Podsights, sparking the beginning of a rush to acquire podcast advertising analytics platforms. Towards the end of the year the IAB UK announced that audio would be added to its Gold Standard measurement system for the first time, providing validation for Spotify’s efforts.
Other podcast companies, meanwhile, were acquiring in an attempt to solve other fundamental issues with podcasting that prevent advertiser spend on the medium. In July, Acast announced it had bought Podchaser, a database tool that provides comprehensive metadata on podcasts. It also attempted to tackle the issue of subscriptions and payments with more granular options, offering the ability for one-off payments in August.
It’s easy to see why the big players are so keen to own the space. No channel grew faster than digital audio last year; advertising spend in the sector grew nearly 58%, reaching $4.9bn, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s most recent data. Per a 2022 Edison Research survey, 73% of the US population aged 12 and older – an estimated 209 million people – listen to digital audio monthly, up from 68% in 2021; 67% listen to digital audio weekly, up 62% year-on-year.
Another area of growth has been the rise of podcasts as a thought leadership exercise and corporate comms tool. LinkedIn, for example, was reported to be launching its own podcast network in 2022. It is expected that this will be a play to keep users on platform, as internal company podcasts come to be in vogue.
Podcasting wasn’t immune from ongoing issues around brand safety more widely, however. Following the controversies surrounding figures like Joe Rogan, podcast platforms were seen to be investing in inclusivity. In February Spotify’s boss Daniel Ek announced the company would invest $100m in discovering and marketing more diverse audio talent. $100m, for comparison’s sake, was the total amount it paid for a year of exclusivity for Rogan’s show.
Listen: The Skylark Collective’s Naomi Mellor joined us on the Media Voices podcast to talk about 2022’s biggest podcast trends, and how publishers are refocusing strategies to engage superfans.
Beyond audio: video & measurement
2022 was also the year in which video podcasts came to the fore. Scared of YouTube eating its lunch, Spotify announced it was opening up its video podcasting capabilities to more countries in April. Video podcasting undoubtedly leads to higher viewing/listenership figures – but they require a lot more thought, both from production teams and hosts.
Additionally, while YouTube’s status as the sleeping giant of the podcasting world became clearer this year, so too did the fact that its core mobile products do not suit the medium. At time of writing, for example, only YouTube Premium subscribers can play videos and audio while the app is closed or screen off on mobile – hardly ideal for podcasts. It is, however, changing that: in August it launched a dedicated Podcasts tab on its browser for US audiences.
There has also been, as we learned at the Publisher Podcast Summit in August, a sense of reality creeping into podcast listenership numbers. While the largest podcasts can get millions of listens, the reality is that podcast audiences are self-selecting, hyper-engaged and valuable. As a result, publishers have been using podcasts for more than grabbing huge audience numbers in service of advertising revenue; they are used for community building, as part of a subscription play, or even as brand marketing for the parent brand.
Tortoise, for instance, is using Apple Podcasts’ Subscriptions tool to allow users to gain access to gated podcasts – without paying for a full Tortoise membership. It is a more considered approach to using audio, one that doesn’t simply rely on pointing at huge audience numbers.
But while it’s been a boom year (again) for podcasts, the same can’t always be said for radio. The BBC’s local radio output appears to be on the brink of being gutted, while it is also scaling back its international output. It is a sad and ignominious transition for the BBC, which is praised the world over for its radio output.
This chapter is an extract from our Media Moments 2022 report, sponsored by Poool and published in partnership with What’s New in Publishing. To read the full report including case studies, key facts and more, please fill in the form below:Your details will be used to send you the Media Moments 2022 report, as well as future Media Moments reports and Poool communications. Please note Poool and Media Voices are joint data controllers for Media Moments 2022 activities.