How podcast advertising can offer a targeted and engaged audience

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

While radio remains the most popular audio source for UK listeners, podcasting is in the midst of a boom. According to an Ofcom survey conducted earlier this year, 50% of the UK public listen to podcasts, half of whom listen once a week or more.

While many firms have launched their own podcasts, third-party podcasts could also offer a way of reaching a more bespoke audience than traditional formats such as radio. Jill Waters, Retail Director at NS&I said in an interview earlier this year that the savings bank was using podcast advertising as one medium to provide information about its new green bonds, which were recently made available.

“You can start to really build a story and give a lot of information which is wider than the product itself, and informs the customer about green.”

Podcasting also offers the opportunity for extremely targeted advertising, says Josh Woodhouse, UK Director of Sales at Acast, a hosting, distribution and monetisation platform which enables over 31,000 podcasts globally.

The company has developed a patented “dynamic insertion” technology which not only distributes podcast content across the podcast hosting sites (Spotify, Apple Music etc) but injects advertisements within the stream. The ads are divided into pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll, with the injection done within milliseconds of someone requesting a podcast file.

“In the archaic model, the ad was baked in,” explains Josh. “Somebody would ingrain the ad within the fabric of the episode, and it would live forever without being removed.”

This meant a lot of podcast creators couldn’t monetise their back catalogue, which Josh says accounts for 40% of all listenership.

What appears to the listener as a smooth and automated process requires extensive manual curation in the background. When a new show is onboarded, the content team places it into five different contextual verticals, such as technology, business or finance. The podcasts are also assigned categories according to the type of listener – the Financial Times for example would be labelled as “premium”.

Acast’s targeting can also take account of the content of the individual podcast episodes themselves. The company has purchased AI technology which has transcribed millions of hours of audio into text, and can place ads based on relevance.

“If you’re a financial brand but you only want to look into specific content around credit cards, investing or inflation, you can add the keywords into the tool and spit out a list that is relevant.”

The tool can also use “negative targeting” to allow companies to avoid being placed alongside certain topics.

Josh claims that podcasting can offer high levels of engagement, citing a study which asked listeners what they do while listening to a particular medium. While people reported listening to commercial radio as a background medium to help focus, podcasts tended to be the sole focus of what they were doing.

“Spoken word content makes you engage far deeper – I’m not going to listen to a podcast while working out, but while on a walk or journey.”

“Reach does not equal results; let’s talk about the attention economy.”

For firms hoping to move into the area, Josh says it is important to “be curious”.

“It’s a brave new world, incredibly accessible to any brand despite size. There is a podcast for every brief, because there is one for every person.”

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