Can Programmatic Audio Rise In The Charts In 2024?

Programmatic audio saw a significant growth increase in 2023. However, it still needs to catch up with the other digital media.

This disparity is particularly stark when it comes to podcasting. Programmatic makes up 11% of revenue for podcasts in 2023, an increase from 2 per cent in 2021 and 5 per cent in 2022 in the October Podcast advertising revenue study by the IAB. Other media platforms that use digital technology, like social media and CTV programs, account for 87% of all revenue on average.

However, if programmatic audio continues to expand in its development, it will likely make up an important portion of the audio market in a couple of years.

“I suspect that programmatic is going to double and continue on this trajectory for a couple more years,” said Kurt Kaufer, CEO and chief growth officer of the audio agency Ad Results Media (ARM).

Singing a song from a different book

In the realm of audio podcasts, there is a delay in their use of programmatic technology in comparison to other streaming audio formats. Programmatic activation is “very mature” in streaming audio, as Matt Shapo, director of digital audio and video at the IAB.

“The streaming audio sector is certainly moving forward. But the partners are keeping their cards close to their chests in terms of streaming audio,” said Rebekah Shalit, the group director for partnerships for digital and programmatic as well as innovations at Dentsu. “There are fewer options when it comes to programmatic.”

Audio streaming will be “a much smaller part of the mix in terms of what we’re buying programmatically,” ARM’s Kaufer stated. “Ultimately, we would buy that directly with the networks versus having to buy that via the DSP.”

Although audio streaming and podcasts provide identical listening options, the content is provided in various ways (streaming as opposed to progressive downloading). Suppose a user logs in and streams music via Spotify and YouTube Music. In that case, advertisers can get first-party listener information, including who listens to what at any given moment. They can then utilize these identifiers to enable the streaming media programmatically. “It’s just like a digital display,” Shapo explained.

The podcasting experience is not instantaneous because “a tiny fraction” of the podcasting process is performed using an actual-time streaming player, Shapo said. Instead, progressive downloads – which refers to the download of audio tracks that happen a little over time but which users can listen to immediately after the file is downloaded are the norm.

“We’ve got a close approximation between downloads and listens,” Shapo stated. However, advertisers cannot see how many people listen to a podcast, but only whether they’ve completed a complete or partial download. This model that relies on downloading has several measurement issues.

“Last-click attribution models continue to rule in the realm of measuring campaigns. They’ve been detrimental to all forms of advertisement and digital media,” including audio, which usually doesn’t have a companion banner for users to click on, according to Anne Frisbie, SVP of the global business development department at SiriusXM’s digital audio advertising platform AdsWizz. As cookies go away, that model is under siege, so it’ll be interesting as it plays out.”

Host with the best

One of the biggest obstacles to audio programmatic adoption is the industry’s reliance on advertisements read by hosts.

According to ARM’s Kaufer, baked-in host-read ads that are permanently embedded in a podcast’s audio file remain an integral part of the ecosystem for podcast advertising due to their performance and efficiency.

DTC and direct-response marketers who have historically supported podcasts highly like host-read ads. However, podcast producers have slowed down on the possibility of opening their inventory to programmatic. According to various audio industry leaders, they want to maintain the listening experience for listeners and the host/listener relationship.

Shapo stated that buyers’ most common concern is staying out of “the proverbial race to the bottom in terms of rates and CPMs.”

However, as more large-scale enterprises are advertising on podcasts, programmatic is often a part of the responsibility. It can be scaled and provides the exact measurement and targeting capabilities as CTV or digital, Kaufer said.

“In the not-too-distant future, programmatic is probably going to catch up with our host-read revenue,” said Dave Hanley, chief revenue officer of podcast hosting service Libsyn. He predicts that Libsyn’s audio business will expand twice as quickly as its host-read operations in the next year.

“Host reads and programmatic aren’t necessarily antitheses of each other,” Frisbie explained. They can be run in conjunction with programming guarantees. However, that’s pretty close.

Automation has been removed from the station.

Suppose the ease and familiarity of host-read advertisements need to improve audio growth. In that case, the growing demand for dynamically inserted art is a contributing factor to its rise.

Dynamic ad insertion enables podcasters to insert and switch out pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll advertisements. Podcasters can change ads throughout a show’s back catalogue to attract new listeners or those who have been listening to the show for the second time.

Ads that are dynamically placed on the internet accounted for 92% of 2022’s revenue from podcasts, nearly doubling its 48% share in 2019, as per this month’s IAB report. (The report didn’t include 2023 projections due to the sample size being insufficient.) Although many dynamically placed advertisements aren’t yet programmed to be sold or bought, the technology is available.

Hanley said that for independent publishers who don’t have enough money to market host-read ads, the programmatic model allows podcasts to be monetized. For podcasters with host-read ads, he added that Libsyn follows a “tiered approach,” selling host-read ads directly to advertisers before selling the remainder of the inventory via programmatic. This strategy helps eliminate the fluctuation and the “lumpiness” of ad demand, which results in more reliable earnings.

If you construct it,

In addition to dynamic ad placement, The infrastructure for supporting programming audio is being developed.

SSPs and DSPs SSPs “live on legacy technology, and podcasting isn’t something they were born to do,” said Elli Dimitroulakos, the global director of ad innovations at podcast monetization and Acast, the platform for distribution.

Dimitroulakos said the “bundling of many audio marketplaces in the DSPs and SSPs,” which combined different audio formats with different prices, goals, and performance, created a barrier to entry for programmatic. When purchasing supplies through a DSP, purchasers couldn’t distinguish between podcasts and streaming audio or linear radio versus streaming. “It was all one,” she explained.

Dimitroulakos said that before this, the only content parameters that could be seen in a DSP’s midstream were the IAB’s 12 general categories of content. Buyers now have access to content signals such as genre, episode, show, and keywords to conduct the podcasting process programmatically. They also have the option of frequency capping across multiple shows and publishing companies.

Suppose the DSP does not allow targeted advertising, however. In that case, the SSP may enable it, as Libsyn’s Hanley explained, in specific states or based on audience characteristics such as gender, age, or the desire to consume natural foods.

The SSP may also incorporate brand safety guidelines, which address long-standing concerns buyers have had. Additionally, AI transcription and episode-level analysis tools for contextual context from companies such as Barometer and Sounder can help media planners and buyers feel more secure and comfortable purchasing from the DSP, ARM’s Kaufer explained.

More sophisticated contextual tools enable consumers to consider tone, inflection, and connotations. “And it’s considering the show’s suitability relative to the brand ethos,” Kaufer stated.

Direct dealings

Audio is already a tiny, unpopular, sluggish underdog compared to its more glam counterparts, such as CTV. An emphasis on video characterizes the US media market and does not invest in audio compared with the more audio-friendly UK and Europe, AdsWizz’s Frisbie stated. The programmatic audio market is an aspect of that tiny market that the IAB estimates will grow to $4 billion in 2025. However, it is gaining importance.

“Programmatic buying belongs in every media plan,” Dentsu’s Shalit stated. “But our teams are still trying to find the right balance between programmatic and direct activation.”

Most of Dentsu’s digital audio agreements are programmatically guaranteed, and a private marketplace, Shalit explained. Custom activations or sponsorships will always be sold directly.

Private marketplaces and guaranteed programmatic deals are the primary sources of audio programming. “Historically, it has been overwhelmingly PMP,” the IAB’s Shapo stated.

For example, AdsWizz, whose parent company, SiriusXM, reported a 97% increase in YOY programmatic podcasting during its Q3 earnings but did not offer open-exchange purchases. “I don’t think we’re ready for that,” Frisbie stated. “Maybe that will change in five years.”

Private buys also help protect listeners’ listening experience by managing the content of ads they see. “It took us years to get really premium inventory that wanted to participate,” she explained. I don’t think just throwing it open to the wild is going to help you.”

This year is probably different than the year for programmatic audio. However, we’ve come a long way, baby.


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