The fact that podcasts are growing in popularity is hardly a news flash. During the RAIN Summit in Dallas on Tuesday, the latest challenges—and potential solutions—for the on-demand audio industry were the focus of the “Podcasting 360” session. And it was dominated by talk of attribution.
The game-changer for podcasters came in late 2017, with formation of formal attribution guidelines by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), whose membership comprises 650 leading media companies, brands and technology firms responsible for selling, delivering and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns.
“In 2018, we had only two podcasting companies certified,” explained Beth Eloshway, VP, Publisher Relations at Authentic, the podcast rep firm—which is owned by Podtrac—and one of 32 companies involved in developing guidelines for the podcasting standard. “Now, once a company has IAB v2.0 certification, advertisers can use that data with confidence.”
Stephanie Donovan with Triton Digital—which also won IAB v2.0 approval in August—wholeheartedly agreed: “Every hosting platform has to have a third-party arbiter. It gives us an unbiased metric for advertisers to know exactly ‘what is a download.’ This is the foundation of advertiser confidence.”
Panelists also discussed the potential of podcasts with a paywall. “Great content will attract people that will pay not to hear ads,” suggested Jack Hobbs, CEO of reVOLVER Podcasts. “We’ll always have freemium, but I also think with quality programs, there are those that are willing to pay $4 or $5 a month for content.”
Added Lindsay Graham, Founder, Airship, “A paywall could provide a podcaster’s community with an additional connection—as long as you offer a suite of content that makes sense for your dollar. It is an opportunity for shows and networks to create community.”
But Eloshway was not convinced. “I’m not sure what problem a podcasting paywall is solving.” She cited the example of Netflix launching a mail order DVD business model in which one kept their movie until they were ready to send it back. “That was solving a problem, because everyone was getting late fees when they rented a video. I’m not sure what problem podcast consumers have.” That said, she did acknowledge that “super-fans or those who want to be super-connected might pay to be part of the in crowd, to have the closest contact with the host. But I don’t think there’s a place for a paywall in general for most consumers.”
Looking forward in the podcast industry, Donovan believes there are plenty of opportunities for the radio industry to further its fortunes in podcasting. “The technology is there, as is measurement. And programmatic technology is not an incumbrance,” she said. So now the focus is on content: “That means getting in and believing in your innate resource, your talent. Podcasting is a great opportunity to invest in your talent. It’s about going back to your roots; commercial radio needs to invest back in storytelling,” she said. “Take a talent and give them an extra hour. There are enough metrics to know if it’s going to work, shortly. Get in and try it. If you don’t try it, you’re missing the opportunity to build out tribes with your own brands. It’s the future.” —by Chuck Taylor