Weekly Roundup: all about ad revenues, female-centric podcast networks, checking on Google, campus podcasting, and more

Hello podheads, here’s issue #7. There was a lot of developments from the past week and this is probably the biggest round up so far. 

Show me them shekels

Podcast Upfront is an event held every year that brings together advertisers and podcasters. The idea behind the event is for podcasters to showcase the latest developments in podcasting and to secure advertising commitments. The 4th edition of the event was held in New York last week. So I thought I’d start off by summarizing what’s happening with podcast advertising. After all, nothing piques the interest of podcasters like the word “monetization”. 

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) andn PwC study released in June 2018 projected US podcast advertising revenues to hit $659 million dollars. As big as a number it seems, it pales in comparison to the ad revenues of Radio and Television with $14 billion and $70 billion respectively.

“Podcasting is increasingly being recognized as vital to brands with ad revenues for this engaging medium forecast to double by 2020,” said Anna Bager, Executive Vice President, Industry Initiatives, IAB. “With brands increasingly trying to build direct relationships with consumers, they are turning to podcasting’s ability to tell stories in unique and intimate ways that engage today’s listeners, whether on the go or sitting at the kitchen table. This is the fourth IAB Podcast Upfront, and we anticipate nothing less than a packed room of marketers and media buyers anxious to tap into the power of this compelling medium.”

The intimacy (that’s right, I said it) of the medium is one of the reasons why podcast ads command high CPMs compared other mediums where they are hitting rock bottom.

“When it really does feel like part of a show, there’s less of a skip rate, which just confirms what we’ve been telling advertisers for years and years,” Erik Diehn, CEO of Midroll

But the lack of common measurement standards has long been an impediment to the industry. As the ad revenues grow, advertisers are increasingly demanding granular data, which many podcasters now cannot provide. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) did release V2 of the podcast measurement guidelines in December 2017, but not everyone has adopted them. Although, this is understandable given the complexity involved. But hosts and networks such as Wondery, Midroll, HowStuffWorks, Simplecast are already IAB V2.0 compliant with others such as ART 19 and Panoply expected to be soon.

Digiday has a nice writeup on the topic of measurement and attribution.

AdExchanger has a piece on “What Will It Take To Get Podcasting To The Next Level?” by Tutuwa Ahwoi, of National Public Media.

While It does seems like it’s all sunshine and roses, it’s not. There are a lot of important things that the medium has to reckon with.

What does it mean for the listening experience?

Peter Kafka in a piece had written

Don’t tell anyone, but one of the reasons podcasts are fun to listen to is because the podcast ad business is so tiny.

I couldn’t agree more. But as podcasting grows, the number and the type of ads will also increase. This means that we may have to grit our teeth and bear the agony of bad ads in silence. As the medium matures, one big trend that will be in the spotlight is Dynamic Ad Insertion. This is a very polarizing technology in the podcasting world. Listeners may hate it, not all podcasters want it, but advertisers love it. For those of you who don’t know, DAI involves automatically swapping ads in episodes as against the ads that are baked in.

According to The 2017 IAB and PwC study, 41.7% of all podcast ads were dynamically inserted. This was down from 56.4% in 2016. Why the degrowth? Well, no one seems to be sure but there are a few theories. Here’s an interesting one by Nathan Bashaw, former product head at Gimlet, currently at Substack.

The big concern with DAI is that the technology in podcasting is in its nascency. The reason why the traditional podcast ads work is because the tone is consistent with the show. But with dynamic ads, it’s hard to maintain the same quality. There have been numerous instances were dynamic ads have been poorly produced and inserted ruining the listening experience. I’d suggest listening to this episode of The Wolf Den in which Marco Arment had a lively debate about the technology with Lex Friedman, executive vice president of sales at Midroll.

But having said that, the technology will get better and is here to stay.

What does it mean for indie podcasters?

You will have to look at this from the lens of growth in the medium. If brands are allocating budgets to podcast advertising that means they see growth. All the data is so far limited to the US and for the rest of you, this means nothing. But look at it this way, brands showing interest in podcasts is a powerful sign that the medium is poised for growth. If you are a podcaster in, say India, you are an early settler of the podcasting frontier. You will have to stick it out for a while until the growth of the medium hits its stride. Until then, focus on building a good show and on building a loyal listenership for your show.

Advertising isn’t the only path to monetization. The goal should be to build a show that your listeners will support directly. That’s more powerful than any other monetization option available if you ask me. On the same note, I’d recommend checking out the 2nd part of the conversation with Rahul of Storiyoh in which he gives some really good advice to podcasters.

Feel like loosening the purse strings?

Audio broadcast network Westwood One released a study last week which was commissioned to understand weekly podcast listeners and their perceptions of advertising. The survey involved 600 respondents who listened to a podcast at least for 1 hour a week.

Here are the highlights from the report:

  1. Super listeners on the rise. Heavy podcast listeners who listened to more 6 hours of podcasts a week accounted for 43% of all weekly listeners. Up 19% from 36% in 2017. 
  2. Growth in Time spent with podcasts, especially among Women and GenX (Age 35-49). An average woman listened to 5.5 hours of podcasts a week, up 20% from 4.6 hours in 2017. GenX weekly podcast listeners spent 7.2 hours listening to podcasts, up 22% from 5.9 hours in 2017.
  3. Millennial men (18-34) account for a majority of podcast listeners. 55% of respondents were men as against 45% women.
  4. 64% of heavy podcast listeners are men.
  5. 66% of heavy female podcast listeners are Millennials 18-34.
  6. Strong growth in weekly podcast consumption on in-car systems and smart speakers.
  7. Business and Kids/family focussed podcasts saw strong growth in 2018.
  8. Social Media and word of mouth are the top sources of podcast discovery.
  9. Strong growth in advertisers consideration for podcast advertising.
  10. On shorter podcasts, listeners prefer one break and hear all the ads. The study also showed that listeners preferred multiple breaks for longer shows.
  11. 48% of weekly podcast listeners preferred ads voiced by the show host.
  12. Podcast listeners exhibited high levels of concentration during ads.
  13. Podcast ads command high CPM due to high engagement rates.

The report has tonnes of other insights for podcasters. You can check out the full report here.

Dope queens

Westwood One during the IAB Upfront announced that it is launching a female-focused podcast network called Empow(h)er. Looks like the company is acting on its own research which shows strong growth in weekly podcast consumption by women. The network will start with 9 shows. – Mediapost

More awesomeness. Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine, is partnering with media house Rooster teeth to Launch a women-centric podcast network called “The Beam”. The Hollywood Reporter

Give them what they want!

Speaking of building good shows, Aaron Mahnke, creator of the hit podcasts Cabinet of Curiosities and Lore, is answering some questions from podcasters about their biggest challenges. In this thread, he dishes out some amazing advice for podcasters.

If you currently make a podcast, or plan to start one soon, what’s your biggest challenge and unanswered question (other than how to grow your audience or make money)? #PodcastingTips

— Aaron Mahnke (@amahnke) September 8, 2018

Let me educate you

James McWilliams, a professor at Texas State University and a contributor at Pacific Standard has an interesting piece on educational podcasts.


Spotify will hold it Soundup Bootcamp in London in November. It’s a week-long residential podcasting workshop. The chosen podcasters will get to learn concepts of podcasting right from story creation to technical skills. – Spotify

Early start

Lindenwood University which is located in Saint Charles, Missouri, United States, has opened up a roundtable studio setup to its students.

Associate professor of mass communications Richard Reighard, who has spent more than 30 years in the studios of KCLC, Lindenwood’s radio station, said podcasts are “the wave of the future.”

“It’s a whole field that we’ve been kind of ignoring, and it’s about time we start getting with the program and building facilities,”

This will be the sixth podcasting room on the campus. This story caught my eye for a reason. A couple of weeks ago I was discussing the lack of college radio in India with Saif. We were discussing how podcasts can be a whole lot easier to set up on campuses than radio in countries like India, where institutions don’t care about radio.

If any students or teachers are reading this newsletter, I hope you guys seriously consider the Idea of campus podcasting. Podcasts can be an amazing creative outlet for students. They are relatively easier to make and broadcast. In countries like India where there is no history of talk radio, podcasts can be a hotbed of lively debates on important issues.

I was recently reading an article with a rather interesting title “Social Media Looks Like the New Opiate of the Masses”. This generation is hooked to social media, both on and off campuses. Podcasting can be a creatively fulfilling outlet to these students, rather than them whiling away their time on social media. I seriously hope at least a few educators take notice of this.

Ok Google

James Cridland, the radio futurologist and the creator of Podnews is one of the writers I admire the most in the world podcasting. The clarity in his writing and his unique perspectives on podcasting trends are unmatched. 

The podcasting world breathed a collective sigh of relief when Google decided to get serious about podcasting. In this post, James looks at how Google is doing and what it can do to grow faster. 

Skype call recording

Finally, Skype introduced the long-awaited call recording feature. Skype has long been a go-to solution for podcasters to record interviews and conversations. To get around the limitation, podcasters had to up until now rely on 3rd party solutions. The update isn’t yet available for Windows 10 users but in the blog post announcing the feature, the Skype team said that the update should be available soon. – Skype Blog

Twitter audio broadcasts

Twitter wants to be associated with podcasts…I think. Last week the company announced a new feature on Periscope which allows users to create an audio-only broadcast. The feature is currently available on iOS only. I still don’t see how this can be particularly useful for podcasters. But, one use I see is to make use of the feature to tease episodes, provide show updates, repurpose content etc.Verge

Binge alert

I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have missed the story but here it is anyway. Serial, the show that got millions of new listeners hooked onto podcasts is coming back for season 3. The new season which will begin airing on September 20th will focus on the inner workings of the Cleveland court system. Here’s the trailer, in case you missed it


Staring at the future and placing a bet

News publishers today face existential problems. Companies which relied heavily or only on advertising have seen a steady decline in revenues. The past few years have seen a steady drumbeat of layoffs, buyouts, firesales, closures, missed revenue projections, mergers, and acquisitions. Today, the publishers who are thriving or at least comfortably surviving are those who had the foresight and wherewithal to pivot to subscriptions.

But if you were a publisher who wanted to move to a subscription-based model in 2002, you would have been stoned to death. But that is exactly what Financial Times, the gold standard in financial journalism did. FT recently revealed that it has 930,000 subscribers out of which 740,000 are digital-only subscribers and the remaining 190,000 print only subscribers.

The realisation of the longstanding 1 million target would be a significant vindication of a paywall strategy that began with its first digital subscriptions in 2002 and continued in 2007 with the introduction of the FT’s first metered-paywall. Its chief executive, John Ridding, recently recalled how that decision met with a “pretty hostile” response from digital futurists, who warned the paper that “the internet wants to be free”.

Last year, digital natives such as Vice and Buzzfeed who primarily rely on ad dollars missed revenue targets. Mashable was sold at a fraction of the valuation it once commanded and there were countless other stories of media failures. In a recent Q&A with Digiday, Buzzfeed CEO, Jonah Peretti said that

“A partial paywall could make sense,”

This is a sharp departure from the time when he said:

“The subscription model does not support informing a broad audience,”.

Of course, opinions change and there is nothing wrong with that. What does this have to do with podcasting you ask? Your life as a podcaster is hard. You are part of a nascent medium that is yet to find its footing in the larger media landscape. True, there is interest in the medium, steady audience growth and rising ad revenues. But, life as an indie podcaster is still hard and will continue to be. 

The point I wanted to make is, you will always have to be wary of the winds of change. Standing still is never an option. We live in a world where disruption is always around the corner. Risk-aversion is part of human nature. It’s not easy to let go of the comfort of what works. But if you don’t pay heed to the changing trends, then you’ll be left by the wayside.

Be like FT and place bets with long-term payoffs. Today FT, by virtue of its paywall strategy, stands tall among the media landscape that littered with fallen giants. Of course, some bets will work and some won’t. But one thing you cannot do is to not try.

In the spotlight

We continued our chat with Rahul Nair, founder and CEO of Storiyoh. In this 2nd part, I asked Rahul about podcasting in general and his responses were really insightful. You can read the full conversation here.

Voices from India

This was a memorable week! September 6th, 2018 will go down as a momentous day that saw the landmark Supreme Court judgement scrapping section #377 (the draconian law British era law that criminalised sexual activities ‘against the order of nature’) thus making Indian society more equal.

On this happy note, do check out the brilliant podcast ‘Keeping it Queer’ by Navin Noronha from IVM podcasts, about growing up as a queer person in India, the challenges that one goes through and some brilliant conversation with members of the LGBTQ+ community!

News from RAFA ‘18

We reported in our previous issue about Biker Radio Rodcast (BRR), India’s exclusive motorcycling podcast, making it to the final list of nominations for the Whicker’s Radio and Audio Funding (RAFA 2018). It is with great joy that we bring the news that BRR finished in second place at the event that had participants pitching from across the globe. Great job guys! More news

New Launches

Long Shorts by Transfin

A new business and finance podcast from the house of Transfin Media. Hosts Nikhil and Sharath discuss the most recent developments in the field of business and finance and share their opinions on the subject in short bite-sized nuggets.   

WordPress for Everyone

The podcast helps listeners traverse the world of WordPress, website building, best practices, and digital marketing supplemented by interviews with experts. With almost 1 in 3 websites being hosted on WordPress, this is a very handy resource for creators across genres!

Intolerant Indians

Intolerant Indians is another welcome addition to the growing number of vernacular shows that are being produced in India. This Tamil podcast focuses on Indian politics in general with a spotlight on trending topics of discussion with some interesting conversations between the hosts.

Returning for a new season

Take 2 with Anupama Chopra & Rajeev Masand

Anupama and Rajeev are back for season 2 of the hugely popular show about movies and interviews with Bollywood’s top actors. The show is available exclusively on Saavn and is available to subscribers of the music streaming service. The opening episode stars the hyperactive Ranveer Singh as the trio get on like a house on fire!

Hey Podcasters,

Fancy a chance to get featured in the popular Audible Feast newsletter by Sara DaSilva? Give this a shot.

Are you looking for voice-over services? Check out this tweet by Rajiv Rajaram and get in touch.  

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Weekly Recommendations

Posted by Bhuvanesh

A podcast junkie on a mission to make podcasts great.

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