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Ahead Of Podcast Upfront, IAB Says Industry Remains On A Growth Trajectory.

More than a dozen podcast companies will hit the stage for the IAB Podcast Upfront Thursday (May 11). The Interactive Advertising Bureau showcase allows brands, agencies, and media buyers to preview what leading creators have cued up in new podcast programming. Ahead of the day-long focus on audio, Inside Radio sister publication Podcast News Daily caught up with Eric John, VP of the IAB’s Media Center.

PND: A lot of people are saying 2023 is an inflection point for podcasting. How do you see it? Eric John: What we’re seeing is great growth, given a challenging time in the economy with podcasting growing 26% to $1.8 billion, that is two times faster than digital advertising. Despite these headwinds, that is a continued trajectory of a medium that is still hitting its stride. We're expecting this medium to more than double between 2022 and 2025 to $4 billion [in revenue]. When I see those kinds of numbers, given where we are this year, I feel like this is a medium that is continuing to mature in terms of its addressability, and in terms of its diversity and content, which is a plus for the advertisers. This year's study, that we'll be releasing at the Podcast Upfront, is going to point to a great trajectory and how advertisers are leaning into the space with more varied types of spend. And I think it all points to continued maturity.

PND: This year’s Podcast Upfront has fewer presenters than in the past. Is that a result of companies putting more focus on profits and releasing fewer new shows?

Eric John: The landscape of podcasting is made up of players of different sizes. In the short tail of companies, you're seeing continued investment. But at the same time, what used to be companies forming a network to create scale, now we're seeing technology enabling a broader application of advertising into more diverse landscape of longtail content. As the technology to support advertising matures and technologies like programmatic audience addressability and improvements in brand safety and suitability, that's going to enable advertisers to attach to a wider range of content. So instead of simply four or five top networks, you'll have additional network and additional creators that are able to monetize by virtue of that technology. The larger trend is more content availability, meeting more mature technology, and that opens windows for advertisers to connect with that bond between the creator and their audience.

PND: The IAB will release its annual revenue report at the Podcast Upfront. While we need to wait for the numbers, are you seeing any signs that advertisers are buying podcasts differently?

Eric John: The underlying theme there is dynamic ad insertion that allows the right ad to be delivered into the right content to the right audience. That's the game changer. How that's now maturing further is the ability for advertisers to understand with greater insight, better metadata, what the contents of the podcast are -- and using what the conversation is in a podcast to create suitability matches. That's an example of how advertisers are beginning to transact differently because they have better insight.

PND: The Podcast Upfront comes days after the video-focused NewFronts. Are you seeing how buyers are approaching the two mediums as converging or diverging?

Eric John: This is the promise of digital advertising. What brands really want is to engage consumers. And so we're doing our best to break down silos and make it easier for brands and buyers to plan on an audience basis and plan their content adjacencies with the consumer at the center. There is great appetite for buyers to have a holistic view of their media-consuming customers. While the tools aren’t there for that holistic planning, buying, execution, creative opportunity, that's where we see things ultimately headed. The IAB’s role in this whole ecosystem is to help enable the standards, protocols and currency that are going to enable it.

PND: What sort of changes could that bring? Eric John: In the world of video, and coming soon to audio, there's going to be an increased focus on understanding how attention metrics can be used for understanding quality of content and quality of creative. That's a great thing because there is a level of attachment with media that changes – it could be the form factor or the engagement model of a particular platform, or it could be creative. We don't really understand much about that today, so I think the industry is looking to bring more insights into how we not only hear, but how we listen and how we interpret.

PND: Anything else we should know about this week’s Podcast Upfront? Eric John: Something else we feel strongly about is shining a light on up-and-coming and emerging publishers and creators, especially those minority-owned companies that deserve the attention of brands and buyers. We've created time on the stage for a couple of these new companies that talk about their content and their audience. They are creative leaders who have built audiences that really speak to that relationship between the host and the listener.

See the full IAB Podcast Upfront agenda or register HERE.

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