Podcast publishers and networks have said for months that they saw advertising bounce back last year after the springtime pandemic lockdowns led some marketers to pull back on their spending. Westwood One Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard set out to see just what the data showed, teaming up with the ad tech company Magellan AI to analyze podcast ads on the top 400 podcasts in the U.S. through Q3 2020. He said the numbers confirm podcast advertising has been “pandemic proof” as ad volumes quickly recovered and surged to record levels.
The low point came last May when the total number of podcast ads detected on the top 400 shows dropped 12% compared to pre-locked down month of March. But the recovery began immediately, said Bouvard. “Ad volumes grew month over month throughout the summer and exploded in September,” he wrote in a blog post. By September, the total number of ads was up 58% compared to the start of the year.
Looking at the number of advertisers running spots on the top 400 podcasts also confirms the bounce back. Even as the list of marketers spending fell in April, Magellan also saw that count quickly spring back to life. Its data reveal that in September 2020 there were a record 855 advertisers on the biggest podcasts. That was a 42% increase compared to April.
Bouvard said the “resilience and strength” of podcast advertising from Magellan AI’s occurrence data validates the outlook for the medium by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PwC, which forecast the industry will top one billion dollars in revenue in 2021.
The number of ads that run in a typical podcast has gone up from earlier in 2020. The average top 400 series runs 3.3 ads per episode. That is nearly a quarter more than during the depth of the lockdown in April. That is certainly good for the bottom line at podcast companies, but arguably less a selling point to listeners. Yet Bouvard said it is helpful to compare podcasting to another medium such as television. He said Magellan data shows advertising represents about five percent of podcast program content. That compares to 23% to 27% of programming on the typical television network.
Bouvard pointed out in the blog post that with podcast advertising climbing so quickly, there is a growing battle between the old guard of podcast advertisers and the newcomers. In the financial services category for instance, payments provider Square currently is the biggest spender. But Magellan data shows big brands like Capital One and Quicken Loans are quickly ramping up their spending on podcasts. It meant that financial services ad spending was up 72% during the first three quarters of 2020. “It is hard to maintain podcast’s share of voice when category spend increases over 70%,” said Bouvard.