Gumball, the ad unit that is a sister to the Headgum Podcast Network, sells nothing but host-read ads. And while some podcasters shift their attention away from the format in favor of ads sold programmatically and dynamically inserted, the Gumball team is focused on improving the host-read experience. That has led the Los Angeles-based company to debut a new feature called Gumshoe that will provide real-time information to advertisers looking to measure the ad impressions from host-read ads.
“No one was addressing the optimization of host-read ads. And that's the opportunity in which we're tackling,” Gumball CEO Marty Michael said. The new feature that they are calling Gumshoe will allow advertisers to obtain information on their campaign delivery within a single platform without relying on third-party providers. Michael explains they will achieve that through appending a pixel to the dynamic campaign or a prefix to the embedded show.
“That is going to allow us to have that information in real-time, which we’re going to upload to the campaign’s page so podcasters and advertisers are going to see how much of it is delivered,” he said in an interview.
Gumball sees current host-read ad measurement and verification as “archaic” with podcasters required to provide screenshots to verify impressions and download data after a campaign wrapped up. But it says Gumshoe digitizes the process to add increased communication and transparency. The company says it also complies with all the industry standards set by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. It also works with most major hosting platforms and is compatible for both embedded and dynamic ad formats.
How that information is leveraged is where Michael thinks the real benefit of Gumshoe will be borne out. “If we know when a campaign is completed in real time, we can and take on the onus of collecting from an advertiser and start toying around with how fast we pay the creators,” he said.
For the marketer, Michael said Gumball could also partner with attribution providers like Podsights in order to measure how well an ad campaign is working mid-flight. That would allow it to approach advertisers with conversion data “We could say 25% of your campaign is completed and you’re seeing this many conversions, let’s triple up this campaign,” Michael said. “We think we can use this to ultimately bring more money into the ecosystem and help creators.”
Host-read ads already carry higher CPMs than programmatic ads and Michael thinks being able to offer real-time data to marketers will help Gumball bolster its CPMs. And even though they do not sell any ads programmatically, he sees the two ad formats serving very different purposes for brands.
“There are ways you can utilize both different ones at the same time to do very different things. and I think that that's promising for the space,” Michael said. “I don't think that one needs to win over the other, I think that there's honestly a lot of room for both.”
Launched in 2019, Gumball raised $10 million in new financing in March which is allowing it to expand its marketplace for host-read ads. Gumball’s available inventory of ad impressions grew 258% year-over-year during the first half 2022 as it added 77 podcasts to its roster during the first half of the year, bringing its roster to roughly 200 podcasts. Michael tells Inside Radio sister publication Podcast News Daily that Gumball’s revenue remains on track to more than double from 2021 to 2022 as it works with some of the biggest consumer brands, including Casper, CBS, Netflix, OkCupid, Squarespace, Warby Parker, Brooklinen, AMC, Linkedin, and StockX.
“We’re seeing more shows break off from the old school networks and go independent,” said Michael. “We're concentrated on growth in general with a large emphasis on getting more shows onto the platform, and on recruiting more advertisers to use the platform, because that's the health of our ecosystem. Ideally, what this is going to do is going to be able to show them that they can have a lot of trust and faith in what they're buying is actually being delivered. That seems to be kind of a blind spot in podcasting. With Gumshoe, we're able to automatically do that.”