Programmatic Podcast Advertising: Friend or Foe?

Published October 25, 2022

As programmatic advertising continues to take the podcast advertising landscape by storm, let's break down programmatic advertising to get a better understanding of how it works and how advertisers and podcast creators can leverage it.

The Basics of Programmatic

A programmatic ad is a pre-produced advertisement that is inserted into an RSS feed and delivered to listeners dynamically on their podcast listening app. The two sides of the programmatic coin are the advertising side, or the demand side which involves a Demand Side Platform or DSP to originate the ad buy on one or many podcasts. The second side is the inventory side or the podcast/publisher side of the coin, which is referred to as the supply side. Podcast publishers make their advertising inventory available to potential demand via a Supply Side Platform or SSP.

When an advertiser (or their agency) places a media buy from a DSP, they set parameters for the buy including dates, targeting and other configurations that determine how they would like the campaign to run. The DSP then calls on the SSP based on those parameters to fulfill that buy. This is why if two people are listening to the same podcast episode they might hear different ad spots based on their demographics, location or other campaign parameters. On the supply side, as a podcaster you are able to set up parameters of your own, most notably, category exclusions so that certain types of ads do not appear alongside your content. Today, the industry uses a set of advertiser categories defined by the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) to allow podcasters to control their 'appetite' for advertisers. For example, many podcasters often choose to opt-out of categories such as politics, religion or alcohol if they do not fit with their preferences or the tone of the content being produced.

A New Way of Thinking...

There is a delicate relationship between the host, listener and advertiser in podcasting. Unlike other mediums, as podcasts listeners we accept advertising in our content because we know that is how the hosts of the shows we love often support themselves financially. As programmatic advertising starts to evolve in podcasts and we hear more produced ads from large brands as opposed to host-voiced endorsements, it is a mentality shift for the host, listener and advertiser. Podcasters who have successfully made this shift in mindset have embraced the monetization possibilities of programmatic the same way that TV or radio personalities have abstracted themselves from the advertisers that appear during their commercial breaks.

Although the host-read ad is still the primary way many advertisers prefer to purchase podcast inventory, the programmatic space offers unique ways for brands and products to reach their customer segment. The targeting capabilities of programmatic ads allows you to double click into the location, demographic, or other segmentations of an audience. If you are a US-based product and only want to reach a US-based audience, you are able to do that. As an advertiser you are also able to control your messaging end to end. You aren't relying on a host's interpretation of your talking points to deliver the brand messaging to the audience, you are controlling the message via your produced ad creative. It's a double edge sword because advertisers often want a host to be endorsing the product, but there is some inevitable friction involved in doing so. Digital marketers are also used to producing the creative for other mediums such as social media or banner ads, so programmatic often fits into their existing paradigm. The barrier to entry can also be lower on programmatic podcast ads because there is often a lower minimum to run a test campaign.

Benefits for Podcasters

For podcasters of all sizes, there are several reasons to embrace programmatic ads in their episodes. First, programmatic is a great source of filling unsold host-read inventory. Why let an open spot go to waste when there is demand for this inventory from programmatic buyers?

Secondly, since most host read campaigns focus on new episodes only for a period of 30 to 60 days, programmatic can open up the possibility back catalog monetization. Depending on the type of content a show is producing, many podcast episodes have listeners engaging for months (or years) after the release date, so this revenue can really add up for some podcasters. For most podcasters, the choice doesn't need to be made between host-read or programmatic, episodes can have a hybrid of both to financially support the creator. Most advertisers looking for host-read partnerships with podcasters often shy away from shows that average under 10,000 listens per episode due to the effort involved with executing such campaigns. Given this dynamic, smaller podcasters should certainly consider programmatic as a solution for monetization until they reach that magic threshold. Every listen has a value to an advertiser, it is just easier for advertisers to aggregate listens from small podcasts using programmatic advertising to reach a broader audience at scale.

Wrapping it up...

As programmatic advertising evolves in the podcast industry, it is important for podcasters to know that not all Supply Side Platforms are created equal. The technology is one factor, but there are other key elements which will contribute to your ability to maximize your monetization potential working with a programmatic platform partner. Be wary of platforms which tout high CPMs without talking about average fill rates. Also, any platform that relies on a single demand partner is at a huge disadvantage and can subject you to extreme revenue fluctuations which depend on outside factors such as macroeconomic forces affecting the advertising market. Lastly, always consider the experience of your listeners. You want ads that are strategically placed within specific points in your content at a reasonable frequency.

In summary, the programmatic path is going to allow podcasters to make a lot more money from their content and will bring in a lot of new advertisers to the podcast space. If you are interested in learning how programmatic ads can work for you show I would recommend checking out Libysn's Auto Ads Program or reach out to us at

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