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Podcast Advertising: Older and Wiser? 2023 Predictions from Our Experts


December 20, 2022


January 13, 2023

Podcast advertising has long been dominated by a few big agencies and a few massive in-house programs. Over the last five years, Right Side Up (RSU) has challenged these models by partnering with over 100 brands to stand up, optimize, and scale podcast advertising campaigns; all tactics, relationships, and data being in-house and advertiser-owned. 

There’s no better time to reflect on how far we’ve come and have yet to go than the turn of the year. Notwithstanding the trove of experience that comes from Right Side Up investing over $150 million in the channel over the last four years, we’re still learning and growing as a practice, and excited for the industry at large. 

Looking to 2023, RSU’s offline leaders, Krystina Rubino, Lindsay Piper Shaw, and Grant Durando, are ready to share what they see in their crystal balls for the near future of podcast ads, including:

  • Revenue, pricing, and tech investment
  • Media buying and creative trends
  • Re-defining what a “podcast” can be

And now, let’s dive into the predictions of our clairvoyant (or just super experienced) offline experts.

Revenue, Pricing, and Tech Investment 

1. Guaranteed revenue deals will probably slow and big contracts will not be renewed.

As we’ve seen the “growth at all costs” era come to a close, many of the blockbuster seven- and eight-figure contracts that were signed to steal talent away from competitive publishers (but will likely never be profitable) will start to term. While it will be a longer tail than the general budget pullbacks that we’ve all seen in the advertiser marketplace, we’ll most likely see some relatively high-profile free agents in the podcast-celebrity space. For advertisers, lower guaranteed revenue contracts (due to decreased publisher vs. publisher competition) for this talent means potentially looser terms for advertisers; thus lowering the barrier to entry to gain endorsements for some currently unattainable (read: prohibitively expensive) names.—Grant Durando

2. Pricing starts to come down to reality. 

There will be downward pressure on CPMs given the overall economic outlook and all of the above factors. In a medium where average CPMs have held in the $20s for the better part of the last decade, the combination of impression-based buying, lack of technological implementation to facilitate said buying, and an increasing focus on efficiency from advertisers, we’ll see the average CPMs in the medium fall.—Krystina Rubino

3. Increasingly sophisticated ad technology.

Somehow, despite being a digitally native medium that’s exceeding $1B annually, we don’t have reliable frequency capping, impression validation, self-service programmatic buying at scale, brand safety verification, technology-based competitive separation—the list goes on and on, just like this sentence. Startups and other companies will start to more meaningfully bridge these gaps in the medium this year. (ICYMI, we called for a lot of this earlier this year in an article for Sounds Profitable.)—Krystina Rubino

Buying and Creative Trends

4. Some impression-based buying goes back to embedded…

This reverses a trend that has emerged over the last couple of years, where—likely in an effort to eke every last cent out of the guaranteed revenue deals that have proven far more favorable to creators vs. the businesses who are on the hook to pay them—many networks moved to impression-based buying vs. spot buying on a download cost basis. We’ve already seen some networks reverse this approach for a healthy part of their catalog in 2022, going back to what’s proven for both advertisers and the consistency and health of their bottom line.—Krystina Rubino

5. …And some brands increasingly use produced ad creative.

Though the magic of host-read podcast ads remains the mainstay of the channel, podcast ad spaces have become more malleable from a technological perspective, leading to the ability for advertisers to have more creative control via branded ads—ads voiced not by the host, but a canned spot with a voice-over made by the advertiser. Networks will offer more creative services and support as an option to advertisers to cater to those wanting more control over messaging. In the world of cancellation-by-association, if the host does something undesirable, companies may be more interested in a less effective creative unit for the sake of brand safety.—Lindsay Piper Shaw

6. Creators fighting for control of ad units.

In a similar vein, as branded ad unit sales increase, hosts will be further away from approving every advertiser that runs ads within their shows. As this transition happens, creators will be keeping closer eyes on contracts to weigh the benefits of allowing additional monetization through branded ad units versus having more control in the products featured in ads voiced by them. Ads running on shows, voiced by the host or not, are still assumed by the listeners to be endorsements, unlike branded ads in other media like radio, so there will likely be a shift in the way creators think about partnering with networks and ad sales to protect their brand image.—Lindsay Piper Shaw

Re-definition and Evolution of “Podcasts”

7. Gen-Z redefining a “podcast” and consumption bleeding into different platforms.

It’s no secret that YouTube has become a place for the youngins to get their podcasts (which, is it still a podcast if it’s not an RSS feed? I digress…). Simulcasts and audio-only on video platforms are ushering in a new generation of listeners (or watchers) and creators to redefine what a podcast is and how and where it is consumed. If Gen-Z found podcasts boring or undesirable in the traditional format, their solution has been to change what a podcast is defined as and consume content how they want to. As distribution of creative gets spread across platforms, we may see people describe consuming a podcast as watching multipart three-minute video clips of the simulcast video of the podcast on TikTok. Further from the original source, harder to track (see Grant's prediction about attribution below), difficult for advertisers to define, but still a new generation engaging in the content in their preferred way.—Lindsay Piper Shaw

8. Podcast/YouTube simulfeeds will necessitate new attribution methods.

More audio-only podcasts will use YouTube as a distribution platform. We’ve already seen this trend becoming more predominant in the last five years or so, but in 2023 it will reach critical disruptive mass. While interesting from a media evolution perspective, it will critically change the infrastructure required to measure direct response/performance podcast campaigns. As an industry, we (mostly) solved the infrastructure challenge with tracking RSS-feed podcasts via pixel and prefix based attribution (Podsights, Chartable, Podscribe, Magellan, et. al), but we will need a new technological solution to deliver conclusive performance marketing attribution for podcast advertising (which, by nature of the changing distribution landscape, will include a significant portion of YouTube streams).—Grant Durando

9. Live podcasts.

With what will hopefully be the evolution of the RSS feed, we’ll also see an opportunity to use the podcast media environment for live streaming. While this has been tried (and mostly failed) by some larger companies, allowing the RSS feed to accommodate live/breaking content at a grassroots, show by show, small d-democratic level will completely reshape how we think about podcasts. I tend to imagine a world where we can get breaking news from your trusted daily news podcast, live sports broadcasts or highlights from your preferred weekly sports journalists, live debates as an alternative to broadcast television, and university lectures when you’re not able to make it to class in person through the RSS feed.—Grant Durando

10. Local podcasts.

Local podcasts have already emerged in some major media markets/DMAs, but the local DJ-phenomenon is still reserved for local terrestrial radio. As general podcast adoption continues to increase, so too will the need to have a daily podcast (or podcast network) for most major DMAs as an alternative to typical AM/FM morning shows. This will also open a localized marketplace alternative for advertisers, relative to exclusively DAI geo-targeted campaigns on nationally-focused programming.—Grant Durando

That's a wrap on our podcast advertising predictions for 2023! Do you want to take your offline advertising efforts to the next level? Right Side Up’s offline team can help. Reach us at growth@rightsideup.co to get started.

Krystina Rubino joined Right Side Up to start its offline marketing practice when she realized too many brands leave offline channels on the table, favoring digital channels past diminishing returns. She has been obsessed with all forms of media for as long as she can remember; she’s an agency and marketing leader with deep experience in building brands and meeting growth goals, for companies of all stages and sizes. She’s spent her career helping companies and brands like Advil, DoorDash, P&G, Lyft, and StitchFix, develop profitable digital and offline media campaigns, often as vanguards in their category and the medium. Her favorite question to ask is “What’s next?” when helping grow a business or scale a customer acquisition campaign.

Grant Durando is a growth marketing leader, currently consulting on podcast and offline advertising at Right Side Up. He has helped some of the largest podcast campaigns start, scale, and optimize their offline growth campaigns; with many going on to be household names because of their ubiquitous podcast presence. After working with 60+ brands in offline growth marketing, he knows what it takes to efficiently dominate emerging media landscapes, and actively works with brands, ad tech, and media companies to push nascent spaces to their limits.

Lindsay Piper Shaw is a director of offline marketing at Right Side Up, where she partners with innovative brands on in-house marketing initiatives, including podcast and other offline channels. Prior to joining Right Side Up, Lindsay scaled podcast campaigns for brands like quip, Lyft, and Texture, and she has also worked with McDonald’s, Honda, ampm, and Tempur-Sealy, among others. She is passionate about the podcast space as a growth driver, and especially loves educating newcomers in the channel. In her free time she listens to podcasts and makes a podcast called Murder We Wrote (she really can’t get enough podcasts).

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Let's talk growth

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Let's talk growth

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