Can Programmatic Audio Rise In The Charts In 2024

Programmatic audio had a growth spurt in 2023, but it still comes up short compared to other digital media.

That disparity is especially stark in podcasting. Programmatic comprises 11% of podcast revenue in 2023, up from 2% in 2021 and 5% in 2022, according to an October podcast ad revenue study from the IAB. But for other digital media channels, like social and CTV, programmatic represents 87% of revenue on average.

Still, if programmatic audio keeps chugging along in its growth, it could make up a sizable share of audio in a few years’ time.

“My suspicion is that programmatic is going to continue to double and continue on this trajectory for a couple more years,” said Kurt Kaufer, CEO and chief growth officer of audio agency Ad Results Media (ARM).

Singing from a different songbook

Within audio, podcasts are dawdling in their programmatic adoption compared to their streaming audio peers. Programmatic activation is already “very mature” in streaming audio, said Matt Shapo, director of digital audio and video at the IAB.

“The streaming audio side has certainly progressed further. However, the partners are keeping their cards closer to their chest, from a streaming audio perspective,” said Rebekah Shalit, group director of digital and programmatic partnerships and innovation at Dentsu. “There’s fewer options when it comes to programmatic.”

Streaming audio is “a much smaller part of the mix in terms of what we’re buying programmatically,” ARM’s Kaufer said. “Ultimately, we would buy that directly with the networks versus having to buy that via the DSP.”

Even though streaming music and podcasts offer similar listening experiences, they’re delivered in different ways (streaming versus progressive download). If users are logged in and streaming songs on Spotify or YouTube Music, advertisers can access first-party listener data, such as who’s listening and what they’re listening to at any given time. They can then use these identifiers to activate the streaming media programmatically. “It’s just like digital display,” Shapo said.

Podcasting lacks that immediacy because “a very small fraction” of podcasting happens via a real-time streaming player, Shapo said. Instead, progressive downloads – meaning audio files that download little by little in the background but that users can listen to as soon as the file starts to download – are the norm.

“We’ve got a really close approximation between downloads and listens,” Shapo said, but advertisers can’t see when someone listens to a podcast, only whether they completed a full or partial download. This download-based model poses measurement challenges.

“Last-click attribution models still reign in terms of measurement campaigns. It has been a detriment to many forms of advertising and digital media,” including audio, which often has no companion banner for someone to click on, said Anne Frisbie, SVP of global business development at SiriusXM-owned digital audio ad platform AdsWizz. “As cookies go away, that model is under siege, so it’ll be interesting as it plays out.”


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