Research Briefing: Podcast networks test generative AI tools for ad sales

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

Interested in sharing your perspectives on the media and marketing industries? Join the Digiday research panel.

In this week’s Digiday+ Research Briefing, we examine how podcast networks are testing generative AI for ad sales, why publishers are hesitant to add their chatbots to OpenAI’s GPT Store, and how ad buyers are hoping competition among streaming ad sellers will spur more ad innovations, as seen in recent data from Digiday+ Research.

52% of advertisers have never purchased podcast ads

Podcast networks are following in the footsteps of digital publishers by testing generative AI tools as a means to streamline their sales process. During iHeartMedia’s third quarter earnings call in November, CEO Bob Pittman said the company was providing some of its sellers with AI-enhanced tools to help them prospect and communicate with podcast clients, as well as using AI tools for dynamic ad insertion to improve messaging and voice for targeted demographics.

Podcast network Acast added Collections+ to its self-serve advertising platform last summer. The AI-powered tool pulls podcast and listener data from different sources to automatically group podcasts into contextual categories. This allows Acast to package smaller shows from its catalog to meet advertisers’ briefs. Nearly 40% of the podcasters who got requests from advertisers since Acast added AI tools had previously never worked directly with advertisers before, according to Acast’s chief product officer Matt MacDonald.

A 2023 survey by Digiday+ Research and Sounds Profitable found that more than half (52%) of brands and agencies have never purchased podcast ads. Although, 35% of respondents said that they did plan to invest in podcast advertising last year.

Glenn Rubenstein, CEO and founder of podcast ad agency Adopter Media, said a lack of sophistication in implementing podcast ad campaigns using technology like programmatic ad buying, ad targeting and frequency capping may make some advertisers hesitant to invest in the channel. That may soon change with the addition of generative AI tools, if Acast’s results are any indication.

Insights and stats:

  • “Today, two out of every three people have listened to a podcast. And young people in the U.S. are spending nearly as much time with podcasting as they are with linear TV. That’s why podcasts can no longer be an experimental bucket of your annual spend. They are now a must-buy for advertisers looking for premium content at scale.” — Jeanine Wright, COO and gm at Wondery, a podcast network and publisher
  • Despite industry enthusiasm, actual budget allocation for podcast ads is lagging. The majority of advertisers (67%) who said they currently purchase podcast ads currently devote 24% or less of their media spend to podcasts.
  • More than one-third (37%) of respondents who said they have never bought podcast ads said “no demand from client brands or my own brand” was the main reason they had not bought ads. 

Read more about podcast ad spending and strategies

Digiday+ Research digest

Publishers started developing custom generative AI chatbots last year, but many are hesitant to add their chatbots to OpenAI’s GPT Store. Media executives Digiday spoke with pointed to a few reasons why they haven’t made full investments there, such as their own limited resources to explore the store’s capabilities, as well its lack of defined audience and revenue growth opportunities. Overall, publishers dramatically upped their use of AI in 2023, according to Digiday+ Research surveys.

Insights and stats:

  • “Will we be able to do that [make money] in the GPT Store? I have no idea… I don’t know what the business model actually is in the GPT Store yet. I don’t think anybody understands exactly how that’s going to work.” — Josh Jaffe, president of media at Ingenio
  • Just under half of publishers respondents (49%) said they were using AI in Q2 2023. By Q3, 89% of publisher pros told Digiday their company was using AI.
  • Ninety-one percent of publisher pros said in Q3 2023 that AI is the technology that will have the biggest impact on their business over the next few years.

Read more about publishers’ use of AI

Traditional TV-style ads pervade the streaming marketplace, but ad buyers are hoping that increasing competition among streaming ad sellers will spur more innovative ad options. At CES last month, Disney introduced new shoppable ad formats, for example. Shoppable ads were a leading ad innovation among platforms Digiday+ Research surveyed for a 2023 series on ad-supported streaming services. Streaming services are also feeling pressure to expand their ad options – and ad revenue opportunities – without overextending their ad loads. 

Insights and stats:

  • “The AVOD piece that I struggle with… is making sure that we are not spamming the consumer. Seeing the same ad over and over again makes a viewer frustrated… [It’s important to make] sure that we’re able to include frequency caps and certain buy guidelines to ensure you’re not hitting a person too much that it becomes wasteful.” — Cheryl Gresham, CMO and vp of marketing at Verizon Value
  • Short ad-break length (30 seconds or less) and frequency capping tied in first place as the most important ad options for streaming platforms to offer advertisers, with almost half (48%) of brand and agency respondents selecting each of those options respectively, according to Digiday+ Research’s survey.
  • Content takeovers stood out as another leading ad innovation among platforms. Tubi’s Total Takeover gives advertisers 100% audience reach during a specific window of programming time, while YouTube’s First Position lets advertisers own the first ad a user sees on YouTube Select content on CTVs and other devices.

Read more about how ad-supported streaming services stack up

See research from all Digiday Media Brands:

Digiday+ Research

Glossy+ Research

Modern Retail+ Research

More in Media

NewFronts Briefing: Samsung, Condé Nast, Roku focus presentations on new ad formats and category-specific inventory

Day two of IAB’s NewFronts featured presentations from Samsung, Condé Nast and Roku, highlighting new partnerships, ad formats and inventory, as well as new AI capabilities.

The Athletic to raise ad prices as it paces to hit 3 million newsletter subscribers

The New York Times’ sports site The Athletic is about to hit 3 million total newsletter subscribers. It plans to raise ad prices as as a result of this nearly 20% year over year increase.

NewFronts Briefing: Google, Vizio and news publishers pitch marketers with new ad offerings and range of content categories

Day one of the 2024 IAB NewFronts featured presentations from Google and Vizio, as well as a spotlight on news publishers.