US podcast ad revenues hit record $314 million in 2017

The U.S. podcasting industry had a record year in 2017, reaching $314 million in revenue – a figure that’s up 86 percent from the $169 million in 2016, according to new study out this morning from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and jointly conducted by IAB and PwC U.S.

The firms are also estimating podcast revenue will see triple-digit 110 percent growth between 2017 and 2020, when revenues will then reach $659 million.

The study also examined what sort of podcasts were benefiting the most from the increased interest in the audio format, as well as what sort of advertisements were preferred.

As you may have guessed (if you spend any time listening to podcasts), host-read ads were the more heavily used ad type, accounting for a whopping two-thirds of all ads in 2017.

Direct response ads transacted on a cost per thousand basis made up the majority of the campaigns, followed by brand awareness ads at 29 percent.

In terms of placement, ads that were inserted or edited into programming accounted for 58 percent of the ad inventory last year, the report also found.

Top advertisers included financial services (18% share of ads), direct-to-consumer retailers (16%), and arts and entertainment (13% of all ads).

However, certain types of podcasts are doing better than others when in comes to raking in the ad dollars.

In fact, the top four content genres, out of the 14 measured, generated over half the advertising revenue in 2017. These were: Arts & Entertainment (17%), Technology (15%), News/Politics/Current Events (13%), and Business (11%).

IAB has particular insight into the podcasting market, thanks to member companies like Audioboom, Authentic, ESPN Radio, Gimlet Media, How Stuff Works, Market Enginuity, Midroll Media, National Public Media, Panoply, Podcast One, PMM, Turner Podcast Network, Westwood One, WNYC Studios, and Wondery, who underwrote the industry study.

And in case you’re suspicious that an ad bureau claiming ads are doing great, the numbers here back up other industry reports confirming the podcast explosion. Nielsen, for example, claims that half of U.S. households listen to podcasts now, including big consumer groups – like beer buyers or new parents – who advertisers want to target.

ComScore, meanwhile, claims 1 in 5 Americans aged 18-49 listen to podcasts at least once per month.

And podcast startups are benefitting from the increased consumer interest in the format, as well. Wondery, for instance, raised $5 million earlier this year from Greycroft, Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital. At the time of the raise, IAB was forecasting $220 million in podcast ad revenue.

HowStuffWorks also raised $15 million last year, as did Gimlet Media; radio broadcaster Entercom bought 45 percent of podcast producer and network, Dgital Media, home to “Pod Save America.” Podcast platform Anchor raised $10 million in 2017, podcast platform Art19 raised $7.5 million, and, this spring, Castbox raised $13.5 million for its podcast app.

Investors wouldn’t be throwing money at the business if there wasn’t potential for more money to be made. And to some extent, those increased opportunities to reach consumers via audio are attributed to the changes in how we listen to audio content – that is, on mobile devices instead of radio, and on smart speakers in the home.

PwC also credits smart speakers and mobile as contributing to the opportunity here.

“The growing trend toward ‘anywhere and everywhere’ media engagement has created tremendous opportunity for digital media, of which podcasting is a significant component,” said David Silverman, a Partner at PwC U.S.m in a statement about the new report. “Whether at home on a smart speaker, at work on a PC, or somewhere in between on a mobile device, more and more Americans are listening while they live, providing a robust podcast platform where advertisers can connect with today’s consumers,” he said.

Facebook’s new authorization process for political ads goes live in the U.S.

Earlier this month – and before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress – the company announced a series of changes to how it would handle political advertisements running on its platform in the future. It had said that people who wanted to buy a political ad – including ads about political “issues” –  would have to reveal their identities and location and be verified, before the ads could run. Information about the advertiser would also display to Facebook users.

Today, Facebook is announcing the authorization process for U.S. political ads is live.

Facebook had first said in October that political advertisers would have to verify their identity and location for election-related ads. But in April, it expanded that requirement to include any “issue ads” – meaning those on political topics being debated across the country, not just those tied to an election.

Facebook said it would work with third parties to identify the issues. These ads would then also be labeled as “Political Ads,” and display the “paid for by” information to end users.

According to today’s announcement, Facebook will now begin to verify the identity and the residential mailing address of advertisers who want to run political ads. Those advertisers will also have to disclose who’s paying for the ads as part of this authorization process.

This verification process is currently only open in the U.S. and will require Page admins and ad account admins submit their government-issued ID to Facebook along with their residential mailing address.

The government ID can either be a U.S. passport or U.S. driver’s license, a FAQ explains. Facebook will also ask for the last four digits of admins’ Social Security Number. The photo ID will then be approved or denied in a matter of minutes, though anyone declined based on the quality of the uploaded images won’t be prevented from trying again.

The address, however, will be verified by mailing a letter with a unique access code that only the admin’s Facebook account can use. The letter may take up to 10 days to arrive, Facebook notes.

Along with the verification portion, Page admins will also have to fill in who paid for the ad in the “disclaimer” section. This has to include the organization(s) or person’s name(s) who funded it.

This information will also be reviewed prior to approval, but Facebook isn’t going to fact check this field, it seems.

Instead, the company simply says: “We’ll review each disclaimer to make sure it adheres to our advertising policies. You can edit your disclaimers at any time, but after each edit, your disclaimer will need to be reviewed again, so it won’t be immediately available to use.”

The FAQ later states that disclaimers must comply with “any applicable law,” but again says that Facebook only reviews them against its ad policies.

“It’s your responsibility as the advertiser to independently assess and ensure that your ads are in compliance with all applicable election and advertising laws and regulations,” the documentation reads.

Along with the launch of the new authorization procedures, Facebook has released a Blueprint training course to guide advertisers through the steps required, and has published an FAQ to answer advertisers’ questions.

Of course, these procedures which will only net the more scrupulous advertisers willing to play by the rules. That’s why Facebook had said before that it plans to use A.I. technology to help sniff out those advertisers who should have submitted to verification, but did not. The company is also asking people to report suspicious ads using the “Report Ad” button.

Facebook has been under heavy scrutiny because of how its platform was corrupted by Russian trolls on a mission to sway the 2016 election. The Justice Department charged 13 Russians and three companies with election interference earlier this year, and Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts associated with disinformation campaigns.

While tougher rules around ads may help, they alone won’t solve the problem.

It’s likely that those determined to skirt the rules will find their own workarounds. Plus, ads are only one of many issues in terms of those who want to use Facebook for propaganda and misinformation. On other fronts, Facebook is dealing with fake news – including everything from biased stories to those that are outright lies, intending to influence public opinion. And of course there’s the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which led to intense questioning of Facebook’s data privacy practices in the wake of revelations that millions of Facebook users had their information improperly accessed.

Facebook says the political ads authorization process is gradually rolling out, so it may not be available to all advertisers at this time. Currently, users can only set up and manage authorizations from a desktop computer from the Authorizations tab in a Facebook Page’s Settings.

YouTube ads for hundreds of brands still running on extremist and white nationalist channels

It’s been more than a year since YouTube promised to improve controls over what content advertisers would find their ads in front of; eight months since it promised to demonetize “hateful” videos; two months since it said it would downgrade offensive channels; and yet CNN reports that ads from hundreds of major brands are still appearing as pre-rolls for actual Nazis.

The ongoing failure to police billions of hours of content isn’t exactly baffling — this is a difficult problem to solve — but it is disappointing that YouTube seems to have repeatedly erred on the side of monetization.

As with previous reports, CNN’s article shows that ads were running on channels that, if YouTube’s content rules are to be believed, should have been demonetized and demoted instantly: Nazis, pedophiles, extremists of the right, left, and everywhere in between. Maybe even Logan Paul.

And the system appears to be working in strange ways: one screenshot shows a video by a self-avowed Nazi, entitled “David Duke on Harvey Weinstein exposing Jewish domination. Black/White genetic differences.” Below it a YouTube warning states that “certain features have been disabled for this video,” including comments and sharing, because of “content that may be inappropriate or offensive to some audiences.”

A cheerful ad from Nissan is running ahead of this enlightening piece of media, and CNN notes that ads also ran on it coming from the Friends of Zion Museum and the Jewish National Fund! Ads from the Toy Association ran on the channel of a guy who argued for the decriminalization of pedophilia!

I can’t really add anything to this. It’s so absurd I can barely believe it myself. Remember, this is after the company supposedly spent a year (at the very least) working to prevent this exact thing from happening. I left the headline in the present tense because I’m so certain that it’s still going on.

The responsibility really is YouTube’s, and if it can’t live up to its own promises, companies are going to leave it behind rather than face viral videos of their logo smoothly fading into a swastika on the wall of some sad basement-dwelling bigot. “Subway — eat fresh! And now, some guy’s thoughts on genocide.”

Some of the other brands that had ads run against offensive content: Amazon, Adidas, Cisco, Hilton, Hershey, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Netflix, Nordstrom, The Washington Post, The New York Times, 20th Century Fox Film, Under Armour, The Centers for Disease Control, Department of Transportation, Customs and Border Protection, Veterans Affairs the US Coast Guard Academy.

I asked YouTube for comment on how this happened — or rather, how it never stopped happening. The company did not address my specific questions, but offered the following statement:

We have partnered with our advertisers to make significant changes to how we approach monetization on YouTube with stricter policies, better controls and greater transparency. When we find that ads mistakenly ran against content that doesn’t comply with our policies, we immediately remove those ads. We know that even when videos meet our advertiser friendly guidelines, not all videos will be appropriate for all brands. But we are committed to working with our advertisers and getting this right.

Very similar to previous statements over the last year or so. I look forward to hearing what brands it thought Nazism and pedophilia were appropriate for.

PlayingViral helps marketers grabs millennials’ attention with quick, interactive surveys

PlayingViral founders Steven Wongsoredjo and Michael Rendy

Millennials have been accused of possessing shorter attention spans than goldfish. Though that claim is questionable, online marketers know display ads and even sponsored content are no longer enough to attract twentysomethings. PlayingViral gives brands a new way to lure young consumers with embeddable surveys and quizzes that use machine-learning algorithms to reach the right audiences.

The second Indonesian company accepted into Y Combinator (after bill payment platform Payfazz), PlayingViral finished the accelerator program last month and is now getting ready to expand in the United States, Canada, Brazil and other markets.

PlayingViral is part of Nusantara Technology, a tech and media group that develops marketing tools for clients, including Proctor & Gamble, that want to reach young Indonesians. So far, the company has received investment from former Sequoia Capital partner Yinglan Tan through his new firm Insignia Ventures, former Indonesian Minister of Trade Mari Elka Pangestu and Y Combinator.

Both Nusantara and PlayingViral were founded by chief executive officer Steven Wongsoredjo and chief product officer Michael Rendy. About a year after launching Nusantara in 2016, the team began to realize that “the online media business has the potential to go big, but it’s hard to scale because it lacks a human touch,” Wongsoredjo told TechCrunch. PlayingViral was created to fix that problem.

PlayingViral’s personalized, interactive content is intended to attract users who are jaded by banner ads. For example, a property developer used PlayingViral to create a survey that tells users what kind of house they can afford based on their income level and location. Other customers have embedded quizzes that reward players with discount codes. There are hundreds of dialects spoken in Indonesia and PlayingViral relies on its machine-learning algorithms to adapt content to different languages and decide where they should be placed in Nusantara’s online media network. It also analyzes what keywords, graphics and colors get the most engagement, helping brands refine their marketing strategies.

An example of PlayingViral’s interactive content is embedded below, while demos on PlayingViral’s site show its other uses, including text message stories and Mad Libs-style quizzes.

 

Wongsoredjo says PlayingViral became profitable just two months after it launched in January. Clients include Singapore Airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Nokia. Its biggest competitor is SurveyMonkey, but PlayingViral differentiates by focusing on more informal and shorter surveys. Of course, other companies are also developing interactive embeddable content, but Wongsoredjo says PlayingViral and Nusantara plan to future-proof themselves by building more comprehensive data sets about what captures millennials’ attention than their competitors.

“If someone wants to copy us, they have to do a lot of experimenting,” says Wongsoredjo.

Shorter, skippable ads will be coming to YouTube

YouTube today is introducing a new way for advertisers to maximize reach from their shorter ads. The change arrives around two years after YouTube’s introduction of the six-second bumper, which the company says advertisers have learned how to best use to raise brand awareness, despite having only a few seconds to tell their story. Now, advertisers will have the benefit of building bumper-like or longer ads to gain broader reach, while still allowing the ads to be skipped after 5 seconds like all TrueView ads.

With the existing TrueView in-stream ads, which air before or during a video, advertisers only pay when the viewer watches at least 30 seconds or to the end of the video, or they take action by clicking on a card or other elements of the creative to learn more.

TrueView for Reach is meant to combine the best of two worlds – short-form bumper ads, and the user choice offered through the TrueView in-stream format.

The company says the addition will expand advertisers’ options with TrueView ads. Depending on campaign objectives, advertisers can opt for TrueView for Views (standard) ads, TrueView for Action, or TrueView for Reach – all of which are skippable after 5 seconds.

“TrueView for reach brings our popular in-stream format built on user choice together with the simplicity of CPM buying,” says YouTube, in an announcement. “Optimized for efficient reach, this format can help you to raise awareness among a broad set of customers — and do so within our 95% viewable and 95% audible environment.”

The company says that during beta testing the format across 84 campaigns, 9 out of 10 drove a significant lift in ad recall, with average lift of nearly 20 percent.

Samsung Electronics America said it was able to reach 50+ percent more people at half the CPM with TrueView for Reach, when it tested the format, while Pepsi France said that format helped deliver high reach, but also high completion rates for its 10-second video.

“Moreover, CPMs proved to be more competitive: we saw 30% lower CPMs on average compared to previous campaigns. This ultimately drove lower average costs on incremental reach points: -46% versus TV on specific target audiences,” explained Vanessa Tsangaratos, Digital Marketing Manager at Pepsi France.

The expansion of ad format options for YouTube is becoming even more critical to brands and advertisers, given the continued rise in cord cutting and adoption of subscription video on demand services, like Netflix, which are ad-free.

As YouTube notes in a blog post, advertising was simpler in the TV era – you’d just find the most popular shows, and place your brand there in the commercial breaks. Now advertisers are trying to find a place to gain attention for their brand in a far more complex landscape – there are video ads not only on streaming services like Hulu, but also on live TV services, on YouTube and even on social media, like Facebook and Instagram.

The goal is to now find a place to advertise where you can actually capture users’ attention.

YouTube claims it’s that place, of course. It cites a recent Ipsos study that found people are 3 times more likely to pay attention to online video ads compared with TV ads.

TrueView for reach is not the only TrueView option for YouTube advertisers. The newer TrueView for action is also available for those advertisers who want to customize a call-to-action that’s important to their business, like leads or referrals.

Get ready to start seeing more local ads on YouTube

YouTube’s video ad creation service aimed at helping small business reach YouTube viewers is now available more broadly across the U.S. The company announced this morning that YouTube Director onsite, as the service is called, is now live in over 170 U.S. cities, up from only 9 previously – Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., New York, Tampa and Seattle.

This is significant expansion, in terms of reaching potential YouTube advertisers who would have otherwise not had the resources to write, film and edit a professional ad for YouTube.

The service is kind of a bargain for the small businesses, too. Hiring a pro to create a professionally produced video could cost $1,000 or more. But YouTube is basically doing it for free – well, free with a catch.

It’s available at no charge for any business that commits to spending at least $350 to advertise the video on YouTube. However, that’s in line with the low-end of buying airtime for a 30-second local TV ad, which ranges from $200 to $1,500+, depending on time slot.

YouTube Director onsite works by connecting area businesses with YouTube-approved filmmakers, who will schedule call with the advertiser to learn about the business and help them to write a script. The filmmaker then comes to the business to film the video, and returns an edited version the next week. YouTube’s ad experts help get the video upload to the site, and aid the business in crafting their YouTube ad campaign.

The company hasn’t shared any comprehensive metrics on how well these ads perform, but did note in a blog post a single case study where a custom guitar shop saw a 13x return on ad spend, and a 130 percent increase in revenue from the ad. The YouTube Director onsite website also features a number of other ads created via the service, to showcase the professional quality of what can be produced.

The company has claimed for years that YouTube ads are more effective than TV because they allow targeting – but that’s an argument that can be made for may sorts of online ads. In addition, YouTube reaches a younger demographic, so small businesses should keep in mind that they may need other ways to reach to those over the age of 35, for example.

The timing of this U.S. expansion is relevant because YouTube just last week announced new AdWords experiences that tie together Google searches with YouTube advertising and calls-to-action.

“Soon you’ll be able to reach people on YouTube who recently searched for your products or services on Google. For example, an airline could reach people on YouTube who recently searched Google.com for ‘flights to Hawaii.’ We call this custom intent audiences,” explained the recent Google’s announcement.

The company had previously allowed Google account user data to influence YouTube ads, starting in 2017. With custom intent audiences, advertisers can now create a keyword list for their video in AdWords. They can then combine this targeting feature with YouTube’s new direct response video ad format, TrueView, which offers a customizable call-to-action in a video ad.

The ads created by YouTube Director onsite will support this feature as well, allowing the businesses to capture leads or referrals, or something else that’s important to their specific businesses.

In other words, if you thought having the shoes you abandoned in a retailer’s shopping cart following you around the web was weird, wait until YouTube starts showing you ads for local businesses that match up with what you’ve just been googling. (By the way, Google does let you opt out of personalized ads if that’s how you roll.)

Google is launching playable in-game ads

Maybe you’ve seen this kind of ad in a game you have played: your character dies and then the game asks you to watch a short video ad in return for an extra life. That’s actually a feature of Google’s AdMob advertising service, and today it’s extending this with playable ads, a new type of ad that fits far better into a game.

Google calls these types of ads “rewarded ads” and with the Game Developers Conference coming up next week, this is the perfect time to launch these new playable ads. More than 45 percent of AdMob’s top 1,000 gaming partners already use rewarded ads to monetize their apps, and the new playable ads will work just like rewarded video ads. In return for playing a mini-game — and either doing well in that or potentially installing the full game — players can get an extra life or maybe some fresh loot.

Playable ads are actually one of two new rewarded ad types the company is launching today. The other type is multiple-option video ads. Those give you the option to choose which video ad you want to watch in return for game goodies.

At first glance, these new ad types look like they would take a player out of the game, but at least the playable ads fit into the general mode and state of mind a player is in. As for video ads… yeah… those are always annoying, but at least you’ll get an extra game life out of it.

In addition to these new ad types, Google also is now giving developers a couple of new ways to attract new players. The first of this is the beta launch of video ads in the Google Play Store. These are an extension of the videos developers could already highlight on their Play Store pages.

Another new ad feature for developers is an extension of the existing Universal Ad Campaigns tool. Starting in May (as a beta for select advertisers), developers will be able to target people with similar interests to their best customers. Like so many current Google products, this feature will use Google’s machine learning tools to mine the billions of in-app events it now tracks to advertise a game to the right potential players.

Google is launching a new feature for ad bidding, too. With Open Bidding, ad networks like Smaato, Index Exchange and OpenX can bid to serve ads in an app simultaneously in a single unified auction. While that may sound like something only those in the arcane underworld of ad network developers would care about, it actually makes the bidding process faster and easier.

Google debuts AdSense ‘auto ads’ with machine learning to make placement and monetization choices

 Google is today unveiling a new ad unit for AdSense that taps into the company’s big push to add more artificial intelligence into its business, and to potentially bring on more publishers who might consider ramping up their advertising efforts but don’t have the time or other resources to manage them. Google is debuting “Auto Ads” — not commercials for cars, but… Read More