As Podcast Ad Biz Sees Static, One Firm Shifts Focus

When it comes to placing ads in video and audio podcasts, how dynamic does the serving need to be? And do marketers care about the exact number of impressions they bought, or is “number of downloads” an adequate metric? A recent move by podcast ad management firm Podbridge suggests the answers to those questions may be “not very” and “downloads will do.”

Through a new partnership with Limelight Networks and an ad distribution relationship with MSNBC, Podbridge has reduced its dependence on a dynamic ad insertion and measurement method it pioneered. In doing so, the company may be signaling a belief that marketers don’t require the ad management standards from downloadable media that they do from other interactive channels.

Podbridge distinguished itself early on in the area of ad management for downloadable media by going beyond measuring only the download rate for podcasts. It also offered, via a plug-in, knowledge of exactly which podcasts and ads had been heard and which had languished in a user’s iTunes library. Perhaps most importantly, Podbridge also supported dynamic insertion, so if someone hits play on a podcast three weeks or three months after downloading it, the ads remain current.

Now, Podbridge is partnering with Limelight to access its content delivery infrastructure and serve online ad campaigns without requiring a server-side installation from publishers or a client-side one from end users. For publishers who choose to go this route, the Podbridge plug-in will not be used, with the result that ads will be neither measurable by impression nor served on the fly.

“Advertisers are willing to pay just for downloads,” said Podbridge CEO Murgesh Navar. “For certain types of content, measurement of downloads equals measurement of views.”

For instance, when a consumer doesn’t watch a podcast they’ve subscribed to, iTunes eventually stops downloading new episodes. “Downloads becomes a close proxy to views,” Navar said. “We do not need the ability to change the advertisement because the content expires as well.”

Additionally, he noted it may be superfluous to offer dynamic ad insertion for news programming such as that offered by MSNBC, since “there’s hardly any chance someone’s going to watch it three months or six months from now.” MSNBC offers video and audio downloads of shows like “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” “Meet the Press,” and “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.”

Indeed, NPR and other current events driven podcasters have had success selling sponsorships and ads based on download metrics and hard-coded corporate underwriting announcements.

Podbridge still plans to offer publishers and advertisers a sample-based measurement of actual ad views by tracking subscribers who have already installed its plug-in. It will also continue to provide its plug-in and server-side solution for publishers that want it.

“Podcasting started out being a long-tail behavior,” said Navar. “What you’re beginning to see here is that this medium is now being embraced by brand name publishers. It’s something marketers are extremely comfortable with.”

MSNBC will sell its own ads for insertion using Podbridge’s system. Podbridge also offers a podcast ad network with partners such as BBC and Clear Channel radio.

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