Podcast Ad Hype Spawns Many Upstarts

Audible’s podcast advertising platform isn’t the only such play to appear in the last several days.

It’s just the only one to get much notice.

Nearly half a dozen other companies also made their entrance into this nascent market — so problematic yet so promising — during or immediately following the Portable Media Expo in Ontario, Calif. last week.

The multiple launches include new audience measurement, ad insertion and media representation services for audio producers — and for the marketers who want to tap their audiences.

A company called Podtrac debuted a set of third party audience measurement tools, complete with demographic profiles and content ratings. An entrant called RadioTail announced it would create a podcast ad network, which it’s promoting to users with the tagline “Sell out big time.” In the same vein is CastFire, which promises “highly targeted and unobtrusive” ads in podcasts. San Diego-based Podvertiser also had a presence at the show. That company, whose placeholder Web site offers the slogan “Simplifying Podcast Advertising,” will launch in 2006.

Some pre-existing companies also signaled intentions around podcast marketing services. Swiss company ADS-click on Monday said it would get involved in advertising in the portable audio environment, but didn’t roll out a product. Kiptronics, which earlier this year began helping podcasters exchange promos, also promised future ad services.

All these launches were drowned out by news of a product from Audible that will track podcast audiences and even ad impressions within individual audio files. Audible’s move has proven controversial, triggering a spurt of invective from technologist bloggers like Dave Winer and Om Malik, who dislike the company’s proprietary .AA format for its user tracking and DRM properties.

Despite the outcry of these individuals, several of whom oppose any advertising in podcasts, the platform will likely resonate with audio producers who wish to monetize their content.

For the smattering of smaller companies now launching podcast ad products, Audible’s marketing heft and business maturity are intimidating. But these upstarts are also optimistic that the market will hold a place for them.

“Audible wants to provide the whole… puzzle from start to finish,” said Jonathan Cobb, CEO of Kiptronics. “That’s going to appeal to some people, but the history of the Internet shows people like to mix and match. It’s very early.”

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