Panoply, the podcast network owned by digital publisher Slate, is launching a technology that will enable the company to track when and where people are listening to podcasts in an effort to sell more targeted advertising.

The company’s Megaphone software, which offers hosting, distribution, measurement and ad placement for podcasts, comes as the medium is surging in popularity with listeners and attracting interest from investors and advertisers.

The podcast advertising market in the US is relatively small — estimated to be worth about $100m by consumer pollster Edison Research and Triton Digital, an audio technology company. The radio industry draws about $17bn in advertising each year.

But user numbers are growing. About 46m Americans — 17 per cent of the over-12 population — listened to a podcast in the past month, up from 9 per cent in 2008, according to Edison.

By selling so-called dynamically inserted ads, whereby new ads are inserted into older podcasts, Panoply hopes it will be able to attract bigger budgets. This could enable car companies offering limited-time leasing deals, or movie studios looking to promote a new film, to target ads for limited runs in particular locations instead of sponsoring the entire season of a podcast.

“Producers can monetise shows as effectively as possible,” said Brendan Monaghan, Panoply chief executive.

Podcast ads are at present sold based on average or projected downloads per episode. But that is a rough metric for listenership, as not everyone who downloads an episode will play it. As users begin to shift from downloading podcasts to streaming, echoing the recent change in the music market publishers can see how much of a show — and its embedded ads — are heard.

“Our ambitions are to get more granular data, starting with what ads are actually served,” said Andy Bowers, Panoply’s chief content officer. “This is going to be a real improvement to what data advertisers can see.”

The company is using Megaphone for own its shows as well as those of its partners, including the Wall Street Journal. It is also licensing the platform to rival Gimlet Media, the US podcast network that recently raised $6m from Panoply owner Graham Holdings, the former owner of the Washington Post.

The launch points to Panoply’s ambitions to develop an enterprise business alongside its original identity as a podcast creator and distribution network. The company has formed an advertising division that creates entire shows for sponsors including General Electric, HBO and Netflix.

shannon.bond@ft.com
@shannonpareil
@FTMedia

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