Earlier this year, Apple extended its mobile advertising network to iTunes Radio, its web streaming service that competes with Pandora, through programmatic ad buying. Previously, advertisers had to buy through Apple's lean iAd sales staff. The new feature comes with updated targeting capabilities, using customer phone numbers and email addresses that can be cross-referenced anonymously against marketers' data.
Last April, Apple extended Workbench, its buying tool for iAd, to non-developers and added video ads. It brought iAd to 70 new countries in October. Then in November, introduced automation, partnering with several programmatic ad-tech firms. Now it's taking Workbench and automation to audio, a development that will surely attract attention from platforms like Pandora and Spotify, who are closely watching Apple's moves in the music space. By lowering the buying threshold, Apple is trying to gain a stronger foothold in the digital audio ad market, which eMarketer expects to grow 28% this year to $2.8 billion.
Podcasts, too, are enjoying a moment in the sun thanks to the success of NPR's "Serial," which delves into a 1999 murder in Baltimore. "Serial" racked up nearly 72 million downloads since it began airing last fall, shattering all records. Overall, consumption of podcasts in the U.S. jumped 18% between spring and fall 2014, according to Edison Research. Americans now listen to roughly 21.1 million hours of podcasts daily. Podcasting has been an advertising backwater. A ZenithOptimedia report from June 2014 -- before "Serial" debuted -- said podcast ad spending would remain at $34 million annually through 2016. That's a small fraction of what marketers earmark for other media. Ad buyers and media executives say about 80% of the ads played during podcasts are direct-response, prompting listeners to visit a website or call a 1-800 number. Only 20% represents brand advertisers. But "Serial" has inspired these types of advertisers to take a second look at their budgets
PodcastOne, which aggregates and sells ads against more than 200 podcasts, got a competitor in Slate, which in February announced its own podcasting network, Panoply. Slate, the home of 15 podcasts with more than 6.5 million monthly downloads, is aiming to produce and promote podcasts for other media companies, celebrities and authors. It will also sell ads against those podcasts and share a cut of the revenue. The New York Times, Huffington Post, Real Simple magazine, WBUR in Boston and several others have signed on for Panoply.
If you are looking to dive into the streaming audio market, or if you have a streaming audio ad opportunity, get the word out on LookBook.