New Association of Downloadable Media Brings Standards to 'Podvertising'
Despite the fact that we're an increasingly visually-oriented society, (e.g. YouTube) audio still has a place in our hearts and minds, not to mention ears. Perhaps it's because our daily commute grows longer, or it might best be explained by the proliferation — from iPods to iPhones — of personal media devices. While the recording industry is on life support; "terrestrial" radio, while still a cash cow, is struggling; and the future of Internet radio is in doubt; (7-12-07) podcasting is doing very well. In the last year, Arbitron/Edison Media Research found that awareness of the new medium among all Americans had vaulted from 22 to 37 percent. But even with this growing recognition, the needle of actual listenership has only moved from 11 to 13 percent (but within stalking distance of satellite radio, it should be noted).
The opportunity to tap into an engaged and loyal customer base (that eMarketer identified as most welcoming to advertisers compared to RSS, blogs, and instant messengering) was not lost on Susan Bratton, founder and CEO of Personal Life Media, Inc. Bratton, an original member of the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), knew first-hand the importance standards can serve an emerging industry. But it was during an interview with Joseph Jaffe (for her podcast, DishyMix) in which he suggested the need for a podcast advertising bureau that the lightbulb went off. This past May, Bratton convened a gathering of fifteen companies to discuss the strategic direction of the podcasting industry, with a focus on creating standards for audience measurement and advertising. By the end of the three-hour meeting they unanimously agreed to form the Association of Downloadable Media (ADM).
It has been oft-touted that the advertising market for podcasting will quintuple from $80 million to $400 million by 2011. But given the slow growth of actual listenership, publications including BusinessWeek have branded podcasting as a non-starter. There are early examples of both failure and success. Earthlink made early, derided podcast ad buys on Adam Curry's Daily Source Code, while Porter Novelli client Dixie (Georgia-Pacific) found a perfect fit in its sponsorship of MommyCast, having just re-upped for another year.
Research from two surveys conducted via makeitadixieday.com and MommyCast.com during fall of 2006 identified sixty-five percent of MommyCast listeners as Netfluencers, as compared to five percent in the general population. As Netfluencers, or maven-connectors, seventy-seven percent knew that MommyCast had a corporate sponsor and of those, ninety-three percent correctly identified Dixie as that sponsor. Sixty-five percent of listeners recommended the podcast to an average 29 friends or family; one quarter of respondents downloaded and emailed the show to an average of 69 people. In brief, these loyal listeners email and recommend not only the show, but Dixie products as well.
There is a misconception that one needs an MP3 player to tap into podcasts, and the explosion of the mobile industry can only benefit podcasting. ADM co-founder Chris MacDonald, EVP of Business Development and Operations at LibSyn reasons: "Podcasting and other downloadable media delivery mechanisms are uniquely positioned to exploit this growing area. We believe that while there is still a lot of desktop consumption occurring now and in the future, the new developments in rich media devices in the pocket present extremely exciting monetization opportunities. The trick will be to address the various needs of consumers, producers, advertisers and vested industries to come up with a reliable, consistent and replicable model from a business standpoint."
While the sky is the limit for mobile, listenership in traditional radio continues to spiral. MacDonald reads these tea leaves as a boon for podcasting: "The decline of traditional radio can be used as a legitimate set of data points to help indicate that consumers are not satisfied with terrestrial radio's offering. Moreover podcasting, which is all about serial, discrete, often "bite size" content, tends to sate new appetites for right-now and just-in-time or on-demand, particularly mobile media consumption. We see podcasting augmenting and enriching options for users who know about the benefits of downloadable media, and choose to take advantage of them."
Amidst an ongoing debate between CPMs versus flat fee pricing, the ADM intends to be agnostic, supporting a view that there are legitimate use cases for either pricing strategy. While there's been a rumor about Google creating an AdSense for podcasting, members of ADM could not comment on its strategy but welcomed efforts across the "Podosphere." To that end, ADM has embraced MacDonald's Open Metrics Initiative as part of its efforts to measure podcast performance and audience demographics.
Podcasting epitomizes the inevitable paradigm shift toward user-generated content where users have complete control. ADM recognizes that as the sector grows, and it includes RSS, ATOM, peer-to-peer and mobile among its media mix, that it will need to monetize to sustain itself and that new ad/sponsorship models must be developed that are tailor-made for the medium.
It's been estimated that there are some eighty-five thousand podcasts on iTunes alone, and counting. As a nascent organization ADM is currently embarking on a membership drive through this summer with Apple spearheading that effort. It is currently accepting nominations for its executive and advisory boards and will staff five committees for a total of thirty open seats. This charter board will have its first meeting at the September Podcast and New Media Expo. Whether or not the Podosphere realizes the ambitious projections for its growth, it won't become a mass medium any time soon. That said, it is a highly-targeted niche that has yet to be leveraged by brands. Advertisers, beckons Bratton, "should come to podcasts, not the other way around."