Mail… kimp? Why Podcast Ads Just Got Hot As S-Town

Apple’s WWDC announcement is a win for podcasters and advertisers.

“Go to mailchimp dot com and use promo code american.” If you’ve ever heard a podcast ad, chances are you’ve heard a line like that: the podcast host or somebody else reads a bit of ad copy, and then invites you to visit the website (Casper, Blue Apron, Squarespace, most likely). And then they tell you to use a specific promo code, like “serial” or “replyall” when you pay.


The simple answer is analytics — or the lack thereof. These promo codes are a method for attribution, a way that advertisers can tell that you heard the ad for Harry’s razor’s on Reply All, and as a consequence of that ad you purchased their product.

The reason these Direct Response ads are so widespread on podcasts is that, frankly, they’re the only option advertisers have to track how well their ad campaigns are performing.

A brand advertiser tries to calculate the ROI of his podcast ads.

This is something that we’ve been working on at Pippa over the last year: developing smarter ways for advertisers and podcasters to understand listeners and monetize content. We’ve been working with a relatively small tool kit, hacking into RSS standards and other paleolithic protocols. But last week Apple added some arrows to our quiver, and we’re pretty excited about it.

Apple’s little big podcast announcement

Last week’s WWDC (Apple’s annual developer conference) had a little big something in store for podcasts: a new standard for delivering podcasts to the Apple Podcasts app on iOS. Specifically, Apple promises to open up the black box (at least a little bit) and provide podcasters with analytics indicating how listeners are consuming podcasts — including when they listen, which parts they skip, and where they are listening from.

It’s not often that Apple devotes this kind of airtime to podcasts, and we felt it merited a moment of reflection.

Why is this a big deal?

Although this shift is not really something that listeners will notice, the impact behind the scenes — on podcasters and advertisers — is resoundingly significant.

Gimlet’s Matt Lieber (bubble tea) weighs in

In addition to the benefit to podcasters, there are clearly knock-on benefits to advertisers too. Nick Quah, one of the sharpest and most prolific writers covering podcasts, says:

With this announcement, that measurement issue — long articulated as the defining problem of the medium — can finally be meaningfully interrogated, with many believing that the hurdle impeding advertisers from committing more dollars to the space can be thrown out the window.

Improved analytics will draw in more advertisers, especially larger, more established brands which require more robust reporting for their ad buys. Apple’s proposed changes here lend a sense of clarity to those who still need to get comfortable with an emerging truth: podcasts are not only massively entertaining, but massively profitable. And the more ad dollars flow into podcasts, the more content creators can afford to make high quality, valuable, entertaining, inspiring programming.

What does this mean for podcasts, advertisers, and Pippa?

At Pippa, we’ve built a podcast ad marketplace: Podcasters upload their shows to our platform, advertisers browse our marketplace for the shows and audience they want to reach, and Pippa delivers the content with fresh, dynamic, targeted ads to listeners.

So this means we’ve been banging this drum for as long as we’ve been around: podcasters want and deserve better analytics, a clearer way to understand their audience; and advertisers rightly demand more detailed reports of how their campaigns are performing. Apple’s proposal is a determined step in the right direction.

Some may say that it’s too little too late: Apple has been resting on its laurels, squandering its favorable position — and perhaps forgetting about the podcasting community altogether (see the New York Times article Podcasts Surge, but Producers Fear Apple Isn’t Listening). After all, Apple has enjoyed about a 70% ownership of the podcast player space for years: having the native podcasts app built into the iPhone has helped them preserve this position, even as other apps have offered more advanced features.

But we take a more favorable view of the matter. It’s frankly fantastic to see an important player like Apple recognize the value of podcasts and the pain points in the industry. And there’s no question that this announcement is good news for us at Pippa: we’re able to deliver an even better product to podcasters and advertisers on an accelerated timeline.

We’ve been thrilled to see the podcast space start to get more of the attention it deserves. But it’s still nascent. Up until last year, Apple was the only major tech player with a podcast player app. Since then, they’ve been joined by giants: Google Play Music, Spotify, and Audible (an Amazon company) have all made their own podcast player apps.

Apple’s move at WWDC cements this recent trend and reaffirms the guiding assumptions of our business: podcasts are an important medium, they’re here to stay, and improved analytics are critical to their sustained growth. Now, with better data more widely available, it’s time to take them to the next level.

Got a podcast? Thinking of starting one? Pippa is the simplest, smartest way to do it.