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Digital Transformation Artificial Intelligence Podcast

From programmatic to AI: how is tech evolving podcasting?

By Catherine Cribbin, Head of partnerships



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September 26, 2023 | 5 min read

The podcast industry is embracing AI and programmatic buying for enhanced engagement – all the while striving to maintain the authenticity of host-listener relationships. For The Drum’s Deep Dive into The Media Convergence, IAB UK turn to their members to ask about the influence of technology in the podcasting landscape.

A phone with headphones playing a podcast influenced by AI technology, next to a cup of coffee

As the podcast market continues to grow – with spend up 32% in 2022 – how is the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and uptake of programmatic buying changing what’s possible for audio advertisers? Members of IAB UK’s Audio Group look at the benefits of evolving technology, as well as acknowledging the balance needed to maintain the authenticity and high-quality environment podcasting offers.

Improved ways to connect with listeners

Simon Kilby, (MD, Bauer Media Advertising): “Innovation allows us to push boundaries when it comes to content and our advertising offering. We can add new layers of audience engagement, through smart speaker interactions, personalized experiences and generated content. By utilizing the technology available, we’re providing a better service and improved ways to connect with listeners, presenters and brands. But whilst we continue to look forward, we always remember that our USP as an industry is the humanity at our core.”

Authenticty is key

Jemma Findlay, (commercial podcast manager, News Broadcasting): “AI will have several cost efficiency benefits creatively, with campaign set up elements such as host reads and ad delivery becoming seamless and hopefully authentic for the listener. However, the latter point is key, the real value in podcasting is the authenticity of the host-listener relationship and the genuine 1-2-1 experience so if the consumer feels it's unnatural in any way, then this would undermine the power of podcast sponsorships. AI will also play a big part in the distribution of podcasts into international markets by removing language barriers, but again, authenticity is key.”

Programmatic has enabled more creativity

Craig Eastwood, (commercial operations director, Adelicious): “Programmatic campaigns have undoubtedly changed the podcasting industry, enabling more creativity for host-read and branded integration campaigns as programmatic is the foundation of publishers' revenue. It also allows advertisers flexibility and the opportunity to optimize their campaigns, which in turn leads to more investment. When it comes to AI, we have already seen improved opportunities from inclusion of the technology – using it to monitor our podcast's brand safety and suitability. The AI considers the context of the conversation rather than just highlighting key words. This allows advertisers the opportunity to explore a wider selection of podcast titles with reassurance.”

Use AI to draw the listener closer to the podcast

Charlotte Plant, (client services director, Radio Experts): “Programmatic audio overall gives its advertisers a unique opportunity to reach an engaged audience. When it comes to podcast spot advertising and host read campaigns, the main objective should be to connect with the audience. Ads that are re-purposed from radio or music streaming shouldn’t be used in podcasts as they will grate with the listener and force them to skip. If the rise of AI is used to enhance a campaign and draw the listener closer to the podcast and the advertiser then we will firmly support the evolution, but it should not be used as a way to cheapen what is a highly engaging audio platform that people love to listen to.”

Measurement remains a challenge

Patrick Dolan, (activation director, the7stars): “Podcasts have historically been bought by vertical; identifying and seeking out podcasters that share a passion with a brand. However, this has broadened recently with podcasts often covering wider conversation topics, rather than focusing solely on niche passion points. The programmatic buying approach has allowed us to align with this and target consumers on a broader level with demographic triggers. This approach allows us to target at scale reaching podcasts without the huge costs of buying a full vertical or audience. The one barrier however is measurement and how we can effectively define uplift or sales from podcasting.”

Additional technology to realise AI’s full benefit

Richard Williams, (commercial director, AMA): “AI is undoubtedly a powerful tool that can help advertisers, but it often requires additional technology to realise the true benefit. For example, AI is already being used in content recognition, such as keyword targeting that identifies topics within a podcast episode. Advertisers should combine this insight with tech that allows them to serve bespoke messages based on that same data. Similarly, whilst synthetic voice AI lets brands create thousands of unique audio ads in seconds, advertisers should consider how those different versions can be deployed at scale across multiple podcast networks.”

Digital Transformation Artificial Intelligence Podcast

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