Feb. 4, 2021

Industry Expert Examines The Changes In Podcast Advertising

Industry Expert Examines The Changes In Podcast Advertising

Tom Webster is the SVP of Edison Research and has been podcasting’s lead analyst for 15 years. He is the principal author of The Podcast Consumer, Edison’s annual look at podcast listeners' demographics and habits. He is the co-author of The Infinite Dial from...

Tom Webster is the SVP of Edison Research and has been podcasting’s lead analyst for 15 years. He is the principal author of The Podcast Consumer Edison’s annual look at podcast listeners' demographics and habits. He is the co-author of The Infinite Dial from Edison and Triton Digital.

Tom joins the podcast today to talk about changes in the podcast ad space and what holds many marketers and media buyers back from taking on the marketing channel.

He also discusses why time is a key factor in proving podcast advertising's success and why he is an advocate for all types of podcast ads. 

You can join his newsletter or follow him on Twitter for more insights. 

If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe to hear more insights from industry experts.

You can also reach me at heather@truenativemedia.com.


This transcript is unedited.


[00:00:29]Heather Osgood: [00:00:29] Hello and welcome to the Podcast Advertising Playbook. I'm your host, Heather Osgood. And I am pleased to be joined today by kind of a superstar in the podcast space. Yep. Before I got into this space, Tom Webster was probably one of the first faces that I saw in one of his presentations. So I feel very lucky to be interviewing Tom today. Tom, welcome to the program.

[00:00:53] Tom Webster: [00:00:53] Thank you. I don't know if I'm a superstar or not. I hope that the the space has outgrown me a little bit. Let's say.

[00:01:00] [00:00:59] Heather Osgood: [00:00:59] Tom, part of Edison Research and Edison Research really has created the benchmark for any sort of study within the podcast space. You guys have been doing it for a really long time and. In my opinion, when we're looking at, Hey, we want information about where the podcast space has been, where it is headed. We look to Edison research. So I was hoping you could tell people just a little bit about the company?

[00:01:24]Tom Webster: [00:01:24] The thing we're most known for is the sole providers of exit poll data and vote count data for the the major news networks. So if you watched any of the major news networks on election night, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and so on all of that data coming in at the precinct level and exit polling data that actually all comes from us. And I don't work on that a lot because there's some really smart people on that.

[00:01:48] So I get to do the podcast stuff. No I work on it on everything, obviously at Edison. But in terms of our work on the podcast side of things, we've been really at our heart and audio research company since we were [00:02:00] founded in 1994. In 1998, we started a yearly survey, which which we call the infinite dial.

[00:02:05] And it's been basically the longest running study of media consumption and consumer habits with media in America. And it's been running since 1998. We added podcasting to it back in 2005. And that's really been when we first started tracking the medium. And since then, we've added podcasting to share of ear, which is our quarterly study of kind of all things audio. And then we have a number of specific podcasting products for subscribers basically. 

[00:02:32] Heather Osgood: [00:02:32] So you have, I know I have listened to many infinite dial presentations. I didn't realize the share of ear comes out quarterly. Is it just a bit of an update that you do on a quarterly basis? Because you only do, but because share of ear is part of the infinite dial, correct?

[00:02:48] Tom Webster: [00:02:48] No, it's actually a separate study. So infinite dial comes out once a year and that we give that away essentially. And that's a survey course of all things audio and other kinds of media. And then share of ear [00:03:00] is really a subscription product that we put together back in 2014, to answer a question that we get a lot at Edison, which is basically, how do you compare things like AM/FM radio to podcasting, to satellite radio, in terms of how much time that we spend listening to each of them?

[00:03:16]And they're all measured in different ,ways, right? AM/FM radio is  measured by PPM digital system from Nielsen. You have podcast measured by downloads. You have satellite radio as subscribers are, they're all measured differently. So we divide share a year as a massive brute force project, basically to measure them all on the same scale.

[00:03:36] Heather Osgood: [00:03:36] I see. That makes total sense. And I see the need for that because I have looked at that before, and it has occurred to me that obviously they are all measured very differently. And so essentially what you're doing by creating that is creating some equality so that you have this opportunity to compare data,

[00:03:54] Tom Webster: [00:03:54] right?

[00:03:55] Yeah, exactly. And really with with infinite dial, most of what we're [00:04:00] measuring is essentially the percentage of humans that have done such a thing. Percentage of humans that have listened to a podcast in the last month or the last week was share of ear, we're measuring time. We spend about four hours every day on average listening to some kind of audio and share of ear really parcels out what percentage of that four hours typically goes to the various forms of audio. It turns out if you're a podcast listener, it's more like six hours a day. So podcasts listeners listen to a lot more audio than the average human. But we're looking at any form of audio books, even the music channels that are at the end of your cable package on TV. Any, if you can listen to it, we measure it.

[00:04:37] Heather Osgood: [00:04:37] And I know we're talking about podcasts, but I am a huge audio book listener. And really for me, I started with podcast and then I was like, Oh, Hey, I should probably check out the audio book space. And now I just feel like I'm addicted because you can listen at one and a half or two times speed,you can really just get through that. And so I'm curious when you look at audio books, because I don't know, I listened to a 14 hour long book last [00:05:00] week, but I didn't listen to 14 hours cause I had it on, I think it was one and a half speed. But I'm curious, do you see an increase in time spent listening to audio books because the content is so much longer form?

[00:05:13] Tom Webster: [00:05:13] No, it's interesting because audio book consumption is in some ways there's a bit of a, certainly a Venn diagram between podcasts listeners and audio book consumers. And there's a lot of overlap, I think, between the two. Everybody, whether you're a primarily an audio book listener, or primarily a podcast listener, you have the same containers in your day to stick audio in. If you're a commuter, however long that commute is, is a container that, that you stick audio in. And that could be one podcast, multiple podcasts, a chapter in an audio book. So that's really the thing that's consistent from listener to listener.

[00:05:48] Heather Osgood: [00:05:48] And I'm curious, what do you think has really prompted this increase in spoken word content? Because when I look back, just at the history of audio, obviously prior [00:06:00] to the TV, lots of people listen to radio, right? They would, all families would sit around and listen to the radio. And then I know when I look back at my career, starting in radio ad sales, I loved AM radio, but everybody thought I was crazy because they were like, Hey, you're in early twenties listening to AM talk radio. Why are you doing that? And to me, it just was more interesting than listening to music. But I'm curious, at that time it didn't seem like spoken audio was really a big thing. It was just kinda in the background. It seemed like older people listened to it, but now there's a huge increase. And I'm curious if you know why that is?

[00:06:36]Tom Webster: [00:06:36] I have some theories a lot of it's just pent up demand. The period of time that you're talking about that you listen to a lot of talk radio, frankly, used to be better. Most of commercial broadcast radio today, 80% of it's music and most of what is spoken word on for that remaining 20%, as far as radio stations, a lot of it is syndicated programming it's right off the satellite.

[00:06:57]So there aren't actually so many [00:07:00] voices in terms of the main commercial broadcast radio offerings, and so commercial broadcast radio, I think has seeded some of that territory simply because they've lost the muscle memory for it. You still have that muscle memory in public radio. That's why public media has been such a really a breeding ground for talent, not just in the public sphere, but outside of it, people leaving public media to go to more commercial podcast entities. And I think it's really more getting that muscle memory back. Cause I think there's always been pent up demand. It just turns out that at the broadcast level, it's really expensive content to produce. It's much cheaper to put on a song. Sure. But when you start to change the scale of things with podcasting and things like that, then it becomes more economically viable to satisfy that demand. But I think that demand has always been there.

[00:07:49] Heather Osgood: [00:07:49] Yeah. That's a really interesting perspective. And I totally agree with you because I used to listen to all of the local AM talk shows because I that's what I was interested in. And I would listen to some syndicated, but the syndicated [00:08:00] programs didn't feel like they have the same level of connection, and what podcasts have really brought for us is this level of connection where we feel like we have the ability to select the shows that we want that interest us. And, yeah, so that, that's really interesting. As we look at the growth in podcasting, it always, to me seems really interesting that, they came about in 2005 or 2004.

[00:08:27]And then it seemed they didn't really go anywhere. And I know for myself, I download a couple of podcasts when it was back, like download, download this to your MP3. And it just felt like such a big pain in the butt that I was like, I'm never doing that again. Obviously, when you get an iPhone or a smartphone and you have an app, listening is so much easier.

[00:08:46] Is that the reason in your opinion, why podcasts have really taken off in the last, like five to six years? 

[00:08:52]Tom Webster: [00:08:52] I think there's a couple major reasons. And one of them certainly is I would, I'd put it down to three things. Number one, technology [00:09:00] that friction required to listen to a podcast is much less than it was back in 2005. Back in 2005, you had to download the show and then sync it to an iPod, which for your younger listeners. It was like an iPhone that didn't call anybody. And so that's what you had to listen to podcasts on. And it was a bit cumbersome, right? So the tech is much better. Number two and related to that, I think distribution is improved. And I know a veteran podcast or someone who's been in the space would say you could always listen to any podcast.

[00:09:29] Yeah. But that's different. And not quite the same thing as a large streaming platform like Spotify, let's say promoting and highlighting that content, which is newer. So that distribution angle. And then the third thing, and this really has come with increase venture capital and other investment in this space. The anticipation of a return on that investment means that there's been a lot of real mass appeal content that's been created, a lot of the early content for podcasts. You go back to 2004, 2005, it was like two [00:10:00] dudes talking about a router. And that's different now. And it was true crime and entertainment and everything else.

[00:10:04] The content has gotten broader and more I would say mass appeal and that's not to denigrate what podcasters did in the mid two thousands, but it was certainly a more narrow. So those three things, I think technology, distribution, and broad content really what's happened in the last three to four years.

[00:10:21] Heather Osgood: [00:10:21] Yeah. I totally agree with you. And one of the things that I find so fascinating about podcasting is that, I think we often feel like podcasts maybe are more popular than they actually are. And part of the reason is that when you live in this podcast sphere, you around everyone who loves podcasts. And one of the things that I tell people on a fairly regular basis is that really only 30 to 40% of the U S population actively listen to podcasts, which means there's a whole bunch of people who aren't actually listening to podcasts. Yes, maybe they have at one point listened to a show, but listening to a podcast over the course of a year [00:11:00] doesn't necessarily really help support the industry.

[00:11:03] I think that there are certain people who really are attracted to podcasts and certain people who don't. And I'm always shocked by the number of people who don't seem like they're interested in podcasts because, to me, I feel like how could you not be interested? But some people just really don't like the format of podcasting.

[00:11:21] As we have obviously seen a huge growth in listenership over the last several years, do you expect that will change or in your opinion, are there always just going to be people who are like, Hey, I'm really not interested in spoken word content. Do you think that there's like a ceiling that we're going to hit where, Hey, we've got like the, let's say we get to 40, 50% penetration and we're like, that's it. There's not really much more that we can get in terms of listenership.

[00:11:46] Tom Webster: [00:11:46] Yeah, there's definitely a ceiling. And I'm, I'm not going to tell you what that number is, but I can tell you what some of the parameters around that number are. The first is the desire to listen, to spoken word content, which is not universal.

[00:11:57]That's it, that might cap off [00:12:00] at two thirds of the country that really has an appetite for spoken word. So you can lop off a third of the population roughly or maybe 30% there who just really aren't into spoken word content. Maybe they're younger, maybe they just don't care. And then you've got a percentage of the population that are aware of podcasts and maybe have tried them, but just haven't found the one that they like and so they've, it's not worth continuing to try. And then I think you also have a percentage of the population that they're getting what they need from other sources. They're getting what they need from maybe public radio, or maybe they're getting what they need from sports radio.

[00:12:34] It doesn't really matter. But there's not a need that podcasts are filling that they don't perceive being filled by some other form of spoken word audio. It doesn't mean that's, quote unquote, correct. Cause the listener is always correct. You can't. You can't tell someone that they need to listen to podcasts.

[00:12:52] Heather Osgood: [00:12:52] Yeah, I totally agree. And I guess I'm just so interested to find out where that ceiling is and when that hits [00:13:00] and it's so much fun to be part of this kind of wild ride is what it feels like to me in the podcast space, where we have so much growth and all of the acquisitions that have happened.

[00:13:09] Think it's all still really, it feels to me like it's still in its infancy, but I think that there is. There is a top, there is a cap. And when we reach that, yeah I guess that's yet to be determined, but it'll be interesting to see what happens to the industry if, and when we reach that.

[00:13:25] Tom Webster: [00:13:25] You look at something like Twitter and we've tracked Twitter really since its inception back in the, again not too far beyond the mid two thousands. And I think someone asked me the same question and the first few years that Twitter was really exploding. Did I think there was a cap on it? And there's absolutely a cap on it because there's a cap, I think, on the percentage of people who want to share their opinions with people, they don't know. And I think lo and behold we've hit that cap. Twitter usage in terms of number of users, it's not really grown appreciably in the last four or five years. It doesn't mean it's not important. Doesn't mean it's not part of the zeitgeists of society, [00:14:00] but you do hit a point. All media hits a point where it's just all ashore who's going ashore, unless something significant changes.

[00:14:07] I don't think we're there with podcasting yet, but there is certainly a cap.

[00:14:11] Heather Osgood: [00:14:11] Yeah. Yeah. That's really interesting to think about now. I wanted to ask you, I feel one of the things that's been really nice about all the studies that Edison research does is that you ask the same questions year after year. And obviously that gives you a really good benchmark to say Hey, this was the response last year and the year before and the year before. But I was curious at what point do you decide that a new survey question is important enough that you add it in, even though you're not going to have the benchmarks to compare it to from prior years?

[00:14:39]Tom Webster: [00:14:39] Certain things we don't monkey with at all. We will, we spend an awful lot of time. We spend weeks and weeks crafting the questionnaire. We spend weeks figuring out how to weight the data after we've collected it. There's hundreds and hundreds of man hours that are put into things like the infinite dial. We may add new questions. We may rest questions and that's something that we do from time to time. We might say, you know what? This is not [00:15:00] a question we need to ask every year. We'll bring it back and see how it's changed in five years or, but here's the thing when you're doing a tracking trending study, like we are, if you change a question, then you can throw trending out the window. And we can, we've seen very minor changes, have very major impact. So we take that questionnaire pretty seriously. We try to get it right the first time. 

[00:15:21] Yeah.

[00:15:22] Heather Osgood: [00:15:22] I was thinking about how interesting that is, because yeah, to your point, you don't have to change the question a whole lot to change the answer and it's great that you do the study. It's even more valuable in my opinion, that you're looking at trending because that isn't something that you can just pick up tomorrow, anybody could go out and study a podcast listener, but to have that trending is so incredibly valuable. And I'm wondering from your perspective, as you're looking through a study, like the infinite dial, do you feel like there are more important questions and what questions or answers do you think that, that is especially looking at it from an advertising [00:16:00] perspective. Let's say an advertising as an advertiser is looking at the infinite dial, trying to decide, where maybe they should play some of their media dollars. Are there certain questions that are more important for them to consider?

[00:16:11]Tom Webster: [00:16:11] With the infinite dial, we're really producing again, a survey course and where we're really just tracking the mass movements of Americans.

[00:16:18]But we're, we have all kinds of studies that we produce, some of which that have advertisers and advertising. Specifically in mind, we put out a study. At the, in the beginning of December, actually the second annual edition of something we call the super listener study, which is a study that's very specific to podcast advertising.

[00:16:35]We put that out with our partners at Ad Results Media and PodcastOne. And that's a look at how podcasts quote unquote, super listeners, the people who listened to more than five hours of podcasts every week, feel about advertising. Are there too many ads? Are they relevant? How do they compare to the ads that they hear in other media?

[00:16:54]We're constantly trying to address all of the various constituencies and [00:17:00] stakeholders in things like podcasting. It may not all be done in the infinite dial. But that said the infinite dial is the basis for everything that we do, because it is it's sampled using really the gold standard in survey research, which is a very painstaking process of telephone research.

[00:17:16]At this point, mostly mobile, which is very expensive to do because it's in order to make it projectable and nationally representative, you have to be able to interview everybody. And in equal measures. So we spend a lot of money on the infinite dial, being able to get those kinds of baseline metrics for demographics and usage.

[00:17:34] And we're able to use that information then to wait and calibrate everything else that we do so that we can be pretty sure that even for a study, that's not part of the infinite dial. It's based on the demographic information that we obtain in the infinite dial, so we can wait it to be as projectable as it can be.

[00:17:51]Heather Osgood: [00:17:51] Right. That makes a ton of sense. Um, So I'm curious, one of the things that we talk about a lot is that [00:18:00] one of the big issues in podcasting is not having enough data. And certainly as someone that is out there trying to sell podcast advertising day in, day out, that is a question that gets asked constantly. The attribution softwares, I think have helped immensely. And I'm really interested to see how all of those, platforms play out. But where, what do you think is the issue with data within the podcast space? And I guess I'm curious, do you feel like Edison research plays a role in that?

[00:18:30]Tom Webster: [00:18:30] I have opinions here. Uh, We play a very major role in this because we do a significant number of brand lift studies every year. We constantly have brand lift studies in the field for brand advertisers in the space. Podcasting really got its start in terms of advertising with direct response advertising. And you're very familiar with this, I know Heather. Enter this code or use this link and  the advertiser gets credit for that. And that works great. If you're selling underwear or mattresses, it's a transactional thing. Doesn't work so great if you're selling insurance or [00:19:00] cars.

[00:19:00] And, that's really the newer money that has gotten into the space. And so to address that we do dozens and dozens of brand lift studies every year where we're measuring the impact of a campaign before and after that campaign has run. So that data is starting to get out there and starting to be produced. And, the one thing I would say to people who questioned the data that, that podcasting throws up. I would suggest that there's a lot more and a lot better data in podcasting than there is in either TV or radio. TV and radio are based entirely on estimates from small samples from Nielsen and advertising has been transacted on those for decades.

[00:19:39]And with podcasting, you get all of this. You get all of that. If you want, you get demographic information and behavioral information based on survey estimates, like we produce with our podcast consumer tracker and our brand lift studies. Plus you also get the server based, download information that kind of census level data that radio and TV have never been able to give you.

[00:19:59] So I [00:20:00] think podcasting gives you a really superb data. It gives you better data than a lot of other media gives you .  And the reluctance, I think, to transact with the data that podcasting gives you is as much a fear of change. Or a fear of the unknown, or I don't think it's to do with data as much, because I think, again, the data that we are getting from podcasting now is superior to the data that we get from TV and radio. And sometimes I think it gets unfairly compared to things like display online, display advertising like a banner ad. Yes. I know that I've served X million number of banner ads. And I can say that 1% of them were clicked on, but nobody in the banner ad business can tell you how many of them were ignored.

[00:20:44]So that data is not perfect either. I think podcasting data is pretty good.

[00:20:49] Heather Osgood: [00:20:49] It's so interesting to hear your response to that because I totally agree. And it trips me out so much that, here I have been my whole career selling traditional [00:21:00] advertising sources and I understand that digital marketers are so used to so much information. And I think we hit a wall a lot where they're like, wait a minute, like, how come I can't get all this information, but yet, like you said, TV and radio sell like crazy, and we don't have any of the information from TV or radio and I think I've had the conversation many times, even on this podcast, many times, about where does podcast fall?

[00:21:29] Is it an offline medium? Is it an online medium? And I do feel like in some ways it feels like podcast advertising has a bit of an identity crisis, because people want to put us in the digital space because we are digital, right. And they expect that, Hey,  we're entitled to all of this rich data, and yet you're spending three fourths of your budget over here on these things that are, not providing you any data at all. And that's okay. And it just seems so ironic [00:22:00] to me that's the case. The only conclusion I can come to as to why brands aren't more interested in getting involved in podcasting is because it's just, when you're looking at those dollars that they're spending on TV and radio, they've been doing that for many years.

[00:22:15] And so really changing is the hard part. I don't even really think it's the medium. I just think it's the change. So you've got these digital marketers and then you've got the offline marketers and they all have their separate budgets. And they don't know where to put podcasts. And I feel like that's part of the reason we don't get more advertisers.

[00:22:32] Would you agree with that?

[00:22:34] Tom Webster: [00:22:34] Yeah. And I think, it's been from early days, it's been sold as a digital medium because that's, that was its conception, I think. But if you sell podcasting solely as a digital medium, if you're looking at impressions and things like that, then it's always going to be found wanting, compared to display ads. It's, number one, because display ads are going to give you that census level data of impressions and clicks. And if you reduce podcasting to that, then [00:23:00] podcasting is display advertising with a very high CPM. But what podcasts really can do, and this from your own work, Heather is they're extremely influential.

[00:23:08]Banner ad is not influential. A banner ad telling me to try a product is going to have marginal success. A host I know love and trust, asking me, if I would check out a product that's worth a little bit more than an impression, I think. And so you can't just measure it digitally. You have to measure it not digitally, which is certainly a lot of what we do at Edison, because that's the only way you're really going to be able to, I think, recognize and extract the real value of podcast advertising from especially brand advertisers.

[00:23:37] Heather Osgood: [00:23:37] I agree. And I don't think that as an industry, we do a good enough job selling podcast advertising as influencer marketing. Realistically, that's what we're selling. We're selling these influencers. And when someone that you, like you said, know like, and trust is talking about your product, right? That is worth far more than all of the other advertising purchases that people are making, in social and even paid search, [00:24:00] I think.

[00:24:00] And it's really, for us as an industry, it's communicating that clearly enough. Communicating that value and living out that value with advertisers so that they can trust the medium. And it is something that, as it grows in popularity, so many more people are interested in it, but it is our job as an industry to figure out how we can show that value correctly, so that people want to buy into it. And I have nothing against programmatic ad buying. I think it has its place. I think that it is an important part of the overall industry and helping us reach our goals. But I also do think that it's unfortunate that it cuts out that influencer piece that makes us unique.

[00:24:41] And I think as an industry, we need to hold onto that host read ad because. It really is the only differentiator. And if we want to continue to grow as an industry, we need to have that differentiator. Um, Yeah. Is that something you agree with?

[00:24:55]Tom Webster: [00:24:55] I think what I would say is I'm for all of the ways that podcasters can make [00:25:00] money. And  yes, a live host read ad that is a passionate plea from someone, you know, love and trust for a product is worth a premium. And I think that's what a lot of media buyers and podcasts networks, they treat that as a premium.  But then there's this other class of advertisers, right?

[00:25:16]Let's say Geico, and if Geico wants to spend money on podcasts, you're going to have to take the gecko. They spend a lot of money on the gecko. You're going to take the gecko. And you probably don't know better than Geico when it comes to their demographics and the effectiveness of their advertising, because they've spent more money figuring that out than you have, if you're a podcast or even a podcast network. And so if you accept that proposition, that if you, if that, if you want Geico dollars. Then you have to take the gecko. Then you have to have all of those options available for you, programmatic, host read. So I would say the only thing I advocate for is choice and a full understanding of the differential effectiveness, because I think the mistake you could make is to think host read ads, incredibly [00:26:00] effective prerecorded radio style spots, not effective at all.

[00:26:03] They're not as effective. They're also not sold for as much money. So it's a range  and it gives people options. And I think that's the answer to providing a robust, sustainable revenue platform that podcasts can grow on. Yeah.

[00:26:18] Heather Osgood: [00:26:18] Yeah. you know, Just getting back to the attribution piece and the data piece, what is your opinion on the role that these attribution companies are playing? Do you think that the information that they're providing is useful, do you think that it's accurate? What's your take on it?

[00:26:35]Tom Webster: [00:26:35] It's one way to crack the nut, right? It's again, it's not information that you get from things like television and radio. I think Facebook and Google have ruined a generation of marketers to expect that you get this incredibly invasive level of data about your customers. The level of data that Facebook has about you, for example, and that Facebook is selling to advertisers is as [00:27:00] unparalleled.

[00:27:01] And so I think there are there are buyers who expect that anything they buy is going to be able to equal that. And podcasting is not going to be able to equal that unless it becomes a whole lot more invasive and worrisome in terms of privacy than it currently is. There's, I think we're going to hear a lot this year about the cookie and I think, the amount of information that we allow to be tracked about us. Some people will opt into that. Some people will not opt into that. So that kind of attribution, I think, is a part of the solution. It's not the whole solution. Certainly if you tell me if I bump into you at a Starbucks and you tell me about a microphone that you've used and it sounds interesting to me and I go back to my computer and I Google it and then I buy it. Google got the attribution for that, but you should have gotten the attribution for that.

[00:27:48] So I think there's always going to be a role for the kind of work that we do in terms of actually asking people  what led to that purchase? What are the other media that you consumed to try to create I think a more [00:28:00] realistic three-dimensional picture of the consumer than just what's the last thing they clicked on or what pixel they've been dragging with them from site to site.

[00:28:07]So I think it's a part of the puzzle. I don't think it's the whole answer.

[00:28:10] Heather Osgood: [00:28:10] I know you already talked about this, but do you think that there is an answer that is needed? Obviously Edison Research plays a role in that. Is there room or is there a need for a third, fourth, fifth solution to this issue?

[00:28:24] Tom Webster: [00:28:24] No, I think it's going to come over time. It's been around for us to listen to for 15 years and it's just audio technology, but the brand dollars and the impact of the big Madison Avenue agencies and global holding companies.

[00:28:38] That's a bit newer to the space. So there is not really a I would say a rich history of data to mine here in terms of the effectiveness for podcasting and brand advertising, but it's being built. Month by month, quarter by quarter. And as there becomes more of a just a preponderance of evidence, I think that's more what's needed is just [00:29:00] time.

[00:29:00] And data, we have done a bunch of brand lift studies, it's not like I can say that we have done 50 financial services, brand lift studies. But at some point I'll be able to say that. And when you can, when you start to have, 50 or a hundred brand lift studies in financial services or in travel or in hospitality or consumer packaged goods, and you start to be able to benchmark within categories and even more finely than that, then that's the kind of data that that a lot of media buyers are looking for. And that's going to make it, I think, easier to just tick a box on an RFP and get an order. So I don't think there's anything different that's required from what we're doing. I just think it's going to take a little more time.

[00:29:38] Heather Osgood: [00:29:38] That's an interesting perspective because I have never looked at it like that before. I feel like things have changed so rapidly in the last 10 years, just period, with technology, it feels like we're always like two steps ahead of where we're at. And today's solution is I always just assume that tomorrow solution isn't going to be [00:30:00] today's solution because we're moving so quickly and. I have never really considered that time was the missing piece for podcasts, because I always just think that what is needed is a different technology solution. And I think that's an interesting way of looking at it. That, we just do need to give it more time. And I think part of the challenge with it isn't there are at least from my perspective, 50 financial institutions who are running up to do podcast advertising who are looking to do lift studies tomorrow.

[00:30:30]So it, so that is probably really what is needed is that time piece. And that ultimately might show us that. There, there isn't necessarily a missing tech piece. It's just really the trust factor maybe.

[00:30:44] Tom Webster: [00:30:44] Yeah. Buying podcasts is I, people have, I think varying opinions of programmatic advertising. I think programmatic advertising is good in that it will make buying and selling podcasts transactional in a way that is not risky for people [00:31:00] and they can trust it. I think it's part of the equation. It's not the whole thing. And I think programmatic doesn't have to be crap ads.

[00:31:05] It doesn't have to be remnants and I there's no better. I think, look at that then think about what your Facebook page used to look like five or six years ago, the advertising you've got on your Facebook feed was one weird trick to lower your mortgage and reveal your abs. And a lot of that crap is gone.

[00:31:20] I buy stuff from my Facebook ads all the time now it's they've got me figured out. And the only difference between now and then is that people have gotten better at targeting, right? They've gotten better at using the tools. It's not the tool problem it's a failure of the imagination.

[00:31:34]And I think that'll happen with podcasting as well. I think if you get really smart people, targeting in podcasting very well. And you get host read programmatic, I think not to have hosts reading things that are, if not, maybe not programmatic, but dynamically inserted. That's a failure of the imagination again.

[00:31:49] So all of these things will come over time. And as we get more of a sort of a trove of data that we can mine and start to [00:32:00] develop I hate the term best practices and I don't love that. But let's face it, there are a lot of people in in the ad buying business that look for that sort of thing, because whether you're buying ads on podcasts or you're somebody buys broadcast advertising, somebody buys digital display advertising.

[00:32:17] You all have the same goal. Don't get fired. Don't get fired. And so the more that podcasting can throw off the same kinds of reports and data that, that a lot of these people rely on to not get fired. Then the more it's going to happen,

[00:32:30] Heather Osgood: [00:32:30] I tell my team that all the time I'm like the reality is that we have to make a case so that the marketing executive we're talking to can go back to their group, their boss, and make the case. And if we can't do that well enough for them, then they can't put their neck out on the line. They can't, just decide to invest because they like us. They have to be able to give their bosses and the people they're accountable to some real information. So I think that's a really important thing for us [00:33:00] to remember. So yeah, so I totally agree. And I think that it's great to hear that we just need to give it a little bit of time because the reality is that if we can continue to invest and if we can continue to track back best practices, that is going to give us the information that we need to really just elevate the ad space.

[00:33:19] So I think that's important.

[00:33:20] Tom Webster: [00:33:20] I think so, I think it's easy to buy things like radio and TV. There's just a lot of time established and buying GRPs and things like that. And podcasting is just, it's going to get there. The data that we already have is pretty great. Yeah,

[00:33:35] Heather Osgood: [00:33:35] I agree. So, um, Tom, you have a newsletter called I hear things. And it sounds like it's something that you started in 2020 and you started, it sounds to just share, share your thoughts. And I read a recent article that you wrote about how you aren't expecting in 2021 to be any better than 2020. And I have to say, when the pandemic hits, I will [00:34:00] not ever forget you saying podcasts listenership is going to decline. And I remember thinking he does not know what he is talking about. I really think podcast listenership is going to increase. Everybody's going to have all this time on their hands. And then I don't know, the time played out. A few months later, we were all like, Oh, wow.

[00:34:16] Look, listenership did decline. And I thought that your reasoning made so much sense, right? When people's patterns are disrupted, of course, they're going to not listen in the same way that they had. And I think that it's really fascinating to us to look at how people are establishing new routines, but there is also this kind of complete unknown for 2021 and as much as I think we all want to be optimistic sometimes we're stuck in the middle between optimism and pessimism and all of the unknown. From your perspective with the data and information you have, I think I'm pretty happy with podcasting right now, to come out of [00:35:00] 2020 with an increase is pretty exciting to me.

[00:35:03]And I know we had our sights set on a higher increase for 2020, and I don't think that,  obviously that didn't happen and I don't think we probably are going to hit the number for 2021, but what's your take on what could happen this coming year?

[00:35:16]Tom Webster: [00:35:16] There was definitely growth in 2020, and I think there will very likely be growth in 2021.

[00:35:21] And I think, you should look at the amount of growth that podcasting was able to realize in a pandemic year, as an incredible positive AMF and broadcast radio really took it on the chin in 2020. It was not a good year for AMFM radio. There was a drive time radio, just cratered and along with that, so to rates and things like that.

[00:35:39]It was not a good year to not have a compelling digital strategy. So I think podcasters should be, happy with what they've got. And the thing is I'm not I'm not at all pessimistic about 2021. I just, I don't have this sort of default gene that says everything's going to automatically be better.

[00:35:53]I think things are very likely to be largely the same. I, life is largely the same today as it was a month ago. I don't see [00:36:00] that changing anytime soon until significant portions of the population are vaccinated. And that's, that's going to be at least until the summer.  Think.

[00:36:08] This year is going to be as good as we make it. And I'm not waiting for anything external to make it better.

[00:36:13] Heather Osgood: [00:36:13] I love that. It really is about what we can make it. And I. I feel so fortunate every day that I'm in the podcast space and not in my husband. And I used to own a haircutting business, that we just happened to sell less, and at the end of 2019, like that was pretty fortunate of us. But so how lucky are we that we are in the podcast space where we do feel like there's opportunity for some real growth? So I feel really fortunate to be here.

[00:36:42] Tom Webster: [00:36:42] So do I it doesn't suck. There's a lot worse things that could be doing with my life.

[00:36:45] Heather Osgood: [00:36:45] Absolutely. So the last question I have for you is that I hear that you're writing a book and I'm curious what this book is going to be about.

[00:36:55] Tom Webster: [00:36:55] Yeah, it's a boy. Has that been gestating for awhile?

[00:36:58]It's not going to be about the [00:37:00] audio space or the podcasting space, but no, it's not. It's it's more about how to think about things.  Not so much, numbers but even how we think about how people make decisions and and why people act the way that they do and this kind of I don't know. I feel like the oice of the customer has been excluded from a lot of things that entrepreneurs and founders do where they're solving problems that people don't necessarily have. So I think any book I write, if, and when it ever comes out, before I die is going to be about making sure that the voice of the customers is paramount again.

[00:37:37] Heather Osgood: [00:37:37] Yeah. That's an interesting perspective because I think a lot of times we feel like we're focused on the customer and we all talk about how we're customer focused, but when it comes down to it, how customer focused are we really?

[00:37:49] Tom Webster: [00:37:49] Exactly. And do you have the processes in place to be sure that customer feedback in a structured way is part of all of your decision-making and you're not just being led by some strong voices that think they have the [00:38:00] answer?

[00:38:00]And I guess the things that I look at is that we're in a culture right now I think, especially with entrepreneurs and founders about just, failing and failing fast.  And trying and trying and iterating and trying as many things as we can.

[00:38:13] And I'm all in favor of failing fast, because I think failing fast beats, failing, slow. Anytime any day of the week. But I'm also in favor of not failing at all and not failing as much. And I think that the main reason why companies fail by far, this has been researched. The number one reason why companies fail is because they made something that market didn't want.

[00:38:31] And to me, with all of the tools that we have at our disposal to ensure that doesn't happen. That's a that's a crying shame. 

[00:38:39] Heather Osgood: [00:38:39] yeah, totally true. It's so interesting. Tom, thank you so much for being on the show today. I really appreciate your perspective, your knowledge, and everything that you're able to contribute. I'm curious if people are interested in connecting withyou where they could find you.

[00:38:53] Tom Webster: [00:38:53] Oh, you can find our research@edisonresearch.com. I'm fairly active on Twitter @Webby2001 on Twitter. [00:39:00] And the newsletter that you mentioned, which is @tomwebsterdotsubstack.com and the newsletter is called, I Hear Things.

[00:39:07] Heather Osgood: [00:39:07] Great. And don't you guys have a study coming out here like very soon ?

[00:39:10] Tom Webster: [00:39:10] We have a number of studies coming out. We have first for clients, we have the next quarter of the podcast, consumertracker coming out, which is our our look at the relative reach of all the podcasts networks.

[00:39:20]The next big thing we have coming out though is going to be in fact, the Infinite Dial 2021 which is going to come out and just over a month.

[00:39:27] Heather Osgood: [00:39:27] Yeah. Yeah. So I would highly encourage everyone if you have not participated in an infinite dial presentation. Sign up. I think it is well worth it to actually be live during the webinar because you can see everybody's comments, which is half of the fun and the information is great.

[00:39:45] So I would highly encourage everybody to register for that.

[00:39:48] Tom Webster: [00:39:48] Thanks, Heather.

[00:39:49] Heather Osgood: [00:39:49] Thank you.


Tom WebsterProfile Photo

Tom Webster

Senior Vice President of Edison Research

Tom Webster is a Senior Vice President of Edison Research, a custom market research company best known as the sole provider of exit polling data during US elections for all the major news networks. He has nearly 20 years of experience researching consumer usage of technology, new media, and social networking, and is the principal author of a number of widely-cited studies, including The Social Habit, Twitter Users in America, and the co-author of The Infinite Dial, America’s longest-running research series on digital media consumption. He is also the co-author of The Mobile Commerce Revolution, and a popular keynote speaker on data and consumer insights. He writes about all of these topics at www.brandsavant.com and on Twitter at @Webby2001.