Information podcasts and ad buyers have yet to see a presidential election year ad spend bump

By Sara Guaglione  •  March 15, 2024  •  6 min read  •

Ivy Liu

In old presidential election years, information publishers have usually benefited from an increase in digital ad earnings. But some information podcasts aren’t seeing that same bump yet, with year-to-date ad earnings both down or flat compared to old election years. 

Media buyers say advertisers’ aversion to information lisp has finest grown since the last election, despite the entrance of contemporary brand safety and suitability tools within the podcast space. In tandem, the information ecosystem has finest develop to be more polarized since 2020, seven agency professionals told Digiday.

“Historically, we have seen an uptick in brands searching to engage with information [and] political oriented lisp for the duration of election years. Then again, here’s now not the pattern that we are seeing this year. Brand suitability and the increased polarization of the political landscape are key factors at play here,” said Hilary Ross Shafer, vp of podcast and YouTube influencer at audio agency Veritone One.

Year to date, one podcast ad agency saw the percentage of total podcast ad spend in information podcasts had declined 2.7% so far in 2024 compared to the same length in 2023, according to data shared with Digiday (the agency exec who equipped the figures asked for anonymity as they have been citing internal data). That percentage increased 2.5% from 2020-2021, nonetheless then decreased 6.1% from 2021-2022 and decreased 3.3% from 2022-2023. And there was a 2% increase in ad spend on information podcasts for the duration of this length from 2019 to 2020.

YoY changes in podcast advertising, per agency exec:


  • % of total podcast $ on information: up 2.5%
  • % of total advertisers working on information podcasts: down 2.7%
  • 2022:

  • % of total podcast $ on information: down 6.1%
  • % of total advertisers working on information podcasts: up 1.4%
  • 2023:

  • % of total podcast $ on information: down 3.3%
  • % of total advertisers working on information podcasts: up 2.5%
  • 2024:

  • % of total podcast $ on information: down 2.7%
  • % of total advertisers working on information podcasts: down 6.7%

When searching at the percentage of total advertisers that have been working on information podcasts, there was a 6.7% decrease from 2023 to 2024 year to date – despite a 2.5% increase from 2022-2023.

A head of podcast ad sales at a information organization, who also asked to remain anonymous, told Digiday that information podcast ad sales have been worse in Q4 2023 and Q1 2024 compared to old quarters and the same timeframe for the 2020 presidential election cycle. They said it was getting more sophisticated to convince marketers to spend against tough information stories — especially war coverage — despite growing listenership.

In an earnings call on Feb. 7, The Unusual York Instances CEO Meredith Kopit Levien cited a decline in podcast earnings as a contributing factor to the creator’s year-over-year decline in total digital ad sales in Q4 2023.

“Our digital performance, together with podcasts, was impacted by marketers avoiding some hard information topics care for the Center East war,” Kopit Levien said at the time.

Information avoidance, nothing unique?

Gina Garrubbo, president and CEO of NPR subsidiary National Public Media, said information podcast ad earnings was flat despite promoting out in Q4 2023 and Q1 2024. She said she wasn’t reckoning on the same presidential election year bump in NPR’s podcast commercial compared to 2020 or 2016.

Out of its “a lot of” of advertisers, Garrubbo said NPR has 23 possibilities that purchase ads across NPR’s podcasts nonetheless avoid its information reveals, up from 15 from a few years ago. She declined to say how many total advertisers at reveal purchase NPR’s podcasts or name explicit brands.

“Earlier than NPR launched podcasts in 2005, finest a very small series of brands didn’t want to be associated with information as NPR was all radio and mostly constituted of information programming,” Garrubbo said. “I’d say the increase in brands wanting to avoid information on NPR has been gradual and steady over the years since then, nonetheless literally a lot of of brands give a boost to NPR information programming across all available platforms today.”

Some podcast media buyers say they haven’t seen any change in brands’ aversion to information lisp.

“I center of attention on that possibilities who have previously felt uneasy about information and politics have a tendency to maintain that level of unease, particularly for the duration of election years. Some possibilities may save extra blockers on all lisp, now not legal podcasts. I realized this pattern among old possibilities for the duration of the 2016 and 2020 election years, particularly Fortune 500 companies. It is far never strictly a podcast area, as politics heavily intersects with tradition, and this usually raises considerations for advertisers who are already weary,” said Gretchen Smith, vp of media at Ad Outcomes Media.

A second media buyer who asked to remain anonymous said their possibilities typically “instructed clear” of information and politics podcasts, “due to brand sensitivity as successfully as now not wanting to facet and be seen leaning in any explicit path,” they said. The upcoming election had no impact on this, they added.

Lauren Russo, evp and managing partner of innovation and performance audio at Horizon Media, said the agency does not invest heavily in hard information or political lisp, nonetheless does purchase ads against information organizations’ tradition entertainment and commercial information podcasts.

A polarizing ecosystem

Jon Lefferts, evp of strategic funding at MAGNA, said ad spend in information lisp is being “challenged” due to it being a “controversial space.” 

A third audio media buyer who exchanged anonymity for candor said the brands they work with avoid information lisp “based on brand safety and suitability considerations.”

A fourth agency exec said the large brands they worked with didn’t center of attention on it was price the chance to pay for ads in information podcasts when they may well dedicate the already small percentage of their overall media purchase going to podcasts to reveals in other categories even handed more brand safe. They added they weren’t seeing any notable change in possibilities spending with information and politics podcasts, despite the fact that it was a presidential election year. 

Some gleaming spots

Despite podcast ad buyers now not seeing an election year bump in ad spend going to information lisp, some publishers with podcast agencies are seeing increase. Slate’s information and politics podcast sales are up nearly 50% year over year, according to a company spokesperson.

Slate president Charlie Kammerer cited the creator’s longstanding reveals as the reason for this. Its indicate “Political Gabfest,” for example, launched in 2005, he said. “Our depended on speak within the very noisy and lately crowded information and politics space has somewhat insulated us.”

Some research also reveals increase within the information podcast space — albeit in 2023. According to MediaRadar data shared with Digiday, advertisers invested $69.6 million toward information programming podcasts in 2023, together with NPR, The Unusual York Instances and BBC. That’s a 15% year over year increase from the $60.3 million spent in 2022, a non-presidential election year.

Brand safety and suitability tools — such as these from Barometer and Sounder — wishes to be serving to brands have more control over their buys (especially targeted programmatic ad purchasing for) around information lisp. But media buyers told Digiday that these tools are aloof somewhat unique and now not adequate buys are being made the usage of these tools to make an impact yet.

“Maybe it’ll be a bigger deal for the 2028 election,” the fourth buyer said.

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