This interview was first in the Podcast Business Journal newsletter, with the latest podcast news and data. Subscribe free today.
Nina Harvey is Head of International Business Development & Publisher Solutions at Spotify — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability
NH: I head up our international publishing solution team and business development at Spotify, and I manage a team who look after all of the publishers outside of the US for Megaphone, and we provide monetization through the Spotify Audience Network.
JC: We’re here at Spotify All Ears in Berlin, which is a great event - I’m really enjoying it. How important are these sorts of events to you?
NH: It’s huge for us. I think Germany has been a fantastic market with regards to podcasts. About one in four people in Germany listen to podcasts. This is the biggest podcast event in Germany and we’re really proud that we are hosting it, providing a platform and forum for peers, partners, creators, advertisers all to come together, share, learn, network, enjoy themselves, and have fun.
JC: You were on stage an hour or so ago and you were talking about the growth that you have seen in terms of advertising it. The Spotify Audience Network only started a couple of years ago: how has it grown over the last couple of years?
NH: It’s grown fantastically. We’ve seen, since we launched, about 700% increase in publisher participation, and 500% increase in advertisers participating in the network as well. So I think those numbers bring validity that the solutions are needed for the publishers and for the advertisers, so we’re helping both sides of the ecosystem.
For Spotify, we bought Megaphone in November 2020. We launched the Spotify Audience Network in the US initially in April 2021, and then we launched in some select international markets in June 2021. And so we’ve really been focusing on bringing both the monetization tools and the technology through Megaphone to publishers. And the growth that we’ve seen has been phenomenal with adoption in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and also Australia are our key markets outside of North America.
Some of the publishers that we’ve seen joining the platform have shown that the technology is providing solutions to the publishers need. So in the UK we’re really proud of some of the partnerships that we have with publishers like Immediate Media, Keep It Light Media and Reach; in France we work with publishers like Bababam and Choses à Savoir, and then other publishers like NPR in the US, for example. So it is providing local partner publishers with the solutions that they need in order for them to be able to post and distribute their shows, and also benefit from monetization from Spotify, though a lot of them have also got their own direct sales strategies as well.
JC: You were saying something on stage around how efficiency in the ad banner market is very different to podcasting and you’re trying to help fix that. How are you doing that?
NH: Programmatic obviously has been a massive trend when it comes to the way that inventory has been bought and sold. A lot of that has to do with supply being aggregated in a single place, and buyers and sellers being able to transact in those exchanges. But a lot of it has been traded because it’s been able to be done through standardised methods of buying and selling. Cookies, for example, have been the currency, which may change in the future. But because it is very standardised, it’s enabled money to flow across to publishers, and publishers have been able to benefit from that.
In the podcasting side of things, some of those efficiencies just haven’t been able to come across. So, podcasting publishers have really had to rely on host readers a lot of the time in order for them to monetize their inventory. That’s great: but it means that if you’re not a top show in a certain category, in a certain country, it can be hard for you to get on a plan. As an advertiser, measurement and attribution is not necessarily as consistent on a podcast as it is in other media that you might be buying digitally. And so that kind of friction isn’t great. Similarly, creative standards can just be different with host reads, too: one host is not going to say exactly the same thing as another host in another show: whereas when you’re delivering a video ad, it’s going to be the same video everywhere that is displayed.
So I think from our side of things, what we see with the Spotify Audience Network is that by aggregating all of that supply and bringing publishers together and then being able to also leverage their audiences collectively together through the network, you’re able to bring to an advertiser a single buying point to supply an efficient way to access these audiences at scale. They’re able to therefore then spend in whatever way it is that they’re trying to spend, be that through ads targeted to a particular category or behaviour or demographic type in a certain country and they’re able to spend that way. And so it makes it really easy for them.
That is where we’re helping smaller publishers: they can come on to the platform, put their inventory into the network, and they can start to access that ad spend. And they don’t have to be the biggest show in a vertical. They can still get access to premium quality creative from premium quality brands.
And in Germany, some of those brands, Audi and IKEA for example: these are quality brands that are now also able to come into the advertising ecosystem and deliver to podcasts where maybe they may not have been able to do that previously.
JC: The Spotify Audience Network isn’t just on the Spotify app, is it? How important is it to be involved in the whole podcast ecosystem?
NH: Hugely important. Megaphone is obviously a technology which provides publishers with hosting and distribution. It’s owned by Spotify, but it doesn’t require publishers to publish their shows or distribute their shows on Spotify: and we provide them access to any podcast platform that they want to make their show available on. It’s a completely open technology.
We’re completely agnostic as to where a publisher wants to publish their show, what they want to have in their show, what content they want to make available, and then the Spotify Audience Network follows that essentially, so publishers can choose to opt in to the Spotify Audience Network. If they do, then we provide them with monetization for both on-platform consumption via Spotify and also off-platform consumption too.
JC: How do you work with new publishers who have joined the network?
NH: Publishers can use Megaphone as their technology to underpin everything they’re doing for content management and distribution. Then, they can opt into the Spotify Audience Network and we’ll provide them with demand for any of their inventory, in any part of the audience. It’s a very simple revenue share that we split with the publisher. They also get the benefit not just from the Audience network, but then they also have tools which can help them when it comes to their monetization and audience insights as well. And so that’s all wrapped up in one nice solution for them.
JC: That’s Podsights and Chartable?
JC: And where everything’s going. What what’s Spotify working on for advertisers in the future? You’ve just launched Call-to Action cards.
NH: Yes, that’s right. Previously it was not available in Germany, but we’ve just made it available this week for selected shows - so we’re really happy about that. Again, it’s about being able to bring some of those standards across from other digital media into the audio space, so that you can measure clicks. More of that interactivity is going to be the exciting and interesting stuff as we continue to innovate in that space as well.
JC: You’ve also recently launched broadcast-to-podcast as well. How important is that to folks outside of the US in particular?
NH: Radio is very important for publishers in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain for example. We want to ensure that publishers are able to benefit from all the benefits that podcasting can bring. So, radio publishers now are able to use the broadcast to podcast technology. It’s a really seamless integration. It removes a lot of friction when it comes to publishing, which can take 30 to 60 minutes to take a show and put it into a podcast. We can do that really easily. It’s all integrated into Megaphone, and then they can still benefit from monetization through the Spotify Audience Network.
JC: Thank you, Nina - and congratulations on a great event.
Get interviews like this every week, plus podcast business news and data. Subscribe to our newsletter free today.