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Stephanie Donovan is Global Head of Revenue for Triton Digital — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability
SD: Triton Digital is, first and foremost, a technology platform designed from an audio centric perspective to bring and harness hosting, monetization and measurement to publishers, but also being at the intersection of audio for audiences and advertisers.
JC: Now first, I should probably declare that I worked as a consultant for Triton Digital about ten years ago.
SD: I’m sure our brightest moments came from…
JC: …I know they didn’t! Triton has been involved in programmatic advertising for many years. This month, you have been with the company for sixteen years. You must have seen some tremendous changes.
SD: Tremendous changes. We started with an idea. I say we - it was really Neal Schore, Mike Agovino, and then you had a whole confluence of really intelligent actors playing into that strategy, now led by John Rosso as CEO. But - it started with the idea that streaming audio is going to be the growth mechanism. In 2006/7, when we started talking about empowering broadcasters to take their audio content online to where audiences were already moving, and advertisers were going too. You could see that with display, you could see that with video, but it wasn’t happening for audio yet. The big bet was that audio was going to be next, and to allow broadcasters to really create an alternate revenue stream with their streams. That’s how it started.
We sit here today, sixteen years later - ten years since we launched the first programmatic marketplace for audio - it’s incredibly exciting. I get to work with a lot of buyers that are opening their eyes: and opening their wallets to audio inventory programmatically, and seeing results, and coming back and buying more. When I look at broadcasters’ financial statements, or hear their financial statements in webcasts, in many cases digital is now 15% of their business, and digital audio is a strong component of that.
Town Square is not one of our clients, but they made an incredible bet on digital audio that 16 years ago that wasn’t even thought about. I remember a time where we were trying to get digital audio to reach 4% of the audience, and now it’s 10-12% on average.
I think that we’ve always been a people first company at Triton Digital, and it has allowed me to flourish in an environment alongside digital audio flourishing - which really spiked with podcasting when we brought that to the fore. We made the really smart decision of buying Omny Studio, which allowed us to have a crucial brand in podcasting, enveloped into the technology that Triton was already providing for measurement and for monetization. I didn’t make that decision, so I can say that it was a pivotal decision to incorporate that and make it a unified platform.
JC: And a great Australian company as well.
SD: Obviously! A tremendous Australian company. We were blessed to have all of them come into our structure, Sharon [Taylor], Long [Zheng], all of them.
JC: Particularly around programmatic, it strikes me that Triton has been one of the leading forces in actually getting people to understand what programmatic is and how it works.
SD: I know what we put into it from an advocacy perspective with publishers - holding their hand to understand where the buying is happening, how to manage their programmatic marketplace.
Probably six years ago we had a mantra, and I’m embarrassed to say now, but it was accurate then: “it’s a set and forget”. Just turn it on, and let it be part of your part of your monetization mix - but just turn it on.
Today, though, you can’t just turn it on. You have to manage it with buyers. You’ve got to manage that with rates. I’m telling you things you already know, but this is what we work and consult with our publishers on, in parallel to working with buyers and DSPs to let them understand what our supply looks like. And one of the latest learnings we’ve had is to asking what they need, too. Every DSP needs something different to suit their advertiser briefs. So, we spend time asking DSPs frequently - What do you need? What are you not getting? What are you seeing? I’m Head of Revenue, so I see the translation into more spend, but it’s also led us to have deeper relationships with the buyers as well as the DSPs.
JC: You wrote something on LinkedIn recently about not putting programmatic advertising onto autopilot. Is yield the big thing to be careful of here, or is it just a lot of different parts?
SD: It depends who it is. Podcasting can be different, and a streaming broadcaster can be different too. The thing that was crucial that I kept seeing, and our teams kept reporting as they were talking to publishers, is that publishers didn’t know why their revenue was changing. Even though we have transparent reporting for publishers, they would see the over/under on a monthly basis, but they didn’t know how to take action on it. So by investing time and resources within that particular publisher and showing them the reasons, or talking about addressability, where your distributors are and understanding if your distributor isn’t passing enough information your revenues is decreasing.
It seems that some people were just looking at a dashboard, seeing it going down or up, and not really thinking that they can take control over it. Being able to take action on it is really important, and it doesn’t happen when you just set up a package and watch it churn.
JC: You mentioned analytics there, and I think many people will now know Triton Digital, first and foremost, as the people that bring the podcast rankers, you know, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands. You’ve recently looked at analytics around a partnership with YouTube as well.
SD: I think it really encompasses where podcast listening is happening. So the partnership that we started with YouTube is allowing comparable YouTube metrics side by side with podcast downloads. So now publishers have deeper insights, an expanse of insights about where their audience is happening. That allows a show that may have more YouTube listeners that we just didn’t report before make different choices in terms of what advertisers they might approach, or where they’re growing their listenership and helping them market better. YouTube is so important in terms of search, discovery and listenership. A recent report said that 28% of podcast listeners listen to podcasts most often on YouTube. Without YouTube data, you’re missing a quarter of the listenership that’s happening. Now the publisher can decide how they want to use a view versus a download, that is all at their discretion. But by having this data in a consolidated fashion and an aggregate view, I think we’re increasing the visibility for buyers and investors to see that this is a growing space.
JC: You made an acquisition in this area as well?
SD: Yes, we acquired Manadge. Manadge is an advertising intelligence tool.
It’s based out of France. It’s a great company for us, because it brings insights to publishers. Not just for audio, though - Manadge covers all media types. You might wonder, since Triton’s an audio centric company, why we’d go after this kind of business: but we have multifaceted publishers, content, clients that are already in video space, and display, and other things. So to be able to allow them to harness one dashboard to see how campaigns are performing, to see how advertisers spend across the mediums - not just audio - but of course incorporating audio into that manager also allows us to open new conversations with buyers. That will help us grow the programmatic marketplace.
JC: In the US, you’ve been doing demographics in your metrics systems for some time.
SD: Yes. Podcast Metrics has a special extension called Demos+. It really augments our download listener data by expanding it into audience insights. We do that by coupling survey-based data. We work with Signal Hill Insights - a really great partnership we’ve had over the last year and a half where they are surveying thousands of podcast listeners in the U.S. and getting deeper information about their household income, and expanded demographic information including race, education, even propensity in politics. It gets pretty granular - even media habits and purchase habits. So we can give publishers a picture including survey based data alongside the census-based data that we already measure in Podcast Metrics. They can give them to advertisers to show audiences - “this particular show has a higher index for men that are highly educated, that are in the in the market to buy a car”. Broadcasters have been able to do this for a while, but now we can do that with podcasts. And when you have that audience profile now defined by metrics, you’ll be able to turn that into a targeted campaign. So being able to convert from measurement research and advertising spec, directly into a campaign.
JC: We can see some demographic details from Spotify, and they’re very excited about that - but of course, that’s just Spotify, right?
SD: Yes, whereas with us, it’s across all platforms that we measure. Because Podcast Metrics is log based, any of the consumption that’s coming off of that particular show, regardless of distribution, is going to be factored into Podcast Metrics.
JC: Well, thank you. Thank you so much for your time and many congratulations on 16 years.
SD: You’re welcome.
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