Podcasters Up Download Numbers With Iffy Ad Practices

Podcasts are big business. And some are inflating their popularity in a new way: paying mobile ad firms to display ads for their podcasts in mobile games. Gamers not only get rewarded for clicking on the ads, but the move downloads a podcast episode to their phones.

That’s according to a new report by Bloomberg News, which utilizes research from Deep Sea, a fraud-detection company. The added Web traffic translates into ad sales. One company, iHeart, company has reportedly spent some $10 million since 2018 on the practice, which has produced about 6 million unique listeners per month.



“For years, millions of daily visits to ad-monetized publisher destinations have likely been generated this way. In these situations, advertisers have no idea they are paying to reach a user who is being compensated to interact with the publisher’s content,” according to DeepSee

There are standards rewarded ads — and how they should be identified to advertisers. Rewarded video / interstitial ads actually can, and should, be identified using the “rwdd” attribute within the “Imp” object of a bid Request, writes DeepSee.

The researcher added it hopes programmatic ad buyers will be able to prevent “serving ads to users without genuine intent in the content.” The inflated numbers may give a skewed idea of who is listening to the ads, since advertisers don’t know the context in which the page is loaded.

The Jun Group is the company most podcasters use for the practice. Jun CEO Corey Weiner defended the practice to Bloomberg as a form of “corporate self-promotion. … Every publisher, every content creator, has invested in marketing to promote themselves since the dawn of time, and this is just another way of doing it.”

Separately, podcast advertising grew 2X faster in 2021 (+72%) than the total internet ad market, according to the IAB U.S. Podcast Advertising Revenue study. The report credited three factors: more listeners, the share of ad revenue served via Dynamic Ad Insertion has almost doubled in two years to 84%, and growing investment across more ad categories.

Eric John, vice president, IAB Media Center, said: “Buyers will expect advanced brand-safety solutions, audience targeting and measurement, and we look forward to working across the ecosystem to create standards that serve creators, listeners, publishers and brands.”

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