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HowStuffWorks Brings Dynamic Advertising to Podcasting

By Lauren Johnson, ADWEEK, FEBRUARY 08, 2017

Despite the growth in podcast advertising over the past couple of years, brands are still stuck with relatively little targeting data and reach with campaigns.

Atlanta-based HowStuffWorks—which creates 12 podcasts such as Stuff You Missed in History Class and Stuff Mom Never Told You—is hoping to solve that issue by inking a deal with ad-serving company AdsWizz that will automatically insert audio ads on the fly into the company’s 6,000 podcast episodes that span 3,000 hours worth of content. Up until now, running ads alongside audio content has been a manual process that involves permanently changing an audio file.

“For seven-and-a-half or eight years, when you put an advertisement into [a podcast] you had to hardcode it into the file and it stayed there forever,” said Jason Hoch, chief content officer at HowStuffWorks.

According to podcasting analytic company Podtrac, HowStuffWorks reached 3.4 million U.S. listeners per month and 28.2 million global listeners in December. Since launching eight years ago, HowStuffWorks’ podcasts have been downloaded more than 650 million times.

Working with AdsWizz, ads are automatically inserted into HowStuffWorks content and are targeted based on a listener’s location and behavioral and demographic data that’s pulled from an anonymous mobile identifier. Instead of buying on a show-per-show basis, advertisers now have the option to buy impression-based ads across multiple programs.

In theory, opening up cross-show and old ad inventory will help brands reach segments of listeners that they didn’t know necessarily existed.

“If you listen to the content today—even though it was produced two months ago—you would get an ad from an advertiser who is trying to reach someone today,” said Alexis van de Wyer, CEO of AdsWizz.

HowStuffWorks’ Hoch added that the company is updating its ad-serving technology because of an uptick in new listeners who often look for old content and listen to podcast episodes that date back several years.

“We love hits, we have popular shows but we don’t necessarily have to have every show be hit-driven because we have a huge library of content,” Hoch said. “We’ve gone back to 2012 and tagged every single episode in our library to be able to have ad breaks [and] to be able to target correctly and smartly.”

Recent advertisers include CNN, Syfy Channel, Blue Apron and Squarespace and Hoch said he now expects more big-name advertisers to buy into podcasts.

“This is not a 3-second Facebook video—this is a 35- to 45-minute podcast, a nice 60-second midroll [ad] and those work,” Hoch said. “With the growth of the industry, this kind of longer-form experience and the technology backbone behind it, you need all of those to get the big brands over.”