Bloomberg: “Podcasters Are Buying Millions of Listeners, Raising Questions About Marketing Tactics”

According to a recent article published by Bloomberg News, “Broadcasters are always hunting for new, flashy places to promote their shows, ranging from billboards to floats in parades to airplane banners. Some networks, though, have uncovered a less-glamorous, yet highly effective way to gain millions of bankable listeners: loading up mobile games with a particular kind of ad.

“Each time a player taps on one of these fleeting in-game ads—and wins some virtual loot for doing so—a podcast episode begins downloading on their device. The podcast company, in turn, can claim the gamer as a new listener to its program and add another coveted download to its overall tally.

Journalist Ashley Carman notes, “The practice allows networks to amass downloads quickly by tapping into a wellspring of hyperactive video-game users. But it also calls into question who a legitimate podcast listener is and what length of time should be required to count as a download.”

The podcast networks that are actively mining downloads in the mobile game space are doing so through an intermediary company, called Jun Group, which was founded in 2005 and sold to Advantage Solutions Inc., a marketing and sales company, in 2018.

Read the full article on Time.com here.

Tech website Gizmodo took a bolder and more opinionated approach to the Bloomberg story:

Podcast Companies Are Buying Millions of Downloads via Scuzzy Adware Deals

Everybody’s got a podcast these days, so it’s hard to stand out. One solution? “Buy” millions of listeners via intrusive advertising campaigns.

According to that article: “Podcast companies live and die by their download numbers: the more of them they have, the more listeners, clout, and ad revenue comes rushing in. But apparently, not all companies come by those numbers honestly. A new report shows some of the web’s biggest podcast distributors have been essentially ‘buying’ downloads by encouraging ‘engagement’ via annoying auto-download adware campaigns.

“It seems that some companies have been using this tactic quite a bit. In the case of iHeart, the self-proclaimed ‘#1 podcast publisher globally,’ the company has reportedly spent some $10 million over the past four years procuring about six million unique listeners per month for its programs. The New York Post has also been boosting its download tally in this way.”

Journalist Lucas Ropek adds, “Bloomberg’s reporting builds off of research previously published by DeepSee, a fraud detection company that recently began looking into a trend called ‘rewarded traffic.’ Researchers define this trend as an arrangement in which web users are ‘paid to visit a certain web property.’ There are different ways it can work, but most of them involve something similar to the podcasting strategy: mobile users are incentivized to engage with a specific website or product via rewards, points, or some other digital prize.”

Read the full Gizmodo article here.

Kurt Hanson

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