News and podcast publisher Slate has begun to promote Slate Select, an ad targeting tool that lets advertisers reach audiences across its sites and podcast network using the brand’s own audience data.

Soft-launched back in the Spring of this year, an earlier version allowed advertisers to retarget Slate’s podcast audience on both the publisher’s sites using Slate’s first-party data.

“It definitely started with a way to provide better value to our advertising clients on the podcast side,” Mark Morgioni, Slate’s director of research and data told Digiday. “We seized on podcasts as something advertisers might want to retarget against.”

Key to improving ad targeting was building an audience consumption device graph. “Once you’ve built that device graph to associate with your audience, you’re largely there,” Morgioni said.

Along with regular reader and listener questionnaires, Slate gathers data on what content audiences consume on its site via IBM’s Watson technology to analyze the contents of articles and podcasts. This lets advertisers target different segments of an audience across a range of criteria, including such factors as occupation, or whether people are parents.

As Google, Apple and Firefox are either planning to, or are already in the process of, doing away with ad targeting through third-party cookies, audience-based targeting is likely to depend increasingly on publishers gathering first-party data.

Digiday notes that Slate has the advantage of having a membership programme, Slate Plus, which has some 60,000 members, plus a podcast offering that saw over 250 million downloads last year, according to the company. Slate’s site has averaged 18 million unique users a month in 2020, according to Comscore. And around 60% of Slate’s podcast listeners are also unique users of its website, Morgioni told Digiday.

Slate has been something of a pioneer in this space, previously having started Megaphone, the podcast ad and publishing platform. That company ceased all content production two years ago and now focuses solely on hosting, analytics and monetization. Spotify is now set to buy Megaphone for $235 million.

Having already spent heavily on podcast production teams and technologies, Spotify’s hankering for Megaphone is about making its podcast advertising more sophisticated. The technology, according to the company, combines targeting capabilities with dynamic ad insertion to allow new ads to go into any podcast, regardless of when it was created. While podcasts have been a massive source of growth in listenership, and have demonstrated effectiveness, ad spend is only beginning to catch up – Spotify will hope Megaphone can make an important difference.  

Sourced from Digiday, Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff