Podcast production networks Stitcher and Wondery are taking their ad offerings across the pond with the launch of a joint venture called Podfront UK.
The company, launched Thursday with equal ownership, will represent inventory from both networks to advertisers seeking to reach listeners in the UK market. Former audioBoom exec Ruth Fitzsimons will lead Podfront UK.
The joint venture marks both companies’ first international expansions. While Wondery and Stitcher have served their US audiences with relevant advertising for some time, up to 30% of listeners on any given show live overseas, said Erik Diehn, CEO of Stitcher.
“Given the increasing sophistication of platforms and buyers, there’s an opportunity to deliver international inventory to listeners directly on behalf of advertisers in that market,” he said.
Podcast listening is booming internationally, especially in English-speaking markets. Twelve percent of UK adults listen to podcasts weekly, according to audio measurement company RAJAR. The United Kingdom ranks third in listening across Stitcher’s 250 shows, according to its sales arm, Midroll.
“We can enter the UK market without quite as much heavy lifting,” Diehn said.
But rather than going solo, Stitcher and Wondery will collectively offer the scale advertisers need to execute targeted podcast buys. Once buyers start slicing international listeners by market, there isn’t enough scale for granular targeting within a specific region.
“Bringing in Wondery gives us that much more scale,” Diehn said. “Combining our inventory into one accessible tool for advertisers makes more sense than going it alone.”
Advertisers will be able to purchase both direct-sold and dynamically inserted ads. Stitcher offers dynamic ad insertion through its distribution platform Omny Studio, owned by sister company Triton Digital (EW Scripps owns both companies.) Wondery offers dynamic ad insertion through hosting platform Art19. Stitcher will also extend its order management platform to Podfront UK.
“The infrastructure is in place and was a key prerequisite to making this happen,” Diehn said.
While most advertisers in the United States still buy podcast inventory as baked-in host-reads, dynamic ad insertion has taken off more quickly in the United Kingdom, Diehn said. Stitcher and Wondery can offer dynamically inserted host-reads or prerecorded spots within their shows.
“A host-read spot, even when it’s dynamically inserted, still has an enormous amount of power,” Diehn said. “We’ll guide buyers to make trade-offs between the power of the host-read spot and the flexibility of using creative that is much more precisely targeted.”
As Podfront UK gains a foothold in the United Kingdom, it will look to expand across Europe. The company will also look for international podcasters to join Stitcher’s and Wondery’s networks.
“Podcasting is a growing medium not just in the United States, but around the world,” Diehn said. “Having somebody in Europe who can help audiences and advertisers discover the great shows that we and our partners offer is an enormous opportunity.”