by Jason Endres, Associate Director, National Audio, Active International

Ever since the Serial podcast launched in 2014 and became water-cooler conversation, podcasting has ascended into audio’s fastest-growing media channel. What was once a $100 million industry in 2014 has grown to a $1 Billion+ industry in 2021.  Audio’s biggest companies: Amazon, Apple, Google, iHeart, Pandora, and Spotify have all made significant investments in the marketplace to position themselves in this growing audio marketplace over the next decade. Advertisers large and small have flocked to this new media channel. In November 2021 alone, nearly 250 brands executed a podcast campaign for the first time.

With over one million podcasts currently in existence, it can be daunting to find the right podcasts for your brand. In this quick guide, we look to address podcast discovery, how Active plans for an upcoming campaign, and how competitive information can help build a competitive advantage.

The podcast marketplace continues to grow each day as new content creators enter the medium. Whether it’s an interview series with some of the world’s top tech innovators, a docuseries on a criminal investigation with newfound evidence brought to light, or a scripted fictional series about a couple that goes on a winter getaway, but the town they are staying in has a terrifying past, programming is being developed in all shapes and sizes.


The first place to start is to get a sense of what type of programming is available and what kind of content is generating a sizable audience. While there is not a common trusted ranking service,  information from Apple, Google, and Spotify is readily available. These include Top 100 Podcasts in the US as well as more specific category rankings such as Business, Comedy, and News/Politics. These companies use their own internal algorithms to determine rankings and are not based on total downloads. Instead, these should be used directionally for overall popularity and more so for what’s trending on a specific date.

In addition to algorithm-based data from the major audio players, Edison Research develops a quarterly tracking report of the top podcasts. Edison’s ranking is based on survey data of over 10,000 Americans over the course of a calendar year. Participants in the survey address questions such as what podcasts they have listened to in the past week as well as demo and psychographic data. In short, Edison provides comprehensive data that is backed up by survey results but is limited to those that participate in the survey.

Lastly, Podtrac and Triton Digital use their own proprietary measurement and provide monthly rankings of top podcasts. Their rankings are based on audience downloads but are ultimately limited to the publishers who opt into the service. For example, iHeart is not part of the Triton Rankings, while being ranked as the number one publisher in the Podtrac rankings. Stitcher is not part of the Podtrac rankings but is the number one ranked publisher in the Triton rankings. So, while both services provide a more detailed approach to show rankings, they each are missing key components of the podcast ecosystem.

While there are a lot of different services and products that provide podcast and publisher rankings, there is no industry standard currently. However, by viewing and utilizing multiple services a marketer can get a general sense of who the top podcast publishers are and what their most popular and largest programs are.


After determining the programming that is currently resonating with podcast consumers in general, the next step is to uncover whether our advertiser’s target is listening to health and wellness or true crime podcasts (or both!) To help get at this, we look at Nielsen’s Podcast Listening Buying Power Service. Active was an early adopter of this podcast planning tool,  which takes Scarborough data and cross-references it against thousands of data points. Demo, income, psychographic data, and purchase intent are all cross-referenced against criteria such as genre and specific titles listened to on a regular basis. The data derived provides an index of how well a genre or a specific podcast indexes against a brand’s defined target. From here, we can determine content categories that best serve an advertiser’s target as well as specific podcasts which over-index against their target audience.


Next, we look at what the competition is doing. Active was one of the first entities to partner with Magellan AI; the world’s largest database for podcast data. Magellan has combed through tens of thousands of podcasts to provide historical data on what advertisers aired in which podcasts, which specific episodes, creative length, estimated spend, and access to thousands of airchecks from past and current episodes. Magellan allows us to see what competitors have done in the past, what they are doing currently, and be able to see what podcasts were a success for a specific brand or were quickly dropped from their campaign. It’s a powerful tool that provides us with an in-depth look at specific industries and advertisers to provide learnings in developing campaigns for our clients.


In a fast-growing marketplace with what seems like an endless supply of new content, it can be cumbersome trying to determine what programming to access for an upcoming campaign. While there is no industry standard ratings/rankings service, there are several sources that can be used directionally to see what programming is trending currently and what are the larger podcasts in each category along with which publishers represent those programs. With that baseline determined, Active utilizes planning and competitive tools to determine what podcasts and content genres would work best for a brand providing relevant data to our clients to make decisions. Finding the right podcasts is just the first step in building a successful campaign. Determining the proper length and budget size for a test campaign, understanding the different ways a brand can be included in a podcast, developing effective creative, and measuring the lift of a campaign are all key factors towards building campaign success.

For any questions on activating your own podcast campaign, reach out to me directly (  or contact your Active lead.