On Thursday, we published the Internet Radio Ad Load Report for Q3 2015. This is a milestone in our research because it offers four full quarters of data. Ad load is one characteristic that differentiates the audio publishers and has an impact on user experience. Another difference is when and how the publishers serve ads. A metric in this category we have collected from our first ad load report is Time To First Ad (TTFA). TTFA identifies how much content is delivered to a listener before they receive the first ad.
A Customized Ad Experience
Internet radio differs from broadcast in many ways but a distinguishing characteristic is that each session is a unique stream and that includes the ad sequencing interspersed between content segments – typically songs. Every broadcast radio listener has experienced the chance encounter with a long ad block in progress at the time you tune into a station (some would say the chance is high). In this case, TTFA is zero minutes and the more important metric might be time to first content. Internet radio and ad-supported streaming audio services can also have a TTFA of zero when pre-roll ads are employed.
The difference is that the broadcast radio listener determines the TTFA by choosing the time when they start listening. The radio programmer has already decided when the ad breaks will occur throughout the day. The consumer is simply playing roulette when they select a station – black is content, red is an ad. For Internet radio, it is the opposite. The publisher’s ad ops team has set up rules for ad serving that determine when a listener receives an ad. Those rules can bias toward a short or long TTFA. They also can be tweaked to optimize a particular type of listener experience. However, it is not random.
TTFA is Getting Shorter Industry-wide
There is a natural tension for publisher ad ops teams. They need to serve ads to generate revenue, but they also want to provide listeners with a great user experience that keeps them coming back. Let’s face it, no matter how great the ads may be, users are arriving for the music or other audio content and not for a word from the sponsor. Ads are an interruption to their objective. TTFA represents one aspect of the ad serving balancing act.
One clear industry-wide trend is that TTFA is getting shorter. TTFA has fallen from a peak of 14.3 minutes (14:18) in Q1 2015 to 13.8 minutes (13:48) in the third quarter.
However, the industry-wide data obscures the fact that there is a significant variance in the TTFA ad-serving strategies of individual audio publishers. For example, Publisher C has a TTFA of 23.4 minutes (23.24) while Apple Music has a TTFA of 8.8 minutes (8:48). Given that most user listening sessions are not a full hour in length, we can surmise that Publisher C has more user sessions that conclude prior to any ad being served than Apple Music.
We can also see from this chart that four of six audio publishers have a TTFA between 8.8 (8:48) and 10.5 minutes (10:30). By contrast, Publishers C and E typically don’t serve an ad until at least 17.4 (17:24) minutes with an average of 20.4 minutes (20:24). It is worth noting that Publishers C and E also had the lowest ad load in Q3. As a result, it is tempting to assume that publishers serving fewer ads would also have a longer TTFA because they don’t need to pack as many ads into a listening hour. However, looking at past data suggests there is not a correlation.
Publisher C has consistently had the longest TTFA even in quarters where its ad load has exceeded the industry average. In addition, Publisher E has had a comparable TTFA regardless of how close its ad load was to the industry average.
Ad Serving Strategies and More
You can see additional TTFA analysis and much more in Internet Radio Ad Load Report from Q3 2015. You can also see other ad serving and advertising data such as:
- Number of ads per listening hour
- Number of ads by ad length
- Ad load per hour
- Total number of advertisers identified by audio publisher
- All advertisers identified in Q3 segmented by local and national advertisers
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