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Captivate’s latest dynamic content improvements

Captivate rolled out a big update to their dynamic content platform this week. Transistor is still my favourite, but they’ve just lost a bit of ground. If you want to mix timely messaging in with your evergreen content, you have two great services to choose from, but only one of them gets my gold star.

In the wake of Captivate’s recent update, let’s look at what dynamic content, why it’s useful, how Captivate are making it easier to manage, along with what host you should pick and why.

  • Captivate hosts over 17,000 podcasts.
  • v2.0 of their dynamic audio engine brings
    • Dynamic slot management
    • Multiple ads per slot
    • Drag and drop improvements
    • Ability to insert slots with timestamps
    • Tagging of ad slots
    • Easier bulk ad management
  • On the horizon is a partnership with DAX, another product owned by their parent company, Global.

Where DAI is useful

  • Adding timely messaging on evergreen content
  • Multiple service offerings mean adding relevant dynamic content to each episode

Captivate vs Transistor

I’ve long said that Transistor is my favourite place to host. So, what’s changed? Well, not much… it’s still my favourite, but my recommendation to clients is to use Captivate.

  • DAI is built-in to all Captivate plans.
  • Captivate is IAB certified.

If Transistor did this, I’d switch my recommendation in a heartbeat:

  • Put DAI in all their plans, lowering the barrier to entry
  • Add tagging of content and slots

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Captivate rolled out a big update to their dynamic content platform this week. Transistor is still my favorite, but they've just lost a bit of ground. If you want to mix timely messaging in with your evergreen content, you now have two great services to choose from, but only one of them gets my gold star.
Welcome to the Podcast Owner's Manual, your handy reference guide to taking care of your podcast and yourself. I'm Mark, your podcast producer, consultant and coach, and today we're talking about dynamic ad insertion in the wake of Captivate's recent update. So we're going to take a look at what dynamic content is, why it's useful, how Captivate are making it easier to manage and what host you should pick and why.
So first off, what is dynamic content? You might have heard of things like dynamic content insertion, DAI, if you've used any of Captivate, you may have seen the term AMIE, which is A M I E, which is their audio management's at insertion engine something uh, around those lines.
What it all means is when you upload audio, or when I upload audio on your behalf to a media host like Captivate or Transistor, we can set out certain points within that audio to say, I want you to insert a timely message here.
Think of it like a TV broadcast of a rerun of a TV show. So you're watching Would I Lie to You? on Dave. So the TV show Would I Lie to You? is normally, it's a BBC show. They actually don't, because it's a BBC show, they don't have ads. But at certain points the TV station managers at Dave will say, well, we need to have ad breaks here. So we'll find a point around halfway through the episode and we will put a, sort of a slice in there to say, when that time comes, when the episode is being broadcast, stop here and then insert some ads and then go back into the broadcast. So it's that kind of principle.
There are two ways that this typically runs. We have the sort of traditional dynamic content insertion, which is if you subscribe to any podcasts on Acast, you'll hear that little chime usually right at the beginning of an episode, and then somewhere in the middle to indicate that the content you're listening to is not from the podcaster, but from Acast's ad library. That is inserted dynamically at the point at which your episode is downloaded.
So if you take something like Richard herrings, Leicester Square Theater Podcast, RHLSTP, there will be a pre-roll ad and probably some mid-roll ads and maybe a post-roll ad, right? Right at the end. When I download that episode, Acast is looking at a few key pieces of information. Now, Acast is an international monitization provider basically with a bit of podcast hosting tacked on. They will look at what device I'm running and where I am in the world, and a few of the signals that they've picked up about me. And when I request the latest episode of Richard Herring's podcast, the server will say, okay, I've got a little bit of information about this guy, so I'm going to serve him an ad for Tesco, for example, cause I know he's in the UK.
If I took a trip to Spain, let's say, and I downloaded the latest episode of fresh off the plane, I would get an ad in Spanish, because I'm in Spain. And that's the way that kind of thing works. It happens at the time that the episode is downloaded from the device.
And most of the time that works quite well for marketplace ads. So those are ads that are not read by the host. They are usually, if they are handpicked at all, they're usually handpicked with not a huge amount of discernment. Usually you pick some categories that you're happy with, some categories that you want to exclude, and then you say, okay, I'm good to go. You insert some, add some content there.
For our purposes, that's not what we do, but I think it's useful that you have a sense of, of what that is, uh, because Acast, although they are essentially an ad company with a bit of podcast hosting tacked on, they did buy a legit podcast host a few years ago and they've melded the two together. So, Acast is not a bad place to host your content, but it doesn't allow us to do the kind of dynamic content insertion that I'm talking about today. So I think it's important that we sort of set the scene there.
So, the kind of content that I'm talking about is, so a chap called Bryan Barletta who writes about podcast monetization. He calls this host enabled insertion. What it means is, rather than ads being stitched into episodes at the time of download, they are done in the background at our behest. So, what we'll do is we'll predefined slots, just like I mentioned before. We'll predefined slots, but instead of generic audio or a anonymous audio being taken from a marketplace and inserted at the time of download, audio will be taken from our own content library. So ads that we create together, you and I/ and the media hosts will stitch those in at the time that's relevant.
So, we will say we'll create a new campaign, So it's often campaign based. So we'll create a new campaign. Give you an example. So this podcast uses this very method. So halfway through this episode, you will hear an ad for a thing. Um, I don't know what the thing is because it depends on what time you're listening to this episode. The ad might have changed. But you've probably already heard the ad, and you've probably got a sense that it's, yeah, maybe dynamically stitched in there at some point. Now you can go in and I can remove that ad or I can replace it with something else. That isn't done at the time of download, that's done when I hit save, basically. So I create the slot, I say, whatever, ad is meant to run mid roll at this point, have at it. So I'll hit save. The audio will be reprocessed. One file will be created with that ad and distributed to all of the listeners.
So if we take that first example with Acast, each listener can theoretically get a slightly different audio file depending on where they are in the world. But with our purposes that we have with Captivate and Transistor, we can stitch in our own content, but it's always going to be the same episode, the same content for each listener, because we're not regionalizing or anything.
Why I think this is great, and why talk about it is it enables us to put timely messaging into evergreen content. So if you think about the body of work that you're building, you might be building episodes up over the last two years or more, as you find people still go back to those episodes cause there's still really good gold in them thar hills, wouldn't it be really cool to be able to have some messaging in that episode to say, right now we're running a course on this or a workshop on this, we'd love you to attend this, I'm going to be speaking at this event. All sorts of things. It doesn't have to be a holy commercial thing that gets promoted, but it does allow us to put those timely messages into our evergreen episodes. And personally, I think that's quite cool and useful.
So, what Captivate have have now done is they've updated their AMIE engine, their audio monetization and integration engine. That's the, that's the name of it. They released a press release on September the 21st, talking about AMIE version 2.0 which brings with it dynamic slot management, you can now have multiple ads per slot, we can now insert ads with timestamps whereas before we had to look through the waveform to find the exact point. The big thing that excites me possibly because I'm a nerd is something, something called tagging. So we can now tag slots. I've wanted something like this for ages. I actually designed a system like this in my previous life a couple of years ago. What this now means is we can add multiple tags to a slot. So we can define a slot and say, it's a mid-roll slot and this episode is about hosting, right? Media hosting. So I can tag it with hosting and mid-roll. I can then take another episode that talks about something different and I can take it with mid-roll and, so next week we're talking about SquadCast and Riverside, so I might take it with remote recording. So it's got two tags, mid-roll and remote recording. And then I'll take another episode that is about Anchor and why I don't like anchor.fm. That's about hosting. So again, I can get it. So what we're starting to see here is, I've created two episodes of uploaded two episodes, and I've taken that mid-roll slot, and I'm saying this point, this episode is talking about hosting. So to keep that in your mind.
What we can then do is we can have a bank of ads that are tagged with different keywords effectively. So I have a bunch of affiliate links for different hosting providers. If I wanted to do an ad, I could say this episode is brought to you by Transistor.fm, my favorite place to host podcasts. If you want to host your podcast with Transistor, go to origin.fm/transistor, right? Something like that. That link doesn't work by the way, but it'll be something like that, right? And that that slot can be that content can be tagged with the tag hosting. So anytime I talk about hosting in an episode, that ad can be in there.
So it starts to get a little bit. Intricate and interesting, but I think if you are a business that if you run a business that offers multiple products, this is a really interesting thing to be able to do, you know? You talk about a coach, being able to have a discussion with a guest and it's all about leadership. You might have an ebook on leadership. So you can say, well, uh, five minutes in, I want the ad hair to be about leadership. If in six months time, I'm like, okay, well I've got the book, that's fine, I'm now doing a webinar on leadership this week, I can then go in and all of the episodes where we talked about leadership, that ad for the ebook can be automatically replaced with an ad for the webinar. So when someone listens to the episode, now they'll hear the ad for the webinar rather than the book. That's why I think that's really cool. And you could do that across different subject matters.
Now on the horizon. Which gets us into that sort of first description of dynamic content that I was getting into earlier, Captivate was bought by Global Media at the end of 2021. And Global Media operate a huge digital ad exchange. I believe that's the name of it, DAX.
So now Global own Captivate, that gives them some options for integrating ads. So if you get to a point where you think, okay, It's fine being a thought leader and sharing my courses, my workshops, my retreats, my books, all those kinds of things, I'm now thinking I'd like to be able to monetize my podcast in other ways, then they are going to be looking at integrating their digital ad exchange with Captivate. So that could get quite interesting. I'm not going to spend a huge amount of time on it because I don't think it's relevant for most of us. But it's useful to know that at some point, those options might be there and that's going to be within Captivate, and that's one of the advantages they have now, of being owned by a very large media conglomerate.
So I mentioned up top that. I'm big on I'm big on captivate, but transistor is just, it's my favorite place to host. It's very quick and efficient and easy to use. We can have multiple members who can manage the podcast content really easily. The player is really easy to integrate and it looks really nice. It makes it very easy as well to set the permalink for an episode, which means when someone's listening in Apple Podcasts or Spotify and they tap the title of the episode, or they tap a link that says episode webpage, they will go through to your website rather than somewhere else. And Transistor make that super, super easy.
Now they started implementing their own dynamic content infrastructure last year, so sometime within 2021, they started doing that and I had to play. They then updated it and they added mid-roll and easy sort of campaign management and stuff, and so I really, I really like it. I like the fact that the timestamps work really well. I use Descript as my editor. I can see the timestamp where I've created a market to say, this is where and how it's going to go. I can type that in to Transistor and there it's done.
It's one of those services where I sort of I log in and it feels comfortable. It's just like a really comfortable pair of shoes. Captivate has lots of features, but my sort of issue there is that there can be a bit of a feature creep. I know what this is like, you get excited about developing a particular feature, you add it to the left-hand side of your menu and your left hand menu, and suddenly you've just got this giant menu.
However, there are plenty of things that make Captivate a really sensible choice. And if I'm honest, I'll tell you now, I think it's where most people should host. And that started chiefly because of the dynamic content insertion. And one of the problems with that is the way Transistor price it, it actually prices most people at the market. You've got to be paying, I think it's $49 a month to get access to that capability. Now the bonus is with both of these services, the tiers are sort of priced roughly the same, but Captivate enable all of their features across all of their tiers. It's really just, banded based on the number of downloads you get. But again, you can have multiple podcasts as well, which is, which is great. Transistor work exactly the same way, except there are certain features that are locked to higher paying plans, which I think is, I mean, that's their business model, uh, I think, I think, I can understand it, and there are arguments as to, as to why you don't necessarily need dynamic ad insertion at a lower tier, but I think they could actually do people at a real favor by, by enabling that. Cause, when we're starting out with smaller audiences, don't need to be paying $49 a month for a hundred thousand episode downloads, because you know, with the best will in the world, that's not where we're going to be just yet.
Captivate is also IAB certified. So what that means is their stats, as in, when you go and check how many people have downloaded the episode, where they are, all that kind of stuff, those numbers are independently verified. And I believe they get checked up on every year, and it, it means that you can stand by your numbers. So, again, this is not a, not a concern for most of us in the kind of work that we do, but if it does come to a point where someone wants to know, usually this, this is an advertising based question, what are your numbers? Being able to say, well, these are our numbers and we know that they're legit because the International Ad Bureau has said they are, then that's great. So that is a bonus that, that Captivate do have over Transistor. But again, for the kind of stuff we do, that's not a deal breaker.
Now I've sort of mentioned that that Captivate is my recommendation, but I would change it in a heartbeat if Transistor could do these two things. Put dynamic ad insertion on all plans and allow tagging of ads. Uh, just like they do with Captivate. I think, if we could get those two things, if they could bring the price down for dynamic ad insertion, because I recommend this to most of the people I work with now, because I love this concept and I think there's, there's a great deal of value in the concept of creating timely messaging within your evergreen content. So I think my, my recommendation right now stands that Transistor is, is my favorite and it's the one I use for my own. Uh, internal projects, which are many. but for new projects, I always recommend Captivate.
Now, if you're already on a service other than Captivate, if you're on Transistor or Anchor or Buzzsprout, should you move? No. Uh, is the answer to that. No, I don't think so. Unless you're really into this idea. If you're on Transistor, I would say stay put. If you're using their ad management stuff already stay put. If I've made a good case for dynamic content insertion and you're not already using it, if you've got 50 bucks to, to throw, and you're already paying maybe something around that anyway, take a look at Transistor, because it's just so much easier to use. It's so uncluttered, and I think you'll, you'll have a good time over there.
But if you're a little bit more price conscious or you want a slightly more flexible website for your podcast and you don't want to run that independently, you'd rather run that through your own hosting provider, then go with Captivate.
If I've blown your head apart here, and you have no idea what I'm talking about, you know, where to find me. mark@origin.fm is, is my email address. I'm always happy to talk about this kind of stuff, but yeah, I think the, the, the sort of the, the bottom line here is, unless you're really excited by the prospect of being able to insert timely messaging into your evergreen content, then definitely stick with where you are, especially if you're on Transistor. But if some of that. Has got you thinking, then yeah, take a look at both Transistor and Captivate, and I would probably right now, unless Transistor make a big change to their pricing, I would stick with my recommendation of Captivate.
So, like I said, if you want to talk about anything that we discussed here, dynamic content related or media hosting, then you can always drop me an email, mark@origin.fm. And you'll find links to everything that I talked about today at podcastownersmanual.com. Thank you so much for listening. Take care of yourself.
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