illustration of the number five, representing the five subscription business topics for this column, Five-on-Friday

Five on Friday: Spending, Growing and Tracking

Featuring Discovery+, Gannett, Dance and Instagram

This week’s Five on Friday features spending, growing and tracking. In a new report, MediaRadar shares the growth and other changes in podcast ad spending in 2021; we’ve got the latest statistics on the streaming wars; and Gannett pulls the plug on at least 19 newspapers in Massachusetts. Also, ebike subscription service Dance announces a $22.1 million debt financing funding round and an international expansion, and we look at the top social media services for promoting your subscription business.

Podcast Advertising Trends for 2022

As podcasts grow in popularity, they have become an area of focus for brands and advertisers. In fact, advertisers spend $590 million on podcast ads last year, a 21% increase from 2020. In a recent report, MediaRadar highlighted the latest podcast advertising data.

  • The top two categories for podcast ad spending are Media and Tech.
  • In 2021, tech advertisers spent 23% more than in 2021.
  • Finance advertisers increased their spending last year by 43%, the most significant jump among top categories.
  • Ad spend for the Services category increased 33% last year.
  • Beauty ad spend was the only category that decreased significantly at 28%.
Source: MediaRadar

Top 10 advertisers in 2021

MediaRadar cited these companies as the top 10 podcaster advertisers in 2021, representing nearly 16% of total podcast advertising spending:

  • Teladoc Health (BetterHelp)
  • Berkshire Hathaway (GEICO)
  • Capital One
  • ZipRecruiter
  • SimpliSafe
  • Comcast
  • Amazon
  • Squarespace
  • Coors
  • Progressive

Most popular ad placement

Last year, 42% of the ads were 30 seconds in length with 55% of the ads placed mid-roll, 26% pre-roll and 19% post-roll. Here is the breakdown.

Source: MediaRadar

As life begins to return to some form of normal, it will be interesting to see how podcast popularity shifts over time. Will people be more interested in news because of inflation and the Russian-Ukrainian war? Or are they ready for entertainment? How will brands react? We anticipate they will continue to increase spending and will adjust their spending and ads based on user data and performance.

Streaming Wars: Attack of the Stats

The streaming wars are heating up again with movers and shakers, well, moving and shaking. The Discovery Inc. ‒ WarnerMedia merger will close next quarter and earlier this week Amazon purchased MGM in an $8.45 billion deal. Here’s how the major streaming services are currently stacking up.

On the smaller side of streaming services, Peacock had more than nine million paid subscribers at the end of 2021, but it seems that most of these subscribers are coming from the lower-cost tier, IndieWire reports. Despite having 24.5 million monthly active accounts, Peacock doesn’t have a lot of paid subscriber growth yet. Hopefully bringing in WWE and halting next-day streaming from Hulu will bring in some eyes for their content.

As for Apple TV+, the company doesn’t disclose their subscriber numbers or content spend, but Statista estimates that, in 2019, Apple TV+ had 33.6 million users and 40 million in 2020. That data is based on statistics from Variety and Ampere Analysis, and it refers to users, not paying subscribers. This data may be skewed because, in the early days of the service and during COVID, Apple offered very generous free trials, including some year-long free trials. Maybe the goal was to get viewers hooked on Ted Lasso and The Morning Show, so they’d subscribe after their free trial was over.

Discovery, Inc., which includes the 14-month-old Discovery+ streaming service, reported 22 million paying subscribers at the end of 2021. In the fourth quarter of 2021, they added 2 million subscribers since the end of the third quarter. When the merger with WarnerMedia is complete, HBO Max, Discovery+ and Discovery Inc.’s other streaming service will combine and Discovery, Inc.’s subscriber count will soar, both in the ad-supported and premium subscription categories. HBO and HBO Max finished the year with 73.8 million total global subscribers.

The Disney-owned streaming services are doing well. As of January 1, 2022, Disney reported the following paid subscriber totals:

  • Total Disney+, including domestic, international and Disney+ Hostar, was 129.8 million.
  • ESPN+ was 21.3 million
  • Hulu, including SVOD only and Live TV + SVOD, was 45.3 million.

And then there’s Netflix, the biggest of them all. At the end of last year, the streaming subscription service reported total streaming paid memberships of 221.8 million, including 8.3 million paid net additions during the fourth quarter of 2021.

Who will pull ahead in 2021? Aside from the merger, we expect HBO Max to continue to grow, offering three tiers and great programming, including theatrical releases. Discovery’s streaming subscribers are small in total, but they’ll push HBO over the 100 million mark this year, we think. Disney will march toward 150 million, and Netflix will get close to 250 million this year.

Ad-free streaming subscription services are more popular during the pandemic than ad-supported services.
Source: Bigstock Photos

“It’s Closing Time,” says Gannett

What’s black, white, and red all over? Not the newspaper, this time. It’s Gannett, and they are on a newspaper-closing spree. They are pulling the plug on at least 19 weekly newspapers in at least 26 Massachusetts communities, reports media watcher Dan Kennedy, publisher of Media Nation.

The move was announced by Gannett, indicating they were committed to a bright digital future. An announcement from The Bedford Minuteman reads, “The business decision reaffirms The Bedford Minuteman’s commitment to the sustainable future of local news. The Bedford Minuteman and its parent company, Gannett, understand many readers value and depend upon the news and information they find weekly in their print products. The company’s focus on digital news presentation helps ensure continued delivery of valuable journalism and effective platforms for advertisers.”

Sections of a newspaper layed across a desk.
Source: Bigstock Photos

The impacted papers, including The Watertown Tab, Waltham News Tribune, Journal News Independent, Beacon Villager and others, repeated the announcement on their websites along with the date of their final print editions.

“Local newspapers aren’t dying. They’re dead,” said Greg Reibman of the Charles River Regional Chamber and a former journalist at GateHouse Media, a March 17 blog post. The weekly papers will continue on in online formats only, with the announcement being behind paywalls. Reibman suspects that print readers might not know what happened if not announced in a print format.

A month earlier, Dan Kennedy reported that multiple sources told him Gannett was planning to replace local news in weekly newspapers in Massachusetts – known as Wicked Local – with regional news stories on broader topics like public safety, education, racial justice, and the environment. Kennedy said that Len LaCara, content strategy analyst at Gannett’s USA Today Network, said the company wants to boost digital readership and shrink its printed newspaper footprint.

Is Reibman right?

Dance Announces Debt Financing, Expansion and Mopeds

Rear wheel of Dance ebike
Source: Dance

Dance, an electric mobility subscription company, has secured debt financing by TriplePoint Capital totaling $22 million, bringing their total funding up to $61.7 million. With this new round of funding, they will be able to continue their expansion into different cities, as well as expand internationally. On top of their funding from TriplePoint, individual investors include Maisie Williams,, Chance The Rapper, as well as Lavinia Errico, cofounder of Equinox, have all invested.

Dance has eBikes and eMopeds, giving users transportation options for getting around metropolitan cities in Europe.

“We are on a mission to make cities around the world more livable by inspiring people to choose more sustainable, healthy and joyful ways to move. By tapping into the various sources of funding available to use, we can efficiently expand our portfolio and geographical reach as we continue to build our full-service mobility membership,” said CFO Tobias Jordan.

Dance CEO and cofounder Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss is excited about the company’s growth.

“Our goal at Dance has always been to spark a global movement towards creating safer, more livable cities by offering a flexible and convenient way to travel,” said Dance CEO and cofounder, Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss. “Now is the right time: with increased cycling infrastructure, public discourse and political will across Europe to create more sustainable cities, we can help more people choose a more sustainable commute.”

For a monthly fee, subscribers choose from an eBike or eMoped. Their ebikes start at $65 per month, and emopeds start at $87 per month. Electric bikes or mopeds will be delivered to the subscriber’s residence for free. Users can select between flex and annual plans. Flex plans offer free delivery as well as repairs and concierge services. Annual members pay monthly but commit to a twelve-month minimum. Dance offers free delivery as well as repairs and concierge service. The annual plan does not auto-renew.

Dance is currently available in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. They plan to roll out their service in Vienna and Paris in spring 2022.

Video Ads Are the Secret to Social Media Success

Social media has become a top “go-to” marketing strategy for hundreds of subscription businesses. If you are on Instagram, for example, you might find a few targeted ads for different subscription services. For example, I often get ads for book subscriptions, clothing subscriptions and streaming video and audio services. Which are the best social media platforms for your subscription business? Social Media Today has some ideas.

In a new report, Social Media Today dissected different the latest social media stats. Not sure where to begin? Video ads are a great place to start. Most social media companies are showing strong growth in the video sector.

Facebook is the most popular social network globally, and they are currently the third-most visited website in the world. For advertising, Facebook seems to have found the most success with video ads, and they have performed better than any other ad format. With Facebook’s recent launch of Reels internationally, Facebook is looking at different ways to let creators and brands earn ad revenue and place more advertisements between videos, much like TikTok.

Instagram is also seeing success with Reels. Fifty-eight percent of marketers are currently planning to leverage Reels in 2022 to get a piece of the video pie. Video viewers seem to enjoy ads the most from their favorite Instagram influencers rather than directly from brands, and they love the discovery aspect of it. Subscription companies can leverage that preference by working with social media influencers. Currently, 83% of Instagram users are using the platform to discover new products and services, and 90% of Instagram users are following a business profile. Is your subscription company among them?

YouTube is another platform that has seen huge success with advertisements. Forty-four percent of marketers are planning to leverage YouTube for the first time in 2022. Every day, more than 1 billion hours of content are being watched on YouTube, which leaves a lot of room for advertisements. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.

And if audio is where your subscribers are, give podcast advertising a try! (see what we did there?)

Three screenshots of Facebook Reels in groups
Facebook Reels. Source: Facebook

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