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YouTube to add audio-only ads when listening to music, podcasts in background on desktop

YouTube looks set to add audio-only background ads to the video platform but only when you’re listening to content in the background on desktop.

In a blog post, YouTube product manager Melissa Hsieh Nikolic confirmed that the feature will begin rolling out in beta and is “designed to connect your brand with audiences in engaged and ambient listening on YouTube.”

Essentially this means that those that like to listen to podcasts and music on YouTube in the background while they go about their day may hear randomly placed audio-only ads tailored to them. We can only assume this will mimic the ads that free-tier members hear when listening to content on Spotify. Of course, on mobile background play is only available to those already subscribing to YouTube Premium.

YouTube is one of the world’s biggest music streaming platforms, with “more than 50 percent of logged-in viewers who consume music content in a day consume more than 10 minutes of music content” according to this announcement blog post.

With music video streaming at an all time high on YouTube—more than 50 percent of logged-in viewers who consume music content in a day consume more than 10 minutes of music content—we’re introducing new solutions for your brand to be seen, heard and recognized alongside music content.

It’s clear that audio-only ads are an untapped market when it comes to YouTube, as an alpha test of the feature found that “more than 75% of measured audio ad campaigns on YouTube drove a significant lift in brand awareness.”

Granted we can see that to people who despise ads, this might be a big blow as ad-free listening is becoming harder and harder on YouTube. Like Spotify, upcoming audio ads will be limited to 30-seconds but will cost less to place on the platform.

Audio ads are available in beta via auction on Google Ads and Display & Video 360 on a CPM basis with the same audience targeting options, bidding strategies and Brand Lift measurement capabilities as your YouTube video campaigns. Using both video and audio ads together, you can reach more people, consuming content they love, with the ad format that’s best suited for their unique YouTube experience. 

While these ads are not directly linked to services like YouTube Music, it could be seen as an indirect play to push more users to paid-for tiers to remove them. That said, a short ad when listening to your favorite long-form audio or video podcast on YouTube probably isn’t too much of an issue. No details were shared on whether this will mean that background play will be enabled for free YouTube account users if this rolls out more widely.

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Avatar for Damien Wilde Damien Wilde

Damien is a UK-based video producer for 9to5Google. Find him on Twitter @iamdamienwilde. Email

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