Spotify is bringing back political ads after ending them in 2020

Spotify stopped hosting political ads on its services in early 2020, citing a lack of “robustness” in its systems before what turned out to be the ugliest US election in recent history.

Less than two years later, as the midterm primary begins, the company is once again courting political advertisers, according to a company presentation and marketing email seen by Protocol.

Spotify confirmed to Protocol that it is slowly reintroducing political ads for candidates, political parties, PACs and elected officials in the US. “Following our hiatus from political ads in early 2020, we have spent the last two years strengthening and improving our processes, systems, and tools to responsibly validate and review this content,” spokeswoman Erin Styles said in a statement.

In an email the company sent out to potential partners this week, Spotify said political ads will appear “on thousands of podcasts on and off Spotify.” An accompanying presentation promises political advertisers the ability to target niche audiences and unlock AI-driven “contextual targeting,” which allows advertisers to place ads in podcasts when discussing issues relevant to their audiences.

But the company is cautious about re-entering the often ugly world of political advertising. Spotify only hosts ads from well-known political organizations and does not accept ads from the much wider range of issue-related groups. The ads will also only appear on Spotify’s podcast network for now, not the free music streaming network. Podcasts also have the option to opt out of political advertising if they choose to do so. Since 2020, the company has strengthened its advertiser verification system. His political sales team is three times larger than before.

However, Spotify has not developed a political ad archive like Meta and Google offer. After the Russian troll scandal in 2016, both companies set up ad archives that, while imperfect, have become more robust by the year, giving the public a glimpse into the previously opaque world of online political advertising. This week, Meta announced that it would be adding aggregated ad targeting data to its political ad archive.

But the lack of legislation forcing social networks to create these archives — and the lack of strict disclosure requirements for digital ads in federal elections — has created an unbalanced situation in which some companies require political advertisers to show their work, and others, well, not . Styles said Spotify may consider creating a political ad archive in the future.

The return of political advertising to Spotify is bound to raise uncomfortable questions for a company that’s already been at the center of so much political turmoil surrounding Joe Rogan’s podcast. But Spotify isn’t the only company having to rethink what to do with political ads as U.S. mid-term approaches. Twitter also no longer allowed them at the end of 2019 after an initial attempt to set up their own archive. Meanwhile, Netflix could offer ads by the end of the year, forcing this company to make a similar decision. Disney+, for example, has already said it won’t be offering political ads on the ad-supported version of its service.

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