Here’s what you missed at the 2022 IAB Podcast Upfront

Talk of diverse audiences and brand safety, new research from SiriusXM, and an update from Disney.
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Illustration: Francis Scialabba, Photo: IAB

· 3 min read

We know what you’re thinking: “There just isn’t enough upfronts content these days.” Fear not, reader. A week after the IAB hosted its 2022 NewFronts, it put on its virtual Podcast Upfront.

If you couldn’t make it last week (or if you were already burnt out from NewFronts), we tuned in and rounded up some of the most important announcements and themes of this year’s event, which positioned pods as “mainstream, prominent, and influential.”

Diversify: Several presenters centered their messaging around the diversity of their hosts and audiences. Chris Morrow, CEO of Loud Speakers Network, which he co-founded to amplify marginalized voices, spoke about the network’s “historic success” with African American listeners.

Univision’s Uforia network, as well as multicultural network POD Digital Media, each highlighted their dedication to Hispanic audiences. Mocha Podcasts Network showcased a slate of podcasts hosted by and for women of color.

And the hosts of They Call Us Bruce, an independent podcast about “what’s happening in Asian America” that sees 16,000 downloads per month, touted their ability to provide brands with “custom ways for them to authentically join the Asian American conversation.”

Stats: SiriusXM’s SXM Media, AdsWizz, and Simplecast published their 2022 Podcast Trends Report in time with their upfront presentations.

Here’s an interesting tidbit based on AdsWizz internal data. The top five most targeted contextual audiences in podcasts are:

  • Doctors and researchers
  • Businesses of all sizes
  • New parents
  • Those interested in education
  • And IT decision makers (shoutout to IT Brew)

Amazon’s Wondery podcast network also shared some stats based on a custom study conducted with Amazon Ads, including the finding that “streaming audio delivered 1.6 times higher positive emotional engagement than benchmarks for broadcast radio and 1.4 times higher than linear TV,” said Laurie Pracher, Wondery’s head of podcast ad sales.

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Brand safety: In addition to AdvertiseCast and Podscribe, companies including iHeartMedia, Acast, and short-form audio production studio SpokenLayer mentioned brand safety in their presentations.

Conal Byrne, CEO of iHeart Digital Audio Group, explained its Audio Intelligence tool created in partnership with podcast management platform Sounder, which uses AI and machine learning to transcribe podcasts and tag each episode “to ensure that every episode is brand safe for your marketing campaign,” he said, because Sounder’s tech allows iHeart to perform tasks like brand-suitability analysis and content summarization.

Elli Dimitroulakos, Acast’s head of automation for the Americas, noted the company’s dedication to brand safety and data privacy, and SpokenLayer CEO Andy Lipset pointed out that since all the content it creates is scripted, brands don’t have to worry about potential surprises from hosts in live-read ads.

Topics like DE&I and brand safety have become more prominent as podcast ad revenue approached and recently surpassed $1 billion per year. The focus on these conversations during the Podcast Upfront could reflect the increasing maturation of the industry.

+1: Adam Monaco, EVP of sales for Disney Advertising, announced that Disney will now represent all podcast content in the Disney portfolio, including pods from ABC, ESPN, and National Geographic. The move creates a “one-stop shopping” experience across audio and video for Disney’s advertisers, Monaco said.

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