(by Renee Cassis) With podcasting maturing into a solid advertising medium, the annual IAB Podcast Upfront drew some of the biggest players in the podcast space during its 2018 Podcast Upfront in New York City yesterday. The annual event drew more than 300 attendees, most of them from advertisers in the digital- and audio-buying communities.
One of the most noticeable differences this year was the high volume of radio company participation, as iHeart, Univision, and Westwood One joined NPR, HowStuffWorks, Midroll, Slate, and others to spotlight their newest and biggest shows, along with their hottest talent. While the trend of “broadcasters meet podcasters” started at Podcast Movement — and was prominent at this year’s event in Philadelphia — it seemed even more pronounced during this day-long conference with back-to-back presentations.
Referring to its podcast network as a “startup within a powerhouse,” Suzanne Grimes, EVP Marketing of Cumulus Media and President of Westwood One, announced the launch of The Empow(h)er Podcast Network, which targets the medium’s growing female audience.
Greg Batusic, COO of Podcast One, also noted the shift to a more gender-diverse podcast audience. Pointing to a 45% growth in female listeners in the past year, Batusic said Podcast One is signing on female hosts by seeking out influencers who are well-known personalities or who have a big social media following. Batusic also remarked on the high brand safety factor of audio advertising vs. other digital platforms, because, with audio, advertisers know what they are buying right from the start.
Univision Radio President Jesus Lara confirmed his company’s commitment to podcasting, bringing out hosts Teresa Rodriguez and Leon Krauze. Both are broadcast talent who are using the podcast platform to explore new and deeper ways of connecting with audiences. For his La Mesa podcast, Krauze sets up a small bistro-sized folding table and two chairs on a sidewalk, then invites people passing by to sit and chat about whatever comes up. Every conversation begins with “what’s your name” (in Spanish) and goes from there.
That wild unformatted freeform of a podcast is perhaps one of the biggest differences from its older broadcasting cousin — something that Jarl Mohn, President and CEO of NPR, and Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeart, discussed in detail with IAB’S CEO Randall Rothenberg. Mohn and Pittman go back to the early days of MTV, and now, respectively, lead the largest non-commercial and commercial audio companies in the U.S. NPR dove into podcasting relatively early on for a large organization and has had impressive success in the medium. iHeart is staking its claim, not only with podcasts that are extension of morning shows with hosts like Elvis Duran, but also with original content like Atlanta Monster, which is the result of a three-way partnership with HowStuffWorks and Tenderfoot TV.
Both executives admitted the power of their broadcast platforms was a great advantage for promoting their podcasts. Whether that can ever manifest into listeners and revenue for local radio may be an unanswered question at this point, but it’s clear that storytelling via audio, whether broadcast or podcast, is a theater-of-the-mind experience that invokes a very personal experience and is a great benefit to advertisers who want to tap into that.
Renee Cassis is owner of RC Communications Marketing, a PR and marketing consultancy for broadcast and entertainment companies. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.