Commentary

Brand Safety And The 'Mainstreaming' Of Podcasting

The good news heading into this year’s "Podcast Upfront” is that the medium has gone “mainstream,” according to the official theme unveiled by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) this morning. The bad news is that its brand safety concerns have also gone mainstream, especially given the increasing awareness that much of its content is -- how shall I say this, unsavory -- and largely unregulated.

Needless to say, big advertisers and their agencies eschew both of those things, so it will be interesting to see how the IAB -- and the ad-supported podcasting companies presenting at its May 10-12 event -- will spin those concerns in the wake of the medium’s newfound notoriety.

And I don’t just mean Spotify’s “The Joe Rogan Experience,” but all of the ways consumers might ultimately end up experiencing a brand adjacent to questionable content.

I know what some of you must be thinking: What’s the big deal, reckless misinformation has existed in commercial media as long as commercial media has existed. Remember talk radio? And while some draw a direct analogy between modern-day podcasting and radio’s classic shock jocks, there are some big differences, including the fact that radio at least had guardrails and oversight. In fact, stations had to follow Federal Communications Commission standards in order to keep their broadcast licenses. And in principle, radio had borders preventing hostile foreign powers from disseminating explicit propaganda over the airwaves.

As we’re increasingly learning, that’s not necessarily the case with internet distributed audio programming, whether it comes from Spotify, Moscow, or even less transparent servers.

The good news is that much information about specific content is available within the metadata files of podcasts, and NewsGuard plans to exploit that info as part of a new podcast rating services it will roll out this summer.

That’s actually good news for the podcast upfront, because it will give advertisers and agencies greater confidence that their brands won’t show up adjacent to harmful content, or that their budgets won’t go toward supporting bad actors.

3 comments about "Brand Safety And The 'Mainstreaming' Of Podcasting".
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  1. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment, March 17, 2022 at 11:12 a.m.

    What brands, or NewsGuard, consider "questionable content" and what the audience deems as "questionable content" are two different things.  Thankfully, most top podcasters don't need to cater to some third-party's idea of what questionable content is and the audience is ultimately in control to decide what is appropriate and what is not.

  2. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, March 17, 2022 at 11:22 a.m.

    @Dan Ciccone: That's right, people are free to access any content they want, but advertisers are also free to spend their ad dollars where they want. Many podcasts are subscription-based and paid for by their users, who vote on the validty of content with their own pocketbooks.

    The problem is, nearly a quarter of Americans now get news from podcasts ( https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/371218/think-about-this-nearly-a-quarter-of-americans-ge.html ) that don't necessarily have the highest standards where facts are concerned.

  3. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment replied, March 17, 2022 at 12:03 p.m.

    Here's a quote from Joe Rogan - "I do not agree with much of [Ben Shapiro’s] politics but I welcome guests like Ben who can challenge my own perspectives."


    The majority of these podcasters present themselves as entertainers - not as journalists.


    Having guests on to let them express their views while simultaneously challenging them is not spreading misinformation and my concern is that nothing has been presented to show that a company like NewsGuard can differentiate between misinformation and debate.  Nor should opinion be deemed misinformation - it's just that - opinion.


    Back on topic - whether it is podcasting, linear TV, or ad networks, brands and agencies need to get back to basics and start evaluating individual shows, networks, and personalities instead of relying on data so much.  If your ad runs on a "questionable" network or personality show, that's on you..  Get involved and stop relying so heavily on data.  Stop relying so much on "questionable targeting" instead of spending so much effort to figure out what questionable content is.


    If 25% of Americans now get their news from podcasts, that's more of an indictment about hwo terrible the traditional news outlets are.  Most news channels offer 2 hours of actual news per day and 22 hours of pundit bs - and that's on both sides of the aisle.

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