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.