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Big Ad Agencies Look To Create New Content Rating Service For Podcasts.

NewsGuard, the technology company that rates the credibility of news and information websites and tracks online misinformation, is reportedly working with several big advertising agencies on a new service that would bring its rating service to podcasting. MediaPost says NewsGuard is in talks with at least three of the ad industry’s big holding companies who would purportedly have six-month exclusive access to the information that would help them guide where their ad buys are directed.

“We were approached by two of the holding companies and are now in discussions at various stages with three of them and have just had a preliminary discussion with a fourth,” NewsGuard Co-CEO Steven Brill confirmed to MediaPost. Brill would not say which of the ad agencies he was in talks with, however it is expected to be up and running this summer.

The focus on podcasting comes as NewsGuard prepares to introduce a similar service for television. While NewsGuard typically relies on humans to rate the information on websites, the metadata in podcasts would also be leveraged. MediaPost says four main criteria would be used to rate podcasts -- that’s less than the nine used for websites. It aims to offer a more nuanced product than other brand safety tools that are springing up that rely mainly on key words in transcripts to decide whether a podcast is on a buy or not.

NewsGuard’s entry comes into what is quickly becoming a crowded space for brand safety tools. The audio advertising agency Oxford Road announced this month that it is teaming up with the artificial intelligence company Barometer to launch a new AI-powered brand suitability tool that they say will allow ad buyers to assess the “risk profile” of a podcast and whether it aligns with their brand values. The answer would guide whether a show is part of the media plan or not.

Their tool is powered by natural language processing, and would include risk profiles for shows and specific episodes for such things as adult and sexually explicit content, profanity and obscenity use, and discussions about controversial social issues. Unlike some keyword-based solutions, Barometer analyzes entire transcripts in context, interprets each utterance, and assigns a concrete risk score.

The big audio buying shop Ad Results Media is also working on its own solution. First announced last August, its audio-to-text tool would sort shows for key words and the number of times they are used in an episode. It will be able to let the marketer considering placing an order know whether there is a passing f-word in a show or a sea of expletives surrounding their ad.

“We’re not judging or grading, this is an awareness index,” said CEO Marshall Williams. “Because as you start to get into this space you realize there is a lot of salty content – the client just needs to be aware of it,” he told the Podcast Movement conference. Ad Results Media has placed more than $2 billion worth of audio buys during the past two decades and Williams said their aim isn’t to “screw up” podcasting, but simply alert advertisers of what they’re getting into.

The growth of digital audio is one of the top storylines in the 2022 Industry Pulse Report from Integral Ad Science. But its survey of 200 U.S. digital media experts representing brands, agencies, publishers, and ad tech vendors found 72% believe that brand risk around audio streaming content will increase as more ad inventory comes on to the market this year.

Seeing a need to address brand safety worries, some podcasters are embracing the use of third-party tools. In a move iHeartMedia says is geared to make advertisers more comfortable with buying ads across its network of more than 750 iHeartRadio Original podcasts, the company last month said it is partnering with Sounder, the podcast management and monetization platform. Under the alliance, iHeartMedia will integrate Sounder’s brand safety rating tools for use by ad buyers across the iHeartPodcast Network.

The tools leverage the Audio Data Cloud which Sounder debuted in November. Using text-to-audio transcription, machine learning and AI technology to identify topic tone and keywords, the technology powers an automated brand safety tool. In deploying the brand safety solution, iHeartMedia says it will allow marketers to buy across a deeper, wider array of podcasts with the assurance that the content adheres to industry safety standards.

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