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IAB Podcast Upfront Notebook: iHeart, Audacy, NPR, Cumulus, Wondery, WNYC, Sony, Paramount.


There were no shortage of growth stories at the IAB Podcast Upfront last week From deal-signings to new shows, and even a no-show. Here’s some of what podcasters had to say—


iHeart Targets One Million


The biggest headline from iHeartMedia’s presentation was its launch of a new branded podcast studio called Ruby. More broadly, the company played up its size to ad buyers. Conal Byrne, iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group CEO, said they have 73 podcasts that each have more than one million downloads per month. “A lot of that is because of broadcast radio marketing,” Byrne said. He said when they bring on a new show, the first thing iHeart aims for is to get the podcast over the million downloads-per-month line in order to build an audience then use the show to build other podcasts from it. Will Pearson, President of iHeartPodcasts, said they are also working to bring in more underrepresented voices as demonstrated by the launch of their networks appealing to Black, Hispanic, and LGBTQ audiences.


Audacy: Data Is Enlightening Black Box of Smart Speakers


Like a lot of radio companies, Audacy has content available on all sorts of devices. But Jonathan Panjwani, Director of Ad Tech Partnerships & Solutions, says the key has been how can they reach those licensers on devices that have been a “black box” and not been addressable – most notably smart speakers. Audacy has begun to mix Trans Union’s data marketplace featuring 55,000 different audience segments with Audacy’s first-party registration data. “We can not only fulfill and satisfy our clients budgets, but we can also give our listeners a much more curated and a much more targeted experience,” Panjwani said. “It leads to people who are much more engaged with podcasts and content, as well as the podcasting advertisements… It's not just that we're seeing this growth for podcasting. We're also seeing it for just our audio products across the board,” he said.


NPR Trust Carries To Podcasts Ads


NPR used its time in front of ad buyers to show off several of its shows – what TED Radio Hour host Manoush Zomorodi referred to as “the nerd parade” – as well as leverage its history into the digital space. Gina Garrubbo, President/CEO of National Public Media – the ad-selling unit of NPR – says public radio has been able to lean into its “brand safe and highly-trusted content” to appeal to marketers. Garrubbo says National Public Media did a study that shows the trust public radio’s audience has for the programming also builds affinity and purchase intent for NPR sponsors.


Cumulus Goes ‘Bold’


Five decades of network radio history colors how the Cumulus Podcast Network approaches the medium, according to Suzanne Grimes, President of Westwood One and EVP of Marketing at Cumulus Media. “We still believe in a host-led approach,” she told advertisers. That means focusing on a podcast lineup of “bold voices” with four content areas – news/talk, sports, lifestyle and entertainment – where they are most focused. “So with our massive footprint and our audio first approach, Cumulus Media creates ad integrations that hopefully work for all of you,” she told buyers.


Public Radio’s Trust Card


In an era where news is called into question, creators from WNYC Studios said they believe the quality and fact-checking they do on their shows are their leading advantages. “In an age of polarizing news 24/7, we offer something different,” said Science Friday host Ira Flatow. He said it’s also why a show that covers health and science news is heard on 460 radio stations. “The heart of what we do each week is present stories in engaging and fun ways so that it's approachable to all the six million listeners we reach,” he said. WNYC Studios said it is one of the reasons why it is bringing back its Supreme Court-focused podcast More Perfect after four years.


Wondery Signs TV & Barometer Deals


Barometer, the AI-powered platform helping brands assess podcast content suitability for advertising, has a new partnership with Wondery. “These tools will give advertisers more insight and intelligence on where they are placing their ads,” said Angie More, Head of Ad Revenue at Wondery. She also announced three new TV series based on Wondery podcasts will be streaming soon on TV. That includes a second season for Dr. Death on Peacock, staring Edgar Ramirez and Mandy Moore playing lead roles. Moore will also star in “Twin Flames,” which is in development at Hulu and is based on the podcast of the same name. And Ryan Murphy’s American Sports Story has been greenlit by FX. It is based on the Wondery series Gladiator: Aaron Hernandez and Football Inc., which was co-produced with the Boston Globe. “Each time one of these TV shows premiere on your favorite streamer, we see a massive spike in podcast listening,” More said.


Getting Curious’ Moves To Sony


Sony Music Entertainment says Jonathan Van Ness’s hit podcast Getting Curious will be joining its slate this summer. The show hosted by the celebrity hairstylist and “Queer Eye” cast member has been at Earwolf. Van Ness said they will also be launching a pair of “support series” – one is called Pretty Curious, which a beauty-based podcast. And the other is Curious Now, a topical-news based show.


Paramount MIA


After announcing Paramount would be part of the IAB Podcast Upfront this year, the studio was a no-show on Thursday. Word is the Hollywood writers’ strike led to the decision.

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