New Rating Service Aims To Help Steer Advertisers Away From Racy, Divisive Podcast Content.


Ad Fontes Media, a Colorado-based media watchdog organization known for its rating of media bias among major news outlets, is casting its sights on podcasting. It has been working with the audio advertising agency Oxford Road and its new Media Roundtable initiative to devise a rating system for the top news and politics podcasts on Apple Podcasts. The Media Roundtable says its rating system will equip brands with tools and resources to enable them to move their ad dollars towards media that supports the core values they support.


The Media Bias Chart produced by Ad Fontes rates news for bias and reliability. Ad Fontes says it relies on a “balanced team of analysts” and a “rigorous methodology” which it detailed in a 2019 whitepaper. It has typically included a minimum of three weeks’ worth of content over several news cycles to assess a brand. To measure potential bias, Ad Fontes says it assesses the political language used, the political position, and a comparison of the topics covered or omitted.


“This tool allows advertisers and agencies to get clarity on previously unmeasured metrics for brand safety and suitability standards,” Oxford Road CEO Dan Grainger said in an email to clients on Wednesday.


The first Podcast Bias & Reliability Chart includes 140 podcasts.


The Podcast Bias & Reliability Chart comes at a cost. Ad Fontes Media is charging $6,000 per year to access its podcast tool.


But for many marketers, brand safety is a concern worth paying for. A survey released in January by AdsWizz found 48% of marketers said the ability to target away from specific content was very important to them. And among podcast publishers, two-thirds said it is either “very important” or “somewhat important” to the advertisers they work with.


Transcripts are one way that some podcasters are offering brand safety tools to clients. Once a podcast is put into a written format, key words on a marketer’s no-buy list are more easily identifiable. AdsWizz says its PodScribe service has already transcribed more than one million episodes for publishers including NPR, Audioboom, PodcastOne, Spreaker, Wondery, Kast Media, Idobi, and Librivox,


But the sheer volume of content produced by podcasters remains a challenge according to BizCounsel Chief Marketing Officer Scott McDonell. He told Variety that Ad Fontes’ ratings could help. “I think a guide is sorely needed so brands can make their own decisions aligned with what they feel comfortable with,” he said.


Lowering The Temperature


The just-launched Media Roundtable is on a mission to allow brands and advertisers to better understand the content they are financially supporting. The group will also equip brands with tools and resources to enable them to move their ad dollars towards media that supports the core values they support. Members will also receive a discounted rate to access the Podcast Bias & Reliability Chart.


To join the Media Roundtable, advertisers, marketers and media professionals will need to sign a six-point pledge, in which they vow to support content and platforms that support clarity, truth, fairness, respect, de-escalation and tolerance.


“Since 2013, we have helped hundreds of brands launch their first major advertising campaigns, often placing brands on opinion-driven shows and podcasts that sometimes reinforce an ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality,” said Granger. “Companies are struggling to balance their business objectives with their brand values. Now, with Media Roundtable, we’re able to offer solutions for brands to better understand the content they are sponsoring, and proactively ensure that when they spend money on ad-supported media, it aligns with their company and its stakeholders.”


Beyond just brand safety, the Media Roundtable says the information will help address the growing divisiveness and discord Americans are seeing across many forms of media.

“We’re helping ad buyers be more mindful about both the content they sponsor in order to advance programs that are more edifying than destructive,” said Granger. Other organizers include Vanessa Otero, founder and CEO of Ad Fontes Media; Keith Allred, Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse; and Bob Bordone, founder and Principal of the Cambridge Negotiation Institute.


The Media Roundtable is being promoted through a new podcast series in partnership with PodcastOne, which began in January 2021. Its latest episode features a conversation with NPR media critic Eric Deggans. Previous episodes featured interviews with former Chief White House Correspondent Carl Cameron, former CNN journalist Frank Sesno, and The Dispatch Senior Editor David French.

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