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Seekr Introduces Brand Safety Platform To Help Podcast Industry Keep Attracting Ad Dollars.

Radio stations have longed had the ability to subscribe to audience ratings. Now in a similar vein, Seekr, an artificial intelligence company specializing in content evaluation, is debuting a service that will allow marketers to subscribe to what amounts to content ratings as they navigate brand safety concerns in audio.

After months of beta testing, Seekr has announced it is launching a service that will rate all forms of content, beginning with podcasts, with a standard civility score that will give marketers a number on a 0 to 100 scale with a clear specific explanation of why a show or individual episodes achieved that score. Seekr says it has so far scored more than eight million minutes of audio across hundreds of thousands of podcasts within Edison Research’s ranking of the top 1,000 shows. It expects to have scores for ten-times as many podcasts by next year for the service it is calling Align.

Thanks to AI and training models to better understand human communication beyond just simple word choice, Seekr President/CTO Rob Clark says it will allow brands to take advantage of the so-called longtail of podcasts, rather than focus on just the top shows.

“We're excited about how this platform enables inclusion over executing, opening business opportunities for categories and programs in the marketplace that previously may have been ignored entirely out of an abundance of caution” Clark says. “There's also the ability to deep dive into individual podcasts to see how they score episodically, for civility as well as show by show risk assessment.”

He says Align will also help brands keep up to date with a podcast which may veer from one topic to another week-to-week. “We automatically pick these up so we can continue to update that score and also alert brands and agencies so they can make a decision if they do or don’t want to advertise against it,” Clark says.

Unlike some brand safety tools that never quite explain why a show is deemed off-limits, Seekr will allow subscribers to see what exactly in the discussion led to a specific civility score so they can assess how the show stacks up based on their specific risk tolerance. The platform also serves up similar shows, giving an ad buyer a sense of what else might be available for similar categories, topics or themes. It suggests that will open new genres for brands, as they set parameters around what minimum score they require.

During the beta launch, Align generated pre-order commitments from brands including Babbel, Bayer, Constant Contact, MasterClass, Quip, SimpliSafe, and Tommy John, among others. Dan Granger, CEO of the audio ad agency Oxford Road which was among the beta users and helped develop the platform, says there are also potential uses for podcast publishers as they go up against media buyers holding no-buy dictates.

“It's also an opportunity for them to work with their talent, and expose them to a little bit more self-awareness about how they're making their points,” Granger says. “Because they may find that they can have a much higher civility score – which will unlock better content as well as more ad dollars.”

Podcasts consumers spend about 23 to 25 minutes a day with medium, which as a percentage of daily time spent should equate to $11 billion in advertising. But industry estimates say podcasters had about $2 billion in revenue last year. Granger thinks tools like Align will help close that gap.

“Most of the industry has accepted that we need nutrition labels – it's too complicated to go in cold and use human judgment alone, there needs to be a tech component,” Granger says. “The challenge is that most of what's available in the market just isn't keeping pace in a functional way with the way that it needs to be used.” He says a lot of tools already available give “false positives” and that is keeping many shows off of buys unnecessarily.

Brand Safety Institute CMO Louis Jones says he consistently hears from marketers about podcast and connected TV and the challenges user-generated content presents.

“It's a big opportunity to align your brand with content; that makes sense for that brand. But you've got to be able to consistently do it in a brand safe way, and not get caught in an issue around reputational risk,” Jones says.

While they are beginning with podcasts, Clark says Seekr plans to expand its civility scores to other media, seeing an “obvious” need in digital video.

“The goal is a multi-channel tool that lets advertisers come in and see these kinds of ratings applied consistently with industry-specific signals across all forms of media,” he says.

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