Diversity takes center stage at the IAB Podcast Upfront
As the U.S. grapples with racial injustice, podcasters are under pressure to prove their content can resonate with Black audiences and people of color.
During the three-day 2020 IAB Podcast Upfront that concludes today, publishers, TV and podcast networks, including iHeartMedia, ViacomCBS, NPR, Vox Media and The New York Times, set out to prove to advertisers that they not only embody diversity—but can reach diverse audiences, too.
The virtual event, the first upfront under new Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO David Cohen, was hosted by actress, author and comedian Franchesca Ramsey; networks highlighted famous Black individuals including Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Durant and Charlamagne tha God to speak about their new projects.
On Wednesday, iHeartMedia—which called itself the “world’s largest podcast publisher dedicated to Black listeners"—announced a partnership with Charlamagne to launch the Black Effect Podcast Network this fall with a slate of 18 podcasts across iHeartMedia and other podcast platforms.
The podcasts will feature Black perspectives on topics ranging from mental health to comedy from individuals including social justice activist Tamika Mallory, attorney and TV host Eboni K. Williams and former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner.
Charlamagne’s “The Breakfast Club” podcast, which has 4.5 million weekly listeners, will be the network’s flagship show. Podcasts include "Gangster Chronicles" with MC EIHT, Reggie Wright Jr. and James McDonald; "Straight Shot No Chaser" with Tezlyn Figaro; and "Laugh and Learn" with Flame Monroe, produced by Tiffany Haddish.
"Blackness has an immediate, culture-shifting effect on everything,” Charlamagne said in a statement. “Blackness controls the cool. Blackness is the culture, but Black Voices are not monolithic. The only way to appreciate the diversity of thought and experiences in Black culture is to build a platform for those voices to be heard.”
Pepsi, through its agency OMD, has signed on as the network’s first sponsor.
“This opportunity connects our brands to consumers through the newer trusted medium of podcasting, and more importantly, supports the overall PepsiCo strategic initiative to invest in Black communities and support diverse voices,” Katie Haniffy, head of media at PepsiCo Beverages, said in a statement.
Ben & Jerry’s, a longtime advocate for social justice and racial equality, teamed up with Vox Creative and the documentary “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America” to produce a podcast with the same name. It’s the first original podcast series the Vox Media Podcast Network has made in partnership with a brand.
ViacomCBS announced a three-year deal between iHeartMedia and ViacomCBS entertainment and youth brands, which include MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount Network. New offerings include Nickelodeon podcasts based on its TV shows (Nickelodeon hired Jenny Wall, former CMO of Gimlet Media, as CMO last year); podcast expansions of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah”; and “Yo! MTV Raps,” based on the hip-hop music and interview TV show.
Podcast and media company Stitcher, which has worked with Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network for her podcast, “SuperSoul Conversations,” announced it will launch a new podcast with Winfrey in the fall.
“The OWN Podcast Network is looking to create new more content for all of our listeners,” said Winfrey during Stitcher’s upfront on Wednesday.
Stitcher is also introducing several new fall podcasts which will feature Black voices discussing their experiences with race and identity, including “More Sauce,” “Porsha4Real,” featuring hosts from the “Real Housewives of Atlanta”; and “The Suga,” with Thai Randolph and Tika Sumpter, about mothers of color.
Kevin Durant’s new podcast for Cadence 13, “The Etcs,” will touch on moments that have shaped his life, including receiving Michael Jordan shoes. Sony Music plans podcasts that will explore racial justice, crime, current events and politics.
“Audiences are getting so much more diverse,” said Michael Smith, chief marketing officer at NPR, which in October will launch “Louder Than Riots,” a look at the rise of hip-hop and incarceration in the Black community.
Forever Dog Productions is partnering with Moguls of Media and Grindr to produce “The Rear View,” a roundtable of queer personalities; “Too Late,” for millennials focused on sketch comedy, celebrities and restaurant reviews; and “Swish,” for Gen Zers, powered by Black voices on sports news, gaming and social justice.
Gary Reisman, CEO of Forever Dog Productions, who says Forever Dog has always focused on diversity, says it makes sense that many networks are trying to play catch up now. "The agencies have expressed their desire for diversity in their media," he says.