We Don't Have to Follow Public-Radio Rules! Podcasters Play for Keeps at an Upfront

Noted: Podcasters Can Make Calls to Action

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IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg speaks at the upfront.
IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg speaks at the upfront.

Podcasters sought to shed any public-radio, non-commercial vibe that still lingers around the format on Thursday night, when they pitched their popularity and audience demographics to advertisers at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's first podcast upfront.

Presenters from Panoply, AdLarge, Podtrac, Midroll, ESPN, CBS, WNYC and NPR talked up the opportunities that their shows present for advertising, not to mention their freedom from public radio's rules against explicit calls to action.

You can't promote the growth of podcasting without mentioning "Serial," the murder investigation that became a media phenomenon last year and delivered Mailchimp, the most prominent sponsor, a burst of awareness in the process. "If there's a Renaissance, it started with Ira Glass, Sarah Koenig and 'Serial,'" Mark McCrery, CEO at Podtrac, which represents podcasts such as "The Tech Guy"

Attempting to quell concerns about measuring podcast audiences, which aren't tracked by the same methods and companies that gauge radio listeners, presenters noted the rise of impression tracking, tracking with promo codes and behavioral tracking. Panoply, a podcast network from Slate magazine, will soon have the ability to know if a listener turned a show off before an ad was heard, Slate product manager Joel Withrow said.

The event, held at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in New York, included a variety of pitch styles. Some networks communicated a very selective approach, reflecting their audiences and even hosts' reluctance to give marketers time. But others seemed more welcoming. Leo Laporte, host of "The Tech Guy," said he initially didn't want to do any advertising, but that he changed his mind a few years ago. He said he still turns away "a lot" of advertisers.

"The advertiser has to be someone I think is worthy of our audience," Mr. Laporte said. His podcast's audience is 96% male, and the show gets 6.1 million unique downloads a month, according to the company's presentation.

Comedian Judy Gold, host of CBS's "Kill Me Now with Judy Gold," said, "If I'm going to do an ad for you, it's going to be funny, and it's going be written by me."

Another CBS presenter, a former pro wrestler called Taz who now hosts "The Taz Show: Bodyslams & Beyond," said he would give advertisers his all. "When I read your stuff ... when I go out and give my audio, you're on my team," Taz said.

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