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Ad Tech Firms Under Fire For Data Scraping + 5 more stories for Mar 11, 2022

Today on The Download from Sounds Profitable; ad tech firms are under fire for data scraping, Amazon joins the social audio market, YouTube is paying podcasters to incorporate video, and more.

Morning Brew’s Ryan Barwick reports that trade groups acting on behalf of publishers from the US, UK, and Canada are accusing ad-tech firms of unfairly scraping metadata from websites Once collected, this allegedly ill-gotten data is used to create contextual advertising segments for clients without the publisher’s consent, also undercutting the publishers’ attempts to directly sell contextual advertising deals.

“Now that third-party cookies are dying and some ad dollars are shifting to contextual advertising—ads based on the content of the media, not on personal information—publishers want a (better) seat at the table and stronger terms as the industry adopts new technologies.”

Richard Reeves, managing director of the Association of Online Publishers, summarized the issue of companies scraping data.

“What we are now seeing is people almost brazenly walking through your home, and removing your furniture, and selling your assets elsewhere. And you don’t even know that they’re doing it, or you can’t receive any value for it. Just because you can doesn’t mean to say you should.”

Data scraping isn’t new to podcasting, either. Transcription happens in podcasting, with and without a publisher's consent. It’s likely however this wider publisher issue plays out will have trickle-down effects to what companies can do with unlicensed podcast transcripts.

Amazon has a new social audio app to make podcasters' dreams of being a DJ come true. Brad Hill of Rain News reports:

“While early reports compare Amp to Clubhouse, Amazon’s promotional emphasis is on building interactive music shows, something like live, interactive radio.”

Amp brings to mind an obscure podcasting tool Spotify launched for Anchor in late 2020. The feature, titled Shows with Music at launch, allows podcasters on Anchor to slot any song in the Spotify catalog between any pre-recorded podcast segments. Listeners with Spotify Premium would experience a seamless transition as if the music was baked into the podcast, while free listeners would hear a thirty-second preview of the song. Shows with Music still exists, technically, but has fallen by the wayside to become a feature hidden in the Anchor interface. Much like the forgotten podcasts from big-name creators covered last week.

Amp, conversely, only requires listeners to sign up for a free Amp account to listen to creators. The Verge’s Jack Kastrenakes writes:

“Amazon is positioning this as more of a radio-style service than a live chat service (there’s even a five-person cap on callers right now), which is probably for the best.”

Shows with Music was a cool feature that enabled podcasters to live out their radio DJ dreams in a copyright-friendly manner. Another platform with a massive collection of licensed content at their disposal playing in this podcasting-adjacent space might just lead to more creativity and innovation in the social audio sphere.

On Tuesday, podcasting ad tech company Gumball announced they had raised ten million in Series A funding.

Brad Hill of Rain News reports,

“Gumball, which was started by podcast comedy network Headgum, allows advertisers to programatically buy pre-recorded host-read ads. The system offers real-time inventory browsing, demographic audience targeting, and verification of placement and listening. The company lists a few brands which have used the system — Casper, CBS, Netflix, OkCupid, Squarespace, Warby Parker, and others.”

Naturally, the Gumball system is deployed across the entire Headgum network, serving ads on flagship podcasts like The Doughboys, Punch up the Jam, and We Hate Movies.

YouTube is taking podcasting seriously enough to put their money where their mouth is. Last Friday Bloomberg’s Ashely Carman reported both independent podcasters and podcast networks, all of which asked for anonymity, received offers ranging from $50,000 to $300,000 to create filmed versions of their episodes, as well as “other kinds of videos.”

Video podcasts on YouTube historically have done well. As the platform matured from cat clips to encouraging content creators to make longer and longer content, the unedited video chat show took off. Productions like The H3H3 Podcast and The Joe Rogan Experience saw great success embracing the platform. That said, as Carman said,

“However, the cost to build a studio, hire editors, and develop a fully functioning video publishing pipeline can deter networks and shows from adopting the platform.”

In addition to these cash injections implying YouTube wants to seed more of a professionally-produced podcasting atmosphere, there are small infrastructure moves to suggest this is a long-term plan. Alex Castro at The Verge reminds readers that back in October YouTube began allowing Canadian users to listen to videos while the device was not focusing on the YouTube app or was locked. As YouTube power users in the US can attest, this feature is pushed very hard in YouTube Premium advertising as a good reason to sign up.

Without putting on a podcast-branded tin-foil hat, it seems like making the ability to use YouTube like a podcasting app would be a huge step towards YouTube courting more podcasters and their audiences.

On Tuesday The Hollywood Reporter’s J. Clara Chan published an exclusive announcement that UTA has launched Audio IQ, a data analytics service to facilitate podcast deals. The service will make use of social media, search results, and other open-source data to inform both clients and agents of a podcasts’ health to facilitate dealmaking.

“While podcast analytics can often rely on historical data points like number of downloads or past ad revenue, UTA’s Audio IQ analyses also offer future projections — a tool that is particularly key in negotiations for shows that have not yet launched or for identifying emerging talent.”

Audio IQ comes onto the field as massive podcast outfits buy up previously third-party analytics companies - see our February 18th episode for coverage of the Spotify acquisition of Chartable - and that atmosphere has UTA IQ lead Joe Kessler concerned.

As Kessler is quoted by Chan’s article:

“I’m hopeful that this announcement serves as a wake-up call for the podcasting industry to somehow coalesce around a common source of truth and data for the industry, because it’s sorely needed as it’s maturing.”

Finally, a smaller bit of news that’s not technically a full news story yet, but we feel is worth keeping an eye on as things develop. There was something about Tuesday this week that lead to podcasting announcements. Ashley Carman tweeted the exclusive scoop that three senior leaders at Megaphone are leaving. CEO Brendan Monaghan, CRO Matt Turk, and COO Jason Cox, all in their positions prior to the Spotify buyout, have been confirmed to be leaving the company after their one-year contracts expired.

The three are now starting a blockchain company.

The Download is a production of Sounds Profitable. Today's episode was hosted by Shreya Sharma and Manuela Bedoya, and the script was written by Gavin Gaddis.

Bryan Barletta and Evo Terra are the executive producers of The Download from Sounds Profitable.

Special thanks to Ian Powell for his audio prowess, and to our media host, Omny Studio.

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