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Digital Ads Evolve As Online Privacy Increases + 4 more stories for April 8, 2022

**This week on The Download; digital ads evolve as online privacy increases, Substack poaches podcasts from Patreon, and iHeartMedia is buying NFTs to make podcasts about them.**A fair amount of coverage has been written about the so-called death of targeted advertising. Privacy changes implemented by Google and Apple have made some waves, but said waves are having interesting effects on the industry. On Wednesday Brian Chen and Daisuke Wakabayashi published a New York Times piece called *You’re Still Being Tracked on the Internet, Just in a Different Way*.

A fair amount of coverage has been written about the so-called death of targeted advertising. Privacy changes implemented by Google and Apple have made some waves, but said waves are having interesting effects on the industry. On Wednesday Brian Chen and Daisuke Wakabayashi published a New York Times piece called *You’re Still Being Tracked on the Internet, Just in a Different Way*.

Throughout the piece Chen and Wakabayashi alternate between birds-eye views of the tech industry and personal anecdotes from small business reflecting the changing landscape of traditional digital ads.

“The rise of this tracking has implications for digital advertising, which has depended on user data to know where to aim promotions. It tilts the playing field toward large digital ecosystems such as Google, Snap, TikTok, Amazon and Pinterest, which have millions of their own users and have amassed information on them. Smaller brands have to turn to those platforms if they want to advertise to find new customers.”

Where in previous years a business would be able to purchase ad space on services like Instagram or Facebook, famous for their tracking providing fine-tuned results, now the pendulum has shifted.

“Shawn Baker, the owner of Baker SoftWash, an exterior cleaning company in Mooresville, N.C., said it previously took about $6 of Facebook ads to identify a new customer. Now it costs $27 because the ads do not find the right people, he said.”

With the devaluing of assumed default channels of advertising, more budgets are being redistributed to new avenues of advertising. Especially options with first-party data. While podcast advertising doesn’t offer that data for users, the contextual nature and growth of podcasting-first data solutions are becoming appealing options for those buyers

Dave Jones (no relation to the undersea legend) posted a blog to Substack Monday with intent to clear the air on Podcasting 2.0. What exactly is Podcasting 2.0? As Jones puts it:

“The Podcasting 2.0 project is simply this: A vision of what podcasting experiences can be in the future, and a set of free, open source standards for how that vision becomes reality.”

Jones goes on to give context for what some of these open-source standards could look like, folding them into a fictional day in the life a podcast super-listener named Joy. Throughout Joy’s typical work day she uses a one-size-fits-all podcatcher app that folds features and functionality from existing first-party services into one place. Whenever a video podcast she likes goes live, Podcast 2.0 framework allows her to join in and listen to just the audio (much like YouTube’s audio-only feature). When she dips into the video portion of the stream she can tip money to the hosts, causing an on-screen notification akin to Superchats on YouTube and donations on Twitch.

Her app displays episode-specific links and data mentioned in podcasts manually placed by the hosts. It automatically switches to lower bitrate versions of audio feeds when traveling into areas with poor signal. In Joy’s Podcast 2.0 world she can check comments and reviews aggregated from other podcasting apps.

“Every bit of the above scenario is perfectly possible using only RSS and open source standards. Much of it is already functioning today in apps and services that are early adopters.”

For those who’ve only heard of Podcasting 2.0 in passing, Jones’ piece aims to explain the passion and potential open-source future the concept could provide.

We move from a story posted on Substack to a story about Substack. On Tuesday Ashley Carman published the Bloomberg piece Substack Poaches Patreon Stars for Expanded Push into Podcasting. Substack now offers two resources popular with monetized podcasts: a newsletter and a private RSS feed for paying subscribers.

Substack’s COO Hamish McKenzie says the company is giving grants to certain podcasters who make the switch from Patreon. Though, like a recent report on YouTube offering grants for podcasters to pivot to video, Substack is keeping quiet as to which specific podcasts got grants. Currently only four are known.

The grants Substack offers serve to soften the blow of abandoning an existing service. Patreon does not offer the ability to take paid subscriptions to a competitor’s platform. Podcasters making the switch will lose patrons, moreso than they normally would to monthly churn.

Marketers have been telling podcasters that newsletters are a successful way to create and own an audience. Substack taking initiative shows they might begin to own and understand the market of podcasts centered around communities. And, by extension, own the revenue derived from said market.

That said, this introduces another hosting solution that does not appear to be following IAB standards. Substack joins Apple’s subscription product, Supercast, and Supporting Cast in that crowd. This isn’t necessarily an issue for the individual user because they provide first party info. Nevertheless, it does show the IAB standard doesn’t have the teeth many hoped it would as this industry continues to grow

****Soon it might be time to break out the picket signs and pro-worker chants at Spotify. On Monday Ashley Carman, making her second appearance this episode, published the Bloomberg article *Spotify Podcast Union is Ready to Strike Over Contract Terms*.

Barring successful negotiations, the Parcast Union is poised to execute the first ever strike at Spotify. The union cites unaddressed issues include basic concerns like pay, but also staff diversity concerns and IP rights.

“The bargaining committee told Bloomberg News that Spotify specifically doesn’t want to commit to a request that half of job candidates who make it past the phone interview stage be people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ+ or people with disabilities. They also added they haven’t agreed on acceptable salary minimums.”

97% of Parcast union members have pledged to join the strike, spanning multiple departments.

“A strike would be a first for Spotify and would come at a particularly fraught time for its podcast ambitions. The company laid off the internal team at its fourth podcast studio, known as Studio 4, in January, and has struggled to get much of its headline-driving content off the ground.”

For more information on that reference to unreleased headline-driving content, we direct you to the March third episode of The Download for coverage of that particular story. Here’s hoping the union walks away from the bargaining table with their goals achieved. People deserve to be paid a fair living wage, and podcasting on the scale Spotify operates at is certainly big enough to handle that.

For our final story of the week, something bizarre.

Non-fungible tokens, a digital collectible known for being rife with pump-and-dump schemes and other classic forms of financial scams, are potentially getting their first big break in podcasting through iHeartMedia’s new scheme.

Sara Fischer, reporting for Axios, broke exclusive news on Tuesday: iHeartMedia is building a podcast network around NFTs they’ve purchased.

“iHeartMedia is currently in talks to make 10–15 investments in prominent NFT collections over the next few days — including CryptoPunks, Mutant Ape Yacht Club, and World of Women — per Khalil Tawil, EVP of strategy at iHeartMedia.”

As Tawil describes it, iHeartMedia will purchase NFTs from various internet-popular collections and then craft a slate of podcasts that retroactively create a series of stories and characters around the algorithmically-generated artwork they sort-of own.

Fischer quotes Khalil Tawil as saying there is “no real precedent for this.” While technically true in the context of podcasting, it’s not new in other forms of media. Most notable are the multiple attempts at getting NFT animated series off the ground, as Vice covered in November.

Though, iHeartMedia has the scale needed to truly take advantage of the IP inherent in their purchases. From Hot Pod on Thursday,

“One of the unique features of these character-based NFT series is that they often hand IP rights over to whoever owns them. That means if you buy a Bored Ape, you can print your Bored Ape on a T-shirt, market that shirt online, put it on a billboard, and so on. Folks who believe in the NFT hype want to turn these collections into a sort of decentralized Disney, which, I suspect, will overshoot reality by at least a few orders of magnitude.”

Whether iHeart’s decentralized Disney will profit or not remains to be seen.

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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