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Up Next - A Podcast UpFront
Image: Jake Crowe

Up Next - A Podcast UpFront

· By Bryan Barletta · Editor: Evo Terra

As someone interested in podcasting adtech, you’re probably familiar with the concept of “upfronts”. More than a year into a pandemic, you’ve probably also witnessed a lot of podcasting’s upfronts become virtual events. But I think we can do better. I think we can actually leverage the power of podcasting to… well, power podcasting upfronts and podcasting events in general. So let’s launch one together.

Griff Caprio joins me this week to discuss how Spotify is in podcasting to win. You can find it completely free on my Premium Feed, along with a narrated version of today’s article post on Tuesday, or search for Sounds Profitable wherever you get your podcasts.

Introduction

Podcast advertising works.

The power of on-demand audio, that the listener has chosen to engage with, in a format that doesn’t prohibit them from doing other tasks, has consistently proven to be an effective channel. For both content distribution and the advertisers that help fund them.

But like the awkward teenager in all those problematic films of our youth desperately trying to fit in with the cool kids in digital, we skip over so much of the amazing aspects of our media that make us truly unique.

And I think it’s time we change that.

Way before I started Sounds Profitable, a question ate at the back of my mind: Why don’t we use podcasting to sell podcasting?

“The power of on-demand, in-your-ear, listener-initiated audio is one of the most amazing ways for brands to reach their desired audience, so please join me in this invite-only, at-a-specific-time, unrecorded event where we walk you through a PowerPoint presentation on why you should buy our ad inventory!”

That doesn’t sound very podcast-friendly to me.

Much of my effort with Sounds Profitable is focused on how to help podcast adtech companies use podcasting to sell their products in podcast form. And while I think we’re getting there, last week in an awesome brainstorming session I had with the leadership team at AdLarge, it all came together.

Advertising Upfronts are a nearly 80-year-old broadcast television event that focuses on having the leading networks present the next seasons of their show to an audience of brands and agencies who, you guessed it, get the opportunity to buy the ad inventory up front.

And for a visual medium like television, that absolutely works. But for podcasting, we have the opportunity to try something completely different. We have the opportunity to use the medium we know works so well to sell ad inventory to the advertisers and agencies interested in finding out more.

So let’s shake things up.

On May 10th, the first-ever podcast format UpFront will go live. We’re calling it Up Next.

Evo Terra came up with the fantastic name that I think plays really well off of the original UpFront idea, while also both embodying the playlist style of podcasting and the fact that this is the next format brands need to take more seriously.

Up Next is a podcast, not an event, specifically designed to elevate the podcast publishers and branded content producers looking to showcase the unique content and skill that they bring to the table for their brands. Here’s what it will look like. Or rather, will sound like:

A Triple Shot Of Trailers

The RSS feed for the show will have three episodes tagged as trailers so they’re the first thing seen by subscribers.

The first trailer episode will kick things off by concisely explaining what this podcast is and how to get the most out of it. I’m actually looking for a host for that episode (paid, of course), so if you’re educating yourself or active in the podcast advertising space and are a person of color, marginalized gender, or disabled person, please reach out, I’d love to share the spotlight.

The next two trailer episodes will showcase some of the best thought leadership in the podcast advertising space. The first will feature the top agencies in podcast advertising—Ad Result Media, Veritone One, and OXFORd Road—in conversation with Podsights. The second will highlight some of the biggest and most active brands in this space—BetterHelp and two others TBD—answering questions from Magellan AI. The goal of these trailer episodes is to uncover what is it about podcast advertising and podcasting in general that has them so excited, and to also impart some wisdom to first time podcast inventory buyers or those who are considering increasing their spending in our fast-growing medium.

With those important trailer episodes delivered, we get to the meat of the program.

Fully embracing the podcasting model, the RSS feed for Up Next will feature at least seven different seasons, one for each participating publisher or exclusive content rep who confirmed they’d participate with less than a week to consider it, but there is room for many more. The seasons will follow this format:

The first episode will be the pitch. Who they are, what they do best, the success they’ve helped advertisers achieve, and of course, why media buyers should buy their available inventory. This pitch episode will be no more than 15 minutes long, taking full advantage of the episode description by providing links to additional resources to help buyers make a more informed decision and make easier connections.

Episodes 2 through 6 will be hand-picked episodes that showcase the amazing properties the publisher has created or represents, giving any listening buyer a solid feel of not only what content their brand(s) will be associated with, but also how that publisher institutes ad-reads, as these will likely point to live episodes from the show’s active feeds. If Up Next can drive incremental downloads to campaigns already in play, so be it!

After the featured episodes are… well, featured; the next season will begin for the next publisher, following the same format. While I hope you decide to listen to all of the seasons and all of the episodes to get the best understanding of the opportunities just like you would at an in-person or virtual upfront, I’m embracing the “found time” aspect of podcasting, so you can split up your listening in a way that works with your schedule and isn’t tied to a clock on the event’s wall.

Here’s the current list of partners who are already onboard for Up Next

And yes, there’s still time to participate if you’re interested, keep reading!

Premium Placement With Premium Feeds

There’s another aspect of the “up-front” events that I think we can improve upon, and that’s the order of presenters. Because let’s face it: no publisher wants to be buried in the middle of a lineup of presenters, right? Podcasting can fix that with premium feeds.

Each participating publisher will have their own unique premium feed that places their season at the top of the feed, making it Season One. That way the publisher can distribute “listen here” links through their own channels with confidence that their shows will be positioned first.

Sounds Profitable has grown massively in a little over half a year, but my goal with Up Next is actually to empower all of the far more skilled marketing, PR, and sales teams at these amazing companies by providing them with a tool that helps them take advantage of the podcast medium to sell their podcast inventory.

Growing Through Accessibility

My goals with Sounds Profitable absolutely translate over to this project. Listeners are never charged to consume the content and they can absolutely consume it whenever works best for them.

Listening to/subscribing to/following the Up Next feed is and will be completely free. Thanks again to my amazing sponsor Supercast, whose platform I continue to use for outside the box ideas that they’re quickly innovating around, we’re building a custom landing page where anyone, and I truly mean anyone, interested in learning about the amazing podcast inventory available to purchase can get access to this completely free.

Like their physical, in-real-time counterparts, this free access is given in exchange for providing all parties involved some the standard information name, email, company, and consent to contact. After that, you’ll get your own premium feed with all the content listed above that you can easily add to your podcast player of choice.

And you can consume that content whenever and wherever you want. Attending time-blocked events is hard no matter what level of your career you’re at. If they’re in person, the financial barrier for entry is high. And even if the event is online, the time commitment is often too high.

Don’t get me wrong: the first time I can safely make it to a big live event I will 100% be there and Sounds Profitable wouldn’t even exist if I didn’t meet James and Evo at Podcast Movement Evolutions. But right now, even working for myself completely, I just can’t take half a day off—let alone three half-days off—to watch live presentations. And honestly, I’ve been sent to conferences as one of three people sent from a 100 person company, and watched exactly zero panels as we just used the event as an easy way to connect with dozens of people we otherwise would have had to spend weeks traveling the country to connect with.

Getting access to events like these is so key right now, especially for Director-level positions and lower. It’s critical that we educate and include as many people as possible because in the next few years, if those people aren’t up to speed on the ins and outs of this space and ready to be promoted, if we don’t dedicate time and energy to educating them and encouraging their unique ideas, we can’t grow this industry. Some of you actively hiring for these roles are already seeing that squeeze that we can only resolve through more open education.

How To Join

There are truly only three requirements of any publishers or exclusive rep firms to join:

While not a requirement, I would also ask that every company involved in this project utilize this opportunity to elevate people of color, marginalized genders, and disabled folks within your company. This is the time to highlight someone new from your team and pass them the mic, especially as this is a recorded event. I take this request fully to heart, which is why you won’t even hear my voice in this podcast whatsoever.

When I started Sounds Profitable, I set my sponsorship and advertising prices and haven’t adjusted them at all. In fact, I’ve actually added more value to them, including one hour of consulting per month for Full Sponsors. So this is just one more thank you to all my existing and new sponsors. And it won’t be the last.

Full Sponsorship includes your logo placed on every single page of the website, on all future issues of the newsletter, and added in as dynamic ad insertion into the podcast. I also shout it out in the next issue and post on LinkedIn.

So if you’re interested, just hit reply and we’ll find a time to connect. Because this isn’t a time-blocked event, we have plenty of room for any publisher to participate!

Wrapping It Up

Audio is a powerful format and an amazing tool. Every single time we think outside the box and use the platform in new and interesting ways, we drive innovation.

Podcast advertising is interesting not only because it works so well, but because it’s new for many. We have a fraction of the brands and spend in this space that we see in other mediums But as that continues to change, we’re going to need to come up with clever ways to offer new and different experiences. Think of how we started with text ads, then onto banners, and even native ads after that.

Sounds Profitable is about pulling at the string of those ideas just enough for y’all to take notice. I’m afforded the time to find and pull those strings thanks to my sponsors, so now I want to put those strings in the hands of all of my sponsors. I want us to collaboratively pull on them. I want whatever I discuss or do in Sounds Profitable to ultimately be the most beta of tests, and I want to proudly watch all of you attempt way cooler evolutions of these ideas and share them with me.

So I hope you’ll join me in participating in and spreading the word of the first-ever podcast format UpFront, Up Next.

And I ultimately hope this idea sparks something far more creative from you.

Homework - with Yappa

This week, homework is more of a request:

As always, I want to hear your thoughts on the project, so please click the Yappa image or hit reply and let me know!

Yappa

Sounds Profitable News

New Sponsors!

Support from our amazing sponsors is truly the only way that Sounds Profitable could exist. They provide me the means to stay completely independent, allowing me to fully write about all aspects of this industry without being bound to any one company. With that said, I’d like to introduce you to our latest sponsor:

I’d also like to thank True Native Media and Veritone One for upgrading from newsletter only to full sponsorship, along with Advertisecast for returning as a full sponsor.

If you’d like to learn more about sponsorship or advertising with us, just hit reply.

Product Deepdives

On April 15th, I’m excited to share with you a walkthrough of the Omny Studio platform, focused not only on enterprise publishers, but more specifically detailing out how every aspect of the platform can be managed completely through API. So whether your company has a robust CMS or you’re looking to whitelabel a solution, you’re not going to want to miss this.

If you missed our other product deepdives, with Podscribe, Triton Digital, AdsWizz, and Voxnest you can find them on demand on our website. Definitely let us know what you think!

The Podcast!

42 people have subscribed to the completely free premium feed. 9 of them selected just the expert interviews, 2 selected only the narrated articles, and 31 picked the megazord feed which contains both. Next step is going to be thinking of ways to interact with those listeners and judging engagement and the value it brings.

Market Insights - with ThoughtLeaders

Market Insights

As Q2 begins, this is super interesting to see. BetterHelp is clearly back in full force, but what does it say when MANSCAPED and Skillshare pull back so aggressively? Of course, this isn’t a complete snapshot of the landscape, but it is great directional information. Would love some of these brands to come join us with the Up Next.

Things to Think About

I highly recommend all my subscribers also subscribe to Podnews. Last week, I found a few pieces of information that caught my attention.

Sponsors

Our sponsors support a collaborative and educated podcasting space and are committed to raising up the whole industry together. Find out how you can become a sponsor today

Bryan BarlettaBryan Barletta (He/Him) is the voice behind Sounds Profitable. He started in the adtech industry so long ago that they used to ask, “Mobile advertising? Like on taxis?” (2008) before shifting into podcasting in 2015. His goal is to make in-depth adtech more accessible for readers and listeners. And, yes, it is sunny and warm in Austin today.

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