IAB Podcast Upfront 2022: The presentations of Day 3

The Spring 2022 IAB Podcast Upfront continued today with stalwart host Franchesca Ramsey joined by Lauren Ramsey (Chief Creative Officer, SpokenLayer) as co-host.

Our notes of the day’s eight publisher presentations and one discussion panel. The Podcast Upfront is attended by an invitation-only buy-side audience of advertisers and agency buyers, plus trade press.


PRESENTERS: Steve Boom (VP, Amazon Music) / Laurie Pracher (Head of Podcast Ad Sales, Wondery) / Jen Sargent (CEO, Wondery)

In a powerhouse, polished and gleaming 20-minute opening session, Wondery covered all the bases an observer expects in a premium Podcast Upfront presentation.

Wondery CEO Jen Sargent

Wondery has crossed over 22 podcasts to TV production, we were told. We were also reminded of the network’s international expansion: Dr. Death is an example, having been translated to 11 languages (Dr. Muerte”). A roll call of awards was reeled off faster than we could jot them all down. Wondery seemed to be conveying a sense of domination.

Steve Boom, VP of parent company Amazon Music, pledged to “place your brands in front of the right audience, and achieve your objective.” Wondery claims 12.2-million monthly uniques. CEO Jen Sargent said, “A lot has changed since last year. Wondery has dramatically expanded its reach — we reach more that 2x as many listeners.

“Wondery is no longer a complement to your audio buy; Wondery can BE your audio buy.”

In one moment that flew by, Wondery extolled music for raising the effectiveness of podcast ads, and noted that advertisers could work with Amazon Music.


PRESENTERS: Jessice Clemons (Host, The BreakRoom) / (Director of Publishers Success, Libsyn’s AdvertiseCast Marketplace) / Daave Hanley (founder and CRO, Libsyn’s AdvertiseCast Marketplace) / Filup Molina (Founder, New Rockstars) / Anthony Savelli (SVP of Sales, Libsyn’s AdvertiseCast Marketplace) /  Erik Voss (Host, Inside Marvel and Wookieleaks)

“Infinite reach with one partner.”

All-in-one: That was the repeated thrust of this presentation by Libsyn subsidiary AdvertiseCast — “a full ecosystem with multi-channel approach.”

A good deal of time was given to promoting the New Rockstars network, featuring Filup Molina and Jessice Clemons, amiable and articulate hosts for that segment.

The preso ended with Erik Voss breaking down what we just saw, with some amusing inventions along the way — a clever segment equally effective as comedy and clarification.


PRESENTERS: Jonathan Gill (CEO) / Areej Rabie (Head of Growth and Operations) / Kevin Wright (Chief Technology Officer)

“The world’s most advanced podcast analytics”

This fascinating presentation was determined to pack in maximal information, knowledge, and demonstrations into its short time slot, and it succeeded for viewers who paid close attention. The chat section of the Upfront platform (much quieter this year than in the past) was buzzing with what people saw.

CEO Jonathan Gill was the presenter, and he talked about an analytical “ecosystem where publishers and advertisers both win. Backtracks technology offers an SDK for head-nodding by the listener. That’s an attention-getting feature, but the meat and potatoes (or tempeh and quinoa) of Backtracks tech shows where ads are skipped in podcast play, ad completion, dropoffs and retention in listening, and more — all across any app, host, or device, we were told. It’s all IAB accredited data.

Topical analysis is offered, including keyword highlighting of a podcast transcript. All this (and more) was presented so swiftly that we imagine tech-oriented advertisers will be knocking on the Backtracks door to learn more.

Going beyond analysis to the transaction, Backtracks offers a “storefront” for buying and selling ads, on the basis of the platform’s innovative analytics.

“We reduce the buying process from weeks to five minutes,” we were told.

After this session, co-host Laura Nagel gasped, “So much tech is happening on the back end.”

One more note. Wondering about the reach of the Backtracks technology? The company claims to have indexed all English podcasts.

WNYC Studios

PRESENTERS: Mike Barry (VP, Audience Development and Engagement) / Andrew Golis (Chief Content Officer, WNYC) / Rebecca Haase (SVP, Sponsorship) / Julia Longoria (Host, More Perfect) / KalaLea (Producer, The New Yorker Radio Hour) / Latif Nasser (Co-host, Radiolab) / Anna Sale (Host, Death, Sex & Money) / Kai Wright (Host and Managing Editor, The United States of Anxiety)

Fashioned as “A Love Letter to Audio Storytelling,” WNYC Studios’ Upfront presentation took a tour around several of its recognized shows, giving a personalized portrait of the network. The sales pitch was soft and organizationally revealing; we especially enjoyed a segment with WNYC’s audio archivist, who described finding historic audio clips to support content.


“We are not Johnny-come-lately’s” Latif Nasser, co-host, Radiolab


Latif Nasser and Lulu Miller hosted this video smorgasbord, entertainingly bringing in many hosts and shows. (One odd and uncomfortable segment described a listener who sliced his fingers during a construction project because he was immersed in listening to Radiolab. Immersive content is great, but…)

Anyway, WNYC Studios was portrayed as a truly premium, award winning network whose producers and hosts win Peabody and duPont awards. A noted metric: 21-million downloads a month.

In one explicit pitch to advertisers, a slide appeared with this message: “73% of listeners have a more positive opinion of a company that supports public media.”


PRESENTERS: Brooke Devard Ozaydinli (Host, Naked Beauty) / Elli Dimitroulakos (Head of Automation, Americas) / Shantae Howell (Creative Director) / Former Govl John Kasich (Host, Kasich and Klepper) / Jordan Klepper (Host, Kasich and Klepper) / Dr. Emily Morse (Host, Sex with Emily) / Freddie Wong (Host, Dungeons and Daddies)

“The Home of Podcasting”

Acast’s most basic metrics: 40k podcasts 350M monthly plays.

Acast’s promise and mandate to advertisers: “Your ads cannot sound like anyone else’s.”


Acast talks about “True” dynamic ad insertion, and six years ago the company launched the first-ever global programmatic podcast marketplace. “The last thing people want is for technology to be old or fragmented,” we were told by Elli Dimitroulakos (Head of Automation, Americas).

Acast took advantage of the Upfront to announce that in collaboration with The Trade Desk, podcast compaign attribution can now be accomplished through and within The Trade Desk DSP (demand side platform).

Another key feature which got the Upfront chat room murmuring: Conversational targeting. This piece of tech zooms into podcast conversations in shows that a listener (or advertiser) might not choose on the basis of the show’s main focus. In other words, people talk about all kinds of things on podcasts, and conversational targeting can slice into a segment of high value for listening or marketing.

Acast is “Audio partnership matchmakers.”

Uforia Podcasts (Televisia Univision)

PRESENTERS: Pamela Silva (New Journalist and Podcaster, Uforia)

This high-impact presentation was determined to clarify what Uforia is (the audio portion of Televisia Univision), and its position in Latin broadcasting and podcasting.

Pamela Silva

Catchphrase: “The largest library on the planet.” That means 100-million listeners listeners every day across TV, digital streaming social, and audio. Uforia is the audio division comprising radio, audio app, live concerts, digital/social, and podcasts.

The mission is to bring Latin culture to life. As such, we were told, Uforia is a monumental growth opportunity that brands cannot afford to miss.

A couple of stats: 60% of listeners more likely to buy online because of podcast advertising; 74% to buy in a retail store.

PANEL The Power of the Spoken Word: Why Diverse Voices and Audiences Matter Now More Than Ever

An interesting discussion about the diversity challenge in podcasting, with three leaders discussing communication and operational challenges of selling diverse audiences to marketers. Below are selected quotes.

MODERATOR – Sheryl Goldstein (EVP, Chief Industry Growth Officer, IAB):

Kerel Cooper (President of Advertising (Group Black): “At the brand level, some are doing better than others. Were trying to make sure that we’re creating the right opportunities for brands. We still have to get on the media plans, match up to their goals and missions, and the campaigns have to perform.” / “This is not about a specific month or day. You’re talking about audiences that you should be trying to build relationships with; audiences with growing spend power.” / “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” / “For smaller publishers, it’s hard to compete. [Group Black has 200 publishers] It’s hard for a small publisher to provide all the measurement that a large publisher can. There has to be some give on the buy side. Supporting a small show gives it the resources it needs to compete.”

Shantae Howell (Creative Director, Americas, Acast): “Black people carry culture.” / “We are in a space where those budgets are coming in more … or more flexibly. Advertisers want to align with a particular month, like Black History; we think about how to create a long-standing partnership.” / “Nine times out of ten our campaigns perform very well — recently a 264% lift. That’s an incredible opportunity.” /  “We work to create marketing opportunities that each podcaster can customize [to help smaller podcasters].” / “I would like to see more brands measuring according to affinity. If a campaign provides lift of 250% in affinity, that show is going to carry your brand into the community.”

Sara Porritt (Host, Hear Us Roar and Chief Inclusion Officer, Omnicom Media Group): “The reach needs to be there. Now, especially in podcasting, there aren’t many Asian podcasters with that reach for advertisers to reach that audience. So that’s the work that needs to be done; there aren’t enough voices.” / “It’s not just authenticity; it’s about leveling the playing field.” / “It’s up to the brands/advertisers to do due diligence to understand what the problems are — for example small publishers might not have resources to get certified.”

Mocha Podcasts Networks

PRESENTER: Reggie Denson (President, R2D Marketing Groups, Cafe Mocha Radio and Mocha Podcasts Network)

This segment showcased the network’s lead podcast Cafe Mocha Radio, then swung over to the network, launched in 2020. Its tagline: “Curated conversations from a black perspective.”

This is a full service studio that includes ad sales, custom campaigns, social promos and pushes, and a newsletter. A safe marketplace to algin brands with trusted voices to engage the female consumer.

The presentation emphasized flexibility: Pre, mid, and post spots with host reads. “We’re not just selling downloads; we’re creating campaigns that engage listeners.”

We were told that Black listeners have 73% recall rate of ads, and 14% will visit retail, where 12% will purchase. The listener base continues to grow.

They Call Us Bruce

PRESENTERS: Jeff Yang and Phil Yu

The only single podcast presenting at this year’s Upfront. “Covering the ins and outs of the Asian community for decades.”

It’s an interview show with guests from the movie, book, reality TV, sports, and political fields.

“When we talk about Asian America, we know what we’re talking about.”

A decidedly indie podcast: “We used to have an intern, but he left to go to college.” Still, metrics to be proud of: 16,000 downloads per month — which the hosts called influencers, gatekeepers, and change-makers in the community. They do have advertisers across several verticals;  Bank of Switzerland was mentioned.

“We have come a long way, they said. “And so has Asian America.”


Brad Hill