Barometer, the AI-powered platform helping brands assess podcast content suitability for advertising, recently closed a successful fundraising round and announced its new contextual targeting solution, positioning the company to play a leading role in the rapidly-growing audio content advertising market.
Barometer allows advertisers to set preferences for the kinds of podcast content they want to be associated with, as well as that which they want to avoid. Using proprietary AI, the platform audits podcast episode transcripts in accordance with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM)’s Brand Safety Floor & Suitability Framework. It also pulls in insights from beyond the transcripts for a holistic perspective on the content and the host. Users can then view a full matrix of suitable content partners on their Barometer dashboard, enabling more informed and responsible ad buys.
Barometer announced the launch of its new contextual targeting solution during last months’ Podcast Movement conference, aligning its platform with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)’s Content Taxonomy 3.0. The Content Taxonomy provides a “common language” that can be used when describing content, increasing transparency and platform interoperability.
Podcast advertising spend is forecasted to exceed $4 billion in 2024, according to the IAB U.S. Podcast Advertising Revenue Study released last year. “It’s the fastest-growing, highest-ROI advertising channel available to marketers today,” says Barometer Co-Founder & CEO Tamara Zubatiy, “but the biggest brands in the world fear association with controversial content. Previously, they had no way to evaluate podcast inventory for their brand requirements at scale.”
Before AI automation, assessing audio content for advertising was a process lacking in expediency and accuracy. Individuals on brand and agency teams needed to listen to podcast episodes in their entirety, using their subjective judgment to analyze factors like adult content, profanity, and politics. With thousands of podcasts to monitor, manual approaches could not provide reliability or scalability.
The first broad industry advancement to automate content review involved using computers to scan podcast transcripts for certain keywords or phrases. Though this method has been an industry standard since its inception, there are nuances and pitfalls that Barometer is primed to disrupt.
“Consider words like ‘nude’ — you could be talking about heels or lipstick. Additionally, ‘shooting’ could be in reference to basketball or a movie. Because so many words have context-dependent meetings, keywords-based solutions are designed to fail and have unintended consequences like hindering reach,” says Grant Nelson, Co-founder & CTO of Barometer. “Barometer’s AI combines topic modeling, tonal analysis, and sentiment analysis to understand discussions of potentially contentious issues in context at scale.”
The company fundraise included participation from HearstLab, an investment arm of Hearst Corporation focused exclusively on supporting and scaling women-led technology startups. Other key HearstLab investments in the media technology space include Statusphere and Clutch. As a HearstLab portfolio company, Barometer joins a community of over 50 female-founded companies and gains access to a wide network of support and resources across Hearst to bolster their growth.
“We are excited to be partnering with HearstLab during this new phase of Barometer’s growth. We believe that Hearst’s position in the media space brings a strategic advantage as we continue to grow within the digital audio space and across other channels,” says Zubatiy. “We believe the HearstLab community of female founders provides an opportunity for connection and mutual growth as we contribute expertise and learn from one another.”
“As a pioneer in digital content and monetization, Hearst is well aware of the need for brand suitability standards, especially in the burgeoning podcast space,” says Eve Burton, Hearst EVP and HearstLab Chairwoman. “Tamara, Grant, and the Barometer team are on the cutting edge here, using advanced AI to gather and present a truly holistic view of a particular podcast’s risks and associations. Giving brands the agency to advertise on content that’s exactly right for their audience is a game-changer, and we are excited to partner with Barometer as they continue to build on these capabilities.”
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