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Insider June 17, 2022 — America’s love-hate relationship with smart speakers

Plus, Gen Z’s top podcast genre is… mental health?

Not gonna lie, I’ve had an Amazon Echo sitting in its box since I got it as a wedding present four years ago. I know once I open it I’ll be one of those people constantly asking about the weather instead of poking my head outside or having my emails read aloud while I do an eye mask. I know my data privacy is a lost cause at this point, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Apparently, a lot of people feel the same! Smart speakers are undoubtedly popular, according to a new report, but even fans have their doubts. 

Plus, Spotify doubles down on brand safety, Gen Z practices audio self-care, and Martha Stewart chats with her old pal Snoop Dogg.

Smart speaker study: people love them but don’t trust them

More people than ever before own smart speakers, according to a new study from NPR and Edison Research, but a lot of them also have reservations about the technology.

Among Americans 18 and older, 35 percent own a smart speaker, up from 32 percent in 2021 and 27 percent in 2020. The top reasons respondents provided for buying one were to listen to music, not have to go to a computer to type out questions, and because they seem like fun new gadgets.

But many of those who enjoy the perks of smart speakers don’t entirely trust them. More than half of smart speaker owners said that they were worried a hacker could obtain personal information through the device. Surveillance was also an issue, with 47 percent saying they were uncomfortable with the fact the speaker is always listening and 43 percent concerned that governments could use them to listen in on conversations. As for the companies that manufacture the devices, 58 percent said they trusted the companies to keep their information secure — which means that 42 percent don’t (or at least aren’t sure).

As for podcasts, they play a small but growing role in the smart speaker ecosystem. Podcast listening comprised 6 percent of all smart speaker usage. That pales in comparison to music, but it has tripled its share since 2017, when it only comprised 2 percent.

If you want to check out the full report, you can download it here.

Spotify mints brand safety deal… what exactly is “brand safety”?

Ahead of its presentation at Cannes Lions next week, Spotify announced a new partnership with Integral Ad Science (IAS). Among its other ad analytics services, IAS essentially analyzes content for advertisers that participate in dynamic ad placement, making sure their ads don’t show up on podcasts with which they would not want to be associated. The deal slots in nicely with Spotify’s ongoing efforts to manage the onslaught of content on its platform as the company expands its creator base.

Last month, the Interactive Advertising Bureau released a report estimating that the largely ad-based podcasting industry will surpass $2 billion this year and hit $4 billion by 2024. However, that is contingent on a few things. It means that ad tech that places dynamic ads needs to continue to develop and advertisers need to be assured of “brand safety” — that their spots won’t appear on heinous content. 

With 4 million podcasts, the vast majority of which are now being created on Anchor, that is easier said than done for Spotify. The company has continued to evolve its content policies and, earlier this week, announced a new Safety Advisory Council to consult on what kind of speech is unacceptable on the platform. This new deal with IAS, according to Spotify’s head of advertising revenue innovation Julie Clark, will “give advertisers confidence that their messages are heard in the right place while further validating the contextual targeting solutions we already have in the market.”

The amount of creator content on the platform is only going to increase, as will the opportunities for ad placement. In addition to podcasts, Spotify will unveil a new audiobook vertical in which amateur authors can distribute their work. At last week’s investor presentation, head of content and advertising Dawn Ostroff said that audiobooks will be ad-supported in some capacity. The IAS deal, for now, appears to only apply to podcasts, and it is unclear if or how it would apply to audiobooks.

Gen Z is really into mental health podcasts

Going into Cannes, Spotify also released a report on Gen Z listening habits. Their top podcast genre is not one of the usual suspects (comedy, true crime, celebrity) but, rather, mental health.

The study found that 41 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 listen to podcasts on a weekly basis, up 62 percent from the year prior. Mental health podcasts, which include popular shows like On Purpose with Jay Shetty and Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris, ranked as the No. 1 podcast genre for Gen Z listeners globally and grew by 54 percent in the past year in the US. “Whether they’re feeling too vulnerable to speak up or still figuring out the right words to describe what they’re feeling, podcasts are a judgment-free zone,” the report says.

Apparently, the youngs are more interested in self-discovery than millennials. Three-quarters of those surveyed said they use audio “to understand themselves better,” compared to 60 percent of millennials. Mazel on the self-care, Gen Z. Mental health pods are a lot cheaper than therapy.

Fresh pods

We’ve got some spicy ones this week, featuring Oscar Isaac and Martha Stewart (not on the same show, but I would love that). Let’s get to it:

  • Comedy Central and iHeartMedia are launching a Daily Show spinoff podcast next week. Hold Up will be hosted by TDS correspondent Dulcé Sloan and writer Josh Johnson, and it will be less about the news and more about office chitchat topics like brunch. I support the less substance, more nonsense ethos.
  • On the heels of Batman Unburied’s success, Spotify announced that Oscar Isaac and Julianne Moore will star in the upcoming audio drama Case 63, an adaptation of a hit Spotify Spanish-language show Caso 63. The show, which follows a psychiatrist (Moore) who treats a patient who claims to be a time traveler (Isaac), will debut later this year. 
  • Martha Stewart and iHeartMedia are launching a new podcast next week appropriately titled The Martha Stewart Podcast. In the show, Stewart will interview celebrities like Kris Jenner and Alex Rodriguez. The debut episode, out June 22nd, will feature Stewart’s longtime pal Snoop Dogg.

Have a great weekend!