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Insider April 7, 2022 — Podcast ads, radio ads, and NFTs

Fair warning: I wrote a lot about NFTs today.

Three Wordle scores later, I’m at an even 21-21-21 on my 3-4-5 solves. Guess that’s how averages work.

iHeart’s next host will be an NFT

Sit back. Let out a long exasperated sigh. Ready? OK.

iHeartMedia is planning to launch a network of podcasts based on some popular NFT series, the company told Axios this week. iHeart plans to buy NFTs from prominent series — most notably CryptoPunks, Mutant Ape Yacht Club, and World of Women — and use those characters just like any other acquired IP, launching shows around them and tapping into the series’ fandoms.

If this all sounds ridiculous on its face… well, it is. But a lot of people are giving it a try right now.

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.

We’ve already seen a handful of attempts at this, mostly through music. Universal Music Group made a band based on four NFT apes. Another company made a pop song called “WAGMI” that was ostensibly performed by a number of NFT stars from Cool Cats, Bored Ape Yacht Club, and so on.

I don’t want to be totally dismissive of all this. (Gorillaz were a thing! We all listened to them!) But I do think that a lot of people are throwing money into this space right now with potentially outsized hopes around what will stick. Bored Ape Yacht Club may be valuable IP, but owning a single Bored Ape isn’t quite the same thing — there’s no built-in story or character that comes with it. You’re buying a guy who lives in Gotham City, not Batman.

The NFT purchases will cost iHeart “several hundred thousand dollars,” Axios reports, which admittedly is not necessarily a lot (for them, at least) to get in early on a potentially explosive space.

The company has other Web3-friendly plans in the works, too. iHeart is looking into handing the IP from five to 10 of its shows over to DAOs — essentially online worker collectives that operate in a Discord server — to see if they can build a community around those properties, according to Axios. This is a weirder, and I think, potentially more interesting idea. Rather than asking a community to support your invented collective, you’re offering something up and letting a community form around building it out.

Skeptical as I am, we were going to see NFTs come to the podcasting world one way or another. And now iHeart’s showing us a couple early ideas of what that could look like.

Radio ads ≠ podcast ads

If you’ve been reusing radio ads on podcasts — or letting your ad partners get away with it — it might be time to stop that. Acast published new research yesterday suggesting that native podcast ads lead to a noticeable boost in winning over listeners compared to re-aired radio ads.

The study, conducted on 1,800 podcast listeners across the US, UK, and Sweden, presented listeners with a branded ad in one of three formats: a traditional radio ad, a podcast ad, and a podcast ad that used spatial audio. The podcast-style ads contained conversational spoken word delivery and sound effects, while the radio versions had background music and a more shouty, radio-style delivery, according to Jack Preston, director of Acast Creative in the UK and US.

Podcast ads had nearly a 10-point gain on radio ads when it came to convincing listeners to pick that brand when shopping. And spatial audio ads had a 13-point leap over radio ads when it came to ad likeability. Listeners said both formats of podcast-native ads were clearer than traditional radio ads, too.

Acast’s takeaway? “Listeners are craving a more creative and tailored experience from the brands that feature on their favorite podcasts,” Preston said in a statement.

This is just one study, of course, but the results probably reinforce what many of you had been guessing: listeners can tell the difference.

Batman comes to Spotify next month

The first project to come out of Spotify’s partnership with Warner Bros. and DC will debut on the platform next month. Starting May 3rd, Batman Unburied will launch globally, with nine localized versions of the show made for major markets, including Brazil, India, and the US. Winston Duke, who you might recognize as M’Baku in Black Panther, voices Batman in the US version of the show.

Spotify describes the series as a “psychological thriller,” picking up in a timeline where Bruce Wayne has no memory of being Batman and has instead taken up a job in a hospital. There’s a short trailer out if you want to hear what it sounds like. It is, of course, only available on Spotify.

The show — and the entire partnership between Spotify and DC — is a big bet on fiction podcasts, and it continues Spotify’s gamble that splashy names will help to draw in new listeners. One thing I suppose I’m a little surprised by: the show is pretty clearly aimed at older Batman fans rather than appealing to kids. On one hand, this makes a lot of sense… a lot of adults like Batman. On the other, you can count me among the folks still waiting to be convinced that a gritty Batman series will work well as a podcast.

That’s all for today. I’ll see you all tomorrow with, I hope, fewer words about NFTs.