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Insider: August 16, 2019

A data partnership, Marvel reups with Stitcher, Canadian TV.

Machine Learning. Veritone’s aiWARE artificial intelligence tool will soon be in use by ART19, according to the terms of a new deal between the two companies. It marks a shift in how ART19 target adverts to their publishers’ listeners — they will use aiWARE for cognitive analysis and topical extraction, the announcement says, giving them more data on the subjects covered in a podcast episode and therefore which campaigns are likely to get the most traction when inserted. This is, of course, on top of the programmatic targeting that already happens based on data points like listener location, age, device, gender and so on.

The general shift towards programmatic advertising has been coming for a while. We’ve already had much talk of AI transcription and analysis elements being added to Google and Spotify, with better searchability and discovery being the main benefits presented to podcasters so far, although the commercial dimension is very present too. If this is a topic that interests, excites or concerns you, I highly recommend going back and reading Nick’s thoughts from just over a year ago, where he laid out the reasons for his scepticism in this area. I totally agree, and this sentence — “the push to programmatic is nearly inevitable” — has certainly been borne out, given deals like this one between Veritone and ART19 we’re seeing now.

Thinking about the tech itself and how it might supercharge ad sales, I reckon it might make the biggest difference soonest when it comes to conversational or freeform podcasts that don’t work from a script or have a tightly defined subject area that they stick to. For popular shows with episodes that frequently run over an hour, where listeners mostly keep coming back for the host(s) and are willing to listen to whatever they want to chat about, it’s historically been difficult to target adverts other than with any demographic data that can be gleaned (hello, audience surveys).

If products like aiWARE can tell a sales team precisely what an episode is about and match it up with relevant campaigns and affiliate codes, that could start shifting units pretty rapidly. Imagine your favourite hosts are talking about organisation and decluttering, and then the ad break pops up with a discount on draw dividers and packing cubes. . .

Superheroes return… Marvel and Stitcher have announced a third podcast collaboration, which will take the form of an adaptation of the Marvels comic series. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the four-book series by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, which examined existing events in the Marvel Universe from the point of view of an original character, news photographer Phil Sheldon. This Marvels adaptation follows two previous series made by Stitcher and Marvel: Wolverine: The Long Night and its sequel Wolverine: The Lost Trail.

The ten-episode podcast Marvels adaptation will arrive on Stitcher Premium this autumn, with a general release at some point in 2020. Seth Barrish from Billions will play Phil Sheldon, along with a cast including Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Ethan Peck, Gabriela Ortega and AnnaSophia Robb. There’s also some fairly stellar podcast-world talent on board — Lauren Shippen of The Bright Sessions and The AM Archives is writing the series and Paul Bae of The Black Tapes and The Big Loop is directing.

Up North. The CBC in Canada has revealed its first slate of podcast to TV adaptations, headed by cold case true crime show Someone Knows Something, which is getting a scripted treatment. Another true crime podcast, Uncover, is getting a documentary style adaptation. The other shows being worked on are Personal Best, Tai Asks Why and Alone: A Love Story. It’s all early stage stuff, so no air times or networks available yet, but the arrival of that fabled podcast to TV pipeline to places beyond the US is always worth noting, especially when it involves a public broadcaster.