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IAB Podcast Upfront 2019 Recap

Podcast Upfront Cover

A full day showcase of the latest in original digital audio programming

The fifth annual IAB Podcast Upfront held in New York, NY on October 16, 2019, featured 12 podcast industry leaders: Authentic, ESPN, iHeartRadio, Market Enginuity, Meredith Corporation, Midroll/Stitcher, NPR, Pandora, Slate, WarnerMedia Podcast Network and The Roost (Divisions of WarnerMedia), Westwood One and WNYC. As always, the Upfront gave an insider preview of new and renewed original podcast programming.

The opening keynote was hosted by Hernan Lopez, Founder and CEO of Wondery. Lopez reminded us of how quickly the space is growing, sharing some of the latest figures on advertising effectiveness in podcasts. According to Wondery’s research, “Podcasts are and have always been engaging, emotional, and great at delivering sales… 78% of consumers don’t mind advertisements on podcasts, because audiences are actively listening and interested.” Lopez then dove into why storytelling is especially effective genera in podcasting, especially in murder and suspense dramas.

Lizzie Widhelm, SVP of Ad Innovation Strategy at Pandora, with partners from the NY Times, TD Ameritrade, and Lantigua Williams & Co., talked about the powerful way podcasts create deep and intimate conversations that ultimately build community–especially poignant in a world where people feel more isolated than ever. With over 300 million podcast episodes published as of this year, these hosts recommended focusing on audience interaction and authenticity to build and grow your podcast.

Westwood One’s panel was all about inclusion and understanding. Their hosts, an opioid-crisis documentarian (Stephanie Wittels Wachs), a pro-wrestler/musician (Chris Jericho), a gay married man known for listening to all sides of an argument (Dave Rubin), and the first little person to grace the cover of Vogue Magazine UK (Sinéad Burke) brought a level of empathy and thoughtful dialogue to the stage that was genuine and moving.

Slate continued the conversation with host Charles Duhigg who claimed that they could not write a single episode of How To! without audience interaction, saying every episode is built from a listener-submitted question answered by hand-selected expert guests, typically with completely unexpected methodologies and unique answers.

Authentic shared the stage with “The Podfather” himself, Ira Glass, who explained how great narrative creates a curious audience. His reasoning for Serial and This American Life topping the charts, and even outperforming some of the top TV shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad”: they deliver narrative satisfaction.

Warner Media and CNN announced that they are rapidly increasing their podcast investment and will be launching new and thoughtful shows on current topics in the coming year.

Midroll and Stitcher showcased the upcoming Office Ladies podcast by having both celebrity hosts, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, onstage to chat about why they were taking a walk down memory lane to bring us an oral history of each episode of “The Office.” In Jenna’s words, this was an opportunity to bring together some of her and Angela’s favorite things, “Stories, memories, sweatpants in a chat… it’s a podcast.”

iHeartMedia and Will Ferrell announced a new podcast platform called Big Money Players Podcast Network which will launch ten new comedy podcasts in 2020. Then iHeartMedia and Shonda Rhimes announced a brand new Shondaland podcast series which plans to debut 12 new podcasts over the next three years.

The day overflowed with creativity, stats, and fascinating podcast hosts. The big takeaway? Advertising in podcasting is only getting bigger, easier to track, and more nimble when it comes to audience segmenting. There’s a podcast for every audience, and if there isn’t one today, there will be one by tomorrow.