Bryan Barletta on AdTech, Audio Advertising Wars, and the Power of Attribution
It's my pleasure to welcome Bryan Barletta to the show, a name that will be instantly recognizable to anyone in the podcasting and AdTech space.
Bryan is the founder of Sounds Profitable, a collection of media properties that covers the changing face of AdTech and the business of podcasting. Bryan's goal with Sounds Profitable is to make the AdTech space less daunting for podcasters and brands alike, and with over 13 years experience in the AdTech space, he's the ideal person to do so.
A Career Shaped by Mobile
Bryan's been in the ad tech space for over 13 years, but his early career was in the mobile tech/app space, where he was a journalist for various publications. He was there at the birth of Android, and shared what he thought of their chances when they first launched.
How Building Rich Media Ads for Mobile Led to AdTech
While Bryan's career started off in mobile journalism, it was he moved into mobile ads through an agency that he really caught the AdTech bug. He was part of the team that brought a very cool interactive ad to mobile, back when animated gifs were viewed as high end tech. This led to building data points that would track how successful the ads were when it came to conversion.
The Power of Attribution
The Genesis of Sounds Profitable
It may seem that the hugely popular and respected Sounds Profitable newsletter and podcasts has been around for a long time, but it only came to life in 2020. When Megaphone was sold to Spotify, Bryan had a lot of ideas that he had wanted to implement around ad tech and advertising in podcasting, but didn't get the chance while at Megaphone. So when the platform was sold, he decided he'd take the rein and create a publication where he could share these thoughts, and Sounds Profitable was born.
Why Monetization is Not Selling Out
With his place in AdTech and monetization of podcasting, Bryan has a wealth of insights around the topic of what it means to monetize. When it comes to accusations that podcasters have sold out if they accept ads, he has a very definitive viewpoint on why podcast monetization is not selling out.
I think the closer you are to the podcast space, the more you hear the negatives about ads. I think the general public understands that ads are how things go around.
The Promise of Dynamic Ads for Any Podcaster
With the increase in support for dynamic ad insertion for podcasters of all levels, it's never been easier for smaller podcasters to make money. From baked in ads to dynamic to programmatic, the opportunities are there. The trick, as Bryan mentions, is implementing it properly.
Spotify has Won the Audio Advertising War
If there's been one thing that's driven a lot of conversation in the podcasting space in the last 12-18 months, it's been the aggressive acquisitions by Spotify. From buying podcast hosts to data analytics platforms, the streaming giant is clearly setting its stall out when it comes to its goals for podcasting. Bryan shares why he firmly believes that Spotify has won the audio advertising war, but podcast advertising still has its own place outside of Spotify.
00:00 Bryan on the Future of Podcasting and Ad Tech
08:13 The One Pixel Mindset and Barometric's Focus on Podcast Attribution
11:13 The Benefits of Expanding Your Podcast to a Second Language
16:35 The Different Ways That Monetization Can Impact a Podcast
19:03 The Benefits and Risks of Programmatic Advertising for Podcasters
24:54 The Future of Advertising: Spotify
26:52 The Impact of Spotify's Acquisition of Megaphone
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I think that the closer you are to the podcast space, the more you hear the negatives about ads and about the industry. But I think the general public understands that ads are how things go around. I mean, Hulu has two options that you can and pay for. One has ads and one doesn't. So you're still paying and you get ads. Cable TV, radio, magazines, all full of ads. We get ads through the mail constantly. I think podcasting has the biggest risk of ruining a brand's reputation or the podcaster's reputation, rather by having bad ads because there's no visual cue.Danny:
Today, it's my pleasure to welcome Bryan Barletta to the show, a name that will be instantly recognizable to anyone in the podcasting and ad tech space. Bryan is the founder of Sounds Profitable, a collection of media properties that covers the changing face of ad tech and the business of podcasting. The goal of Sounds Profitable is to make the ad tech space less complicated for podcasters and brands alike. And with over 13 years experience in ad tech space. Bryan is the ideal person to do so. So, Bryan, welcome to the show. You've just come back from Podcast Movement, correct?Bryan:
Now, we I did, yeah. We were in Podcast Movement, and that was fantastic. I'm exhausted from nonstop meetings from Tuesday to Saturday and even a few on Sunday, but I got the closest thing I can call a vacation. I brought the family to Disneyland afterwards, so I'm a week off of that, too.Danny:
And I know you were speaking there as well. You were presenting at the event, correct?Bryan:
Yes. Steven Goldstein put together a panel on Friday morning, and I was there for that. It was very cool. I was thinking towards the future of the podcast landscape. I was very honored to be part of that panel. And then I introduced Adore Labs, who is a sponsor of mine that has a really cool product all around promoting to YouTube. And it was really nice to really just set them up about how excited I am about YouTube's potential entry into the podcast space.Danny:
And that's good because I know you mentioned they're making a big entry very soon. I know Podnews, like James over at Podnews shared that slide deck he'd received, and it looks very interesting to see what they're going to be doing when they move into the space.Bryan:
Yeah, it's very encouraging. So far, everything that we've seen from James and from that seems to be that they're willing to really play ball with podcasters instead of approaching like, we have to play ball with them, which I'm really excited for.Danny:
And that'd be nice. Now, I mentioned in the intro you've been in space for more than 13 years, and at the time you started out as a mobile tech journalist or mobile app journalist. Sorry. Writing for Tech Range Digital, amongst others. And this was about the time that iPhone was obviously King, Android was probably just coming to the market with HTC Dream. Did you think at that time that a mobile would play such a big part as it does now in ad and whether Android could even take over iPhone or take on iPhone?Bryan:
Yeah, I think I've always been obsessed with mobile phones. I'm 36 now. When I was 14, I got my first job and it was literally all the money went towards buying a Nokia phone. I bought every weird cell phone I had, a Nokia phone that had a Rotary set up for the numbers. I had some of the first ones that could play animated Gifs and all those other things like the real expensive web browsing for a 14 year old and had no reason. I had nobody to call. None of my friends had phones, but I was obsessed with it. And so when the iPhone and Android phone came out, I really thought they were going to be huge. Right? I really thought it was going to change everything because it was closer to a computer and that's what everybody yearn for. Around the same time, I was obsessed with the mini PCs. Do you remember those, the Net books? You can get real small, actual paperback book size ones, right? Like the size of the smallest iPad. You could get a laptop that small. And people craved stuff like that because it meant you could be portable and on the go. So I think it was pretty clear that the mobile phones were going to change everything. And it's been exciting to see Kind Pod chat battle with Apple and Android. I think. I'm truly sad to see that it's just Apple and Google now. I miss Nokia, I miss the Symbiontos, I miss even webOS with Palm was clever in certain ways. And Microsoft and I don't know, I don't love that there's only two, but I think they both challenge each other pretty well. I think they could do a little more, though.Danny:
Yeah, well, certainly. I mean, I'm over in Canada and obviously our darlings were the BlackBerry. And to see that disappear BlackBerry messenger still for me is like the piece de resistance when it comes to messaging apps. It was a shame to see that disappear too. And speaking of mobile, I know you were part of the team that brought one of the first shakeable ads to the world. So how did that come down and how has that laid your foundations for your ad tech career?Bryan:
Yeah, well, I wanted to be a history teacher growing up, and then I figured out how much history teachers make, and I scrambled. My family was obsessed with tech, and my dad worked in tech, but he always struggled to keep down a job, so I didn't do it as a career. And then I had this opportunity to take the reviews I was doing for podcaster stories, the reviews I was doing for apps, and parlay it into like, developer relations at, an advertising company in mobile. And that company, Medial Ads, built rich media ads before there was animated gifts on mobile, like fully on the web. Because I think that that animated technology was really HTML five. So it was really neat to work with a team that was trying to not just put banner ads on these new devices, but really kind of push the limits. It was like frame by frame, pulling in each image individually. And as you shook the accelerometer could talk to the SDK and it could take an action. We did some really clever things there. There was one for True Blood, where a transparent overlay would come over on the app and as you touched it, it would leave a bloody fingerprint. And until the third bloody fingerprint that you left, then the whole screen would bleed and the ad would be there. It was really neat and it was really fun to dig into that and really realize that by providing ads and by doing clever things like that, we're empowering creators to build apps and have businesses that could be funded by advertising.Danny:
Yeah. So the whole idea was that Attribution was a really powerful way to say that this ad worked right, that these campaigns worked. And in podcasting, Attribution hadn't really been sussed out yet. So with Barometric, we started in mobile and it worked really well for that Pixel to be applied to any campaign and drive towards a website or towards an app or heck, even physical location or a direct Mailer. All of these different things. The One Pixel mindset was put it on every bit of your campaign and then from there we can match the exposure and identify the type of channel and then match Attribution. And as it expanded into podcasting, it became really clear that there was a need there. So Barometric really started to focus not just on broader advertising, but narrowly focus on podcast Attribution. We were the first to offer it as a one to one solution and as a lift report, as like a modeled Attribution, which has become the standard for Attribution and podcasting, which is pretty neat to be a part of.Danny:
I know. Sadly, I used to work at an agency back in the day, and we were always looking at what's the brand lift from your campaigns, for example. So this is what you are trying to achieve or looking to achieve and the problems you're looking to solve with the one Pixel solution. And is that still being used today then? Is that different?Bryan:
Yeah. So Barometric was acquired by Claritas and they've implemented it completely. And so they still use that for basically all mediums. And I believe that they're very heavily US focused. These Claritas data is very empowered by US Census data, and they help create that on a digital front. But they do expand worldwide and they have a lot of really cool things there. The format of what was built at Barometric became a cornerstone of what is now Claritas.Danny:
It's very cool. And obviously that experience helped you into the Itek space and the Genesis, I guess, with sounds profitable and what you're trying to do with the sound profitable family of publications. So how did all that come about? What was the goal when you first started that back? And was it 2018, now 2019, I think.Bryan:
No, only 2020 months. Right. It's wild. Yeah. After Claritas, I went over and I was the senior product manager of data and monetization at Megaphone, and it was a really fun time to work there. There are a lot of interesting things, but they were very clearly angling to sell, and it wasn't very clear. And I'm strongly opinionated and a lot of things when you're the product manager of the data pipeline and ad server that you want to work on aren't sexy and you have to make a mess before it gets things better. So we parted ways in August 2020. They didn't seem to like me wanting to rewrite the whole ad server with them. I didn't know they were for sale and then so I just tried to figure out what I wanted to do next. Right. I had been pretty outspoken that a lot of my career about the changes that needed to happen in the advertising space, and it was not well received. I mean, a lot of the changes that need to happen aren't financially beneficial. And when they come from the inside of one company, all it does is jeopardize their ability to make money and compete. But when it comes from a neutral party, it's easy for everybody to rally around and say, yeah, as an industry, we need that change. So these ideas that I just started writing were things that I've been yelling at the top of my lungs about for most of my career, and I finally got support. Right people. It resonated with people. They wanted to learn about these things. Some of my first articles were like, how does demographic targeting work or how does geotargeting work? And there were things that people were just blindly going through and setting up or adding to a plan, and they didn't understand why their campaigns would or wouldn't work. And now I was breaking it down for them so that they were truly educated on it. So what kind of started as like, oh, how do I get a job and stay relevant? Now? It's 20 months later. It's continuing to become a bigger and bigger business. We'll be announcing in the next couple of months some partners joining Sounds proper and expanding further and really trying to keep that neutral education, focus, lift everybody up mindset.Danny:
And I mentioned at the start you've got a family of publications. What is that, 810 now you've got that falls under the Sounds Profitable banner?Bryan:
Well, we have so Sounds Profitable is just the weekly newsletter to start. So it's once a week. One of the newsletter subjects is good data written by Kayla Litman, which I'm really excited about. So one out of the four or five weeks a month comes from Kayla and that's basically how does she apply data to the mindset of publishers and advertisers in the space. And I really love that. We have the podcast, which is me and Ariel Nissan Blade. It's called Ad Tech Applied and I'll interview a guest and then Ariel does an amazing job of making sure we have a strong on ramp for our listeners. And the key takeaways at the end of it, we do the articles narrated in English and Spanish. So I do it in English and then we use Veritone voice to do a synthetic version of my voice and speak it in Spanish. And then recently we launched the download, which is now in English and Spanish. But the Spanish is read by Manuel Abdullia and Gabe Soto. And that was my answer to everybody saying, Brian, what happened this week? What happened this month? Catch me up on things. And so instead we read it, we put it together and it's ten minutes or less on Friday on what happened related to the industry of podcasting for the business world and why it should matter to you. And that's been amazing. Yeah, we started that in December and now we're already in two languages released at the same time every Friday.Danny:
That's good. I remember seeing the first week you mentioned when it first got translated into Spanish. Like the excitement on that. And I know Evo was sharing as well. How does that help you in the Spanish market? Has it helped you with like iVoox, for example? Do you think that gives you a leg up with iVoox for these podcasts?Bryan:
You know, what's really interesting about it is I don't think that I've received considerable downloads or anything from it and it wasn't what I was expected. Sounds properly is 4500 subscribers to the newsletter. It's got about a 55% unique open rate, which is awesome, right? But it's about the podcast industry, about advertising, ad tech and the business side of it. So it's really geared at the people who kind of get a 401K from a podcast company. Right. It's very niche. And so when my podcast gets about 300 to 350 downloads an episode, and the download, which just started on its own feed, gets about 150 to 200. When I look at the Spanish versions and they get a sub 100 between 51 hundred, depending, or I look at the Spanish newsletter and it's about 60 to 75 subscribers to me. That doesn't bother me because I realized two things, right? One is that everything I do is supposed to be a proof of concept. Right. You see that I as a one person team with contractors. I'm the only full employee. That sounds proper. We have a bunch of amazing contractors Evo Terra is coming on full time very soon as our head of the media operations. But we have some amazing contractors that do a ton of work. We were able to do Spanish on two podcasts pretty easily, right? The download costs about $100 to $2,000 a month. We don't have a sponsorship for it, but I knew that I wanted to pay and hire these people to represent this, to build this and grow it and show how easy it was for us to do it. And at some point we'll find a license or sponsor for it. But it's a proof of concept. And while it's I don't think, like iVoox hasn't reached out. If you're listening, I'd love to talk to you, but I think that in the content I'm talking about, you have to speak English. You have to consume content in English for podcast advertising and to be competitive there. So the fact that I do have people following and listening and actually engaging with it is really exciting because it means that it's getting to a bigger audience. It's getting to people that are not yet competitive in the US space, but might be killing it in their market. But the real reason I did it was I wanted to say to every other company, you should be doing this too. And a lot more companies are starting to do it.Danny:
Podcast is sponsored by Podnews. Get a daily email with all the latest news about podcasting. It's free at podnews.net. From jobs across industry to events and conferences, you'll find the latest podcast and info in the daily newsletter.Danny:
You can add Podnews.netDanny:
to your daily briefing on your Smart Speaker too, just search for it in your Smart Speaker app.Danny:
And now back to this week's episode. That's cool. I'm sure podcast is huge in Spain, so I will say execs are listening. By all means, reach out to Bryan now, you mentioned obviously a lot of the articles when you started were about how to, et cetera. And now there are a lot more deep dive in, which obviously is perfect for the audience that you're going after. And at the start of this year, you're about programmatic ads and podcasting and about a trust issue around programmatic ads and I'm wondering, do you feel like ads in general, not just programmatic, but still instill this sort of weird ads and you see people on Twitter going, oh, you sold out your show and blah, blah, blah. You think it's the problem that you spoke about with trust and how ads are inserted and how they're so wrong for the certain kind of content, et cetera. That's the issue that makes people feel that way? Or is it an overarching thing with advertisers doing it wrong? Listeners expectations.Bryan:
I'm unfortunately heavily involved in ad tech Twitter lately, and it's not a space I encourage anybody to venture into. But I saw a meme from SLC Punk that made me laugh and it said I didn't sell out, son. I bought in. Look, I used to listen to Real Big Fish. I guess I still do listen to Real Big Fish. And they have the song called Sell Out, and that was such an insult. But the truth is that's how Monetization works. That's how these pieces of content are available. I think so many people make their content available ad free now and different options there. And honestly, if you have a podcast you listen to and you hate the ads, message them and let them know that you hate the ads and let them know that you would pay for ad free. And if you don't want to pay for it, it's part of the content suffer through it. But I think that the closer you are to the podcast space, the more you hear the negatives about ads and about the industry. But I think the general public understands that ads are how things go around. I mean, Hulu has two options that you can pay for, one has ads and one doesn't. So you're still paying and you get ads. Cable TV, radio, magazines, all full of ads. We get ads through the mail constantly. I think podcasting has the biggest risk of ruining a brand's reputation or the podcaster's reputation rather by having bad ads because there's no visual cue. Right? Acast has done a really good job with that. The chime. But it still doesn't excuse the podcaster for putting an ad into the content of the ads. A bad fit. So I think the trust there is really determining what's the trade off. Right. Is that $4 CPM programmatic ad that you put in there really worth the chance that you lose of your audience every month? And if you're growing 15% and you can afford that, sure. But could you do it another way? Could you ask them for their support? Could you work with a more high end advertising partner? Or unfortunately for the smaller shows, could you realize that it is a business and you have to invest in it and grow it before it's attractive for people to buy in it? I don't love ads. I skip plenty. I give almost every ad two chances. If the copy is mixed up, I'll keep listening, but I binge a lot of shows and I'll pay for that ad free feed. If I got more than ten episodes to listen to, I'll give you a month worth of ad free feed.Danny:
Like you mentioned, cable there. That's why I cut the card and went over to streaming on Netflix. Pills like that to get ad free and choose what I want to listen to. So I think maybe we sometimes as podcaster stories, the street put more into it than the average Joe on the street listen back.Bryan:
Yeah, it's definitely a little bit insular. And I think the truth is that ads can be harmful. I mean, how do you add an ad to an audio drama? Right? How do you add to effectively an audiobook? Because a lot of great audio dramas can feel like a full cast audiobook. It's not easy. And so maybe it's at the beginning, or maybe it's all these different things, but then how do you get the volume of impressions to justify it? And when you can just go to a partner that can immediately put ads live in it, how do you make that decision that it's worth holding out? So I don't think podcasters have all the tools in their Arsenal right now to finance as they grow. I think that's the gap that we have right now. And so I think it's just trying to figure it out and realizing is it a hobby or a business is a big important piece.Danny:
And speaking of gaps, generally, programmatic ads are all about agencies and big brands that can afford dollars for programmatic insertion, programmatic ad campaigns. But with the, I guess the introduction of dynamic ad insertion over the last twelve to 18 months, maybe especially at host level and various other options, do you think that's now closing the loop where podcaster stories, podcasters can get involved with direct sponsorship, direct advertising, and a Monetizer on show, but take away the fear factor of hate ads, et cetera.Bryan:
I think that any podcaster that builds their content in a way that can make room for ads because you have to realize ads are content could sell ads at any time. Baked in or dynamic ad insertion or what you want. And remember, the delivery mechanism is baked in, dynamic ad insertion and then programmatic is like an extension of dynamic ad insertion. We still have hosted producer Red and announcer Red and you can do a host red, baked in Dai or even programmatic somehow. I'm sure I can make that work. It's not the right way to do it, but technically I can make it happen. More than anything. The reason programmatic is attractive is that if I'm the M and M advertising Eminem's and I'm doing a radio by a TV, by a display advertising buy, and I use the trade desk to buy across everything, even if it's direct deals with specific publishers. I have a programmatic platform, a demand side platform that allows me to set up my whole campaign and make sure all my reporting and all my results are there. So that I could say that this radio ad and this podcast ad share the same impression budget. So when the overall audio campaign is hit, I stop, right? Or I want to do a frequency cap or targeting across every single podcast that can be accessible. This way, instead of giving a direct campaign to each individual podcaster and hoping that they succeed and don't overlap, programmatic is a strong vessel for that. The pricing in programmatic is also cheaper because you're getting further away from it. You have the host red endorse sponsorship, then you have the producer red, and then you have announcer at the bottom. And programmatic is announcer. It's just a great way for big brands who are not ready to dedicate someone's direct hours to make it happen. And they can throw a 22 year old who's proficient in programmatic buying on trade desk against it. And so that's where a lot of the appeal is. That's where a lot of the appeal is. And the big thing is that programmatic will lead to direct buys.Danny:
Now we know you and James are excited about Spooler the platform. They seem to be doing some amazing stuff. I was like, Rudy, listen to the episode I think James did with the Spill chats on the Pod Land show. I believe and Spill looks to be doing amazing stuff with their live podcast. And almost this is where dynamic needs to go or maybe follow that model or learn from that model.Bryan:
I think that Spooler is interesting because instead of dynamic ad insertion where it's matching or cramming together two pieces of content. Right. You have, like, content add content ad and whatever you're matching pieces and you're putting them into end spoolers layers, and it compresses it at the time to build it. So I don't know. I think that Spooler could be an amazing concept to technology of how all podcast apps are. I think Spooler could be a really amazing piece of technology for how all podcast episodes are built. Right. Because if you say that at the end of the segment, I have the outro music, and then I have a specific background music that goes over the ad. That's what Spooler does. It's all the different layers, right. You're basically saying this segment gets a ramp in like this, a ramp out and has repeating music behind it. And then whatever the audio is, you put it in there, call it a segment, and then it takes care of it. It has all the layers, the music, the audio, the speaking voice, and then compresses it into one final file. I in no way believe that the industry will adapt to that as a standard, but I think it would propel us forward immediately. It's just not cost effective for the companies that sell ads. The companies that are really making money in the space, because that's where all the money is in podcasting right now is advertising. That's why there's so many big exclusive deals that change won't affect their bottom line enough to do it. But it is absolutely the smartest and probably the most efficient way that we could do it as an industry. And it's a shame that it will probably be an exclusive thing, but I hope more people emulate that or work with spoon and we start to see that as a norm.Danny:
And speaking you mentioned about acquisitions and the bigger companies using that tech. Do you think Spotify has already won the war, so to speak? I know there's a lot of conversations where online, but with the acquisitions we've been making, especially the ones where you've got chat above the smart promos, et cetera, to track him, do you think Spotify is probably won the war when it comes to advertising dynamic and session, et cetera?Bryan:
Yes. And I'm going to preface it with one thing. I love Disney. So let's go right into it. At the end of Aladdin, Jafar makes a wish and he says, I wish to be a Genie. And he gets like unlimited cosmic power. Itty bitty living space. He gets pulled back into the lamp. He is a Genie of the lamp. Spotify is one audio advertising awesome. What that means is Spotify is not podcast advertising. Do they sell it? Sure. In the same way that other companies sell other channels.Danny:
It's not a problem.Bryan:
Iheart sells banner ads. Right. But they also do radio and they also do podcasting. So Spotify, one insomnia that when you think about an audio budget, which are expanding and so our podcast budgets are expanding. An audio budget includes radio, streaming audio, podcasting and Spotify. Spotify has done such a good job on the advertising side that they absolutely deserve to be their own thing. And as an industry is podcasting and podcast advertising, we need to look at it in the same way that we look at streaming radio or radio itself and say, hey, this is complimentary. You can learn from it. You can take those high budgets and Spotify, and you should absolutely test that and run 10% of your audio campaign through Spotify. But then take that and apply it to podcast advertising because we have been able to drive substantial success through modeling, affordable pricing and massive reach. So, yeah, they won. But they want in a way that doesn't mean we lost. They want in a way that means they're their own category and that's super cool for audio. We just need to make sure we don't let them pigeonhole us. Yeah.Danny:
And it goes back to like Omnichannel Market. I know you've done that back in the day, but the agency you are working at, so the opportunity is huge for sure. So, Brian, I really appreciate coming on today and sharing your smarts, I'm sure, or listeners I know I will take a lot away from this. For anybody that wants to know about that tech space, what to do, how to learn, et cetera where is the best place to get your newsletters to podcast and connect with you?Bryan:
Yeah soundsprofitable.com you can sign up for everything right there. We have the video deep dives about all the products in the space that we've had a chance to walk through. All the podcasts are linked out through there, we have the PodScape and we'll announce everything through there and if you sign up for the newsletter, anytime you get a newsletter from me if you hit reply it goes directly to me. I absolutely encourage you to reach out. I'm also on Twitter at bryanbarletta and firstname.lastname@example.org. I really love talking to people in the space. If you are serious about your company and your choice of growth in this space and you want to learn more I am happy to point you in the right direction and help however I can.Danny:
And I can attest to that, Bryan is definitely conversational and will respond to everybody. So I will drop all that in the show notes. If you listen to your favorite app be sure to check out the show notes afterwards and all the links will be there for you. So again Bryan, I appreciate coming on today.Bryan:
Thank you for having me.Danny:
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