Home audio Barometer Secures $2.25M To Expand Brand Safety And Contextual Targeting For Podcasts

Barometer Secures $2.25M To Expand Brand Safety And Contextual Targeting For Podcasts

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Although the IAB predicts that podcast ad revenue will grow to more than $4 billion by 2024 (up from roughly $1 billion just two years ago), some brands are wary of monetizing a medium often associated with controversial user-generated content.

Barometer, a startup that specializes in media quality and brand safety measurement for digital audio, is angling to help advertisers get more comfortable with podcast advertising.

On Tuesday, Barometer announced $2.25 million in its latest seed funding round, bringing the company’s total to roughly $4.2 million since 2019.

The round, which had its first close in January followed by a second close in March, was led by Knoll Ventures, BDMI and HearstLab, an investment fund created by Hearst Corporation to fund woman-led tech startups. Returning investors include Outlander Labs, Altari Ventures, Brickyard and Growth Warrior Capital. Several of Barometer’s angel investors, including tech entrepreneur Chris Klaus, also pitched in.

Barometer plans to use the funds to expand its direct sales and engineering teams and to invest in R&D for its brand safety platform and its new contextual offering, said CEO and Co-Founder Tamara Zubatiy.

Platform R&D

Barometer’s main offering is its Brand Integrity Cloud, which uses AI models to analyze podcast transcripts for content and sentiment. It includes a media planning platform that advertisers can use to check the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) score for all digital audio content in Barometer’s network. Advertisers can also evaluate podcasts based on Barometer’s Host Intelligence sentiment scores.

Barometer also recently released a contextual targeting solution that allows advertisers to apply the IAB’s content taxonomy to group podcasts into private marketplace deals based on shared contextual signals.

The company plans to add more granular targeting functionality and campaign personalization to both platforms, Zubatiy said, such as giving advertisers the ability to set different tolerance levels for profanity in comedy podcasts versus, say, within news content.

Contextual targeting

The next step is to make Barometer’s brand integrity and contextual signals available in the bidstream so Barometer’s platform is ready for an eventual increase in open-web programmatic spending on digital audio, Zubatiy said.

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“Less than 2% of podcast ads are sold in a real-time bidding exchange,” she said, “but that’s something that we think is obviously going to change.”

To that end, Barometer has its eye on more demand-side tech partnerships, including with audio specialist DSP Audiohook and major players like The Trade Desk.

“The Trade Desk is less focused on audio, but we’re on their road map for being integrated as a rail like IAS, Moat and DoubleVerify,” Zubatiy said. (Targeting parameters are referred to as “rails” in The Trade Desk’s API. For example, a buyer would designate a brand safety vendor within the campaign’s brand safety rail.)

Barometer also plans to pursue more partnerships with ad agencies, similar to its media quality measurement deal with Oxford Road, which was a launch partner for Barometer’s brand safety solution.

It will also work on growing its publisher network through deals along the lines of its recent partnership with Katz Digital, in addition to existing partnerships with host-read ad network Gumball and podcast production and monetization company Gemini XIII.

Barometer only assigns brand safety scores and contextual classifications for podcasts that are within its publisher network or that have a public RSS feed. In this way, it hopes to avoid concerns around third-party tech vendors scraping and packaging IP into contextual segments to sell to advertisers.

“If it’s a public RSS feed, we don’t need anybody’s permission,” Zubatiy said. “But some publishers, like Spotify, have O&O podcasts where those RSS feeds aren’t public, so we don’t score Joe Rogan or ‘Call Her Daddy’ or any of those shows because we want to be on the right side of this.”

Workforce development

To support its R&D strategy, Barometer has grown its engineering team from five to seven since the beginning of this year. Most of its engineers come from an AI and machine learning background, and the company plans to add more staff with natural language processing experience.

Another hiring priority is adding backend and data engineers to ensure the platform can handle the sheer amount of bid requests per second inherent to real-time bidding.

Barometer is also investing in customer success and a direct sales team. Previously, Zubatiy handled all the company’s direct sales efforts while also contributing her AI and engineering expertise on the tech side.

The company’s first hire on the sales side was its new CRO, John Sardelis, who joined the company in January and who was previously an audio sales and partnerships lead at ESPN.

With the added sales help, Barometer aims to expand into English-speaking markets outside of the US, including the UK and Canada. And with more engineers on board, Zubatiy said the company will be able to start developing its platform’s foreign-language parsing capabilities, with the eventual goal of going fully global.

Update 4/25/23: This article originally said Barometer has raised $4.2 million since 2022. It actually has raised $4.2 million since 2019.

The article also originally said advertisers can evaluate podcasts based on the host’s Oxford Road Media Roundtable rating. Last year, Barometer released a dedicated solution for evaluating a host’s impact on brand safety and suitability called Barometer Host Intelligence, and this solution forms the basis for how advertisers evaluate podcast hosts using Barometer’s platform.

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