NPR at the IAB Podcast Upfront: New Voices and Programming Offer Expansive Opportunities for Sponsors

By NPR InSites Archives
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In the eight years of annual Podcast Upfront showcases organized by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, NPR has become a pioneer demonstrator of noncommercial audio's content contribution to this medium. Through the years, in segment after segment, whether in-person from New York City or through virtual video transmissions, NPR has consistently unveiled new series and specials, along with opportunities for sponsors to participate through corporate underwriting.

For the IAB's latest Podcast Upfront gathering earlier this month, NPR used its mid-morning presentation to highlight three strategic directions for the 2023-24 season ahead and beyond. Foremost, expand the array of new series and live news/event coverage dealing with topics most important to its audience of 46 million people across platforms. The other two: Increase investment in new voices who create powerful connections with audiences and increase the positive impact audio content can deliver for brand sponsors.

"You guys ready for the nerd parade about to come out?" asked  Manoush Zomorodi, popular technology journalist and host of TED Radio Hour. After a very positive response from the audience, she announced the first of several new NPR podcast series premiering in the months ahead. Zomorodi will oversee Body Electric, an investigation of how the human body will adapt and evolve to meet the new challenges of the Information Age. There will be many new podcast series, miniseries and specials that will be similarly envelope-pushing with a focus on the ways in which consumers will live with artificial intelligence and related technology breakthroughs. Zamorodi promised that the content will include segments breaking down complex topics in a helpful, fun-to-understand manner.

Popular NPR correspondent and program host Rachel Martin followed Zomorodi, informing attendees of her own upcoming podcast series, which is still in development. It will feature extended conversations with people about their perspectives on spirituality and morality, and the connections both subjects have to their quests for more purposeful lives.

"This is the perfect place for these conversations," Martin said. "Unlike other news networks or podcast companies, our mission is to reflect the totality of the human experience."

During 2022, NPR instituted a news-gathering department focused on climate change/environment matters, told through in-depth, person-centric reports. "We’re a firm believer that this is the most pressing issue of our time," said Andrea Kissack, the organization’s Chief Climate Editor. This October, NPR will present a special week of programming on climate solutions developed around the U.S. and worldwide, with podcasts having a major role in this enterprise. Content will also be offered on NPR’s public radio stations, web site and digital platforms.

New voices coming to NPR in recent months via podcast series include Lori Lizarraga and B.A. Parker, co-hosts of Code Switch, and Adrian Ma, Darian Woods and Wailin Wong, hosts of The Indicator. Code Switch deals with race and matters of culture, while The Indicatortakes a humorous approach to daily economic news.

"What I love about public media, and NPR in particular, is that we’re allowed to make the personal universal and really connect with our listeners," Parker explained.

National Public Media President and Chief Executive Officer Gina Garrubbo opened the session by reminding all present of the organization’s 50-year track record of audio journalism and storytelling, and the value corporate sponsorship can make over time in a brand-safe manner. Audiences love and trust NPR content, while driving affinity and purchase intent among participating sponsors, according to the results of a new report, Transference of Trust, from Neuro-Insight.

"There’s a certain consistency of quality that permeates throughout NPR’s portfolio of programming, no matter if the category is news, finance, science or pop culture," said Wise marketing manager Cassandra LaPrairie, who joined Scott Davis, NPM’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Sponsorship on stage. "That, in addition to NPR’s huge following, means we’re aligning with brand-appropriate content and we’re reaching listeners at scale. That’s a powerful ad environment, and it’s what we’re trying to seek out elsewhere in the industry."

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