James Cridland

Momentum 24, and the BBC’s ads

Momentum conference

After The Podcast Show in London, I’ve spent much of this week in Orlando, Florida, at Momentum 24, the Christian Music Broadcasters conference.

This is a radio conference like no other. I’ve never seen conference-goers dancing before the afternoon sessions; never seen bands play between each speaker; never had such a positive and vocal audience; and, most importantly, never felt so old, so British, so reserved.

Going to the kickoff meeting - held outside in the humid Florida morning - the audience was young, significantly female, and overwhelmingly positive about their mission and about radio in general. If ever you need to realise how special radio is, take a day in the company of this lot. It’s rejuvenating.

What a treat to get to speak in the big hall in the afternoon, in front of many hundreds of people. I got the prime slot of “the first speaker after lunch on the last day” (that’s a prime slot, right?!), and I had a ball.


Last week, I spoke about the BBC’s upcoming plan to place ads in their podcasts in the UK, saying to other podcasters:

BBC Sounds isn’t an open RSS app, and you or I aren’t in it. They’re now floating the idea of penalising the UK public by putting ads in BBC shows if you don’t listen in BBC Sounds. That will take audiences away from apps with our shows in; and potentially takes millions of pounds in advertising away from us, too. I never thought I’d see the BBC fighting against open standards and open podcast apps.

At The Podcast Show, a former colleague at the BBC (who I always thought was quite good and friendly) walked past me as if I’d killed his cat. I didn’t kill his cat. I like cats. But I am definitely critical of the BBC’s strategy here. It isn’t good for anyone. I’m fascinated why they think it’s worth doing; and I don’t really see the justification.

The BBC says it’ll be very careful about the advertising that will appear; and historically, it’s shown good judgement there. However… this is a screenshot of the BBC website when viewed in Florida.

BBC website

Underneath the Trump stories, two other stories promoting some hack about Amazon Prime.

The ad - for that’s what it is - is from MediaGo DSP, a company that calls itself “A Deep Learning-based Intelligent Advertising Platform”. The ads are in the same bespoke BBC font faces, with the same layout as the BBC website. There’s a tiny “ad” button over one of these stories (not both). I think this is highly deceptive: ads that look identical to a BBC story.

I’m surprised that this got past the team at the BBC, who have historically been very cautious about advertising on their websites and channels.

  • In Australia, after the collapse of the ARN/SCA takeover, it was interesting to see SCA’s LiSTNR platform announce a complicated-sounding collaboration between a company called DataCo. If I understand it correctly, it would allow a brand to merge their customer data with LiSTNR’s first-party data, allowing you to have different ad copy for existing customers and new prospects. This sort of advertising is, of course, quite impossible on broadcast radio; but is intriguing for online apps like LiSTNR. The question is whether the LiSTNR platform has the scale brands need; buried on the release is the news that LiSTNR has a “1.95mn first party database”. That’s a healthy number for a country with a population of 26.8mn: but is it enough?

  • I’m very much enjoying the Melbourne Radio Wars podcast, with Craig Bruce, Irene Hulme, and a new regular guest, Wade Kingsley. A month after Kyle & Jackie O started in Melbourne, their most latest podcast is a good critique of the show and its competition - it’s a good, cerebral, intelligent critique of the industry. Very much worth a listen.

  • Interesting to see that the podcast The Rest Is Politics will also be on Channel 4 television on the run-up to the election. I’m surprised that it hasn’t been also snapped up by a radio broadcaster; you’d have thought it could happily have filled some airtime on something like Times Radio, or even 5 Live.

  • News from Canada, as Rogers decides to close Pacific Content, a branded podcast company. “Branded podcasts”, or as the company prefers to call them, “stories with brands”, are long-form podcasts produced with an advertiser, to help that advertiser earn attention and stay front of mind. Rogers says it wants to concentrate on its “core audio business”, though you can’t help but think that, increasingly, this is their core audio business.

  • The median age of an AM/FM radio listener in the US is 47.. The median age of a podcast listener is 34.

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Coming up…


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