TechBytes with Hilary Ross, VP of Podcast Media at Veritone One
Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What inspired you to take up the role at Veritone One?
My college education and initial jobs after college were focused on politics and environmental law. I worked on a handful of political campaigns at the state level, and as a part of my work on those campaigns, I was exposed to radio, Facebook and local television advertising. That was my first introduction into the advertising world. From there, I have had a handful of opportunities in advertising and agency-specific roles, working in direct response television. I found a home at ROI Media Direct, the agency that became Veritone One, and I’ve been at the agency for over six years.
I definitely had a unique journey into the advertising world, but once I arrived here, it really resonated with me. I love the fast-paced environment that an advertising agency provides. I gravitated toward podcast advertising because I’m an avid listener myself, and the storytelling element that podcasting provides has always been fascinating to me.
I’ve been working in the podcasting space at Veritone One for about four years, so I’ve really grown in my career, expertise and leadership as the podcast industry itself has grown. I’m passionate about this medium as a consumer and as an advertiser. As a media buyer, we’re always looking to find the home that matches the advertising brand with the listener. Podcasting has so many different genres and content, so it’s a really fun puzzle to solve.
What are the most unique challenges you face in your work with podcasting and advertising?
One of the most unique challenges working in podcast advertising is figuring out that puzzle of connecting listeners with ads that they will find interesting on shows they’re already listening to. There are so many podcasts out there – over a million – so being able to find those alignments is a great challenge.
Another challenge is the development of technology in the podcasting space.
A few years ago, there was debate over what a download of a podcast actually is. Now, we have standards around that, but there are new debates we are facing that technology is helping to solve. For podcasting, there’s not a lot of data at your fingertips. Being a direct response agency, we know what’s performing, but due to the nature of the audio medium, we don’t have the same level of insights you might have with digital advertising, where you can tell exactly who your reader is. The positive side of this is that we are able to determine what audio advertisements are resonating with audiences based on a performance model.
As the space grows and technology improves, it’ll make podcast advertising more streamlined and accessible for brands.
What advice do you have for women looking to succeed at a career in the ad tech space?
What I’ve learned and what I want to share with women looking to succeed in a career in adtech is to find your passion and stay curious. Always push yourself to learn as much as you possibly can and never settle for the status quo. Turning my passion into knowledge has helped me to gain the respect of my peers and leaders.
Learning when to speak up and share my opinions has enabled me to move from contributor to leader and has ultimately been critical to my success.
Who are your customers and what makes them so responsive to your content?
One reason the brands we work with are so responsive to audio advertising, and advertising on podcasts specifically, is that it’s not a cluttered advertising environment.
There are typically only three or four ads per podcast episode, unlike television or radio ad blocks, where your brand is competing against multiple other ads.
Additionally, podcast listeners are a desirable audience – they are actively choosing to listen to the content, so because of that, brands have more attention from their listeners.
There are also immense opportunities for endorsements and host-read ad reads in the podcasting space. Partners and hosts have strong alignments to their audiences, so listeners feel like they have a relationship with the host. Because of this, we like to say podcast listeners are a very desirable audience. They are highly engaged, tech-savvy, educated and devoted.
Where do you essentially see the podcast space heading in the years to come in terms of production and consumption, especially for female listeners?
I see the podcast space continuing to grow and new technology coming into play to solve the challenges we’re facing now surrounding discovery and credibility. As content diversifies and as discoverability gets better, we’ll start to see more diverse listeners coming into the podcasting space.
We know that once people are introduced to podcasts, they become highly engaged and seek more shows, so I see that bumping up listenership moving forward. From an adtech perspective, something else we’re already seeing is contextual targeting with ads. I see that gaining traction as brands expand brand safety guidelines, and as listeners continue to want ads that are more relevant.
Strategically targeted ads will be a positive advent within podcasting.
Another big evolution is the continued adoption of simulcast shows. More and more shows are releasing video content on YouTube in tandem with their regular podcast episodes. This is bringing a younger audience into podcast space and expanding the pool of listeners that shows reach.
What does podcasting offer women that other mediums don’t necessarily open themselves up to?
Over the past few years, we have seen an emergence of more female hosted podcasts and female podcast listeners. Podcasting is a medium that enables and empowers women to tell their stories and share their expertise. Through storytelling, hosts are able to build a community and establish an extremely loyal audience. There are also conferences dedicated to female podcasters and entire networks devoted to the growth and development of female hosted and female-skewing content.
What benefits do audio streaming platforms have over video?
With audio podcasting, all you really need to create valuable content is a good microphone. You don’t need a visual set and television production studio, so that’s one of the biggest benefits audio has over video platforms. Additionally, from a production standpoint, it’s a lower barrier of entry compared to other mediums. The focus isn’t on high-production-value entertaining visuals, but rather on the content and storytelling. Listeners are able to create the story in their mind, and audio allows for people’s creativity to really take over.
We see social media platforms sliding to video stories format. Is that a potential content monetization opportunity for audio specialists?
Podcasting has historically been an audio-centric medium, however, we are starting to see more shows establish a simulcast with YouTube. This is a way that shows are able to expand their footprint, grow their audience, and increase the potential monetization opportunities of their show.
In addition to the video-centric expansion, we have started to see an emergence of live podcast taping, community meetups, and events in the podcasting space.
Also, podcasting is an evergreen medium. Because of that, there are opportunities to monetize the back catalog and specific content. For example, say a podcast had an episode a year ago talking about your brand. Thanks to modern technology, you can identify that mention and begin advertising with that podcast right away. This is another example of how as technology evolves, more opportunities start to arise and content targeting is leveraged to drive results for brands.
Audio ads can often be even more effective than other forms of advertising, like social media marketing. Due to the intimate relationship between the listener and podcast host, the native endorsement centric ads delivered on this platform are often more effective than those delivered by algorithms on Facebook or Instagram.
Hilary Ross is the vice president of podcast media for Veritone One. She has nearly a decade of experience in advertising. As an early adopter to podcast advertising, Hilary has been instrumental in growing and leading best practices within the industry since 2015. She leads Veritone One’s team of podcast buyers and frequently provides guidance to partners and podcasters on topics including growth tactics, sponsorship models, podcast timing, show length, ad unit innovation, and monetization. As an advocate for the continued growth of the podcast industry, Hilary’s expertise has reached the national stage at events like Podcast Movement and RAIN Podcast Business Summit.
Hilary is passionate about giving back to her community and volunteers with The Special Olympics of Southern California, The Surfrider Foundation, and Los Angeles food banks.
Veritone One (formerly Veritone Media) is a full service agency creating native and traditional advertising for some of the world’s most recognizable brands. Our expertise in media buying, planning, and creative development coupled with our patented technology platform, enables us to deliver advertising with unmatched effectiveness and in a way that’s Simple, Scalable, and Trackable.