Barometer closes fundraising round for contextual targeting solution, with support of HearstLab

Technology analyses tone and sentiment to determine brand suitability

AI podcast measurement firm Barometer has just announced that it has closed a fundraising round with the support of investment company HearstLab.

The funding has gone towards Barometer’s contextual targeting solution, which the company announced at the Podcast Movement in March. The platform uses AI technology to examine podcast episode transcripts and ensure that they are compliant with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) Brand Safety and Suitability framework, as well as the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s content taxonomy 3.0 brand appropriateness standards.

With the contextual targeting tools, Barometer not only analyses transcripts based on the keywords but also determines what ads are appropriate by identifying the tone, context and sentiment of the conversation. It also gives each show a grade based on four levels of risk: no risk, low, medium and high.

“Consider words like ‘nude’ – you could be talking about heels or lipstick. Additionally, ‘shooting’ could be in reference to basketball or a movie. Because so many words have context-dependent meetings, keywords-based solutions are designed to fail and have unintended consequences like hindering reach,” said Barometer co-founder and CTO Grant Nelson. “Barometer's AI combines topic modelling, tonal analysis and sentiment analysis to understand discussions of potentially contentious issues in context at scale.”

Barometer also recently partnered with podcast hosting and monetisation company Katz Digital to help the company run audio ad campaigns more effectively and to help them reach their target audience. Other companies that have partnered with Barometer include Audiohook, Gemini XIII, Gumball and Podbean, as well as audio ad agency Oxford Road. 

Contextual targeting is an increasingly important topic within podcast advertising with a number of companies, such as Acast and iHeartMedia, innovating new tools to analyse podcast episodes and ensure brand safety. IAB chief marketing officer James Chandler told PodPod that with the removal of third-party cookies in the future, podcasting will have an advantage as contextual targeting becomes more important. 

“In a weird way, it's such an opportunity for podcasting because they've never had the cookie, never relied on it and in a way they've kind of leapfrogged all that stuff,” said Chandler. “So, the other bit that really plays to their strengths… is once cookies go away, the focus on context kind of becomes king again and newspapers and publishers are great at that. Podcasts are brilliant at that.” 

HearstLab is an investment arm under Hearst Corporation which is focused on supporting women-led startup companies and provides them with support during the early stages of the launch. This includes Barometer, which was founded by CEO Tamara Zubatiy.

“We are excited to be partnering with HearstLab during this new phase of Barometer's growth. We believe that Hearst's position in the media space brings a strategic advantage as we continue to grow within the digital audio space and across other channels,” said Zubatiy. “We believe the HearstLab community of female founders provides an opportunity for connection and mutual growth as we contribute expertise and learn from one another.”

“As a pioneer in digital content and monetisation, Hearst is well aware of the need for brand suitability standards, especially in the burgeoning podcast space,” said Hearst executive vice president and HearstLab chairwoman Eve Burton. “Tamara, Grant and the Barometer team are on the cutting edge here, using advanced AI to gather and present a truly holistic view of a particular podcast’s risks and associations. Giving brands the agency to advertise on content that’s exactly right for their audience is a game-changer, and we are excited to partner with Barometer as they continue to build on these capabilities.”