Urban One Inc., the largest African-American owned and operated multi-media company, reaching over 80% of Black America, and Sounder, a contextual intelligence platform for audio, announced a partnership to conduct groundbreaking research. This research project aims to improve podcast ad technology to ensure equal monetization opportunities for all creators of audio content. The research will specifically address the industry’s generally limited brand safety technology capabilities for BIPOC audio content, with the goal of scaling new solutions that enable advertisers to sponsor BIPOC audio content at a higher rate and with greater confidence.
With this partnership, Sounder will work closely with Radio One and Reach Media, Urban One’s audio divisions, as well as the new Urban One Podcast Network, to analyze a variety of content from its catalog and create a report identifying strengths and challenges facing audio ad technology in classifying diverse media. The results will further inform and refine Sounder’s industry-leading brand safety and suitability solutions driven by AI/ML models, addressing these challenges and setting a new, fairer standard for the industry.
“As the leader in urban-formatted content, Urban One’s mission has always been to do our part in educating our partners, ourselves, our clients, and the broader industry on the evolving cultural landscape of Black America,” said Josh Rahmani, CRO, Urban One, Audio Division. “Through this work we hope to bring awareness of Black culture and its nuances to the industry at large and support an ecosystem of the diverse voices that drive mainstream culture.”
“Sounder was founded on the belief that we could help diverse voices connect with listeners who cared about what they had to say. We also believe that these voices should have had the same ability to monetize and fund their content,” said Kal Amin, co-founder and CEO of Sounder. “Yet suitability and brand safety can’t be optimized until technology catches up to culture and holistically supports a thriving, diverse world of audio content. Our mission to transform audio insights includes redefining the brand safety status quo with contextual intelligence tools to support diverse creators.”
Legacy brand safety and suitability technology across media types disproportionately flags and restricts diverse voices due to inaccurate classification and discriminatory blocklists. These blunt, all-or-nothing tools misrepresent and underprivilege Black content. Through this research, Urban One and Sounder aim to develop a more nuanced approach that will refine speech classification accuracy and sensitivity, delivering significantly better performance and restoring parity to content advertising.
Podcasting’s growth is accelerating. The number of regular listeners is set to top 160 million this year. Simultaneously, Black audiences are becoming more engaged, with the most recent Black Podcast Listener Report noting that leadership climbed 53% in the course of a single year. With the importance and influence of Black creators and consumers rising, research that supports parity is vital for continued growth.