Urban One first tipped two weeks ago that it planned to do more in the podcast space when it announced it was working with Sounder on an initiative aimed at improving brand safety. Now it is formally cutting the ribbon on the Urban One Podcast Network. The move expands on the radio broadcaster’s audio portfolio as it looks to connect with listeners of color and broaden its appeal to advertisers who want to connect with the Black community.
“Given Urban One’s history and legacy in creating premium audio content for Black audiences and the growing level of Black podcast listeners, this was a natural step to continue exemplifying our mission of ‘Representing Black Culture’,” said Josh Rahmani, Chief Revenue Officer of Urban One’s Audio Division.
The Urban One Podcast Network launches with ten original shows as well as programs that are produced in partnerships with other Black-owned podcasts and networks. That gives it a launch pad of 1.5 million downloads per month, and the company says it will add additional original shows and partnerships.
“The network provides a natural partnership destination for BIPOC creators and presents advertisers the opportunity to connect with a niche audience that over-indexes for their response to brands that show up in podcasts, particularly podcasts with Black creators and hosts,” Rahmani said.
Spearheading the network and its launch is Sierra Reed. She joined the company in September as Senior Director of Podcast Operations after previously working at PRX and several radio stations. Reed has also been a podcast host.
“We want the community to learn, grow, and be entertained in a way that is organic and not programmed,” Reed said.
The announcement comes as a new report shows Black podcast listenership grew to 43% in 2022, an increase of seven points from a year earlier. The Black Podcast Listener Report – based on data collected by Edison Research and funded by SXM Media and Mindshare – shows Black listeners have closed the gap and are now outpacing the total U.S. population in podcast consumption.
The Urban One Podcast Network lineup is already diverse, with shows in genres ranging from True Crime and Comedy to Music, Health and Sports. Among the podcasts in its lineup at launch are The Undressing Room Podcast, Small Doses with Amanda Seales, The Amanda Seales Show, Fatal Attraction, Black Health 365, Rickey Smiley Morning Show Podcast, I Hate the Homies, Mind, Body and Business with Maria More, Mompreneurs, Adult’Hood, Dead End Media, SZN Opener, and Back Story with Colby Colb, among others.
Urban One has teamed up with Katz Digital as its exclusive third-party sales rep for its new podcast network. Scott Porretti, President of Katz Digital, says the deal will add “premium, culturally relevant podcast content” to the rep firm’s podcast lineup that it offers to ad buyers.
The new network is also supported by a partnership with Publicis Media’s APX Content Ventures and funding via its Inclusion Investment Fund.
Urban One announced last month that it is teaming up with Sounder, the podcast management and monetization platform, on research geared toward ensuring that all audio content creators have equal access to monetization opportunities.
In a joint announcement, Urban One and Sounder said the research will specifically address the industry’s limited brand safety technology capabilities for audio content created by African Americans and other creators. The ultimate goal is to develop new solutions that enable advertisers to sponsor audio content created by Black podcasters at a higher rate and with greater confidence.
As part of the new research 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 be used to refine Sounder’s brand safety and suitability solutions. The companies say the results will be a new, fairer standard for the industry.