National / International News

Law catches up with ketchup squirter

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 07:47
A chef frightened staff at a chip shop in County Kerry by squirting tomato ketchup, a court is told.

Evans Cycles changes hands for £100m

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 07:30
Evans Cycles has been sold in a deal thought to value the retailer at about £100m.

UN denies CAR troop abuse 'cover up'

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 07:29
A United Nations spokesman denies allegations of a child abuse cover up in the Central African Republic, calling them "frankly offensive".

Police probe new Tower Hamlets claims

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 07:19
Five new allegations in the case of the corrupt ex-Tower Hamlets mayor are been identified by the Met Police.

Inside the weird world of podcast advertising

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2015-05-01 07:10

This story was produced in collaboration with FiveThirtyEight. Audio for this story is forthcoming.

The most listened-to podcasts come mostly from public radio: Serial, Invisibilia, This American Life. But the ads? 

"Many of our advertisers are the same ones that you hear on Howard Stern," says Lex Friedman, who heads up ad sales at Midroll. "Literally, you hear Casper mattresses and Audible and Squarespace and ZipRecruiter." 

But this is something people like Friedman are trying to change. Ask about his dream advertisers, and he talks about categories like major movie studios, car companies, clothing companies — household name brands that you'll find on prime-time TV.


"Here's the crass answer: they have deeper pockets, right?" says Friedman. "So, if you can get Coca-Cola or car companies or studios...they have big budgets."

Big budgets that let those advertisers buy in bulk — spending less per ad, but buying more ads overall. 

To see why that's desirable, you can look at the data set put together by FiveThirtyEight data reporter intern Hayley Munguia. She spent two entire days listening to the latest episode of every single podcast in the iTunes top 100—and writing down all the ads. There were 186.

But more than a third of the shows she listened to had no ads. And on the other two thirds, the median number of ads was just two. That's a relatively low "sell-through" (as the percentage of ads sold is called) for shows that have the six ad slots. Lex Friedman says  is common on Midroll's shows. 

“If a show gets 50 or 60 percent sell-through, we’re happy with that,” he says. “But we’re not satisfied with that." 

The FiveThirtyEight databsase reveals that the vast majority of today's podcast ads are, indeed the "Howard Stern" ads: host-read scripts for mid-sized companies selling online.

"For the most part I would say they all blended together, but yeah," says Munguia. "There were a few that stood out for being particularly ... terrible."

For instance: Bill Burr's pre-Valentine's Day endorsement of Sharri's Berries—chocolate-dipped berries you can order online. 

"Show her you thought of something unique and different this year, and get her the gift she is sure to love: Sharri's Berries," Burr says near the beginning of the ad on his Monday Morning Podcast. "Yeah, get her something unique. Get her something you and f**king four million other people are going to get."

When Munguia heard this ad, she wondered: has anyone from Sharri's Berries ever heard this ad?

The answer is yes. I played the ad over the phone to Sharri's Berries' acquisition marketing director, Nick Fairbairn. 

"I mean, does that fall within our brand standards? Probably not," he says. "Is it authentic to Bill Burr the comedian in a podcast space that's not nationally regulated for language? Yeah, it's right on brand for him. And gosh it was ROI positive, too."

ROI as in "Return On Investment" — as in, that ad actually sold a lot of berries. Fairbairn credits the ability of the endorsement (or endorsement-style) "native ads" that are typical on podcasts to blur the line between content and commerce.

"Keep it authentic, don't force it," says Fairbairn. "I think that's the key to doing this stuff."

And they know the ads work, because of a different part of the ad — something Bill Burr repeated at least three times: 

"Go to, click on the microphone and type Burr," he says.

These coupon codes are the norm for today's podcast advertisers. They give listeners an incentive to become customers, and they also give advertisers a handy way to track ads' effectiveness. (Especially useful, because data on podcast listening is less than solid.)

But the question is: by proving that podcast ads can move berries, do they also prove their value for companies that don't count coupons — like, say, Coca-Cola?

"By no means is it perfect for anybody," says Derek Lu, a senior strategist at the Media Kitchen, which buys ads for companies including Goldman Sachs. 

"It's hard to measure engagement; it's hard to measure and track the user journey," he says. And advertisers get relatively limited reach in exchange. "[Companies that advertise on podcasts are] there because they can reach a very niche audience where they couldn't otherwise have reached them," he says.

One possibility, according to Sherrill Mane, SVP of industry services for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, is that they will remain niche. 

"It's a craft, almost," she says. "And in the craft business sometimes if you get a high enough unit price you don't need to sell mass."

In other words, as long as the top podcasts can charge high rates—for host-read ads with coupon codes; selling berries, websites and stamps—they may be just fine without Coca-Cola.


Globe confirms new artistic director

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 07:06
Shakespeare's Globe reveals Emma Rice from Kneehigh will be its third artistic director, taking over from Dominic Dromgoole in April 2016.

A Rough Week For Two Potential Presidential Candidates

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-01 07:05

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley got heckled in Baltimore for his policing policies, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's former ally is in court for his role in the 'bridgegate' scandal.

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Baltimore police to face charges

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 07:00
Baltimore's top prosecutor says Freddie Gray's death was a homicide and plans to file criminal charges against officers involved in the case.

'Cut Casement capacity in half'

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 07:00
A west Belfast residents' group wants the capacity of the new Casement Park stadium to be halved in light of safety concerns expressed at a Stormont committee.

80 jobs to go at tree-cutting firm

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 06:58
Tree-cutting service firm Man Coed in Mold goes into administration with the loss of 80 jobs expected.

Walking 2 Minutes An Hour Boosts Health, But It's No Panacea

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-01 06:54

Sounds good, right? Add two minutes of walking to each hour of your day and your risk of death drops. Even walking to the coffee machine counts. But it's not enough to meet federal guidelines.

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CBBC actor's killer jailed for life

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 06:53
The killer of a children's TV actor who showed "no remorse" over the fatal stabbing outside a London nightclub is jailed for life.

Hillsborough officer 'wrong over fans'

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 06:52
A former police chief says he was "wrong" to issue a statement saying fans' behaviour at Hillsborough "made the job of the police harder", the inquests hear.

Singer Ben E. King, Best Known For 'Stand By Me,' Dies At 76

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-01 06:46

Phil Brown, King's publicist, says the soul singer died of natural causes. King began his career with The Drifters, but it was "Stand by Me," released in 1961, that sealed his worldwide fame.

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Clegg: No coalition without NHS cash

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 06:40
Nick Clegg says the Lib Dems will not sign up to another coalition with any party that does not guarantee £8bn in extra annual funding for the NHS in England.

Murray delayed by rain in Munich

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 06:34
Andy Murray could have to play three times on Saturday after rain delays his Munich Open quarter-final against Lukas Rosol.

Cameron: I'll close 'north-south gap'

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 06:30
David Cameron says he wants to close the "growth gap" between the south and north of England by boosting transport, science, skills and infrastructure.

Weekend Edition: The best of the week's reads

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 06:28
A collection of some of the best reads from the BBC News website this week, with an injection of your comments.

Pacquiao has 'killer instinct back'

BBC - Fri, 2015-05-01 06:22
Manny Pacquiao says his hunger to win has returned for Saturday's super-fight with Floyd Mayweather.

How Vietnam Put Picking Presidents In The Hands Of The People

NPR News - Fri, 2015-05-01 06:14

After the Vietnam era, it's hard to see how either party could dial back on its commitment to letting the people - at least those active in party voting - be the deciders of presidential nominations.

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