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Future of Media: Podcast goldrush, FLoKing hell, and data ETHICS???

The Drum's senior reporter and media correspondent John McCarthy rounds up the latest media trends and developments. Also available in your inbox every Thursday as The Drum's Future of Media email briefing. Sign up here.

This is an extract from The Drum’s Future of Media briefing. You can subscribe to it here if you’d like it your inbox once a week.

According to my calculations, January is nearly concluded. One step closer to some form of normality. Time passes fast in lockdown.

But what do the next few months hold in store? This week, we've been busy running our annual Predictions festival - online, naturally - with workshops spanning how brands can handle being cancelled to mastering CTV buying and the one that I hosted and is obviously the best, how to nail marketing personalisation.

On that note, Spotify tells me I consumed 29 days' worth of podcasts in 2020. You've probably been listening to a lot too, which brings me neatly to this week's lead story...

The podcasting goldrush

Every other week my inbox tells me a big tech company has thrown some money into podcasting. Amazon is the latest.

So we've taken a look at why big tech companies have suddenly fallen in love with podcasting. It's a goldrush driven by the evolution of the advertising technology and audience boom. But in expanding, will it lose the very traits that make it so great?

One-in-five digital US radio ad dollars are predicted to go toward podcasts in 2021. It is the first time it will breach the $1bn mark. 38% of marketers polled by Warc are planning to increase podcast spend in 2021.

I talked to Conal Byrne, head of iHeartPodcastNetwork and a handful of buyers and producers to learn how big tech will rock the space.

Read it here.

What the F**K is FLoC?

Google has opened up on FLoC solution, its approach to delivering and measuring ads sent to Chrome users once it finally rests the third-party cookie. It's a big deal. A very unscientific poll of this newsletter's media readers put this as the top concern.

And Google's announcements are proving decisive to say the least. Everyone's got a vested interest - which perhaps hints at Google having too much power.

Anyway, you're going to be hearing a lot about FLoC this year, so best getting up to speed with this quick explainer.

Ethical data?

Speaking of a post-cookie world, Alex Steer, chief data officer at Wunderman Thompson EMEA, pitched me an op-ed about ripping up the rule book and integrating an ethics framework into media buying (a theme we'll continue next week...).

From experience, I've noticed that 'ethics' stories don't get so well-read... I wonder why that is? You all seem like quite an ethical bunch to me.

Steer wrote: "Few people thought about the ethics of data technology 25 years ago when the industry was in its infancy. Over time, this lack of attention to data ethics has led us down paths that now threaten the basis of digital advertising. It is time to do the hard work of getting it right so that we don’t find ourselves in a similarly uncomfortable position a decade or so down the road."

There's more here.

Facebook... again

Let's try and hit all the Facebook news as fast as possible. The quarterly earnings are out. Revenue is up but under threat. It is now complaining about Apple, whose privacy push threatens to bite into Facebook's huge income. It also launched a news fund thing and said it would give its 2020 US election ad data to academics.

Another year, another dollar

Dentsu says ad spend won't reach pre-pandemic levels until 2022. 5.8% growth is expected globally - if major sporting events such as the Tokyo Olympics, Paralympics and the Euros go ahead... fingers crossed.

Other Stuff

Well, that’s this week’s round-up. If you missed the last issue, read it here.

I'm always looking to improve this briefing. Get in touch and let me know what you'd like to see more of, or if you'd like to feature. Do share it with friends and colleagues if you think it is relevant. I'm at or @johngeemccarthy on Twitter.