As co-founder and CEO of Instreamatic.ai, Stas Tushinskiy lives and works on the cutting edge of voice-activated advertising, with the intent of changing the fundamentals for advertising and marketing companies — as well as media platforms that rely on ads for revenue. The San Francisco-based company started as a digital audio ad network, and has grown in four short years to build a monetization platform for the voice era. Now, Instreamatic.ai provides audio publishers with tools to monetize their ad inventory with voice-activated ads in which the audio stream asks listeners if they are interested in a particular product or service and then reacts to their response. This year, Instreamatic.ai was chosen as one of 50 interactive technology companies from 10 categories, awarded an Accelerator Award by SXSW in the Entertainment and Content Technology category. So far, its platform works with mobile; it will soon be present on smart speakers.
Tushinskiy — who shared an “An Open Letter To The Industry” with Inside Radio in March — now breaks down just how the technology works for both advertisers and consumers, and how radio stations can get with the program. He also shares with Inside Radio readers an exclusive announcement about a “coming soon” service right up radio’s alley. An edited transcript follows.
Instreamatic.ai started as a digital audio ad network. How did you make the leap to voice-activation audio ads?
Four years ago we were doing business development for one of the top music streaming apps in Europe. Back then we learned that a paid subscription business model was not going to get us to a break-even point. So it was a natural choice to adopt an advertising-based model. If you look at the industry today, the leading companies are all offering free ad-supported models, even if they offer paid subscription models in tandem.
Eventually, we founded Instreamatic to build a digital audio ad market in Eastern Europe and address technology challenges. As we learned along the way, the engagement challenge was and still is the major problem that audio marketing has to solve to get to a place where video and social marketing is today.
In layman’s terms, how does your technology work?
Imagine you are driving down the street or jogging, listening to a radio stream or a podcast and you hear a short audio ad that goes like… “Do you want to know where the best coffee shop in town is located?” You can respond to our voice-activated ad by saying “Yes, tell me more.” We’ll provide all the details with a second audio piece and then build a route on Google Maps. Or you can say “I’m not interested” and we’ll send you right back to content.
These ads make the ad experience shorter, interactive and a lot more fun. For advertisers, this means the ability to measure direct performance and receive a higher ROI. And publishers earn higher CPMs, fill-rates and new categories of advertisers that were not traditional users of audio/radio ads.
You’ve called voice the third big wave of the internet evolution, behind browser and mobile.
There were two major waves of interface disruption during the short history of the internet. Each one brought new winners and losers. Browsers made the internet accessible to the masses. Companies like Amazon, Google and many others built their success on this breakthrough. The next wave was mobile devices and mobile interfaces. Top gainers were Apple and Facebook — even though Facebook started earlier, their huge success came with mobile adoption and with the purchases of Instagram and What’s App.
Now we’re entering the voice era. For now, Amazon and Google are the ones who are driving the change, but we’ll see many startups riding the wave and becoming multi-billion dollar companies through this disruption.