Founded in 1994
February 2, 1994
CDNow was an early online music sales platform.
The company, founded in 1994 by brothers Jason and Matthew Olim in their parents’ Ambler, Pa. basement, was a major player in the Philly area’s dot-com scene and one of the decade’s best known websites. By scale, size and impact (having been an online retailer before 1995) it was one of the area’s most successful dot-com era technology startups. It also cultivated local talent — team members landed at firms like GSI Commerce, Monetate and Yellowbook.
The company sold music online, pre-Napster, pre-iTunes. It offered music reviews and recommendations based on a customer’s interests. It was the first online store to sell single songs instead of a full CD, said Jason Olim.
In August 1997, the company had 75 employees when it took $10 million in an initial investment round, said former CEO and COO Mike Krupit. In February 1998, CDNow went public with a $342 million valuation at $16 a share and the stock jumped 37 percent that first day.
First reported the previous fall, in March 1999, CDNow merged with its largest competitor Music Boulevard. By then it had 750 employees, was “outgrowing 90,000 square feet in Fort Washington” and sold $150 million worth of music a year, said Krupit, but failing to profit on most individual sales.
As soon as March 2000 the company was seeing stock market doubts. An attempt at an acquisition by Sony and Time Warner failed.
By 2002, Berteslmann [sic] licensed CDNow operations to former competitor Amazon.com, as noted in this New York Times story from the time, which called CDNow ‘pioneering’ but effectively marked the end of the venture. The brand and domain were phased out over time.
Don Katz is the founder and executive chairman of Audible (an Amazon company) and founded Newark Venture Partners to connect Newark to the east coast technology ecosystem and create New Jersey’s most elite early-stage fund and accelerator. He has served on the board of Uncommon Schools since the organization was founded in 1997 and served as Chairman of Newark’s Brick City Development Corporation in 2014.
Audible is the leading creator and provider of premium audio storytelling, enriching the lives of our millions of listeners every day. With our customer-centric approach to technological innovation and superior programming, Audible has reinvented a media category, and is the driving force behind today’s audio entertainment revolution.
Lavrock Ventures and Newark Venture Partners funded audio analytics company Veritonic:
The audio creative research and analytics company Veritonic is getting $7.5 million in new funding to expand its audio advertising research tools. The company has closed a Series A funding round led by Lavrock Ventures, with additional investment from Progress Ventures, Greycroft, Lerer Hippeau and Newark Venture Partners.
As part of the investment, Lavrock Ventures general partner Daniel Hanks will join the company’s board of directors.
As more and more brands see audio as a must-have marketing vehicle for reaching and resonating with audiences, Veritonic aspires to be the industry standard for audio advertising measurement. Veritonic founder and CEO Scott Simonelli says the cash infusion will allow it to hire more employees and more fully develop its analytics and measurement platform to keep pace with growing demand from marketers.
“The industry can’t grow without credible, reliable standards that are accurate and this funding helps us scale that,” Simonelli says. “It’s hard to do that for an industry as fragmented as the audio landscape…Hopefully, this helps us develop that standard to push the audio industry forward and, secondarily, I hope it provides the opportunity for 5-10 more companies who are similar to get funding and grow as well, because we don’t want to be on an island.”
The funding comes as digital audio ad spending (not including podcasting) is expected to increase 11% in 2022 to $6.21 billion, according to eMarketer. Podcast ad revenue is growing at a faster clip, with eMarketer forecasting 28.6% growth to more than $1.7 billion this year.
Scoring Audio Ads
Advertisers, agencies, and audio companies use Veritonic’s platform to research, test, and measure return on investment for audio ads and audio logos at various stages of a campaign. Among the services it provides are spending benchmarks for various ad categories. An insurance brand, for instance, can see what its competitors are investing in audio.
But Veritonic may be best known for testing audio ad creative to help marketers make advertising decisions and optimize their campaigns. That helps clients learn “what works for this audience or which audio ad or which piece of music or which voice to use,” Simonelli tells Inside Radio. The third service area for Veritonic is attribution – measuring how the ad performed in brand lift and other metrics and how that can improve the campaign the next time around.
Simonelli says Veritonic does this by going beyond standard tracking metrics like web traffic and ad clicks to leverage five years of testing audio campaigns for its Veritonic Audio Score. It knows, for example, that a certain type of audio ad scores high for purchase intent before it’s even run. “We already think we know the answer in a lot of cases and we’re using that standard performance plumbing to provide a comprehensive understanding of what’s happening sonically, what’s being said, what music is playing,” Simonelli explains.
While podcast advertising is the growth driver for audio right now, Veritonic measures audio advertising in all of its forms: broadcast radio, streaming audio, podcasting, even ads created expressly to be heard on smart speakers. Sonic branding is also on a growth tear with brand marketers. “People are [saying] ‘If I don’t have an audio strategy, I’m not doing my job,” Simonelli says. “And how do I connect the audio part of what I’m doing with the rest of my advertising.”
In addition to working with brand advertisers and agencies such as Indeed, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Shopify and Havas, Veritonic also counts NPR, SXM Media, Westwood One and Audacy among its media partners.
“Insightful data and research from the Veritonic platform allow us to make strategic, informed decisions around every element of our sponsors’ audio campaigns which result in them continuously outperforming our expectations,” National Public Media President & CEO Gina Garrubbo said in a statement.
Scott Simonelli is CEO and co-founder of Veritonic. He built the company to fill a critical gap in media and technology: the ability for marketers and others to make the same kind of data-driven decisions about audio creative as they do about everything else, so they can maximize the massive opportunity around audio.
A pioneer in online testing and optimization, Scott led business development at OrderGroove as the company grew from its earliest stage to relationships with brands like Walmart, P&G, L’Oreal and CVS. He helped start online testing pioneer Optimost and was instrumental in leading the company from its inception through its acquisition by Interwoven/HP (NYSE: HPQ). Prior to Optimost, Scott held positions at Sony Music, Boosey & Hawkes and even taught elementary school music.
Scott is a summa cum laude graduate of The Catholic University of America with a degree in Music Education and Composition, and he is also a working composer.
General Manager, International & Brand Sales, Veritonic
A marketing technology leader for over two decades, Damian leads all non-US business for Veritonic, the industry’s leading competitive, testing, and performance solution for audio. He works closely with brands, agencies and audio platforms to develop a data-first approach to their audio strategies.
Prior to joining Veritonic, Damian spent eight years as SVP/European MD for Evidon, the first privacy/data governance platform for media, which was acquired by Crownpeak in 2017. The company’s SaaS platform provides brands with unprecedented insight into the third-party tracking on their sites, and the guidance to control it for the benefit of their business and consumers alike.
Before Evidon, Damian was European Sales Director for Right Media, the first advertising exchange and foundation for modern programmatic advertising (acquired by Yahoo! In 2007). His experience also includes sales leadership roles at Auditude, Abacus, CACI & Centaur.
Otherwise, you’ll find Damian playing with his two young children, running ultras, swimming in lakes and occasionally being electrocuted whilst covered in mud.
Being able to assess the universe of podcast ads, radio / streaming ads, sonic brands and other assets is critical, but only a common metric gives it meaning. Veritonic Audio Score is the linchpin of audio measurement.
It’s powered by Machine Listening and Learning (M-LAL™), trained through years of analyzing thousands of audio files, correlating them with second-by-second human response data, and predicting response.
A platform that keeps getting smarter, making it easier for you to win audio.
More audio data than has ever been analyzed.
The Veritonic platform has been ingesting audio assets from the biggest brands in the world — ads, branding elements, voiceovers, and more — for over six years. It analyzes their innate characteristics (like melody) and content components (like copy), records how they resonate with people, and compares them to other, similar assets in the platform.
Machine Listening and Learning for fast, deep insights.
Veritonic Machine Listening and Learning (MLAL™) is trained through years of taking each audio asset, extracting a number of specific features, and correlating them with Veritonic’s set of second-by-second human response data.
Assets get an instant predictive score to start.
The machine continues to learn by capturing the realtime emotional response, recall and purchase intent of the audiences you’re interested in. From the general population to any custom segment you wish to create, the live human response data helps to validate the prediction and ensures that the platform is always getting smarter.
Clear, actionable intelligence with Veritonic Audio Score.
Veritonic Audio Score is the first rating standard for audio creative. It incorporates all of the above learning into one, simple metric, making it easy for you to understand the overall value of a particular asset (audio ad, voiceover, sonic brand element, music, script and more) and compare it to others in the market.
That clear guidance empowers you to make more informed decisions about how to optimize audio creative — in less time — and ensure that it resonates most effectively with customers.
We’ve made ratings even more comprehensive and meaningful by evolving our methodology to incorporate more data points and, with Machine Listening and Learning, producing smarter insights.
Each audio file’s Veritonic Audio Score builds in its individual measure for:
- Emotional Resonance
- Memorability (Recall)
- Purchase Intent
Most importantly, context is now incorporated into every metric, making it easier for you to compare an audio asset’s relative power to achieve your goal.
Since each creative is tagged for a range of characteristics, you can weigh assets against numerous benchmarks — from industry sector to competitive set — for a practical sense of their relative value.
- By industry/sector
- Across your own assets
- Against competitors
- By voice gender
- By channel, and much more