Podcast Measurement: A RAD Emerging Standard
- According to research conducted in 2018 by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 34% of individuals 18 years old and older across 22 developed countries have accessed a podcast in the last month
- According to a study conducted by the IAB and PwC in 2018, U.S. podcast ad revenue will reach $659 million by 2020 (from $169 million in FY 2016 to $314 million in FY 2017 — this is pretty serious growth that is expected to continue)
- Spotify recently spent reportedly over $200 million to acquire 4‑year-old podcast production company Gimlet Media (and acquired Anchor at the same time)
Like most emerging media (although, when you’re looking at more than one-third of the population engaging with the medium, is it really “emerging?”), robust measurement tends to be lacking. In the early days of websites, we counted “hits,” which were a reasonable approximation of scale and volume, but that was about it. In the world of podcasts, advertisers and publishers are still largely in the “hits” era, in that the only universally available metric is “downloads.”
While there have been various efforts to at least shore up the definition of that one metric (see the IAB Podcast Measurement Technical Guidelines version 2.0 and the Public Radio Podcast Measurement Guidelines version 1.1), standards and mechanisms for actually measuring how much of a podcast was listened to, including whether mid-roll ads were consumed, has been a challenge. This is because podcasts operate on a pretty old technology: RSS (remember when we used to “subscribe” to blogs and use a newsreader? It’s the same technology!). Regardless of the podcast app someone uses, the app is just reading the RSS feed and then downloading an audio file if one becomes available. The publisher can detect that that file was downloaded but has no visibility into whether the file was actually ever listened to (or how much of the file was listened to).
The standard is far from achieving mass adoption, but it was only launched in late 2018, so we’re optimistic that it will gain traction. Analysts the world over will rejoice if that comes to pass!