Podcast Measurement: A RAD Emerging Standard

by Feb 26, 2019

Podcasts are on the rise! Consider:

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).

National Public Radio (NPR) has been working to improve that measure­ment through the intro­duc­tion of an open sourced stan­dard for podcast measure­ment: Remote Audio Data (RAD). The under­ly­ing mechan­ics of how that stan­dard works and what is required to put it into prac­tice gets a little bit involved, but the latest episode of the Digital Analyt­ics Power Hour podcast dug into the topic with Stacey Goers, NPR’s product manager for podcasts.

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!

Podcasts are becom­ing an increas­ingly popular medium, both for content creation and content consump­tion. Multi­ple Search Discovery employ­ees have chosen to pursue their inter­ests and enthu­si­asm for their respec­tive disci­plines by creat­ing or co-creat­ing podcasts. While these podcasts are inde­pen­dent initia­tives sepa­rate from Search Discov­ery’s corpo­rate efforts, we are proud to have team members who are commit­ted to sharing their exper­tise and engag­ing in these discus­sions. Check them out: Michael Helbling and Tim Wilson are 23 of the Digital Analyt­ics Power Hour team, Noah Omri Levin is the creator and host of Digital Market­ing Life, and Jake Stoops and Jeff Louella run the Page 2 Podcast for SEO.