In the world of podcasting, listener data has been largely elusive. Until recently, there were little to no analytics on any distribution platform, like Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or Google Play. Apple Podcasts is the platform of choice for most iPhone users since it comes preinstalled on every phone, making it the biggest player in podcast game. Stitcher began gathering data more recently but Apple has remained tight-lipped.
Since the podcast boom started in 2014, advertisers have been pouring money into essentially a black hole. Although podcast ad spending reached $220 million in 2017, podcasters and advertisers alike were investing in an untested medium with a mysterious audience. Who was listening? How much, how long and how often they were listening? In order to bring in more lucrative advertisers, they needed to know.
Without traditional measurement data to benchmark success, brands used other crude methods to see how their ads are working. Promo codes offer listeners discounts or deals to be applied at checkout, and trackable links in episode descriptions gave advertisers an idea of how much traffic the podcast is directing to their site. But most people listen to podcasts while driving or working out so they may forget about the promo code or find the website independently. It was a flawed system to say the least.
The cautionary tale
Online magazine Slate saw 30 percent of their website traffic was coming from Facebook. If Facebook ever changed their algorithm, Slate would be sacrificing a lot of readers. Rather than pivoting to video, which Facebook was urging many publishers to do, they decided to try and build reader loyalty by connecting with them through written and spoken word. Already an established entity in the podcasting world, they intensified their efforts, creating new programs to relate to their audience in a more personal way. It worked. Facebook traffic now accounts for only 10 percent of their traffic. Direct traffic to their site, a proxy measurement for loyalty, accounts for 30 percent. Podcasts alone make up 25 percent of their revenue.
Look at the numbers from Edison Research. Forty percent of the American public has listened to a podcast at some point in their lives. Twenty-four percent listen monthly. Of those monthly listeners, 76 percent make $100,000 or more, 57 percent have a college degree and 44 percent are under 34. Podcast listeners are young, engaged and educated, with money to spend. These demographics are quite attractive for advertisers, but only if they have the analytics to back it up.
On Apple Podcasts, there are more than 500,000 active podcasts in over 100 languages. Now, all of those podcasters, and all the advertisers who support them, are getting a look at their numbers. Apple’s newly released Podcast Analytics provides “table and charts with data like unique device counts for a selected time period, total time listened, time per device, average consumption, devices subscribed, top countries, and more.” It’s still rudimentary data compared with the information we get from digital ads but it’s a start. The analytics portal has only been live for a few months but initial reactions show that podcast listeners are the “hyper-engaged, super-supportive audiences that everyone hoped [for].”
In the words of the Internet Advertising Bureau, “Common measurement practices are like oxygen. When they are absent, everyone notices immediately and the result is painful. When they are present, the industry evolves and flourishes.” Looks like podcasts advertisers can stop holding their breath.