Podcasting Metrics

Podcasting needs metrics. There’s no reliable way to track listenership.

Advertisers need to know what they’re buying. The ad business is utterly reliant on hard data about listeners. They need to know how many listeners they’re reaching and what the listener demographics are. To prevent fraud by podcasters, advertisers also need provability.

On the content creation side, podcasters need to know what listeners like and don’t like. Youtube has a feature to show video creators when viewers drop off. Podcasting has nothing like that.

These are solvable problems. A simple-ish way to create metrics is to provide streaming audio rather than downloadable. Technically this is well-known territory. Mozilla has excellent documentation.

It’s simple in theory, but in practice there are hurdles.

  • This approach would exclude listeners who download their audio in advance. I doubt this is a big proportion.
  • Podcasting portals may serve up their own copies of podcast audio files, rather than redirecting to the original URL hosted by the podcaster. Streams can’t be cached.
  • Podcast listening tools may not support streaming MP3. How bad a problem this is depends on which streaming technology the podcaster is using.

Podcasters probably would lose listeners. How many listeners would they lose? They would probably be able to charge higher ad rates, and sell to more advertisers. Would that advantage in ad rates and sell-through outweigh the drop-off in listenership?