The jury is now all-in on the podcast industry having tipped into the mainstream. As evidenced by the recent annual Edison Infinite Dial 2019 Report, social media has stalled since 2016, while new forms of audio content are picking up the pace. Edison reports that over 50% of Americans have tried podcasting, with retention rates of 32%. That’s up from 26% last year. Audio is marching onwards and upwards driven by the proliferation of wireless earphones and smart speakers combined with the might of music streaming kings Pandora, Spotify and Apple. The ease of listening to a cell phone in the car has helped to accelerate these trends, as has the popularity of Audiobooks (per Michael Kozlowski 26% of Americans listened to an audiobook in 2017 to produce $2.5B of sales). Overall, it’s become increasingly clear why spoken-word audio, and it’s a killer app, the podcast is winning mainstream fans.
Let’s also recognize for a moment that podcast content is the most intimate form of media content available. I often refer to its visceral nature as “the voice inside my head”, and when it is great, it becomes “the voice inside my heart”.
The challenge for brands planning to launch new podcast content is that the distributor audience analytics while burgeoning this year to form a clearer picture, are still inept at fully satisfying those whose goal is intimate fan engagement, whether the fan is an existing customer or a first-time touchpoint. For this reason, podcast hosting analytics is the true path to fan engagement.
Let’s dive in for a second to explore how analytics are measured in the industry, then center ourselves on JAR Audio’s recommendation to push the analytics further to measure listener engagement.
In ad-driven podcasts, downloads become a proxy for revenue.
The existing analytic methods are based on legacy TV ad models and a hangover from Web Banner Ads. For example, imagine I make a podcast, then I commercialize it by inserting advertisements. For those podcasts with an ad-driven “cult of personality” type format such as The Ezra Klein Show, the metrics center around the number of downloads and chart positions. The former is a good reflection of general reach, with the latter being largely vanity-driven. In ad-driven podcasts, downloads become a proxy for revenue. Think CPM. Downloads don’t necessarily mean listens though, since many podcast apps auto-download your subscriptions regardless of whether you listen to them or not. Thankfully, some podcast distributors will provide actual listener estimates in addition to download numbers.
You’ve probably heard that podcast metrics come from RSS feeds and are highly fragmented among a large number of podcast distributors (Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, IHeartRadio, etc.). Thankfully, the hero for the simplest, most complete source of measurement is from the podcast hosting service itself. Every podcast hosts its own audio content which is shared amongst the podcast distributors above. JAR Audio uses Omny Studio as our hosting partner because it offers the most complete analysis available and continues to push the measurement innovation envelope.
So let’s return to the format of choice that I mentioned in the beginning: ad-driven “cult of personality” podcasts. If this is your format, you’re likely only interested in downloads, listener estimates, and the volumes coming out of each podcast distributor to learn where your listeners are coming from. In this case, hosting software metrics would be used to analyze engagement for creative reasons, like how long people listened for, where they skipped and did they skip the ads. This kind of knowledge allows you to improve your content and structure in response to audience engagement. Engagement metrics, aka Consumption Analytics, can and should be used to creatively maximize downloads and listeners, in order to maximize advertising revenues.
In Branded Podcasts, Engagement or Consumption analytics are a “proxy for reality”
Branded Podcast Analytics
Download Analytics as a primary metric begins to lose relevance when we consider branded podcasts. Branded content clearly has more to do with community than ad revenue generation. Brands are looking to connect intimately with their audience. Podcasts are social movements in audio form. They are a way to mobilize fans and create an intimate connection with the brand. As Sonal Chokshi of Andreesen Horowitz’s a16z podcast reminded us recently, from a creativity perspective, “…value in the art world is completely different than value in the commercial advertising sense, as movements are socially constructed things. Engagement or Consumption analytics are a proxy for reality and reality and the value of the art may be aligned or may not.”
To ensure that marketers are maximizing the pull-value of their branded podcasts, the primary focus becomes hosting partner Consumption metrics to ensure that listener engagement is maximized.
Hosting Partner Consumption Metrics
Let’s take a quick peek at the types of Consumption metrics that Omny Studio provides that JAR Audio feels are ideal for Branded Podcasts:
Verified plays – The “Verified plays” section lets you know how many times the audio clip has been played.
Average time spent listening – This is the average amount of time that each verified play lasted for. In other words, it’s the average amount of the clip that was heard by a fan.
Retention graph – Here you can see which specific parts of the clip were listened to.
Start at graph – Here you can see where fans started listening to the clip, so you can see at a glance how many listeners have heard the clip right from the beginning.
Dropoff graph – This shows how many of the verified plays stopped listening at particular times. Using this graph one can monitor which parts of an audio clip have successfully held a fan’s attention, whether the opening is strong enough to hook listeners in, or whether the listeners didn’t like something in particular.
Skips graph – The “Skips” graph shows where fans have started to skip through the audio. This allows one to see whether there’s any part of the show that listeners are regularly skipping over. Hovering over the graph at different points will show the exact time stamp and how many verified listeners have skipped from that position.
Engagement Summary – the summary below provides an overview of how much of the clip fans listened to. In the example below 54% of people played more than 25% of the clip in total, 49% of people kept listening and played more than half of the clip, and so on until we get to the 8% of fans who played the clip all the way through.
Paul Stewart is Director of Outreach at JAR Audio