As Podcasting Matures, Data Standardization Efforts Emerge

The podcasting market, which is growing into a major media force of its own, is fostering an array of new tracking standards, including one produced by NPR. The Interactive Advertising Bureau, meanwhile, is launching a certification campaign.

As podcasting picks up as a medium, those active in the sector are working to raise the bar on the detailed tracking metrics that will help encourage advertisers to follow along.

Recently, public radio icon NPR, which has a robust number of podcasts, announced the launch of a new analytics technology called Remote Audio Data (RAD), which aims to increase the level of data that digital broadcasters can pick up during different portions of a podcast. So, rather than simply getting information about the number of downloads, they know when listeners get through certain portions of the episode, when they skip over the ads, and so on.

“RAD is not intended to replace download statistics as a point of measurement for the on-demand audio industry, but is designed to provide data on listening events to complement [these] download statistics,” NPR’s RAD site explains.

NPR’s efforts have already earned wide industry support. In an article announcing the launch of the initiative after a pilot period, the company laid out more than a dozen companies that would implement RAD in their products next year, while major media companies such as Google, ESPN, The New York Times, and iHeartMedia were cited as supporters of the RAD standard.

Also working on standards of this nature is the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which recently launched a certification initiative to properly measure metrics for podcast advertising. IAB’s Tech Lab, with its Podcast Measurement Compliance Program, hopes to create consistent standards in an area that has been anything but consistent over the years.

“Meaningful measurement has been thwarted by an inability to connect, track, and analyze user requests; measurement products that use dissimilar, proprietary algorithms; and a lack of an agreed-upon set of metrics and their meanings,” the association stated in a news release. “With the Podcast Measurement Compliance Program, the IAB Tech Lab seeks to ensure these common challenges are addressed.”

Thus far, NPR and RawVoice (a company that runs the podcast hosting company Blubrry) have been certified for the program.

Critics Emerge

The interest in metrics programs is growing, but there are some concerns—in part because podcasting is one of the few tech-based mediums that has largely avoided being overtaken by the kind of data-mining that has become common in other digital mediums. As the Columbia Journalism Review recently noticed, there was some pushback to NPR’s initiative, particularly from Marco Arment, a well-known tech pundit and the developer of the popular podcasting app Overcast, who worried about the privacy concerns the move would create.

“I understand why huge podcast companies want more listener data, but there are zero advantages for listeners or app-makers,” Arment tweeted.

For its part, NPR defended its work, with developer Stacey Goers emphasizing that the tool would help small-scale creators attract sponsors.

Joel Sucherman, vice president of digital strategy, added the result would help the overall ecosystem.

“In order to produce better shows and better content, I think it’s a fair tradeoff,” he said.

(nortonrsx/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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