Why It's Time for a Podcast Measurement Standard

Just a few years ago, you probably had a hard time describing exactly what a "podcast" was to someone who didn’t know. They're not quite a radio show, but not quite an audio book... but not really in between, either. Flash forward to today and just about everyone seems to have a favorite podcast to call their own. But for advertisers, figuring out how to advertise in podcasts can still be confusing.  The audience is there - it's just finding the right shows to reach that audience and reliable audience metrics to verify that they have, that is still a stumbling block for many.

You've undoubtedly heard of the podcast "Serial," first launched in 2014. In addition to debuting at "Number One" on iTunes, it also became the fastest podcast to ever reach five million downloads. Forget podcasting - "Serial" was an overnight sensation whether you're talking about books, TV shows, movies - you name it. There are network television programs that would kill to have a passionate audience of five million people tuning in week after week.

And the incredible thing is that "Serial" is not alone. "This American Life," "The Nerdist" and similar shows have grown large and stable fan bases over the last several years. This growth in audiences has naturally led to advertisers seeing opportunities, with increased ad spending as a result.

So why don’t we see more advertisers taking advantage of podcasting?

If you polled the leading podcast advertisers today and asked them what their number one concern is, you’d get a similar answer across the board: the fact that there isn't a consistent, reliable source of measurement data across podcasts and networks. Many podcasts are selling their own ads and there are various ad networks representing podcasts, but each determines its own method of measuring and reporting downloads.

Many advertisers rely on iTunes as an objective way to get an idea of popular shows for media plans. Even though podcasts have long since moved beyond being synonymous with iTunes and the iPod/iPhone, this is the best way to approximate audience size for most advertisers. But rank in iTunes is not based on the total size of an audience or the total number of downloads - it's based on the total number of new subscribers that a particular show has received. This means that the number one "Comedy" podcast on iTunes isn't necessarily the one with the largest audience, but with the largest NEW audience. A subtle (but important) difference.

Advertisers routinely ask where they can go to find reliable data about the size of the shows that are making waves across the Internet today.  And a key metric for these advertisers is unique monthly users - a metric that up ‘til now just doesn’t exist in the industry.

An industry standard podcast measurement system has obvious benefits to both advertisers and podcast publishers.

For advertisers, they’ll have solid information that they can use to make sure they spendthe right money in the best way. For podcasters, they’ll finally have verifiable, truly independent measurement to use to value their audiences.