Why NPR’s New Podcast Measurement Tool is Really RAD

woman talking into podcast microphone

In the 15 years since their inception, podcasts haven’t just become a household name, they’ve become a go-to industry for advertisers. In fact, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) 2018 report, podcast advertising revenue grew from $68.6 million in 2015 to $257.4 million in 2017. And the industry is only expected to continue to grow.

While it’s clear that podcasts and podcast advertising aren’t going anywhere, we’re seeing a renaissance in how listenership and engagement are measured. For many years, the gold standard for podcast measurement was downloads. And while downloads are great at showing audience size, they don’t give an accurate view of what that audience is doing once an episode is downloaded to a device. Is the listener playing the entire episode from start to finish? Did they turn the episode off after listening to a certain segment? Are they even listening to the episode after it’s been downloaded? These are questions that can’t be answered with download metrics alone.

NPR, who helped put podcasting on the map with Serial, is now working to transform the way podcast listeners are tracked through its new Remote Audio Data (RAD) technology. If utilized across the board, RAD will bring transparency to the industry by providing publishers and advertisers insights into the listening habits of a program’s listeners. According to NPR’s website, data will be available to show not just downloads, but starts/stops and completed/partial listens to advertising and podcast credits. To use RAD, according to Tech Crunch, “publishers will mark within their audio files certain points — like quartiles or some time markers, interview spots, sponsorship messages or ads — with RAD tags and indicate an analytics URL.” The data will be sent back to publishers, providing a more comprehensive picture of what listeners are listening to, and perhaps more importantly, what they are not listening to, providing valuable information to both advertisers and creators.

What does this mean for podcast creators?

With increased information on the segments that an audience likes or dislikes, programs will be able to tailor content in a way that best suits their audience. If listeners repeatedly fall off or skip ahead during certain segments, creators will know if it’s time to go back to the drawing board or get rid of the segment all together.

What does this mean for marketers and advertisers?

Marketers and advertisers have found success with podcast advertising because they’re able to target an engaged audience with products that are relevant to them. According to Midroll, brand recall is 4.4x stronger with podcasts than it is with more traditional types of advertisements. And with that success, U.S. podcast advertising revenue is expected to grow to $659 million by 2020.

Moving forward with RAD, brands and companies will be able to determine if their podcast advertising spend is truly worth it. They will be able to check out detailed listener information to determine whether or not people actually heard the ad or skipped through it. The increased transparency will help to take some of the guessing out of the industry. That said, advertisers remain at the mercy of podcast creators to share insights to help make more informed marketing decisions.

While there will never be a perfect way to track podcast metrics, RAD is on the forefront of setting a promising standard that, if used correctly, could make podcasts better and podcast advertising more effective in the future. 

Evans Mandes

A graduate of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture, Evans joined Hodges in 2018, having previously worked in communications at Capital One and interning for CarMax’s public relations team. Evans works on a diverse mix of accounts including Kroger Mid-Atlantic, Monmouth University, UnitedHealthcare, Owens & Minor, Hilldrup and First Tee.

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