Download on Podcasting report: Measurement and podcasting’s long tail

A new report has been issued by The Download on Podcasting, the ongoing collaborative study of on-demand audio from DMR Interactive and the Digital Media Research and Development Lab at Texas A&M University.

Titled An Overview of Audience Measurement with Nielsen Audio, the four-page whitepaper compares podcasting to non-audio, long-tail disruptive industries, and features remarks from Nielsen executives about that company’s approach to podcast measurement. Nielsen is, of course, a familiar entity to U.S. commercial radio whose digital directors are eyeing podcasting with both interest and uncertainty.

It is Tony Hereau, VP of Audience Insights at Nielsen, who draws an interesting parallel of podcasting and seemingly unrelated industries — craft beer, and automobiles. “By looking outside of audio, it brings to light industries where the long tail is the norm and economies of scale have little to do with winning or losing,” Hereau is quoted in the report. He notes that there are over 5,000 craft brewers in the U.S., and over 1,700 car models. Consumers pick beers and cars, in part, as self-expression. Listeners describe their podcast choices in the same passionate terms with which they identify with restaurants or cars, the report asserts.

The relationship of podcasting to traditional radio is a steady theme in The Download on Podcasting, and the categorical differences are hammered home in this latest report: “AM/FM radio is live, local mainstream and short-form content primarily consumed in real time on analog devices.” Podcasting is different in all respects. Furthermore, the report notes, the barrier to entry in podcasting is exceptionally low compared to licensing and facility costs of broadcasting.

But measurement is the central topic of this Nielsen-spotlighted paper. Nielsen’s approach reportedly leverages many dimensions of data, including consumer buying information that the company says can shed light on demographic, and tie certain audience groups to matching topical podcasts. “There are 32,000 homes across the U.S. where consumer product purchase activity can be matched with fans of various podcast genres,” the report claims. One example offered as validated data — a connection between people who buy vitamins and those who listen to fitness podcasts.

The field of podcast measurement has been obscure and difficult for years. This report’s promotion of Nielsen’s efforts is focused on the company’s Software Development Kit (SDK) which can be inserted into the “podcatcher” apps used by consumers to listen. Specific apps which have adopted Nielsen’s SDK are undisclosed here. the most-used app for podcast downloading and listening is Apple Podcasts, and Apple recently made the blockbuster announcement that it would begin providing listening analytics this fall — a much-needed ray of light in what has been a black box of audio consumption.

There are two sides to the podcast analytics. One is that it’s a competitive field for tech vendors like Nielsen. The other aspect resides on the business side of podcasting, where advertisers need better consumer information, in order to allocate more marketing budget to the unique category of on-demand audio.


Brad Hill