Steve Goldstein: The Biggest Thing to Happen to Podcasts Since Serial Just Happened

steve goldstein press march 2015 canvasSteve Goldstein’s Amplifi Media works with media companies and podcasters in developing audio content strategies. This column was originally published on Blogstein, the Amplifi blog.

The new Podcasts App will look more like Apple’s Music app

Today’s world is loaded with things people have said were improbable – see 2016 election – and then there is the impossible. Those with a history in podcasting have said Apple will never share data on when and how long people listen to podcasts.

Another ‘impossible” tumbles.

Last week at Apple’s developer conference, they announced that its Podcasts App gets a big, and much needed refresh this fall with IOS 11.

Along with significant design changes, finally Apple will open up in-episode analytics enabling content producers to see when and how long people listen – what they skip over and importantly if/when they bail out.

Up until now, Apple, which accounts for around 70% of all podcast consumption, provided sketchy download information which did not correlate to actual listening. Producers knew how many times a podcast was downloaded but no data on what was actually listened to.

The advent of analytics will likely result in change for many podcasters by revealing real listening behavior. They will finally see what listeners like, and conversely, dislike and creators will be able to fine-tune the content accordingly.

Sample Analytics shown at WWDC17

Apple’s new analytics are likely to be a wake-up call for many producers and possibly a reset in the advertising community

The data will be aggregated and anonymized so no personal information is revealed. This means podcasters, or podcast advertisers, won’t be able to create addressable targeted content to individuals or groups.  That is the expectation from other digital media platforms such as Facebook or YouTube, but unlikely to happen with Apple having no monetary play in podcasting.  It will, however, provide much needed currency, ROI and a bunch of other things advertisers have been looking for in order to justify and shift more dollars into this hot sector.

For years, commercial and public radio have tweaked their content in response to listening patterns. Apple’s new analytics are likely to be a wake-up call for many producers and possibly a reset in the advertising community, answering questions about whether ads are heard or skipped, when shows are stopped and a much needed resolution for many podcasters as to how long their podcast should be.

Sample Analytics shown at WWDC17

Who’s listening to all this stuff? We are about to find out.  

Apple is not the entire market for podcasting, so it will not be the final word on all listening. Given its dominance, however, the data will likely be used as a proxy for the business.

This surprise announcement sets the stage for the next phase of podcasting. More data is good.

At the developer conference, Apple announced that there are now 400,000 podcasts and 14 million episodes.  Apple is approving 1,000 new podcasts each week.  Wow.  Who’s listening to all this stuff?  We are about to find out.

Steve Goldstein