Podcasts are booming but how do you measure success?
It’s difficult for podcasters and publishers to get meaningful audience information because data is fragmented. Here are some suggestions.
Podcasts are enjoying a resurgence. In fact, they never went away. The current growth is fuelled by mobile devices, interest in audio content and a boom in audio marketing.
Almost six million people listen to a podcast each week in the UK according to Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2018.
The number of podcast listeners has almost doubled in five years – from 3.2 million in 2013 to 5.9 million in 2018. Data for the US market is comparable.
The increase is across all age groups, but the steepest growth is now among young adults aged 15 to 24. Around one in five people from this age group now listens to podcasts every week.
Podcasts are typically derivative to other media or marketing efforts. They sit alongside a broadcaster’s programme output or promote an organisation’s intellectual property, products and services.
That’s not to say that there aren’t paid-for podcasts but they’re at the front of a very long tail that is more typically free. Podcasts have traditionally been hard to monetise through advertising because the audience is fragmented and data is imperfect.
Hosting platforms such as Libsyn and Transistor provide analytics but these are limited to raw numbers, while distribution services such as Apple‘s iTunes and Spotify both provide limited analytics. Each platform or service has its own analytics and aggregating data is a tedious spreadsheet driven task.
Unique downloads provide a measure of how many people downloaded a podcast but it’s not that useful if you want to know how many people have opened and actually listened to your podcast. If you’re like me your podcast app will be backed up with multiple unopened audio files.
Digital marketers have grown up with real time data provided by platforms such as Google and Facebook. Podcasting analytics are awkward by comparison.
As a result, podcasting is under served by advertising. That’s almost certainly a good thing from a listener’s perspective. It’s an area being addressed by a burgeoning start-up market that aims to unlock the inventory opportunity.
In the absence of analytics podcasters have developed their own creative solutions. Chat rooms, Facebook communities, Twitter hashtags, audio comments, and surveys are all common means of engaging and quantifying listeners. Other direct response mechanisms include signposts to trackable links and gated content.
Podcasts are a medium that require long term investment to build an audience. There’s an intimacy about audio that means people are more willing to invest in the community around a podcast than other forms of content. As with any form of marketing or public relations, be clear about your objective and ensure that you know what success looks like and you’re able to measure it.