Podcasting is hot, podcast measurement is not.
In a bid to address the myriad measurement challenges facing on-demand audio content, Triton Digital has partnered with Edison Research to strengthen its podcast measurement offering.
Starting later this year, a new Webcast Metrics On Demand (WCMOD) product will sit alongside Triton's existing tracking solution and provide publishers with better measurement tools for their podcasts and other audio content.
"The product will utilize a combination of logs and direct client measurement (via our APIs),” said Rob Favre, general manager and chief compliance officer for Triton's Webcast Metrics, via email. “This will be combined with additional data points provided via our partnership with Edison."
The partnership expands on Triton and Edison's existing relationship. The two companies jointly publish the annual Infinite Dial study of consumer audio habits.
According to companies’ 2014 report, 39 million Americans reported listening to a podcast in the past month – a record high. The podcast advertising network MidRoll – whose customers include the popular "WTF With Marc Maron" podcast – reported that its revenue more than doubled in 2014. This kind of growth is raising interest in the space, both from advertisers and measurement providers.
“We’re going to see a lot of players jumping into podcast measurement, because this space is hot,” said Todd Cochrane, CEO of RawVoice, a podcast network that tracks some 25,000 podcasts.
But while this segment has seen growth, data on the impact and reach of podcast advertising leaves much to be desired, especially when compared to what is available for other digital media.
While measuring podcast listening for streaming services including YouTube and Stitcher is easy enough, media downloaded through iTunes poses a challenge since Apple releases minimal data. While a publisher can find out how many downloads an episode gets through iTunes, or embed campaign tracking into links to see how many people clicked through from a podcast to their site, measuring engagement is much trickier. Details are scarce on how long a listener played a downloaded episode, or whether they played it at all.
“Measurement at this level is like video measurement in 2008,” said Martin Kihn, research director for Gartner. As for media measurement, Kihn said that companies like Triton, as well as Podtrac and Nielsen, are working to make improvements, but “standards require a consensus and take time before advertisers will make bets based on them.”
The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Audio Committee, which counts Triton and RawVoice among its members, is working to get Apple to “loosen the reins” on its data, according to Cochrane.
While a new product such as Triton’s WCMOD may help publishers, Cochrane warned that to be truly impactful, it should be able to process the raw data logs, and not just count an ad injection. (Triton confirmed WCMOD would not base its measurement on ad injections.)
That means tracking “the life of the media file,” whether streamed or downloaded, and then supplementing that with survey data in order to justify download counts.
“This is a digital medium, and there should be a digital solution,” said Cochrane. “The survey stuff is good to know, but if they are going to extract audience size through surveys, it’s probably no better than a Nielsen survey book.”
Advertisers and publishers will have to wait to see if Triton can improve on the current system of measurement, but for now, as Kihn put it, “we’re stuck with this ad hoc system that’s better than nothing.”