Apple’s iOS App Still Owns The Podcast Show

Podcasting is lurching slowly towards more verifiable and standardized metrics.

By Steve Smith

Screen shot 2016-09-14 at 4.01.23 PMAt this month’s second annual IAB Podcasting Upfronts, the Bureau released a set of guidelines for establishing podcast ad standards…hard as that task may be. As guide author Rockie Thomas points out in his blog post announcing the report, podcasting is a blend of new and old media formats (radio+digital on-demand distribution) that makes for considerable challenges. Host-reads, have been core to the podcast ad story and demonstrate strong trackable ROI for direct marketers through custom URL callouts in the messaging. But they are stitched into the episode and so have scalability and timing issues. And so many of the emerging podcast networks are working on dynamic insertions across series. But not only are the formats morphing, but the entire podcast ecosystem relies on major providers (yeah, that would be you, Apple) that shares few interactive metrics with publishers.

The depth of the issue is clear in some of the very informative metrics the IAB included in this report.

For instance, the depth of Apple’s control over the format remains daunting. Aggregating third part research, the IAB finds that the Apple Podcast app on iOS still holds between 45% and 52% market share among podcast listeners, while iTunes listening adds another 8%-13$ to Apple’s control. Browser-based listening accounts for less than 15% of use.

This situation has a direct impact on ad metrics, of course. Publishers and advertisers on most delivery platforms generally have no way of guaranteeing that a user actually experienced the ad. Apple, which owns more than half the market has no client-side tracking of ad delivery and doesn’t even report whether a podcast was played. In fact, the IAB finds that only 3% of podcasts delivered allow for client-side tracking that would allow going targeting and reliable delivery reporting.

This leaves the industry with considerable challenges in aligning podcast ad metrics with other digital formats. The IAB suggests several general principles. For defining a “delivered ad” in this format, for instance, it recommends that not only confirming an ad was sent via a server log but that its placement in the show was downloaded or streamed by the user. In other words, we should not be counting ads served as ads delivered and must use download/streaming analytics to confirm delivery.

Podcasting is lurching slowly towards more verifiable and standardized metrics to satisfy advertisers. The sorts of advances the IAB suggests clearly are aimed at attracting more brand advertising, which needs better measurements of overall reach and frequency to feel comfortable entering the channel.

Understanding basic podcast show rankings and publisher reach is key to that effort. In recent months, podcast analytics company Podtrac has been rolling up monthly reach among the major publishers with whom it partners. While a few major podcast networks remain off of this list, it is a start. Podtrac shows for instance that in August, NPR continued to lead the field with 8.5 million monthly uniques for 33 shows, followed by WNYC (6.3 million across 40 programs) and This American Life/Serial ‘s 5.1 million downloaders for its 2 shows.



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