The Hand of Pod: Podcast Analytics

4 ways that publishers can capitalize on the podcast boom.

A post from Webtrekk Content Manager

David Vranicar


Any suspicions that podcasts were just a fad – something that bored people did for their own entertainment – have been erased under a wave of downloads.

Each of the 12 episodes of last year’s “Serial” podcast, for example, averaged more than 2 million downloads. The US-born production became the top podcast in the US, Australia and UK, and a Top 10 podcast in India, Germany and South Africa.

And it’s not like podcasts are an American-only phenomenon. The UK’s Guardian newspaper has an ever-swelling podcast section… does Italy's Radio Deejay... does Germany's Bayerischer Rundfunk...

Podcasts are scalable, they are popular, they are accessible. And it looks like they are here to stay.

All that said, generating revenue from podcasts isn’t simple. For starters, consumption is entirely decentralized. Podcasts can be downloaded from iTunes or SoundCloud or apps like Stitcher, or streamed directly from content creators’ own websites. They can be listened to on a computer, phone or tablet, or dropped into an MP3 player to be enjoyed during a jog.

Plus, as seen with Serial, if a podcast is good enough, it can have truly global appeal. South Africa, Germany and India are quite different markets.

With all this comes the real possibility that a podcast turns into a black box: Consumed on an unknown device, at an unknown time, by an unknown person.

So let’s take a look at four things content creators should be doing to get the most out of their podcasts.

1. Get people to consume podcasts on site or on app. If an ad is delivered in the middle of a podcast that was downloaded off of iTunes, the publisher has no idea if the listener ever actually consumed it.

What if an ad was placed at the 17:00 mark, but 80% of listeners stopped listening at the 12:00 mark? What if an ad was placed at the very beginning – starting at 0:01 – but 30% of listeners fast-forwarded straight to the good stuff at 1:00?

By using an on-site or in-app media player, publishers can utilise their analytics tools and assure advertisers that their ads are indeed getting heard. And if they aren’t getting heard, publishers can take steps to change that.

Podcast-specific promo codes are the current modus operandi for a lot of publishers: Listeners receive a code to use on an advertiser’s website, and the return on the advertiser’s investment is determined by the number of times that that code is entered.

But a more granular view is better. Even if promo codes are an advertiser’s preferred method, the placement of those codes can be optimised with media player analytics – analytics that are impossible via iTunes, SoundCloud and other third parties.

2. Get people to sign in with their email before downloading or streaming. Podcast publishers should try to be important enough to their consumers to justify a login. This way, they can accumulate valuable information about who, exactly, is listening to their content.

This will help determine for whom publishers’ ad space is most valuable. Plus, the publisher has more information to make recommendations, send emails and foster more downloads.

That’s not to say publishers should turn their backs on iTunes and Stitcher. Some consumers are locked in to those, period.

But some are probably willing to stop by a website or download an app if there is something in it for them. It’s up to the publishers to make sure there is something in it for them.

3. Utilize personalized recommendations. This is another one that falls under the category of “Not possible when people download content straight from iTunes, SoundCloud, etc.”

If a publisher has someone’s login info, then they have an ID for them. And if a publisher has an ID, then everything the user does on the website and app can be linked to that ID.

On a publisher’s own website or app, they can dictate what recommendations the user receives. And they can make these recommendations armed with user-centric information.

On iTunes, the next recommendation could be for a rival publisher.

4. Dream big. Serial was a groundbreaking achievement, the most popular podcast in history and a glimpse into the medium's immense potential. But it’s part of a larger trend towards increased investment, increased quality and increased opportunities.

That means it’s time to think big. Customized ads based on the location of person listening. Customized ads based on the weather in the location of the person listening. Customized ads based on – well, anything that can be plugged into an automation tool.

After all, it probably won’t be long until the same real-time advertising technology that places banner advertisement next to articles is repurposed to place audio advertisements – in the right language, about the right topic, at the right time – smack-dab in the middle of a podcast.

The ways in which people view podcasts is fundamentally changing. And the ways in which publishers view them should change, too.

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