With Monetization and Engagement as Goals, Podcasters Look for the Best Ways to Measure

Content metrics has become huge in all that we do, and podcasts are no different. “One of the things the industry is going to really grapple with is downloads versus impressions,” Lizzie Widhelm, SVP of ad innovation and B2B marketing at SXM Media, told Digiday, “…It is important to understand the difference. The gold standard is someone actually listening to the show…”

In my article yesterday on the print landscape, Bridget Murray Law, editor-in-chief of The ASHA Leader, the magazine of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, said that one “challenge is that there aren’t metrics on print, so it’s difficult to measure engagement. That’s also part of the reason why we’re seeing advertisers leaving print because they can’t measure the success of their ads.”

Podcasts are having a similar problem, but given their digital nature, solutions may soon be at hand. “We are building the ad tech for the future and measurement solutions for the future, so clients feel like they can plan, produce, buy and measure in this ecosystem,” Widhelm told Digiday. “Advertisers want planning tools and to understand where audiences are. Our targeting solutions allow brands to topically target, and understand audiences by gender and geo for networks. They want the audience targeting that they’re used to. And on the post-sales side, a way to measure their ROI. We are working hard, with our vendors, on location measurement, sentiment analysis, audience segmentation, audience-based buying tactics and ad effectiveness measurement that [advertisers] expect.”

In a recent Muck Rack report and survey of 594 professional podcasters—62% are independent and 26% are backed by a media company—titled, The State of Podcasting 2021, downloads are the leading metric among podcasters (78%), followed by listeners, streams or starts (46%). While revenue was previously stated as low priority in terms of goals (22%), it is commonly used as a benchmark for success by respondents (37%). Paid subscribers, podcast mailing list subscriptions and favorites were the least cited measurements of podcast success.

Here are more takeaways from the report with another quote from Widhelm:

Almost three-fourths of respondents are monetizing their podcasts. Ads are the most popular method to do this, with 52% using ads. Paid subscriptions (e.g. Patreon) was the next most popular method (26%). Sponsorships, donations and merchandise were popular under “other” (21%). Premium content (12%) and paid guests (4%) were last.

As for how podcasts are using ads, Widhelm said: “For certain shows, you can insert a commercial break where you could easily have announcer-read ads that make a ton of sense. Some shows are so intimate, so specific, that maybe to interrupt with an announcer won’t feel natural. What we are doing with our partners is figuring out when is the right time to have an ad break. TV has been doing this for a long time; Hulu does this. It’s really about finding the right prescription, the right break moment on all these different show types.”

Two-thirds of respondents are not offering paid content. Of the 34% that are, exclusive or bonus episodes are the most popular. In the ‘Other’ category, a few said they offer product discounts, listener shoutouts, exclusive merchandise and/or ad-free content to paid subscribers.

Almost half of the podcasters are posting new episodes once a week. Of the remaining respondents, 24% are posting more than once a week, and 25% are publishing less.

Driving awareness and education (42%) is a bigger reason for podcasting than revenue (22%). Enjoyment and passion actually came in second at 28%.

Apple is the clear leader for audience streams (75%), with Spotify as the next popular platform (10%). Interestingly, a number of respondents who selected ‘Other’ (10%) said they did not know which platform accounted for most of their streams.

Other than Libsyn (26%), there is a lot of variation between preferred publishing platforms. Other platforms include Megaphone, Podbean, Anchor, SoundCloud, BuzzSprout, SimpleCast, Spreaker, Acast, Omny and Blubrry.

Twitter seems to be the social platform for the podcast crowd. Podcast hosts reach 41% of their followers on Twitter. Facebook (19%), Instagram (18%) and LinkedIn (16%) are next. Twitter (68%) is also the leading social platform to promote podcasts.

Again, here is the link to the Muck Rack report.

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