Measuring opportunity in podcasts

A former colleague whose job had nothing to do with numbers suggested that if all the time spent on budgeting and financial measurement was devoted instead to improving products and engaging more clients, wouldn’t our numbers be a lot better?

Ah, those creatives! His theory was right. The problem is that our world can’t function without knowing business-wise where we are, where we are supposed to go, and what is helping us get there.

That’s why this week’s announcement that Triton Digital and Edison Research plan to launch an audience measurement product for podcasts later this year appears to be a shot in the arm for an audio distribution vehicle that’s up to this point been lurking as a major advertising outlet.

Ask any marketer about key challenges, and I swear every Top Five list will include the ability to prove ROI. Interesting how this acronym hasn’t outlived its usefulness, what with far sexier terms dominating today’s marketing glossaries. Two members of our company are serving as judges for a prestigious marketing awards competition. The entries are full of inspiring work, yet when asked to quantify results, entrants are a few degrees removed from explaining how their campaigns directly affected the box office.

Perhaps the Triton/Edison product, called Webcast Metrics On Demand (WCMOD), will solve that for podcasting, a product seemingly with all the right credentials. In this age of obsessive on-demand user experience, podcasts are available when you want and where you want. You can choose from libraries upon libraries of content—shows you missed and back stories for ones you didn’t. Artists and authors galore.

Current data might surprise you: Edison reports 13 million people listen to podcasts every day; 46 million at least once a month. More than 21 million hours of podcasts are consumed daily. For perspective, consider that Pandora claims 65 million active listeners.

Question: Which spends more money on marketing—Pandora or the podcast companies? Or try this: How many podcast companies can you name? Assuming your answer supports our premise, you can see the potential for growth in this sector.

Advertisers are poised to hone in further on the podcast listener profile and what podcasts can accomplish. Who could ignore a highly engaged, motivated audience, with brand messages delivered personally by each show’s host? The standard unit is a 20-second or 60-second read, but hosts often go beyond that to fully integrate products into their show’s topics and features.

Yet podcasting is not quite an industry, or even a segment. Is it Digital? Mobile? Radio? Total advertising dollars are difficult to quantify. And there are few major advertisers (aside from Acura) for which podcasts are more than a fleeting thought, let alone a designated space in their ad budget.

Then there’s that delicate subject of measurement.

“Without standardized and credible third-party audience measurement, it has been extremely difficult for podcast publishers to gain acceptance from brand advertisers,’’ said Rob Favre, General Manager and Chief Compliance Officer for Triton’s Webcast Metrics brand.

“The way in which podcasts are measured and reported to advertisers and agencies has yet to catch up to the robust reporting brands have come to expect from other media,” said Edison Vice president Tom Webster.

Just like every other medium in recent memory has been forced—for better or worse, for high margins or low—to follow the desires of its consumers, so too must advertisers pay close attention to opportunities in the world of podcasting, especially now that a solution to one of its biggest obstacles might be on its way.

Nevertheless, podcast fans remain ravenous. That’s a nice word—so nice, in fact, that for now it might be the only measurement advertisers need to know.