The future of podcast analytics goes beyond the download

As podcast content transcends format, platforms must create more holistic analytics

As the dust settles on the podcast investment boom, major platforms can now focus on innovating the format and business model. This should begin with podcast analytics. 

Historically, analytics have been limited mostly to the number of listeners and episode downloads, upon which creators and networks depend to build advertising appeal. Podcast advertising is an enormous opportunity: Podcasts allow advertisers to target hyper-specific audiences who trust their podcasts’ hosts, and MIDiA Research surveys reflect that podcast listeners are more ad-friendly than audiences of other formats. 

However, this opportunity simply cannot be tapped into without better data. This is especially true as creators navigate the oversaturated streaming space, where millions of podcasts compete with music for consumers’ increasingly limited time.

Audience analytics are siloed and incomplete

The key analytics for creators currently include the number of listeners and episode downloads, although they are not created equal. Just because a user downloads an episode, it does not guarantee they will listen to it – and analytics do not show conversions. Thus, a downloaded episode is inconclusive for actual listenership and is more a measure of intent. Perhaps this metric will hold less of a stake as analytics expand. 

Further, this data is siloed across platforms, making it difficult for creators and networks to understand total listenership. Platforms also vary in the data they provide, with some going deeper than others. For example, Apple Podcasts can tell how far someone listened to an episode.Thus, creators must pool together information to create a picture of their listener base. 

This is time-consuming and challenging, which is partly why audience platforms such as Spotify, iHeart and SiriusXM have acquired podcast-hosting platforms to better serve creators with more holistic data. Moreover, creators need more detailed data on their listeners (for example, ad responsiveness or how the listener discovered the podcast) to fine-tune their content and appeal to advertisers. Tracking a listener's journey from discovery to listening will be an essential metric as this market develops across a variety of platforms.

As the podcast market becomes ever more competitive and fragmented, a creator’s social media profile and podcast video views are also becoming crucial ingredients for an advertising campaign. A podcast is not limited to one platform, and neither should its analytics be.

The next phase of podcast analytics 

The current state of podcast consumption has outgrown traditional analytics and must utilise the analytics from the new ways in which listeners enjoy the format, to maximise a creator's discoverability.

The podcast format itself is increasingly blurred. The rise of podcast videos is bringing a wider, more mainstream audience to this format, with 50% of podcast listeners watching podcast videos monthly, according to MIDiA Research. Thus, podcast video views are becoming a factor in determining the value of a show for potential advertisers or sponsors. This may put audio-only podcasts at a disadvantage. 

By incorporating visual elements, podcasts can expand their social media presence and utilise those platforms’ insights to measure audience engagement and build communities. In addition to promotional efforts, social video platforms, such as TikTok and YouTube, are also places for podcast consumption, where listeners can watch podcast clips and videos. These platforms are extremely valuable in growing those audience relationships, and companies can leverage these followings as part of their media strategy. However, it may be difficult to identify followers from habitual listeners, because just like a download, this is not a completely conclusive metric.

Analytics will unlock podcast advertising 

As the economic downturn tightens audio advertising budgets, advertising companies must ensure their placements are in the right podcasts to maximise return. Podcast listeners over-index in paying attention to well-targeted audio ads (41%), compared to the consumer average (35%) based on MIDiA Research’s Q4 2022 data. This emphasises the importance of ad relevance and brand safety, in addition to maximising campaign measurement and performance. 

The good news is that podcasts make it easier to target hyper-specific audiences, compared to radio. Moreover, podcast listeners have an inherent trust in their chosen host, so host-read ads are a natural way to amplify a brand’s messaging. Some platforms are developing tools that capitalise on these opportunities.Acast’s AI-powered conversational targeting tool ensures an advertiser’s message appears in the most relevant part of a podcast episode, by focusing on keywords or sentences that amplify a brand’s message. Moreover, iHeartMedia’s partnership with audio intelligence firm Sounder evaluates the context of a podcast to help decide if the brand is the right fit. 

Podcasting will enter a new phase of analytics in the near future, and this will unlock a much larger advertising business. The question is: who will take on the task of leading it there? Podcast hosting platforms and major networks are naturally positioned to grow the analytics market, as they can expand their foundational metrics. However, a crucial part of this next phase is centralising creator data, so platforms like YouTube and TikTok may have a competitive advantage. Ultimately, the expansion of podcast analytics will lead to more lucrative monetisation opportunities for all.