Podcast publishers, rejoice: At long last, Apple has released the beta version of its podcast analytics tool.
In June, Apple said it would share with podcast publishers aggregate online and offline listening behavior for episodes downloaded through iTunes and its Podcast player app. Previously Apple, which captures over half of all podcast listening, didn’t share any listener data with publishers, leaving most insight into podcast consumption in a black box.
Now that the analytics tool is finally live, publishers will learn a lot more about how their listeners interact with podcasts.
Apple will tell publishers when listeners started, stopped or skipped an episode, whether or not a listener is also a subscriber to a show and if an episode was listened to on- or offline. The data, however, is only available for people using the newest versions of Apple’s software (iOS 11 and iTunes 12.7), so it won’t capture all Apple listening.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment.
Analytics from Apple will help podcast publishers better understand how to tailor their content to audience preferences for episode length and commercial breaks, said Hernan Lopez, CEO at the podcast network Wondery. It will also help the industry move past the commonly used download metric, which doesn’t reveal whether someone actually listened to a podcast after downloading it.
“This is a huge moment for the podcasting industry,” Lopez said. “For the first time, we can confirm podcast listeners are highly engaged.”
Better understanding of listener behavior will attract more brand advertisers to the space, who want to know that people are listening to a show before they spend money with it. Podcast advertising is expected to top $220 million this year, according to the IAB.
But since Apple is only providing aggregated listener data, the new analytics won’t open the floodgates for programmatic dollars.
Most publishers use dynamic ad insertion to tailor the ads baked into each episode to individual listeners based on demographic data, making each version of a podcast episode slightly different for each listener. Apple’s aggregate metrics per episode aren’t granular enough to transact against in real time because of these nuances, said Bryan Moffett, chief operating officer at National Public Media, the sponsorship sales arm of NPR, in a previous AdExchanger interview.
“If we’re just looking at the listening profile for an episode, that doesn’t take into account that there are 10,000 variations,” he said. “If you’re just looking at a chart that aggregates it all, that involves a lot of blending and smoothing.”
And while Apple captures the lion’s share of podcast listening, other players in the market such as Stitcher, TuneIn and NPR also have their own players. Until the entire industry can agree on a standard set of metrics for podcast listening (the IAB released its 2.0 guidelines for podcast measurement on Thursday), podcast measurement inconsistency will persist.
“We need to continue to offer clearer insights to help move the podcast industry forward into mainstream listening,” said Chris Peterson, SVP of podcasting at iHeartMedia.