NPR 375

Looking to harvest more data on podcasting, National Public Radio is developing a system to measure listening—a critical piece of information currently eluding producers and networks. NPR is creating a technology called Remote Audio Data to measure listening within a podcast, which could tell the network how long a user listened and what they heard during their session, including sponsorships.

The system would be a significant upgrade from the limited metrics that podcasters currently see, where all that’s known is if a podcast is downloaded.

NPR intends to make the technology open and shared with the industry, so other podcasters and even advertisers and ad networks could participate. Two major podcast ad networks, Triton Digital and AdsWizz, currently accept the NPR RAD, but to really unlock podcast listening, NPR would need to cut a deal with Apple, which maintains the biggest podcasting platform. “Apple is talking to us, but it would be a big gap [if they didn’t participate]. That’s about 60%+ of our listening.” Bryan Moffett, chief operating officer of National Public Media (NPM), which sells sponsorships for NPR and PBS, told Ad Exchanger.

NPR is one of the biggest players in the podcasting space. The pubic broadcaster streams 36 podcasts which attract an average audience of 11.4 million listeners and 80 million monthly downloads. While public radio is restricted from accepting over-the-air advertising, it can work with sponsors for its podcasts and revenue from those efforts has been steadily building. NPR reports that its podcast revenue doubled from 2015 to 2016, and podcast sponsorships account for 30% of NPR’s overall sponsorship revenue, up 20%, compared to a year ago, Ad Exchanger notes.

But NPR and other podcasters have been hamstrung by limited access to data on who is listening and for how long. Apple only provides information on total downloads. Podcasters are hungry to see information on demographics and behavioral segments of listeners, both to sell to advertisers and to use to inform their own programming and promotional decisions. Big-name advertisers are already warming to podcasting and, if NPR can develop a technology and encourage ad networks and podcast listening platforms, including Apple, to integrate its system, their fortunes would only increase.

“It’s taken three years, but the number [of brand sponsors on our shows] has doubled. We’ve been doing more brand awareness and purchase intent studies, which they feel good about it,” said NPM’s president and CEO, Gina Garrubbo. “[We work with] Discover, Whole Foods, Subaru, AT&T, American Express, Delta, State Farm and ExxonMobil. They want their message heard by an upscale, educated, hard-to-reach audience on an uncluttered environment.”