NPR 375

National Public Radio is pushing for its Remote Audio Data (RAD) to become the industry standard for the measurement of podcast listening. “The time has come to move the metric from downloads to listens,” National Public Media COO Bryan Moffett said in an op-ed.

NPR developed RAD earlier this year and the measuring metric has been accepted by podcast ad networks Triton Digital and AdsWizz. The public broadcaster has also been working with Apple to get them on board.

In the piece, Moffett says that podcast downloads — the current industry metric — do not reveal if the podcast was actually listened to or if ads contained in the podcast were heard or skipped. He says RAD can provide answers to these questions.

The download metric was vital in the early days of podcasting because many users downloaded podcasts to listen to later. With the prevalence of Wi-Fi and better cellular data plans, consumers now simply click on a podcast and listen. The Podcast Consumer 2017 study from Edison Research found that 77% of those who listen to podcasts now stream them rather than downloading a file.

“There are no fundamental barriers to move the metric from downloads to listens,” Moffett said. “It just requires a new model and participation from the industry.”

He explained that the RAD measurement system can track how much content within a podcast people listen to and which sponsor messages are heard or skipped. NPR can track this information from those who listen via the NPR One app, but not through Apple Podcasts or other independent platforms.

“To move an entire industry to a listening-basic metric, we would need a model like RAD adopted far and wide,” Moffett wrote. “NPR is preparing to move into phase two of testing RAD and will conduct a wider test along with several of the largest podcast publishers, multiple ad vendors and at least one other larger podcast app.”

Moffett acknowledges that Apple is rolling out its Apple Podcast Analytics, which he says “is a major step in sharing actual listening data with publishers,” but says that only addresses “the 65% of our audience on Apple platforms.

“My hope is that RAD, or something like it, can become an open industry standard in 2018,” he continued. If that is achieved, “podcasting will become an even more valuable platform.”