Podcast Jan

The data is in, and it is offering a thumbs-up to the podcasting platform. Apple’s Podcast Analytics, which became available last month, has demonstrated, on average, that podcast listeners are making it through about 90% of a given episode, while relatively few listeners are skipping through ads.

This information is obviously vital as podcasters have tried to prove the mettle of the platform to advertisers, with precious little information, other than how many downloads they are achieving. When Apple announced last year that it would soon be offering podcasters more data on their listenership, of course the other side of the coin was that it would force an “ad apocalypse,” if brands decided that the medium wasn’t worth their dollars, after all.

In a Wired story on the topic, titled “Podcast Listeners Really Are the Holy Grail Advertisers Hoped They'd Be,” writer Miranda Katz says, “The numbers podcasters are seeing are highly encouraging. Forget those worries that the podcast bubble would burst the minute anyone actually got a closer look: It seems like podcast listeners really are the hyper-engaged, super-supportive audiences that everyone hoped.”

Erik Diehn, CEO of Midroll Media, adds, “I think some people had an apocalyptic fear that, ‘Oh my God, we're going to get this data and see no one’s listening,’” Thanks to surveys and data from Stitcher, Midroll’s distribution platform, the podcast network had long felt confident that a nightmare scenario was unlikely—and now thanks to Podcast Analytics, Diehn says, it’s finally indisputable fact.

Across the podcast ecosystem, the results are similarly uplifting, Wired reports. At Panoply, home to podcasts like Slate’s “Political Gabfest” and Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History,” CTO Jason Cox says that listeners are also typically getting through 80%-90% of content; the same is true at Headgum, a podcast network started by Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld.

Those numbers tend to be steady regardless of the length of the show—and according to Panoply, the few listeners who do skip ads continue to remain engaged with the episode, rather than dropping off at the first sign of an interruption. “I think people are overall very relieved to see that people are actually listening the way that we hoped,” says Headgum CTO Andrew Pile. “There are really audiences out there who listen to every word that comes out of a host’s mouth.”

The numbers also bode well for experimentation as podcasters evaluate how their audiences respond when they drop an entire season at once or switch to a daily format for a week. “What we’re not seeing is any glaring indication that all podcasts should be, say, 15 minutes and 30 secs long, and that’s the optimal length,” says Cox.

Mark Pagán, host and producer of “Other Men Need Help,” has been similarly emboldened by Apple’s new tool, according to Wired. Though the first season of his show adhered to a three-act, roughly 20-minute structure, he’s now inspired to get a bit adventurous. “To do something where it’s like, boom, this is a five-minute musical, and we’re just going to do that and see if this is engaging the same sort of listenership—it’ll be nice to be able to chart that a little bit easier,” says Pagán.

On the advertiser side, writer Katz suggests that the high engagement rates and low levels of ad skipping will prompt a flood of new advertisers who have, until now, been reticent to enter podcasting. “What this will do now is give us a better story and more data to show to brands who maybe haven’t been in the podcasting space,” says Panoply’s Cox.

There’s also reason to believe that ads on podcasts will become increasingly entertaining—something so organic to a show itself listeners will not want to skip them. “When it really does feel like part of a show, there’s less of a skip rate, which just confirms what we’ve been telling advertisers for years and years,” says Midroll’s Diehn. “Native spots in the style of the show keep people engaged, keep them from skipping, and now we have data that frankly proves it.”