The embrace of podcasting by broadcasters continues to get tighter so it was probably only a matter of time that the question of when, not if, Nielsen would offer a ratings-type product for podcasting would arise. The answer is it may be in broadcasters’ hands within the year. “We have been working with a couple of key clients in testing a podcasting solution,” Nielsen senior VP of product leadership Kelly Abcarian said Thursday. She told the S&P Global Market Intelligence‘s 34th annual TV & Radio Finance Summit that the ratings company will look to move podcasters beyond offering advertisers a tally of how many people downloaded their content. “Nielsen is working with our clients so we can actually understand the time spent listening and engagement aspect, as well as who is listening,” Abcarian said, adding, “We are very optimistic that we will have a service that we will launch toward the end of this year, or maybe early next year.”
S&P Global estimates the radio industry will have $1.2 billion in digital revenue this year. While it doesn’t break out podcast-related revenue, analysts expect broadcasters to net more from on-demand audio offerings in 2017. Abcarian said that by offering a podcast metric, Nielsen believes it will help the segment grow more quickly. “Podcasting is getting advertisers’ attention and as better measurement comes into play, the viability of using that as a channel to reach consumers I think you will see growth of advertising dollars going to that,” she said. Abcarian sees comparisons with mobile advertising which was slow to grow until marketers had the data assuring them it was a viable platform. Once that appeared, the floodgates opened. “My guess is you will see a similar trend,” she predicted. “I think a lot of that has to do with advertisers trying to understand the effectiveness of that medium and having the historical data on which to have confidence that they’re going to be all right.”
Podcasting is only one of the new technologies changing how consumers access content. The connected car has the potential to have an even more significant impact on listening. Abcarian said Nielsen’s analysis shows the in-car experience is where 70% of radio’s advertising engagement occurs as people are getting close to a purchase location. “I think it will change the way consumers discover content in the car,” she said. “I can imagine getting into the car and it sets your favorite radio station and it knows that when you get to a certain point in your drive you like to go from news to hard rock and it will just automatically transition there. That doesn’t mean that listening goes away, I think it just evolves the way in which consumers use that dial in the car itself.”
Speaking during a wide-ranging Q&A session at the New York conference, Abcarian also detailed many of the changes facing television broadcasters who are coping with time-shifting consumption. Viewers are also watching TV on more devices than ever. Nielsen research shows users of gaming consoles now spend 44% of their time with the device to stream video—not play games. And one-third of connected homes access YouTube on their smart TV. Yet the data shows at the same time 92% of video is still consumed on traditional television sets. “As much as people think that video has escaped the television screen, it hasn’t,” Abcarian said. “It is still a hugely effective medium for reach—reaching 89% of adults and even 79% of Millennials.” What Nielsen numbers reveal is the new platforms are increasing the number of minutes Americans spend watching video content. It’s not unlike the data that shows how new streaming music services have increased the number of minutes people spend listening to audio content.