In a move that could help propel podcasting beyond direct response advertising, Nielsen has launched a new qualitative measurement service that matches podcast listeners with their buying habits. Nielsen Podcast Listener Buying Power Service uses data from Nielsen Scarborough to help podcasters understand what their listeners buy and where they shop, while allowing advertisers to target audiences with specific interests and buying habits. Five podcast networks, all with broadcast roots, have signed on as charter clients: iHeartMedia, Cadence13, Stitcher, Westwood One and cabana.

Announced today (July 10), Nielsen says the new service will leverage Nielsen Scarborough’s nearly 30,000-person database to connect specific types of listeners with particular advertisers and specific program-level insights. In addition to being able to capture results for specific programs, the new offering will use targeted questions on podcast listening with a dozen podcast genres, 2,000 retail/plan-to-buy categories and hundreds of advertisers in the insurance, automotive, quick service restaurant, home improvement and other categories.

While not a quantitative syndicated service that tracks listening, Nielsen Podcast Listener Buying Power Service will help podcast buyers and sellers develop a better understanding of the exploding marketplace. Subscribers to the service will get reports twice a year generated from web-based software.

Initial clients see it as a potential game-changer in a burgeoning industry where measurement remains a challenge. Conal Byrne, President of the iHeartPodcast Network for iHeartMedia, says the new offering “will allow us to communicate our podcasting value proposition to advertisers. As our business continues to expand, and the abundance of ways that people are listening across multiple platforms continues to amplify, it’s imperative that we have the tools necessary to accelerate our business and have a deep understanding of what motivates over a quarter of a billion of our monthly U.S. listeners,” Byrne said in a press release announcing the new venture.

Jay Green, Senior VP of Digital Strategy and Analytics at Cadence13, said the “vast array of categories and wide range of audience information” unlocked by the service will open new opportunities for the podcast network and its clients. “Podcasting as a platform is growing rapidly and the industry as a whole will benefit from the intelligence and insight that can be utilized through this data,” Green added. Cadence13 is the podcast company in which Entercom bought a 45% stake in last July.

Nielsen’s entry into the on-demand audio measurement space comes as brand spend in podcasting advertising is growing five times faster than direct response, notes Suzanne Grimes, Executive VP, Marketing at Cumulus Media and President of Westwood One. “Understanding what podcast listeners buy and where they shop is an entirely new dimension of insights we can use to navigate the vast podcast space,” Grimes said.

Cathy Csukas, Co-Founder and CEO of cabana and parent company AdLarge Media, calls the new product a game-changer that will propel podcast advertising forward. Cabana is the digital audio division of AdLarge Media and represents some 200 titles from New Hampshire Public Radio, Inc Magazine and audiochuck’s Crime Junkie. The new service “makes it easy for advertisers to go deep within a specific genre to target listeners with interests and buying habits that match those of the customers they want to reach,” Csukas said.

Its introduction follows the April announcement from Edison Research that it will begin producing a Podcast Consumer Quarterly Tracking Report using a sample of 2,000 adults, aged 18 and older to show who is listening to podcasts on a monthly basis.

“As the audio landscape continues to evolve, podcasting is winning the attention of American consumers as another powerful tool in audio’s arsenal,” Nielsen Audio managing Director Brad Kelly said. “This groundbreaking service is growing podcasting beyond direct response by profiling specific brands, leading the way into the future of podcasting.”