Behold! A standard for podcasting!

Podcast measurement: more standardised than you’d think

It was interesting seeing one of the pieces of news coming out of Radio Alive, the radio conference in Australia, recently: (parts of) the Australian radio industry are putting together a Podcast Working Group “to spearhead the development of the growing podcast industry in Australia”.

Commercial Radio Australia’s press release says: “Broadcast radio is highly regulated and audience measurement is tracked through the independently audited GfK Australian radio surveys. In contrast, the podcast industry is currently fractured, with no standard measurement system in place.”

Well… that’s not entirely true. I write a daily newsletter for the podcast industry, Podnews, so perhaps I can help demystify things a little in terms of podcast measurement.

Podcasting does have a standard measurement system in place. It rejoices in the name “IAB Podcast Measurement Technical Guidelines v2.0“ — normally shortened to IAB v2 — and it essentially monitors downloads of podcasts in a standard way. It’s been broadly agreed by podcast hosts and advertisers alike. Both major Australian podcast hosts, Whooshkaa and Omny Studio, use IAB v2 metrics to report to clients.

IAB Australia’s Audio Council — of which Commercial Radio Australia is a part — have also recommended that IAB v2 be used in the Australian market as well, and have released some guidelines reinforcing some of the work. The idea is that all podcast hosts should be measuring using IAB v2, and should theoretically return the same numbers.

To be fair, downloads are limited in usefulness. Some podcasts are downloaded but never listened-to; raw download numbers don’t give demographic information, either. But there’s a global standard.

It’s worthwhile comparing podcast measurement with broadcast radio’s research.

In Australia, there are three sets of broadcast radio research, not one. Commercial Radio Australia mentions GfK, who are used for the metro areas; but the CRA also publish other sets of research from Xtra Insights. Community radio stations aren’t in either of these, so they have to commission additional work using McNair Ingenuity Research.

All three sets of Australian broadcast radio research return different numbers, and are compiled using different methods. And they’re not compatible, either, with radio research conducted in other countries. Indeed, there’s no global standard for measurement of radio listening — “a listener” is one that listens for five minutes in some countries, fifteen in another, “listened yesterday” in a third; Germany has no weekly figures at all; Ireland averages over the past twelve months; the UK averages over the last quarter, six month or twelve month period; Canada and the US have two systems; many markets aren’t even measured.

The global radio industry is fractured — disastrously so, when you consider that Apple Beats 1 or Spotify have one global measurement standard to sell against it. The lack of standards means it’s hard to compare different countries.

So, while podcasting has an agreed global standard, broadcast radio’s research is fractured and there is no standard measurement system in place.

Perhaps we should try to establish a Radio Working Group to see if we can fix this, and spearhead radio’s development. (And perhaps we can include all radio in this — including community radio, too).

PS: I’ve written a full article on how podcast measurement works on Podnews; and a comparison of radio and podcasting research.