It’s extremely difficult to know who is listening to your podcast or how they are listening. This is thanks to the commitment that Apple has to user privacy in addition to the pervasiveness of the podcast app.
Apple announced on June 9th that starting with iOS 11, the podcast app will allow creators to track aggregated data. This includes when users start, stop, and skip within an episode in addition to choosing how listeners are confronted with shows. Episodic (stand alone episodes), serial (following the main story arc), full episodes, trailers, or even bonus episodes are among the new options.
Even though this isn’t the first time that data about listeners has been offered by a platform, most people listen through Apple podcasts and the company’s shift will have lasting effects. According to RawVoice, 96.5% of podcast listeners used Apple desktops in 2007, way before there was even a podcast app. It’s clear that Apple has been dominating the consumption of podcasts for what seems like the entirety of podcast history.
Podcasts became big in 2014 because of a lucky coincidence. Serial, a podcast that captures the unveiling of a story over the course of numerous episodes, was automatically installed on all podcast apps, exactly like U2’s album appearing on everyone’s iTunes.
55.5% of today's podcast listeners do so on Apple Podcasts or iTunes. Stitcher, Art19, Megaphone, and other platforms already offer tracking analytics that go beyond the simple number of downloads but such a move from Apple is going to reshape the industry.
Impact on Advertisers
The most immediate shift will be economic. Producers will be able to tell their potential advertisers how many people listen to an ad, as opposed to how many people simply download a given podcast.
Advertisers usually opt for direct response ads which are the ones that allow you to basically type in the name of the podcast for 15% off your order. This is an easy way to track a specific user through a rough metric.
Advertisers are going to be more comfortable when buying if they know how many people are listening to a given spot. Instead of paying a price per download, they can pay per listener. They’ll be able to know if listeners skip over their ads, giving insight to whether or not the ad is irrelevant or irritating, and decide if it’s a good fit for the podcast.
Impacts on Episodes
Beyond the ads, there will be an opportunity to see more of limited-run and series-based shows. For shows that are binge-friendly, the producers will be able to see if they were actually binged. The ideal length of an episode could even be determined instead of assuming how people listen and for how long. There are a few long-held assumptions that may be proven wrong.
If a show doesn’t have listeners, advertisers are not going to buy, and there will possibly be a limited range of subjects or structures. If a show has few but faithful listeners, there is hope. The producers of these episodes have a good shot at getting funding from companies that are relevant to the subject of the show.
Because of Apple analytics, Apple is investing in lasting infrastructure in the podcast ecosystem and this data will affect changes across the industry. Things like how advertisers choose where to spend, how episodes are structured, and how users will hear them, will change.
The work will be better, resulting in a better listener experience. Producers will be able to understand what resonates with their listeners, which will benefit those with both large and small audiences.