The conclusion to a three-part series on understanding podcast consumption and measurement.
Continuing the discussion on why podcast consumption analysis surrounding COVID-19 is inconsistent, I now address the podcast attribution and measurement companies’ early analysis. To jump back to the start of the series, visit the first article, Podcast Download Measurement Explained.
First, the three measurement companies that have issued reports over the past two weeks include three of the leaders in podcast measurement and attribution; Podsights, Podtrac, and Chartable. Having had the pleasure of working with all three, we only have fond things to say about each. They all are very competent, reputable and knowledgeable partners. However, each has limited visibility as they each measure a subset of shows. There is no centralized measurement for the industry, so the results of their analysis can be different, yet still be accurate.
First, Podsights released a report at the end of March, which gave a bit of data on 300+ shows on their platform and showed almost no impact on downloads through the week ending March 24. Our biggest takeaway from this data is that there is just too little of a sample to be able to extrapolate to broader industry impact.
Second, Podtrac is releasing a weekly report that is developed from thousands of shows, including most of the major networks in the space. Each day Podtrac tracks more shows and downloads than anyone and also has nearly 13 years of podcast measurement under their belt, so they have the reach and historical data that no other provider has. Their first two weeks of the analysis show that download growth from the beginning of the year is up significantly, at about 25%, and audience growth is up 8% through March 29. However, downloads have dropped about 8% since mid-March, and the unique audience has been a little more impacted, losing nearly 15% during this time. The fact that audiences dropped more than downloads is not too surprising as hardcore podcast listeners consume more podcasts and have a stronger relationship to podcasts as part of their content consumption habits—consumers who have not built podcasting deeply in their life will naturally listen to fewer shows and will be the first to have their listening impacted with the lifestyle changes that have forced upon us over the past few weeks. As a podcast buyer, the drop in audience is concerning, but this dip shows less impact than what many expected.
Third, Chartable released a report on April 1, which looked at download impact as well as an attempt to look at how listenership has been impacted. It is important to note that Chartable did not release the shows that comprise their data and it is our understanding that Chartable measures mostly small, independent shows. This dataset allows for significant data variance and does not take into account the significant majority of podcast consumption. For example, we aren’t aware of any of Podtrac’s top 20 networks being tracked by Chartable, so the skew to small shows is significant and is noted in their methodology that the median podcast had just over 1,000 downloads the past 30 days. However, Chartable’s insight into streaming impact, even on small shows, is interesting as it may provide some insight into consumption changes. We’ve reached out to Podtrac to inquire whether they can do a similar analysis with their larger pool of data and we are hopeful that they add this to future reports.
COVID-19 is impacting the podcast audience—however, given the lack of industry-wide reporting tools, we cannot be sure how impactful these changes have been. The significant impact should be expected, however, as an agency that buys on an episodic basis, our clients are protected on the downside as all shows are purchased with a minimum guaranteed download count – so in the event podcast consumption is impacted, we are only paying for received podcast downloads, not on a projected, potential audience.