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Trading Currency Metrics
"Trading Currency Metrics" a cool phrase that actually has some meaning.

Without looking up the alleged meaning of this phrase, I'm going to take a stab at it. Actually, I'm going to go one further and suggest that I've talked about this before, but without the eloquent buzzword.

Podcast stats are a hard beast to pin down. Part of the problem is the same problem that plagues website stats: the http protocol used to deliver web pages and podcast files was designed to be stateless. Stateless is the term given to a process that isn't designed to keep information from one transaction to the next. In the web world, that means that when I go to the front page of Google and put in a search, I get a page delivered to me. Google then promptly forgets about me and when I click the 'Next' link to see the next page of results, Google has no idea that I'm the same person who requested the initial search. Clearly there are many workarounds for this statelessness and there are now many statistic packages out there than claim to be able to derive visitor navigation, return visitors, unique visitors and visit length despite the fact that the http protocol cannot collect or provide this type of information.

The second part of the problem is that the behaviour of any RSS feed reader, podcast or otherwise, is different than the behaviour of a human web surfer. An RSS reader can hit a feed many times in a day to check if there are new episodes and counting each of those hits is meaningless.

So what do we need? We need a third party stat that is deemed reliable and therefore adopted as the defacto standard for stats. Or, in other terms, we need a 'trading currency metric'.

There are existing trading currency metrics for the web. A website's worth in terms of advertising and sales dollars is largely based on Google Page Rank and Technorati and/or Alexis rating. These are all third party metrics, but they've been around long enough and proven themselves reliable enough that the industry has adopted them.

We need something like that for podcasting. Feedburner has done some terrific work with podcast feed stats, but there are many podcast listeners who don't use feeds - they direct download and therefore Feedburner can't count those hits.

Quite possibly the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), htherto associated with newspaper circulation, might become that metric.

Reacting to this week's news that it was moving into the area of podcasting, Dublin agency Saor Communication said: "The move will be watched closely by this market, which has seen a huge increase of podcasting this year. ABC Electronic represent over 1,500 websites in the UK and their research on podcasting should result in a trading currency metric to allow advertisers to get more involved in a measured accountable manner with podcasts."

I can't wait to see how it ends...

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4 Comments/Trackbacks

The metrics issue is even worse than you suggest.

Do you have any idea how many podcasts I have that I've never listened to? Or how many I've listened to the first minute and said "this bites"? Those are all "downloads".

Without real auditable metrics it is going to be extremely difficult for the medium to grow via advertising/sponsorship support.

The solutions I've seen to the problem so far are essntially spyware.

Hey Erik,

Thanks for stopping by.

I don't count the 'downloaded, but not listened to' as important. Web metrics don't take into account the traffic that hits the page via a Google search and then bounces out right away because the page doesn't hold what the reader is looking for. Those are still counted as hits and I think downloaded podcasts are downloaded podcasts - period.

If you're hoping to distiniguish between a 'download' and a 'listen' then you will no doubt be looking at what you call 'spyware'. There is simply no way to distinguish between a download and a listen without the audio player calling home somehow.

I don't think we need to go to that level and I don't think we should tell advertisers that we can or want to. They don't get that kind of metrtic with the web which they're happy to spend money on, so they shouldn't expect it from podcasts.

Taken to the extreme - advertisers don't get that level of metric from anywhere. They buy magazine and newspaper ads based on subscription rates and have no way of knowing how many of those magazines or newspapers ever get read. Radio is even worse because there's absolutely no way to tell if a radio is even on, never mind if there's anyone in the room listening to it.

It's a messy world and that's why we need some sane third-party metric that everyone can buy into. When that happens we can all start to move ahead on things like revenue models.

Advertisers certainly do get solid metrics online. CPC based advertising has taken off because there are real metrics. CPM based online advertising is dying because of worries about CTR.

If you don't have those metrics you're going to be stuck with radio type CPM's (IE really, really low) but you'll never get to even small market radio type listener numbers.

For advertising supported podcasting to work there need to be 3 things in place:

1) listener metrics, not downloads, not starts, but who listens when

2) you need to be able to respond to ads directly. Branding plays are not enough

3) you need ad targeting at the user level

Without those you're competing against radio ad rates not internet ad rates.

The answer is streaming, not downloading.

Ahh..I see where we're getting confused. You started talking about listener stats but what I think you're really talking about is advertising stats. I agree that through the use of various techniques like the CPC model, advertisers can indeed get solid advertising metrics.

If we're going to compare apples to apples, then we can't talk CPC on a website (advertising stats) and downloads for a podcast (listener stats). We would either have to talk about CPC to [insert audio call to action ad here] or we'd have to talk about web page visitors to podcast downloads. We can't mix the two because they're not the same thing at all.

To address your points:

1. As you've noted in your first comment, production of this stat would require wholesale buyin from the podcast-listening community to run what amounts to spyware on their devices. I can't see that happening in the near future because there's no value to the listener in doing so. Or at least no perceived value.

2. Agreed and that's what we're seeing a lot of now. GoDaddy and GoToMeeting, for example, use coupon tracking codes. I believe Earthlink is as well. Now that's something we can compare to CPC!

3. 'Use level' is kind of vague - not sure what you mean here. If you're referring to ads based on the individual download, then we're also starting to see that at places like Kiptronic. Kiptronic's system can dynamically insert ads based on geography which is great from people running ads that only pertain to a speicific city, state/province or country. I'm not sure how much more targetted this can get since the only available data on a podcast listener is their IP address.

Re streaming: Are you referring to the ability to insert ads dynamically each time a show is downloaded rather than inserting an ad once and running it forever? If so, then yes - I agree that we need a solid mechanism in place for that. The CBC here in Canada has recognized that and they're throwing some resources in that direction. Nothing solid yet, though.

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