Opinion: Mike Wood, AV Director at media agency Carat, writes about the changes Apple is making to its Podcast platform.
Last week Apple made some interesting announcements regarding its audio offerings. The one which stole the most headlines was the launch of the HomePod – positioned as a rival to the likes of the Amazon Echo and Google Home. However, Apple’s changes to its podcast offering shouldn’t be overlooked either, because these changes have the potential to disrupt the podcast industry.
With this Autumn’s iOS 11 update, podcasters will now have more flexibility when it comes to arranging their episodes in more user-friendly seasons where relevant, compared to the current default. However, the biggest change is that podcasters will be now able to see aggregated analytics data for individual episodes.
All of this represents a significant change for Apple. While it’s not the only platform available for listening to podcasts, it’s still by far the largest with 400,000 podcasts and 14,000,000 episodes. But the tech giant has typically been very restrictive in the data it supplies podcasters – usually limiting it to little more than ‘number of downloads’, which doesn’t necessarily translate to somebody actually listening.
For the podcasters themselves, the ability to see aggregated analytics data enables them to understand where listeners are actually engaging within each episode, where they are skipping and where they are stopping listening altogether.
This heightened understanding of consumer behaviour will allow podcasters to tweak their shows, reducing the sort of content that listeners skip, perhaps trimming their shows if listeners aren’t sticking all the way to the end. In theory, this should result in better shows with more listeners and therefore more potential advertising impressions.
There’s little doubt that podcast advertising cuts through; ask anyone who listens to a lot of podcasts if they know of any online services that will help them design their own website. Indeed, the sheer variety of subjects that covered provides ideal opportunities to reach listeners who are passionate about specific subjects that may not be well served in other media. That said, podcasters should avoid becoming too tied up in trying to please everyone in case they lose some of the more intimate qualities that attract people to certain podcasts.
Outside of those advertisers who are able to offer voucher codes to listeners, there’s been little in the way to measure how effective specific podcasts are for an advertiser and whether listeners are skipping breaks or sponsorship messages. Hopefully this new data will help assure advertisers, especially those involved within brand messaging, as to the strength of podcasts and show an audience engaging with the messages.
The new data doesn’t answer every question – advertisers won’t necessarily be able to tell exactly how many people heard or skipped every single ad on every campaign and the insights won’t tell you what sort of person is listening to each podcast or what sort of crossover they have with others. There’s also no guarantees on how much of the data will make it as far as the advertiser as it’s only currently set to be shared with the supplier, but there is little doubt that this is a huge step for podcasts and will hopefully benefit everyone involved over time.
Mike Wood is AV Director at media agency Carat.
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