New NPR tool provides richer data about podcast listening

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NPR announced the release Tuesday of a new system for tracking downloads and other data about podcast listening, with the aim of helping creators and advertisers better understand their audiences.

The network released Remote Audio Data in an open-source format and is now using it to measure listening to podcasts on its NPR One app. NPR began piloting the technology in 2017.

“RAD is not intended to replace download statistics as a point of measurement for the on-demand audio industry, but is designed to provide data on listening events to complement” download statistics, RAD’s website says.

Podcast creators will be able to use RAD to measure data including downloads, starts and stops, and how many listeners complete, partially complete or skip an advertisement or credit. RAD allows for aggregating the data from multiple participating platforms.

The goal is to help producers develop “more informed, engaging content and, over time, develop improved data for your sponsors and advertisers,” according to NPR.

To gather data, podcasters will need to mark points within their audio files with ID3 tags. A mobile app will read the tags and send anonymized information to an analytics URL. “The publisher can then use that data, from all devices, to get holistic listening statistics,” RAD’s website says. NPR will soon launch a tag-writing tool for podcasters.

Current analytics tools, such as Apple’s Podcast Analytics and data provided by NPR One, are “fantastic,” said Stacey Goers, product manager for podcasts and social at NPR, in the announcement. But they aren’t “comprehensive or standardized and require a great deal of manual analysis,” Goers said. “Once adopted throughout the industry, RAD will consolidate that data for publishers and begin to move our industry toward new metrics around listening.”

Twelve companies and organizations have committed to using RAD in their products starting next year, according to Goers. They are Acast, AdsWizz, ART19, Awesound, Blubrry Podcasting, Panoply, Omny Studio, Podtrac, PRX, RadioPublic, Triton Digital and WideOrbit.

Companies including Cadence13, Edison Research, ESPN, Google, iHeart Media, Libsyn, The New York Times, New York Public Radio and Wondery supported the technology. “NPR worked with a cross-section of nearly 30 companies to develop and test this new, parallel metric,” Goers said.

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