NPR Releases Open Source Podcast Analytics Tech

National Public Radio is the leader among podcasts, with shows like “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” “Fresh Air” and “Planet Money” among the most popular programs in their respective genres.

Now, the organization wants to become a leader in podcast analytics, to try and better inform producers, podcast creators and advertisers. This week, NPR officially rolled out what it is calling Remote Audio Data or “RAD.” 

At its most basic, RAD is an open source “method for sharing listening metrics from podcast applications straight back to publishers, with extreme care and respect for user privacy,” NPR wrote in a blog post explaining the release.



NPR worked with more than 30 companies to develop and test RAD, including AdsWizz, Panoply, Triton Digital, Cadence13, ESPN, Google, IHeartMedia.

RAD allows podcasters to make their audio files at specific points with “RAD tags” tied to an analytics URL. When a listener listens to a podcast through a participating app or player, it can send anonymized data back to the analytics URL. 

Tags, for example, could be placed on sponsor or advertising messages, specific interview sections, or sporadically through an episode to track how long a listener is tuning in.

While podcasts are continuing to grow in popularity, they remain something of a black box when it comes to listener data. Downloads have long been the focus of podcast ad sales, but they don’t tell you whether someone is actually listening to the podcasts. Apple has more recently begun to share some data around listening.

“While these statistics are fantastic, they are not comprehensive or standardized and require a great deal of manual analysis,” NPR wrote in its blog post. “Once adopted throughout the industry, RAD will consolidate that data for publishers and begin to move our industry toward new metrics around listening.”

Better data is likely to be key to growing ad revenue on podcasts.

The IAB and PwC said earlier this year that podcast ad revenue topped $300 million in 2017, and would hit $659 million by 2020. The IAB has also hosted two consecutive podcast upfront, putting podcast creators in front of media buyers in an effort to supercharge the medium.

With the release of RAD, NPR is hoping it can help podcasters boost their bottom line, while also informing producers what works and what doesn't.

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