For podcasting to compete with other forms of audio in the marketplace today, podcasters need to start generating serious revenue. To do that, there needs to be reliable third-party measurement that advertisers can rely on and trust. It needs to be more than “Here’s how many downloads we had this month.” Advertisers are onto the podcasting craze, and they want to know if those downloads are actually being listened to, and if their ads are being heard. Nielsen’s Vice President of Digital Audio, Rob Kass, says that will all be part of the online audio-measuring SDK units the measurement firm is installing on streaming players. We spoke to Kass Wednesday to get more details on this new product, planned for 2017.
RI: When and how is this service going to work?
Kass: Our intent all along has been to measure all types of digital audio content. AM and FM, which is what we’ve been focused on, those digital streams, music streaming services, we want to be able to measure that, and on-demand podcasting. We’ve been kind of testing things out with ESPN. They are starting to see their data. They are really happy with what they’re seeing. We’re looking to expand that between now and the end of the year. And, we’re working towards having a syndicated service out there in the marketplace sometime in 2017.
RI: One of the biggest challenges would be, what if somebody downloads a podcast one day but listens to it another day?
Kass: That software development kit, that SDK, it’s measuring listening at the time of consumption. As long as the app or the Web player has the SDK in it, and as I mentioned, we’ve got more than 7,500 installations of it, so it’s well out there. As long as it’s played back in that SDK-integrated app, it will get measured. We’ve made some enhancements to the SDK so that we can actually store quite a bit of offline listening, so that the next time that listener connects to the Internet and listens, that listening will get transmitted over to Nielsen and we’ll be able to go ahead and apply the demographics and all of that sort of stuff to it.
RI: Obviously, you’re seeing big growth in podcasting or you wouldn’t be going into that business.
Kass: We’ve heard over and over and over again: There’s not a lot of metrics out there in the marketplace. A lot of people have first-party metrics. A lot of people have download metrics. What the advertiser, especially the big brands, are really looking for are consumption metrics. Are people actually being exposed to the ad? And third-party independence. That’s why we’ve been building it, leveraging that same technology that we’ve used on the video side to be able to provide that. And then be able to connect it into all of our other data sources. As I mentioned, ESPN has been really happy with what they’ve seen. We are looking to expand that and share that with the industry.
RI: Do you have an update on when the service for AM/FM radio will be out?
Kass: As you know, we’ve had everything in place from the technology standpoint to measure this. We actually have a couple of top broadcasters signed, under paid contracts, for the service. We’ve been giving people their data. It’s that whole sharing the data… that piece. It’s new to them. They are seeing differences in their numbers and they are trying to understand: “Hey, why doesn’t this match what I’m seeing internally or from another provider?” We’ve been spending the last couple of months going back. We’ve done a lot of looking at the SDK installs and making sure everything looks good. We’ve tested the SDK several times to make sure the software is working, and it is. We are continuing to work through and help educate why there are some differences. From a technology standpoint, we’re ready to go. We’re really waiting for the industry. It’s new. It’s different. It’s a change. We don’t want to rush the industry into it. We want to make sure they feel comfortable with it.
RI: The ball is in their court.
Kass: Yes. That’s kind of where we are at. But, the good news is, when you think back a year ago, we didn’t have nearly as many integrations as we have now. We didn’t have anybody sign up for the service. And then the other thing, we didn’t have alignment on the metrics. We’ve accomplished all of that. Now, it’s just kind of that last mile or so of, “Hey, do you feel good with this? Are you ready to go?” I think we are really, really close to that. I can’t predict exactly when it will happen. But, we are ready.