Growth of the Podcast Industry, Analytics and RAD
MPU podcast appears to be thriving. Deservedly so - it is well-produced, timely, informative and entertaining. This MPU forum is a valuable addition. It creates an “MPU community”, engages the audience and provides insight and feedback to the podcast producers/creators.
Life is good in the podcast industry space. It is vibrant and growing. Most podcast producers now are small, “indie” producers, free to experiment with content and with financing models - free, sponsored ads, subscriptions, or requests for donations.
Another healthy feature is the plethora of podcast client apps. Listeners are free to choose which podcast player app to use, most of which are independent from podcast producers.
The increasing presence of paid sponsors and ads is a sign of podcast industry growth. This can be both a good thing … and a bad thing. Ads on internet websites are sometimes good - not overly intrusive or distracting. But they are sometimes bad - intrusive, distracting and invasive of users’ privacy through tracking, selling data, and worse. Ads in podcasts, at least so far, are in the former category - not intrusive, tacky or invasive.
But that could change. Advertisers are demanding and are voraciously seeking metrics of ad consumption. And sometimes for other, more nefarious purposes, such as individual tracking and selling of user data. The ad-tech industry will always want more data, offered up through “analytics” systems that are increasingly sophisticated and capable of being combined with other datasets.
NPR recently introduced, and is promoting, RAD, a podcast analytics standard that NPR hopes will be adopted by podcast producers and podcast client app developers. I hope that adoption will not happen. The RAD analytics standard, if adopted by most podcast client apps, would not be in the interest of the independent podcast producers, the client app developers or the consumers. It would serve the interests only of the large advertisers and the large podcast producers, of which the largest is NPR (link: http://analytics.podtrac.com/industry-rankings/). It’s all about money, growth and control for the large podcast producers, paid for by large advertisers.
Implementation of RAD standards in downloaded mp3 podcast files and into podcast client apps would allow things like dynamic ad insertion at the time of download and tracking of users by inserting data snippets and ad server URLs to be accessed by podcast client apps at certain time stamps in the podcast files. In other words, the client app would “phone home” to ad servers to report listener’s progress throughout the podcast, This, along with the already-known listener’s IP address could be used to effectively create a database of user data, including location tracking over time, that could be sold or used for other purposes.
The above was a very rough summary of a technically complex proposal. This was eloquently described in the excellent podcast “ATP” (Accidental Tech Podcast) #305. Link: http://atp.fm/episodes/305
The NPR/RAD discussion begins at time stamp 47:00. I recommend that those interested in the future of podcasting listen to this informative discussion.
Marco Arment, developer of the excellent Overcast podcast app, has already declared that he will not implement RAD in the Overcast app. No one (outside of Apple) knows what Apple will do with its dominant (for IOS users) Podcasts app, but Apple’s privacy policies so far have been good. Other observers more knowledgeable than I have predicted that Apple will not adopt RAD in the Podcasts app.
Maybe podcasters (like the new MPU team) should consider taking a stand against this proposed RAD standard.
How do other MPU listeners feel about this? And which podcast player app do you use?