Why are Radio and TV executives still spouting their mouths off that it is still the Wild Wild West for podcast measurement? My guess is they are scared. They know this is not true. They know that TV and Radio ratings are dinosaurs and have been a made-up statistic for over 100 years. In fact, Radio and TV has been robbing companies of millions of dollars with fabricated ad rates forever. Podcasts aren’t perfect (yet) but they are much better at actually given you real data showing you who is listening, where they are listening and how long they have been listening.
I was in radio and TV for 20+ years. At no time in those two decades did I ever really know how many people were listening to my sportstalk shows or broadcasts. In fact, my brother might say nobody listened. But I was shown quarterly reports with lots of data and when the numbers were good we were very excited. However, did it really show me how many people were listening to my show? No. Not once.
Do you know how radio and TV audiences are calculated? If you are reading this, you probably do, but for those who don’t, bear with me. You might actually be told something that you had forgotten. The process that is used is called Statistical Sampling. It is used by Neilsen, who is the King of all ratings for media. In fact, they use the same technique that pollsters use to predict the outcome of elections. Nice job they did on those 2016 elections right? Kind of shows you where I am going with this. So, Nielsen creates a "sample audience" and then counts how many in that audience view each program. Nielsen then extrapolates from the sample and estimates the number of viewers in the entire population watching the show. How many people/households are a part of that sample audience? On average, it’s 5000. 5000 homes with TV’s are the sample audience. The US currently is home to 99,000,000 houses with TV’s. That’s .005% of the population. From that tiny sample size, all ad rates are set. See what I am talking about when I say that Radio and TV executives have been robbing companies for along time? Can that small a sample size really represent all of America? No. In radio, Nielsen reports that almost 270 Million people listen every week. Still, they can’t tell me how many are actually listening to my 3 hour show.
In podcasting, how do they record the number of listeners? Well first you must know this, every time they release podcasting numbers, their sample size is 100% of the audience. 100%, not .0005%. Why? Because that is where they get their numbers from. They actually get them from the audience, the entire audience. If a show is downloaded, the platforms record it as 1 download. If you get lots of downloads, lots of people are listening to your show. But, this is where it gets a bit complicated. I have been in the podcasting business as a host and producer for 11 years, and in that time I have found that iTunes is the best place to distribute your podcasts. However, they are just a directory, meaning they do not host the files and therefore can’t give you real data. They do give podcast producers access to statistics, but what they deliver is very subpar and doesn’t deliver what I want, which just happens to be all of it.
I currently use LibSyn.com. They are excellent and the data which they deliver is spot on. It’s 24/7/365 and within minutes of someone downloading my show, I see the results on my data page. However, they are missing one thing, TSL (Time Spent Listening). This is what I want. It’s what Ad Buyers want. It’s what everyone wants. If you know that on average, people are listening to 30 minutes of a 30 minute show, I would want to advertise there, because I know they will hear the spot. However, LibSyn.com currently does not deliver that.
There was one company that did, Stitcher. Noah Shanok was the CEO and he and his team did an excellent job with this. Why could they do this? They hosted all of the files on their servers and paid a lot of money to create the program that could tabulate all of this data. However, Stitcher was bought by Deezer in 2014 and since then the program has gone in the toilet in regards to its statistical data. I have reached out to them on numerous occasions to see why my data seemed a mess, and I never got clear answers or help. In 2016, Stitcher was purchased by E.W. Scripps, but I have seen no advancement in their service or TSL stats.
Even without access to TSL, I have to ask why Radio and TV Execs are saying that podcasting data is still the Wild, Wild West. It’s not. It’s actually in the 2017’s and it’s getting better. Meanwhile, where is TV and Radio? They might be on another planet when it comes to giving you actual real data, based on real people. So, the next time you are at a conference and one of those nicely dressed, over paid TV execs is up on stage talking about how great TV is, ask him if he actually knows down to the last number, how many people watched the Super Bowl. When he says you can’t actually know that, just smile to yourself and start whistling the theme song to Bonanza.