There’s been a lot of talk about measurement in the podcasting space as of late. As more attention has become focused on the medium in terms of press coverage and money, the pressure has been on for podcasters to come up with a standard for measuring podcast plays. Groups like IAB (and the Association of DownloadableMedia before it) have tried to come up with a consensus on how podcast downloads and plays should be measured. It’s been an ongoing process that’s taking feedback from hundreds of different digital media services and content creators.
It looks like NPR didn’t want to wait for an industry-wide consensus on measurement. Last week, the public media giant released Public Radio Podcast Measurement Guidelines v1.1, a comprehensive document that shows how NPR defines what should (and shouldn’t) be counted as a podcast download. In the document’s introduction, it refers to the current state of podcast measurement as “the Wild West,” implying that, when it comes to podcast stats, anything goes. The document also notes that its “standards” were created solely by NPR and its related organizations. No input was considered from IAB before NPR went public with these guidelines.
On one level, NPR deserves some credit for trying to move the measurement process forward. But from a different angle, the organization has just trampled over podcast measurement systems that have been in place for years. In an article on Observer’s Business & Tech site, Rob Walch, VP of Podcaster Relations at LibSyn gave his thoughts on NPR’s measurement guidelines:
…Rob Walch, a vice president at Libsyn, sees the public radio guidelines differently. ‘I think the way they went about this was heavy handed and arrogant at best,’ Mr. Walch said in a phone call with the Observer. He objected especially to the document opening with the ‘wild west’ language, when, he argues, companies in the podcasting industry, such as his, Blubrry and Podtrac, have been discussing this question for some time. ‘The reality is that podcasting has been around for 11 years, and there are companies that understand podcasting methods better than NPR,’ he added.
Blubrry also crafted its own response to NPR’s measurement guidelines:
For the past 11 years, RawVoice / Blubrry and other leading companies in the podcasting space have worked tirelessly to provide accurate reporting to podcasters and media buyers. The ‘Wild West’ statement in the document is unwarranted, RawVoice / Blubrry is asking the coalition to retract the language, and publicly recognize those who have successfully championed meticulous, rigorous and precise podcast reporting.
It’s hard to say for sure how these new NPR guidelines will affect podcast statistics going forward. Due to the massive popularity of NPR shows, the organization can throw around a lot of weight in the podcasting space. If media buyers who place ads on podcasts look at NPR’s statistics method as the best way to gather download numbers, will those buyers then force other, more established statistics platforms, to fall in line?
Disclosure: I work part-time with the Blubrry support team and Podcaster News Executive Editor Todd Cochrane is the CEO of Rawvoice, parent company of Blubrry.