Tag Archives: NPR

Reactions to NPR’s New Measurement Guidelines

NPR logoThere’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.

Meta Explosion – PCN Show 022

PCN iTunes artworkWe’ve decided to take things in a new direction with the Podcaster News Show, starting with this episode. Hosts Shawn Thorpe and Jen Thorpe will bring you a run-down of the podcasting related articles that we found interesting, but that didn’t get a write-up on the Podcaster News website.

Links Mentioned in this episode:

* Confessions of a Podcast Addict
By Rebecca Ladd at The Odyssey Online

* So You Wanna Make a Podcast/You Have a Review Request
By Captnq on Reddit

* NPR Editorial Training
A comprehensive guide to NPR’s editorial methods for content

* These 3D Printing Designers Used Podcasting To Create a Massive Audience Fast
By Cheryl Conner at Forbes

* 37 Podcasts So Meta, They All Cover the Topic of Podcasting Itself
By Harry Duran on Medium

NPR Launches Podcast Discovery Portal earbud.fm

earbud.fm logoFinding new podcasts to listen to can be a challenge. Log into any major podcast app or directory and you’re immediately confronted with thousands of possibilities. Standard conventions like categories, subcategories, publisher-specific pages, ratings, and reviews are usually offered to help users find “the good stuff.” But these systems are far from perfect, often leaving much to be desired.

Since podcasting’s earliest days, many different services have tried to solve this problem. Yet, none of them have really found one true solution. With the launch of its new earbud.fm, NPR has become the latest entrant into the podcast discovery game.

Instead of relying on mechanical meta data, earbud.fm describes itself in word-of-mouth terms:

It isn’t easy to discover new podcasts. There are just SO many out there. Sometimes the best approach is to simply turn to a friend and say, ‘Hey, what are you listening to these days?’ That’s why we created earbud.fm, NPR’s friendly guide to great podcasts. Each of the episodes in this app was hand-picked for you by a listener or a radio/podcast pro. It’s like getting recommendations from a couple hundred of your savviest friends.

At first blush, earbud.fm looks like it’ll be just another outlet to tell us how popular/great This American Life and Serial are. But it turns out earbud.fm may actually recommend podcasts not produced by NPR. The recommendation system works like this:

…we asked listeners to tell us about their favorite podcast episodes. More than 6,000 people responded, recommending episodes from more than 800 different podcasts. There were podcasts devoted to astronomy, beer, breakfast, nuclear arms control and Saved By the Bell. There were poignant stories and informative conversations.

NPR produces a lot of podcasts, and a number of them were submitted for consideration. So to keep things fair, we convened a panel of people from all over the biz who really know their podcasts.

Over the course of the summer, the panelists joined us for multiple rounds of listening and voting. They also had the opportunity to fill in gaps and add podcasts that they felt should be included.

earbud.fm goes on to explain that its system is not ruled by ballot-stuffing listener polls. The creators of earbud.fm admit that the service is far from scientifically accurate. They want earbud.fm to feel more organic than other discovery engines. They even told members of earbud.fm’s advisory panel that they can’t recommend their own shows to be included.

It’s also worth noting that earbud.fm is focused on individual episodes as opposed to overall podcast shows. This approach could make it easier to sample new programs, giving listeners the option to then go and subscribe when they’ve heard something they like.

Ira Glass Takes Complete Ownership of This American Life

This American Life LogoA recurring thread in podcasting news as of late is NPR and its ever-changing relationship to the medium. This trend continues as it was announced this week that This American Life founder Ira Glass has taken complete ownership of the show. Previously, This American Life was co-owned by Glass and Chicago Public Media. But the new arrangement gives complete ownership over to the show’s creator.

Chicago Public Media will still receive a percentage of revenues generated by This American Life (underwriting, station carriage fees and listener donations). All of the show’s staffers will have their employment transferred from Chicago Public Media to the production company owned by Glass.

Glass explained that the main reason for this change is it’ll allow his company to freely explore new creative opportunities. Under the previous arrangement, everything had to be go thru a committee at Chicago Public Media. This caused a lot of friction anytime This American Life producers wanted to get a new project off the ground. And after the breakout success of Serial (a show that was spun off of This American Life), Glass and his staffers are likely eager to launch new and potentially ambitious projects without having to gain permission from public media’s overlords.

Given the success of outlets like Gimlet Media, a company that was founded by a former NPR producer, it’s likely that we’ll see more of these types of transitions in the public media landscape. More and more, these producers are stepping outside of the confines of public media and terrestrial radio and realizing the benefits of going independent.


Public Radio Exchange COO Breaks Down “The Business Of Podcasts”

Dollar signsKeri Hoffman, chief operating officer at Public Radio Exchange recently published an article on the business aspects of podcasting. It’s an interesting read and will surely provide some new insights to both new and veteran podcasters alike. The article is broken down into a series of major points, covering everything from media hosting to monetization.

Hoffman notes how, when PRX first ventured into podcasting, the state of media hosting was abysmal. Fortunately, that’s changed for the better over the years. Regardless, she has some good advice to create, “…a podcast feed that points to a stable place.” And when looking for a hosting provider, “Basic metrics like number of downloads and subscribers are how you will measure your success. If your host doesn’t offer these, walk away.” And perhaps most importantly:

If your podcast feed is not a domain you control you may have trouble upgrading or moving to a new publishing platform in the future. If your show URL is something like – www.mycoolpodcast.podcastcompany.com, you may have a tough time extracting your feed since it is tied up with the domain of your host. Potentially, you could lose listeners in the transition. The best way to avoid this problem is to purchase a domain name and then use that for your feed.

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This American Life Gets New Distribution

This American Life LogoLong-running NPR favorite This American Life has switched its primary distribution point from Public Radio International (PRI) to Public Radio Exchange (PRX). This is relevant to podcasting for a couple reasons. First, the show will now be distributed primarily via the Internet instead of NPR’s satellite system. Second, This American Life will now be able to seek out its own podcast sponsors and potentially make more money.

Under PRI, This American Life was paid by NPR stations that chose to carry the show. And overall, NPR had more involvement in the business side of the show. Thru this new deal with PRX, the show is essentially going independent. It’ll still be heard in all of the same places, and the changeover should be seamless to most listeners. And while This American Life has a huge audience to build from, the change doesn’t come without risks. According to the CNBC article linked above, the show is foregoing a guaranteed seven-figure income with its old PRI deal. Under the new system, This American Life host Ira Glass and the show’s producers will be directly responsible for managing the show’s marketing and monetization efforts. From that CNBC article:

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