Industry has a year to master metrics around podcasting, says Spotify’s Liam Hickey

By Jenni Gilbert | 10 March 2020

The industry needs to master metrics around audio advertising by the end of the year as the category surges, says Spotify AUNZ head of automation Liam Hickey.

Following the IAB Audio Advertising State of the Nation Report, which found that building brand awareness was the number one objective for audio advertising, there’s been a increased focus on measuring the success of the medium.

“Next year we can’t be sitting around talking about how to buy and measure it or we won’t have been doing our jobs,” Hickey said while speaking at IAB Australia's Audio Summit in Sydney.

He signalled the warning during a panel discussion at the event alongside The Trade Desk's Stephanie Famolaro (moderator), Brooke Aniseko from Publicis, Southern Cross Austereo's Jonathan Mandel and Rich Howells of ARN.

Discussion around the planning, buying and measuring of audio advertising campaigns underpinned the summit - and that 2019 was the “year of experimentation”, while 2020 is now the “year of scale”.

“Streaming audio can be measured like any other digital media; it supports third-party ad serving and tracking for audio ads," Hickey told AdNews.

“But when it comes to podcasts, historically you are only reporting on downloads. If people are using an IOS, it means Apple doesn’t offer metrics that the podcast has played.

“So working on standards of measurements are happening now, which will increase buyers’ trust on how to measure podcasts.

“At Spotify, as people are logged in and listening every day, it gives a powerful snapshot of who listeners are, what episodes they're streaming the most, and even the music they love — insights that will help you plan future episodes or get sponsors. This is because it's streamed not downloaded.

“You can also dive deeper into each episode, with details around how long people listen and where they start and stop.”

Late last year, the radio industry body Commercial Radio Australia launched the Australian Podcast Ranker to provide advertisers with the most popular podcasts. However, it has drawn criticism for relying on the number of times a show is downloaded, rather than the time spent listening.

Hickey says it is important for advertisers to understand what type of digital audio product they are buying, and base metrics from there; whether recorded spots, voice-activated ads, native ads, branded channels/playlists or podcasts.

"Then you would look at reach, unique reach, frequency, acquisition, personalisation, and engaged audiences," he says.

The IAB Wave 4 Audio Advertising State of the Nation Report showed that advertising across digital audio platforms is maturing, with 90% of media buyers placing ads in streaming services and 75% now embracing podcasts, up from 63% in 2018.

It found that radio spots are the most popular audio advertising format, while use of native audio and branded podcasts have experienced growth, with potential for further growth over the next year.

As advertisers increase their investment in audio, more focus is being paid to the metrics being used to measure success, according to Gai Le Roy, CEO of IAB Australia.

“The report found that agencies are turning to podcast advertising to help build brand awareness, with creative the biggest driver of effectiveness in delivering for brands,” she says.

“As investment in the medium grows, focus on metrics, such as reach, frequency and completion, is increasing. However, agencies are more confident in measuring these metrics for streaming audio compared to podcasts.

“Although brand awareness is the number one objective of audio advertising, only one third of the buy-side are tracking these metrics and only 25% are tracking sales."

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