Measuring podcasts

I’ve long contended that we need to find a way to measure audience for podcasts and vlogs so we can, if we want, attach ads and get support. If we don’t find an open way to do these things, companies such as Audible will come up with closed, expensive ways such as this:

Audible’s technology puts measurement capability in Audible-compatible devices — such as Apple Inc.’s iPod — or in the software for listening to Audible’s content. ….

Audible is making its tracking service available to outside podcasters. The company will charge three cents per downloaded podcast to report whether a downloader listened, and for how long. Audible will also offer tools that will stop the podcast from being emailed to others. It will charge five cents per download to track listening and attach the access restrictions. For half a cent per download, Audible will insert an ad relevant to the podcast.

With the tools, “you can build a bona fide rate card” for advertising, says Foy Sperring, Audible’s senior vice president for strategic alliances. The company says it will provide only aggregated statistics; it won’t disclose what individual podcast downloaders listen to.

What we need is an open system that allows any content creator to get audience data pinged back and allows them to attach measurable ads. Today on the text web, these things are free unless I choose to use a premium service for stats or ad serving. We need similar functionality for the multimedia web using MP3s and not just Audible-formatted media.

Look at the Audible economics: They’re charging 3 cents just for measuring listenership. That, in ad math (if I have enough fingers and toes) is a $30 CPM just for measurement — $35 for inserting ad ad. That’s a high rate for advertising online these days — very high. So there’s no profit. That won’t work.

Mitch Ratcliffe, who helped build this, responds in the comments and on his blog. And I add there:

Mitch: What I’m really calling/hoping for is an open version of what you’ve done. I doubt the pricing is your fault but it’s both greedy and dumb, for it will limit uptake so severely as to make the effort not worth it. So what we need is an open version that allows audio and video producers to support their efforts without losing all their possible income to fees such as these and without backing a standard that cannot gain acceptance because it’s just too expensive. If Audible really wanted to play in this arena and become a new standard, they’d put this out for free and build businesses atop that.

We need the commercial MP3. Once that exists, little guys and big guys alike will rush to produce and distribute content by every means possible. P2P will be their friend.