Headlines have been filled with news in recent days about some states slowing or reversing the opening of businesses as the COVID-19 pandemic flares up across the South and West. For podcasters, the pandemic’s impact on commuting and media habits has been eye-opening as fears have given way to confidence that whatever the coming months bring, it won’t amount to an end to the upward trajectory of podcasting.
“We saw a pretty big drop in the initial numbers that we were tracking. I was terrified by it,” said Dave Zohrob, co-founder and CEO of Chartable. “Since then, it wasn’t as steep, and it hasn’t been permanent.” On a recent interview on the Media’s New Deal podcast hosted by Dan Granger, CEO of the performance marketing agency Oxford Road, Zohrob said although podcast listening is now higher than it was pre-pandemic, one of the key metrics for him has been a rise in engagement as podcast consumers are now listening “super-deeply.” It is a trend that he has seen continue as America began to re-open. “They are listening to hours of audio when they choose to put on a podcast,” he explained. “Now, especially because they don’t have a commute, they’re really listening. And we see the ad response rates have held up quite well. So, my initial panic was not totally justified.”
Chartable’s podcast measurement and analytics tools are used by many advertisers to assess the reach and success of their podcast ad campaigns. It gives Zohrob a vantage point to see what marketers are thinking, and whether the industry could still reach a billion dollars in total revenue by year-end as some have predicted. “I was hoping it would be this year, but it may not be,” he said. “Ad buying across all media has been disrupted in these uncertain and unprecedented times. Ultimately, it’s not going to change the overall trajectory of the industry, it’s just going to be a dip, and the curve is going to look the same.”
Promo codes may be how most advertisers currently gauge the success of podcast ads but companies like Chartable are working to create analytics tools that measure things like response rates, website visits and the overall incremental lift of adding a podcast buy to the media plan. Zohrob doesn’t think marketers are going to want a new tool for every digital media that comes along, but he said that because podcast is so unique, for the moment they’re willing to use specialized attribution tools for the audio space. They often show advertisers have been underestimating the impact of podcast ads. “In the long term I expect the multi-touch attribution providers that work across different platforms to partner with us or perhaps we will expand to include them,” said Zohrob.
For a lot of podcasters, Chartable is best known as the company that releases a variety of weekly charts of top shows among those publishers who opt-into its service. “We think that the industry deserves to have charts that are transparent about how they measure, that release more frequently than once a month, and aren’t so focused on just the top ten,” said Zohrob. He said unlike the monthly Podtrac chart that only features a top 20, by releasing a ranker that’s ten-times the size it will help the industry grow. “There are plenty of small shows out that that have incredibly engaged audiences that marketers should be interested in and they’re never going to be appear on one of those charts,” Zohrob said. “We wanted to offer a different lens into the industry that is going to shine a light on more of these shows that are out there.”
Zohrob said on the podcast that they work with more publishers than its charts feature, noting some companies have not yet agreed to be tracked for the weekly chart. It highlights the hurdle faced by Chartable, Podtrac and Triton Digital which rely on a publisher opting in to have its shows tracked. It is something Chartable hopes to overcome in the future.
“One of our long-term goals is to model the industry so that even if folks don’t participate in our charts we should be able to give a reasonable guesstimate of the audience of that show,” Zohrob said. He pointed out that other media – like radio and television – are already able to get listening and viewing estimates regardless of whether a broadcaster signs up for a ratings service. “We’re going to try thread the needle of offering more info without pissing everyone off,” Zohrob said.