CliffCentral and the problem with the listener numbers
Life seems to be getting busier and busier as people expect more out of us at a much faster rate than ever before. This leave us with even less time to catch up on news and absorb new information as we are constantly being bombarded from all sides. This is where Podcast come to the rescue. Podcasts is usually an audio that is streamed live via the internet about specific topics. Podcast are typically made to be downloaded so that you can catch up on any episode that you might have missed. Unlike TV and Radio where you are forced to watch and listen to everything, with podcast, you can choose the content that interest you and only subscribe to that. Podcast also allow anyone to say anything about any topic – which come with its own pros and cons.
State of Podcast
It would seem that more of us are listening to podcast than ever before. A study by Edison Research Study on the Podcast Consumer, has shown that Podcasting is on the rise, as weekly audio podcast consumption grew 25% year-over-year, from 12% in 2013 to 15% in 2014. The research found that the weekly audience for all forms of online radio is now 36% of all Americans age 12 and older, or 94 million nationally. Internet-only audio services continue to grow, led by Pandora — now consumed by 31% monthly .In-car usage of online radio and other forms of digital audio continues to grow. In 2014, 26% of mobile phone users have connected devices to a vehicle, either physically or via Bluetooth, up from 21% in 2013.
This is the trend that CliffCentral is hooking into as they lead South Africa “unradio” with a Podcast and in-app broadcast of their show. Having had the pleasure to host a couple of the Tech shows on CliffCentral.com, I am often asked “how many people listen to the show?”. This is a hard question to answer.
The team at CliffCentral have been quiet about their numbers as by their own admission they are not sure what to measure.
Gareth Cliff posted on his Blog which is the closest thing we have to “numbers”. Gareth said that in 10 weeks since the launch:
- 111 000 WeChat subscribers
- 44 000 Facebook friends
- 26 500 Twitter followers.
During the full month of June:
- 38 000 downloads of just the Gareth Cliff show
- 65003 unique IPs listening to our stream
- The website had 47 209 users, 11 6021 sessions and 282 242 pageviews logged.
Gareth notes in his post that the stats are only registered for those that streamed for longer than 1 minute and were compiled using Sawmill and Google Analytics.
Are these stats good/ bad/ indifference ?
Can “listeners” in the traditional sense be applied to a webcast/ podcast show? How does one take into account those who download the podcast after it was aired? Especially those that shared the podcast? what about those interacting via WeChat? and those that listen via one computer but loud enough for the office to hear?
Podcasting has been around for a while now on the Internet and yet there is still no single “official” way to measure the audience.
What CliffCentral is going through is perfectly normal. Measuring a podcast audience has always been at best a mysterious art of best-guestimate and when there is a sponsor involved then the numbers miraculously climb to appease the ROI Report.
The root of the problem is defining a listener.
Take the scenario that 1 listener who is a fan of the show can listen live, download the same episode on their mobile phone and re-download it again on their iPod and again on their tablet. How do you count this? Should this listener be counted as 1 individual or as 4 (1x live + 1x download on mobile + 1x iPod + 1x tablet) ?
The same listener downloads every single episode which in CliffCentral case could mean 1 download per day. So again, does he count as 1 listener or is he counted as 7 (1 per day for 7 days) ? and what is he downloads the same episode on his three devices every day and listens live too ? Is he counted as 1 listener or is he counted as 1 x live listening per day X 7 days + 3 devices x 7 days = 28.
To compound the problem: what is the same listener now not only downloads the current episodes but also downloads past episodes ? is he technically still 1 listener or multiple ?
This calculation gets infinitely harder as you add more and more listeners each with their own situations: some only listen live whilst other only download. Some download once whilst other download several times.
Why this matters ?
If you are reporting back to a community or to an advertiser who wants to know how much bang-for-his-buck is he going to get, then the numbers are important. This is when publishers of podcast use the “unique downloads” number as this is impressive. It shows that X number of people downloaded the podcast. It does not mean that there are X number of unique listeners (see above calculation) as the same listener could be downloading several times across several devices and listening live too.
What is the solution ?
There are various services that offer real stats and tracking of users. These services are able to understand if the same user downloads the same episodes and accurately report on these. Importantly these services also track trends over time to see if the audience is growing or shrinking.
Back to Gareth Cliff
In a very risk-averse country such as South Africa, CliffCentral is pioneering something new and that takes guts in a very well established market of the AM Radio that has been around since 1970. It also takes some time to get the right mix of technology and an audience that is receptive. Not everyone is a fan, but that is ok.
So how is CliffCentral doing ? Gareth sums it up:
Our aim is to start small and build a solid foundation, accompanied by like-minded contributors, advertisers and “un”listeners” who share our entrepreneurial spirit. I’m more convinced than ever that this will be the medium of the tomorrow
I look forward to following this exciting developing South African story.