Let's Make Podcasting Metrics More Meaningful
Do download numbers matter? Juleyka Lantigua-Williams doesn’t think so. There’s a better metric for gauging your podcasts success and she has the study to prove it.
- Juleyka Lantigua-Williams of Lantigua Williams & Co
- Article: https://soundsprofitable.com/update/podcasting-metrics-meaningful
Do you know how to access your podcasts listen-through rates?
- Hosted by Bryan Barletta of Sounds Profitable - firstname.lastname@example.org
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Bryan: Metrics, the emperor's new clothes, and downloads. That's what we're talking about this week on Sounds Profitable with me, Bryan Barletta.
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I know that you're listening to Sounds Profitable because podcast ad tech is important to you, but it's important to me that you are kept up to date on the latest news from the entire podcast industry to help with that. Here's what happened last week. No matter when you're listening from James Cridlin at pod news.
I've talked with you before about how the way we study podcast metrics need to evolve and change. I wrote an article on the topic all about making them more meaningful in that article. I've talked about Juleyka Lantigua Williams who wrote an awesome piece for Nieman lab discussing better ways to gauge metrics.
She was kind enough to come on the show and talk with me about her thoughts on the ways we should be measuring success.
(transitions to interview)
Thank you so much for being here. I'm really excited to have you here. We wrote an article a little while back, and one of the main focuses was about not just looking at downloads, looking at other metrics.
And, you know, you wrote like a really killer article for Nieman labs, something I wasn't super familiar with. When I kicked off Sounds Profitable. So I want to try it over, like tell everybody a little bit about your article and demon labs and unlike what your goal was with that. Sure.
Juleyka: Well, thanks for having me.
I love talking shop with you. You're really smart. And you're funny. Uh, so I genuinely believe, and I think now through the course of four years have actually proven that the download is kind of useless as a measure of success. I think you agree? Yeah. Podcasting agree. It's like the emperor has no clothes kind of.
And so I had just been obsessive lead, tracking other, you know, measurements for our shows over months. And then Niemann invited, you know, invite a bunch of people at the end of the year to write an opinion. And I thought, okay, if there is any merit to what you've been obsessing about for the last six or seven years, Put it down on paper and then share it so that other people can scrutinize it.
Right. Because I'm a journalist. And so that's really where you test your idea in the public arena. And so let me tell you that I was petrified and I have never actually said that, but I was absolutely petrified.
Bryan: Well, thank you so
Juleyka: much. I really appreciate that. And so you. So this is, this is, this is such a giveaway, but you'll notice that I started with an anecdote about my kids, because I was like, let me soften it up because they can't hate somebody.
Who's talking about kids. Right.
Bryan: It's exactly why I use my son and my podcast. It's just like, yeah, you might not like it, but you're still going to give me those five stars.
Juleyka: Like, you're not going to hate on someone. Who's loving your kids and talking about chess with her kids. Right. So I was like, let me just start right there.
And then it was actually. True. Like, I do believe that the real. Actionable measurable. Mighty measurement is the listen through rate because that's what tells you how sticky your show is. That's what tells you how long people are hanging out with your stuff. That's literally what tells you when they lose interest in the show.
And so we've been tracking our listeners. Pretty consistently for over a year at that point. And then of course we started to try and influence them. Right. And so how did we try to do that? We try to put really interesting things at the end of the shows and kind of tease them at the top of the show. We started to cut five minute, 10 minute intervals into some of our shows.
Latina to Latina went from being 40 to 45 minutes to being 30 to 35 minutes to then being 25 to 30. Because I saw the incremental, you know, 5%, 6%, 8% growth. Every time we did that to the show, because what was happening was that we, of course, they such a good job of introducing podcasting to our Latino Latina audience, that then they went and found a bunch of other podcasts to listen to.
So, you know, we were the gateway. And then they went and found so many other wonderful podcasts that were for them. And so we kind of like realized, okay, we have to stay competitive. Right. If we want to remain one of their favorite shows, this is part of, of how to do it. The other thing that a good listen through rate allows you to do, is it really gives you more flexibility in terms of your ads, right?
Because I can say, listen, I've got listeners all the way through to minute 22. So I, we can spread out your ads. We can, you know, drop a trailer here. Like there are so many things that I can do. I know that 80% of my show is being listened to. So there's just so many pluses to going with a listen through rate versus a download, because the other thing is that people don't talk about honestly, is that a download is 60 seconds worth of audio.
Bryan: yeah, and I wrote about how you can play less than 10 seconds. Second of an episode of your own wifi and download a 90 seconds counting as an IAB download. Yup. I mean, that's the thing to focus on the download metric and how we count. It was brought to us by the IAB, the interactive advertising bureau.
Right. That's cool and all, and the intent there is to create a lowest, common denominator that everybody can match around. And then we can sell to, to the greater advertising space, but you hit on something really clever there. I mean, like getting around download, hasn't opened up the tens and hundreds of billions of dollars that other advertising channels has.
So the truth of it is, is like, yeah, it's a great metric when you need to use it, but there's a skill level where you surpass having to use it. And for internal. Download numbers. Aren't difficult. You want to double your download numbers? Evo. Tara gave me this example, just double the number of shows you put out in a month and boom, your download numbers have doubled, so that listen through rate is really clever.
You mentioned that you brought like a 45 minute show down to almost a 25 minutes. Yeah, we did over,
Juleyka: over about six months.
Bryan: Did that allow you to create twice as much content or did you just refine and condense that?
Juleyka: We just condensed it, right? Because. Least, and I have 17 jobs. And so we were not going to double the number of episodes, but we wanted to deepen.
Right. What we wanted to deepen was that need. To get that weekly Latina to Latina ethics. Right? And so if the episodes were concentrated, right, if the episodes were concentrated and every single minute was something good, then people would listen. When, when I started really paying attention to the listen through, we were probably harboring in the mid sixties.
We went as high as averaging 89%.
Bryan: The six months, oh, way
Juleyka: over. Right. And then of course you don't regression to the mean. So now we're, we always Accolate between 75 and 82, 78, 77. And I'm happy. They're like, that's a really great number to be when you're only 25 minutes or 30 minutes, that's a solid number.
And so that was really, really important. I mean, the other thing that I don't understand is if the advertisers set the download at 60 seconds, why did they want mid roll?
Bryan: I just didn't set anything. They, they had to send something that was like, that we could all get behind. And the truth is, is, you know, podcast hosting. The part that we spend so much time on is glorified file hosting, right? Like they know that the request was made and they know how much was sent. And so differentiating between 60 seconds and 50% of the episode sent, I don't know if it makes that much of a difference.
But, but you're right. That lesson to read. Great. The listen to Ray part is real interesting though, because you have to compile it from so many places, right. You can only get. From apple, Spotify and Google, Amazon doesn't have a portal for it yet at the time of recording this and things like overcast or a cast box, don't have it.
I don't think Nope. So that's app metrics that aren't third-party validated, which means they're part of a walled garden, but they're all walled gardens. Accepted and advertisers will accept. You're not only using this as justification for advertising. And you're saying, Hey, here's the download metrics. I hate them.
You want to see them, but let me show you why our downloads are better. And that's why you're using the listen to rate. You're saying let's not focus on, oh, we got more downloads this month. Let's focus on the fact we increased our listen to rate by 3%. What does that mean? Does that mean more space to add another ad?
Does that mean we can extend content or go over? Does that mean a piece of content in that specific episode resonated and we should dig into it further, so much knowledge that can be gained from that, but not only on the production side, but on the advertising. And on the
Juleyka: editorial side, right? So this is the thing that I've broken many hearts on clubhouse, podcasting, seriously club, uh, because you get a lot of really enthusiastic, energetic, first time, you know, podcasters.
And I say to them, okay, tell me what you listen through. Rate is my, what? My, who? Oh, you don't know what you're listening through rabies. Then we can talk about how to make a show. So come back next week, set up your dashboard, come back next week, and then we can talk about it.
Bryan: It's so tough though. It just bums me out that like apple, Spotify, Amazon, and Google have an opportunity here.
Like Spotify and apple have basically said like their goal is the silo. They really just want you to focus on them. They're showing that and they're trying to incentivize and good on them. I get it. It's competitive. Just like it's competitive for all of us to want people to listen to our podcasts first.
But like the open nature of podcasting is attractive. There's no other channels like this. If they bought into the RSS feed, if they bought into improving it and making standards around it, they could be passing some of the state of back to a host and they could do it in ways that conform a little bit while also taking.
I like taking unique advantage of that open nature and just building it better, right? If these people who start the podcast, like you say, and have never logged into their apple portal or Spotify portal, because they're on anchor, which automatically distributes it for them and you don't need a login or whatnot, we're making it real tough for those people,
Juleyka: except that now.
I might end up writing about this later, but the other one that now we're focusing on a lot is unique listeners. Yeah. And so now I'm encouraging people to really pay attention to the unique listeners. And again, because that is something we can influence, right? So in this world where our digital overlords control everything.
There are still things that you can influence. And so you've got to pay attention to those things. So you're listening to the weight a hundred percent. You can influence your unique listeners a hundred percent and you can influence, right, because this is about touch points, right? This is about finding ways to get your show in front of people.
And secondly, to get those people to recommend you. To people who want to know what they're listening to. And so we've been paying a lot of attention to the growth of our unique listeners. Now that simple cast, which is our platform provides that information. And, you know, for some of our shows, for example, like our body politic, which is a show about politics geared to black women and women of color, The other thing that I'm paying attention to is unique listeners in predominantly black cities.
Right. Because that's
Juleyka: me. And so, because I can get a zip code breakdown, I can drill down to the CIP code level on simple costs. I'm able to literally track. And so we are tracking for that show five different, simple codes around the country to see what is the penetration and how are our Nicholas and yeah.
Growing in those sip were I care about the most or that representatively, I care about the most. And so that's the other thing that people are so fixated on the download that they are missing completely missing an opportunity to in real time, week to week, month to month track how their shows are doing with far more valuable information.
Bryan: think the download is a metric that's valuable and ad delivery as a metric. That's valuable when you're doing hundreds of millions of downloads across the network and you were selling and buying to advertisers. That's. Because then it's about so many different things, right? Like NPR using downloads is valuable for how they sell it because they're so big.
I heart for themselves, ESPN, these companies that focus that way
Juleyka: versus the bodega
Bryan: ex. Exactly. Exactly. That's such a great example, but in your situation, so, so great. But you, and you have to value, you have to push that value prop, because I think that the smaller you are, like, you're almost disadvantaged by talking about CPM, right?
Like based on the number of downloads your show has, like, I tried to explain to somebody the other. Have you hit that golden $50 CPM would six ads per episode, completely a hundred percent fill rate, right. And you got 10,000 downloads, right? That's $500, no, sorry three, sorry. $3,000 doing that. Five 50 times six is 300, then times 10, $3,000.
That's that's a lot of work to sell six ad spots at $50 CPM and all that. Right. And that's not guaranteed. And at 10,000 downloads, how long are you going to convince that advertisers stay around before they've hit saturation? So getting these other things, getting this other information, drilling down, really proving the fact that we don't need more data.
I mean, it's always great, but we don't need device ID. We don't need actually listen at the time for the ad right now, you have. You know, you have been proving and you wrote about that. We have this data. It might not be a hundred percent. You can pull it from all these different portals, but you have it there.
And then your hosting platform, like you said, drilling down to the geographies that make sense. That's so killer, because that gives you enough information because you get to go to an advertiser and say, here are our download numbers. I know you need to see those done with that conversation. Here's why we get in front of the audience that you need to be in front of period, the end.
Juleyka: No, and I, you know, I have always maintained and I will always maintain that because our network on the original side and on the supplying side, we focus on. Building the woman of color, Latina, black woman, Asian woman, native American woman, audience and podcasting are per listener cost should be higher because no one is bringing these people to podcasting and.
No one, we're the ones who have set out the red carpet for them. We'll have champagne glasses ready when they queue up and who, you know, really give them the things that they need exactly when they need them. And then they go out. When they've had their Maddie's and Petty's, I mean, I'm giving you very, very girly metaphors, but it's about creating the experience that says, yes, you are welcome here.
There are things on offer here for you. Look at the plethora of stuff that we have curated for you. And then once they've picked out the things that they want for them, Then they go out into the broader podcasting world and then they find all the things. And so this is also part of why they listen through rate and the unique, listen, it's for a company, my size is fine or valuable than, than the download.
And we haven't even talked about it. We went a hundred percent dynamic insertion January 1st this year. Thank you. Yeah, we, we told our clients, I think back in October and then we have to grandfather in a couple of people who have bought really, really long campaigns, but that was fine, you know, but on January 1st we went a hundred percent Dai and.
That's when I started to really have fun because having the ability to go into the entire catalog, just freed us up in an incredible way. So now we've got staggered and layered advertising campaigns that run simultaneously that we run, you know, in the top 10 shows in the middle 25 shows. In, I mean, you name it.
We've got so many configurations going for how to serve the ads that we can have, you know, five or six different advertisers in the same week. And they never crossed paths. You know, and so it's just a wonderful
Bryan: thing. Three of those metrics, right? Your knowledge of your listen through rate means that when you look at your historical campaigns, you know, when you change your episodes, so you can chunk your episodes into these episodes, get to this percentage, these episodes get to another percentage.
And if a campaign is not working before you run the next campaign on that inventory, you have the power to reevaluate. Can you move where the ads. Right. We do reassess that's, that's so critical that people don't talk about because people talk about like, well, I ran the campaign and it didn't perform, but it was a host read ad.
And this that it's like, there's so many little factors that you can put into it. We do AB
Juleyka: testing, which is the other thing that a lot of people don't, that's awesome. Right. And so we use our own stuff. Right. So if let's say we have a new client. We want to test, you know, a new configuration that I've come up with, you know, for the Dai will track a 32nd.
Welcome to LWCC for the new show and then do an test. Right. We're just that, which is basically free advertising for our clients, you know, but it gives us a ton of information about how this new configuration for Dai could potentially do in a show like birth for, in the show like Latinos or Latino, or how to talk to mommy and Papi about anything.
Right. And so, I mean, I wish I had more time to literally just play around.
Bryan: Well, that's the fun of it. And the cool part is, is because you built such a cool company. I'm sure at some point there's going to be someone in your company. Who's going to be able to dedicate the time to that. No, you'd be able to put out reports and I'm going to be so
Bryan: Well, we got to spread it out out eventually. You know, we gotta, we gotta trade up the board, people at that, but, and you do such a great job. The thing I want to highlight that you said we kind of skipped over real quick was as an entry point, right? Like you found a niche for podcasting. Your network is based around a specific voice.
And I think that, you know, people are still in this phase. They're like, well, me and my friends are going to talk about Dungeons and dragons and we're going to be successful. And it's like, no, man, it's never going to happen. It's too saturated on that end. But the people who are passionate because podcast listeners, even new ones can super smell out bowl.
And configure out vigorously
Juleyka: and dear listener,
Bryan: if you can figure out right in a new lane, in a language that's not saturated yet in a country, that's not saturated yet first specific group of people that aren't saturated. There are not everybody listens to podcasts. And I'm sure that you jump for joy every time you see an Edison research poll that reflects the fact of a growth of, you know, the Latino community and, and growth there.
Then you got another one right now. Listen,
Juleyka: we're one of the sponsors of the
Bryan: now see that
Juleyka: that's in July yet. Well, I might even tell you because I would decide, but I am so excited. Like there going to be earth shattering, ripples across podcasting with this one, I'm just telling you, you guys do not want to miss this one.
We're just coming out of, do I sign up for the webinar?
Bryan: Yeah. And that's the best part about that is there's going to be people like you have been screaming from the rafters, like, Hey, pay attention to this group. They're there. There's going to be some stuffy white guy. Who's going to be like, do you think we should have a Hispanic podcast?
And like, you know what I mean? But like, But it's what it is, right? Like it's the space is growing. And what I'd say to anybody who's passionate is just like follow along with the things that Julia is doing, because she makes such an inclusive space. I met so many amazing people. Thanks to you. Like seriously.
I've had the opportunity to listen to people that are smarter than me. Talk about things that I would never even think about. And I've had the chance to network and get in front of them. And it's just, you're, you're building such an amazing. Culture around what you're doing. And that culture is focused on elevating these voices, elevating this talent and making sure that everybody recognizes that, you know, we don't just rest on stuff like Joe Rogan, that podcasting is barely that, so little of it podcasting is that, and it's grown and we need to recognize it.
Ah, I'm so excited for the, the Edison report and I'm, I'm just so thankful to have interacted with you and to have you on this.
Juleyka: Oh, my God. Thank you for having me. This is such a happy nerd out. Honestly. I love talking about this stuff because I just, I always say, and I know that this sounds really cheesy, but like I'm not special, right?
Like there is nothing extraordinary or different. I just started to pay attention to things that will, the people were ignoring, like. That's the secret sauce. Like I just started to pay attention and to pay deeper and deeper attention, and then to make connections between information that was already available, you know, which is why I emphasize that your podcast has to be a data informed creative project.
It has to be in that informed creative project. Passion is not enough. Right. And so. You build, right? Like your knowledge just builds your understanding builds like literally the synaptic connections that you're making about what you're doing, continuing to expand. And then four years later, you know, you realize I was onto something, but I had no idea except that I just pursued it.
That was it. I just pursued it.
Bryan: I have one bonus question before we, we call it quits. On this episode, you mentioned you watch Loki. And so I have to ask I, every episode, episode four just happened last night. I have to watch it, but I was told that there's finally. And after credit scene, every single thing Marvel puts out, I will watch all of the credits because I don't want to be spoiled, hoping that there's an after credit scene.
Why doesn't, why doesn't everybody in podcasting do an after credit scene to hold people to the end. Have you tried?
Juleyka: They're not paying attention to the listen through rates.
We do sometimes when it's something really special, like on Latina to Latina, we had, you know, tourists when she turned 50, um, um, You know, after the official goodbyes, she said to Alicia in a really loving way. I love what you guys are doing. This is wonderful. And when I was editing the episode, I was like, she looks so totally just put that in after the credits, as it's a little Easter egg for the people who do listen all the way through, because it was so lovely, it was just so, so lovely.
Um, and so sometimes we'll do that. We typically don't, um, because we are. Cramming so much good stuff into the, into the episode, honestly, that we, we want people to feel like I am satisfied why before they get to the credits
Bryan: smart. That's the breathing room at the end. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for joining me.
I'm positive. I'll have you back on here.
Juleyka: Anytime. Thank you for having me. And you're doing a wonderful work. I read your newsletter every week, religiously. Uh, you right. But
Bryan: I really do,
Juleyka: even when I get it, I put it in my to list, which is usually on Fridays. So on Fridays, I'm reading you.
Bryan: Thank you
stick around for some special bonus content. At the end of the episode, I've teamed up with Evo Terra to give you a minute long strategic thought that is guaranteed to shift your perspective on the present and future of podcast. As we all work to make podcasting better. Thanks to Juleyka for coming on. To help me expand on my article, let's make podcast metrics more meaningful.
If you liked what you heard and want to connect, you can find me Bryan Barletta on LinkedIn, way less formally on Twitter as high five RPG. And of course you can email me at Bryan at Sounds Profitable. Spelled either way. The most important part about Sounds Profitable is providing you with more resources and making sure that I can answer your questions.
So checking, put the link to Yappaa in the episode description and leave me a message. And with your permission, I'll answer it live on there. The Sounds Profitable podcasts and all the cool ad tech bells and whistles you've experienced for thanks to our hosts and sponsor Wishkah. Everything you've heard since the conversation ended was uniquely created to target you using their dynamic ad insertion features.
If any of the call-outs were wrong, let us know the Sounds Profitable. Podcasts would not be possible without the help and support of Evo, Tara, James Cridland, and Ian Powell. Thank you all for your help and support. .