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Serial is back: could this change the way you think about your audio and video analytics?


A new series of Serial has arrived. For those of you whose ears have missed out on the brilliance that is Serial, I’ll do my best to get you up to speed.

Serial is a podcast, which is something that takes the best elements of radio; namely, storytelling, building intrigue and intimacy – but with a very niche focus. Podcasts are entirely digital, and listeners access the recordings through a variety of different platforms or apps. Serial’s specific USP is its ability to tell one story, a true story, over the course of a season. It defined a genre for podcasts and public interest; bringing to light true crime, re-telling it through the questions and analysis of the production team. The listener joins them for the journey. As such, it’s gripping listening.

After Serial’s launch in 2015, the popularity of podcasts soared. A recent report revealed that almost a quarter of the UK population have listened to a podcast in the last month. It’s no surprise that brands everywhere are jumping at the chance to partner with podcast producers or create their own; there are currently over 500,000 podcasts available for you to listen to.

With all of these podcasts and listeners, how to measure accurately is a question that is asked frequently. Headline stats on total number of listeners are relatively easy to track, however, if you are a content producer trying out new material or wanting to understand how audiences engage with your podcast, overall numbers do not give the entire picture.

Luckily, there are now data collection tools that capture listening behaviour and engagement:

Adobe Analytics - Heartbeat:

Adobe’s analytics for video and audio (Heartbeat) provides users with measurement for content and advertisements, specifically allowing for real-time monitoring, detailed analysis and monetization opportunities. Specifically, this type of measurement allows users to cut their data into multiple dimensions and segments, in order to attribute to success criteria to key listening benchmarks and events. Heartbeat doesn’t only focus on integral delivery metrics (e.g. time spent buffering, average bitrate), but can be combined with wider metrics to visualize the entire customer “podcast” experience and how delivery metrics have impacted that.

Google Analytics – Video Reports:

Google Analytics has advanced video tracking capabilities, similarly to Adobe they provide detailed diagnostics for video and audio performance. Tracking bitrates, buffering levels, length of play and content % plays. Similar to Adobe’s Heartbeat, Google can track concurrent users and their streaming/listening behaviour at each minute. Using event tracking for video measurement will mean you can analyse performance against other core site metrics.

Whatever measurement tools you use for video or audio content, there are three key metrics to capture:

  • View count: basic, but key – this tells you the number of times your content has been engaged with (viewed/listened to).

  • Play rate: the proportion of page visitors who actually began engaging with your content (i.e. the proportion of visitors to the page who actually clicked “play).

  • Engagement: the proportion of how much of your content users watched or listened to. Really useful if you are trying to work out how long your content should be.

We are obviously going to always stress the importance of measurement. However, for programmes like Serial, where it started as a small project based on the personal interest of the presenter, it’s imperative. Initially, they were told “no one would be interested in this type of genre”. How wrong they were. Being able to give executives total listening numbers and play rates gives content producers the gravitas to continue. Coupled with in-depth engagement metrics, content producers can accurately assess the elements that are most successful.