How a single iPhone update will have a big impact on podcast measurement

How a single iPhone update will have a big impact on podcast measurement

A new software update to Apple’s iPhone software update could boost measurement across the podcast industry.

Ross Adams, CEO of global podcast publisher Acast, said on the company’s quarterly earnings call today that the Apple iOS17 update “impacts advertising effectiveness” and changes the measurement of podcast frequency.

Short-term pain,  long-term gain

“The iOS update implies a change to how podcast episodes are downloaded on mobile phones, which in turn affects the measurement of listens,” Adams said.

“In the long-term, the change will mean a more accurate picture of the listening frequency for each podcast which is a positive development for the industry as a whole.”

However, there will be a short-term decrease Adams warned.

“In the short-term we expect a decrease in the number of overall listens and an increase in the average revenue per listen,” Adams added.

Apple: what changed exactly?

The update, which was released on 18 September, changes automatic podcast episodes downloads for Apple Podcasts on mobile devices.

Previously, automatic downloads were paused when a device was either out of available storage or when a listener has not played the latest five episodes of a show they follow for more than 15 days. If a listener resumed playing a show, or changed the download preferences, the Apple Podcasts app resumed automatic downloads of all unplayed episodes.

With the update, Apple Podcasts will not download previous episodes and will only resume automatically downloading new episodes.

It also affects when podcasters choose to publish older episodes to their show, which would be processed on the app as “new” and automatically downloaded.

With iOS 17, episodes that are older than seven days will not be considered “new” and therefore will not be automatically downloaded.

The change came as users of the app have been adapting their behaviours thanks to improved connectivity like 5G, growth in streaming and unlimited data plans.

Acast earnings: listens down but revenue per user up

During the third quarter, Adams observed “some negative impact” on gross margin as certain larger podcast contracts were affected by the ongoing software rollout.

Meanwhile, Acast’s average revenue per listen (ARPL) increased by 36% (SEK 0.33), whilst the number of listens decreased by 3% year-on-year (1.28bn) and remained steady quarter-on-quarter. A listen is defined as a minimum download of at least 60 seconds of the episode and Acast only count one listen per listener per episode within 24 hours.

“[A]lthough it’s too early to say how large the impact will be, we estimate an overall drop to listens of 10% in Q4,” Adams (pictured, above) stressed in a question-and-answer section of the call.

He went on: “But, I’m happy to note, as I’ve said in previous quarters, it’s all about the unique listeners and users which continues to increase month-on-month so we are reaching a larger audience month-on-month which is where we pay close attention.”

Podcast: more measurement ‘consistency’

Adams echoed this last month; the industry would likely see downloads lower in frequency but importantly maintain the unique reach.

He also predicted the changes would mean “more consistent metrics” for advertisers to assess return-on-investment (ROI) and plan future campaigns.

Adams said: “It’s also important to highlight that these updates prove podcast advertising campaigns are actually far more effective than we as an industry ever thought. With these newly adjusted metrics, we predict that future campaigns will see even more improved performance.”

In future, he anticipated this change would mean figures would “get closer to actual consumption of podcast content by encouraging more streaming on demand”.

‍He described this improved measurement consistency was “an indication that the podcasting medium has matured” and was “a necessary part of any fast-growing media industry’s journey” as seen in other industries like video and music with “similar evolutions in data measurement”.

In defence of podcasts and other ‘messy’ media labels

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