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Can You Podcast Without Reliable Analytics?
Episode 2424th August 2021 • Podcast Pontifications • Evo Terra
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Evo Terra:

If reactions to very real privacy concerns remove our one

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way to track downloads, it'll wreck the podcast advertising industry.

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But what about everyday podcasters who don't rely on impression-based ad sales?

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Evo Terra:

Hello, and welcome to another Podcast Pontifications with me, Evo Terra.

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We need to talk about IP addresses, but don't worry, this

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is not a technical conversation.

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You're a podcaster, not a developer.

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Or maybe you're both, I don't really know.

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But for right now, I'm talking to you as a podcaster.

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So as long as you can spell IP, this episode is for you.

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Let me explain, just for a second, I've got an analogy to

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explain what an IP address is.

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Think of an IP address as if it were a blind dog, whose job is to bark every

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time a new visitor comes into the shop.

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I know that's kind of weird, but a blind dog that barks when new people

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come into the shop is the best way I can think of to describe IP addresses.

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And this dog sits by the door, and he can hear people come in.

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He knows when the door is open, he can hear the footsteps around him,

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but he can't actually see the people.

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That dog is using smell, and when he recognizes a new smell

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of a new person he barks.

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Now, some people smell alike, maybe they're in the same family.

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So he wouldn't know to bark even though three or four come

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in smelling exactly the same.

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Or maybe they all rode together on a giant tour bus for hours on

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end and they all smell the same.

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He's only going to bark once when he smells those people.

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Of course, the blind counting dog gets this wrong a lot, but, at

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least directionally, it's right.

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Now, losing IP address, stick with the metaphor for a minute, would be like all

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of those people suddenly having no scent.

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That dog can still hear people when they come into the shop, but now has no way

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to discern whether they're going in or they're going out, or if they're from

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the same family, or that they're from the same bus, so all it can do is bark every

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time he hears a footstep go past him, and he's going to bark a lot more than he

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used to because he can no longer discern the differences between these people.

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Losing IP address in podcasting is kind of the same thing.

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Your podcast media hosting company will still continue to count

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traffic downloads, if you will.

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They'll even know which app made the request for your episode file,

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whether that's a listening app itself or a browser, maybe email, whatever.

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But your hosting company isn't going to know what not to count or what accesses

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they should group together as one thing because they've lost the IP address.

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We've lost that scent for our barking counting dog.

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Naturally, the entire podcast ad industry is rather nervous about this very real

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possibility of us losing IP addresses.

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The only way we have to measure right now, which is the IAB, the Internet

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Advertising Bureau's podcasting standard - that requires IP addresses

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to fingerprint, even though I shouldn't use the word fingerprint

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because that's not that identifying.

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But nonetheless, they reuse that IP address to filter out repeated visits,

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visits from the same household, all sorts of things, so they can get a

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much more accurate number of downloads.

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The IP address is critical for doing that.

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Just like our blind counting dog above, they get this wrong a lot, but at least

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it's directionally right so we know how our podcast is growing, how it's

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comparing to other shows in the industry.

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Okay, leaving the metaphor aside for now.

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In Sounds Profitable, the podcast ad tech newsletter, last week, Bryan

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posted an article called Who Wins When IP Addresses Disappear, and it paints

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a very dire picture of what's going to happen to the podcast ad industry, and

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I highly recommend that you read it.

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It will, of course be linked in the show notes.

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But what about podcasters, perhaps like you, who do not sell

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ads on a per-impression basis?

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That's the vast majority.

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I mean, the vast majority of podcasters, by the way, it's even me.

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Well, we're also reliant on IP addresses to give us those download numbers.

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But we don't sell those download numbers, remember that.

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Those download numbers we use are great, but remember, if IP addresses

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now suddenly lose their scent or are genericized, we're not going to have

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a standard way of figuring out how many people are listening or perhaps

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are downloading our podcast episodes.

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So what happens?

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What happens when you, and me, have no idea how many people

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are downloading your show?

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Or my show?

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Well, honestly, I don't really think all that much changes.

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Beyond the strum and drawing of which by the way is going to be extremely bad,

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I think podcasting will survive this.

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Hobbyists don't really care about accurate downloads.

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They just want to know if someone on the other end is listening, and,

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ideally, if those numbers are going up.

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And remember, the hosting providers will still be able to provide

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counts of activity just much less precise than they are today,

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which is already not very precise.

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Then the influencers, podcasters who use their podcasts as an influencer platform,

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I think they'll adapt really quickly.

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Influencers are fantastic at spinning disparate follower numbers and likes and

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other sorts of engagement to roll that up into an audience, a size of an audience.

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They can even rely on their other properties to show evidence of their

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efficacy of what's happening on their podcast to the brands they work with.

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They'll be fine.

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Business podcasters - sure they want people to listen to their podcasts,

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but they care much more about how the podcast impacts their bottom line.

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So assuming they're tracking things that really matter to them like

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meetings scheduled or other business outcomes that their podcast is

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set up to drive, they'll be fine.

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And you know what?

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I'm pretty confident that podcast advertising will survive this, too.

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If I learned one thing in my twenty-ish years of running digital

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advertising agencies and leading marketing teams, it's that the ad

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tech industry is extremely resilient.

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There's already talk of something called PETs, Privacy Enhancing Technologies,

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that will, amongst other things, allow for even more accurate tabulation of

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podcast access, but without, or so the theory goes, the leaky privacy issues

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that come native to IP addresses.

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Also, keep this in mind, the biggest podcast advertisers are

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still direct response advertisers.

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Those are proven effective only when someone uses coupon code

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or discount code at checkout.

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Those advertisers pay for ads on a CPM model, yes, but they're tracking

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on an ROAS (Return on Ad Spend), or ROI (Return on Investment).

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That's how they're tracking.

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Ad volume and impressions are just outputs, not business outcomes.

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So I'm confident they'll also be able to adapt.

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Now, let me be clear, if we lose IP addresses or if they become less

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reliable, which is increasingly likely, and on a long enough timescale

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inevitable, it'll cause massive upheaval.

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Livelihoods will be seriously impacted with many ruined.

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Lots of business' models will go belly up, and, yes, that

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includes some in podcasting.

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After that happens, I believe podcasting will be fine and will survive.

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One thing that might offset the impact is this concept of value for value.

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It's stupidly early in the process right now, but it's directionally interesting.

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Apps like Podfriend, Fountain, Podverse, and many more are, in

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fact, seeing increased revenues flowing to creators from listeners

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who derive value from their work.

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Again, it's stupidly early, and it's so complicated right now,

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but I'm paying attention to it.

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You probably should as well.

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So if you got a sigh of relief out of this episode, hit the boost

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button, if, in fact, you are using a Value4Value-enabled podcast listening app.

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And if you're not using one, well, you can always hit up BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra

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and buy me a virtual coffee.

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That's it.

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I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.

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Cheers!

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Podcast Pontifications is written and narrated by Evo Terra.

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He's on a mission to make podcasting better.

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Links to everything mentioned in today's episode are in the notes

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section of your podcast listening app.

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A written-to-be-read article based on today's episode is available at

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podcastpontifications.com where you'll also find a video version and a corrected

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transcript, both created by Allie Press.

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Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media.