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Melissa Kiesche is SVP at Edison Research — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability
You can hear this interview in the Podcast Business Journal Spotlight podcast
MK: I’m a Senior Vice President at Edison Research: I do a lot of things, but the thing that is most relevant to what we’re talking about today is that I lead the Edison Podcast Metrics subscription product both in the US and now in the UK.
JC: The UK numbers came out over the weekend. What are you measuring in Edison Podcast Metrics UK, and how do you compile that list?
MK: In order to do our rankers, we measure the weekly reach among weekly podcast listeners. So each quarter we are in the field every single day, interviewing at least 2,000 weekly podcast listeners each quarter. So that means about 20 or 30 listeners are participating in the study each day.
In the study, the main question that we’re asking people is to list all of the podcasts that they’ve listened to in the past week. It’s an open ended question. There’s no dropdown menu - that would be very cumbersome and probably very biased. It’s actually a multi-step question, because we really want to make sure that people are considering all of the places that they’re doing their listening. We don’t want them to just consider what they might have on their phone. We want them to consider apps, websites, social media, YouTube, all of the possibilities for where they might be consuming podcasts.
JC: So it’s not just asking them “what podcast you remember listening to last week.” It’s more focused than that.
MK: Yes. We know that there are going to be things that people listen to or enjoy the most that they may think of first: but they’re given instructions on how to access the listening histories in all of the places that they do do their listening, so the reporting is really comprehensive, and they’re considering sources that they may only access occasionally. That helps it to be comprehensive for an all inclusive study.
JC: Why do you do it that way? Why not just talk to companies like Triton or Podtrac do, and get log files or prefix codes? Why do it as a survey?
MK: Well, we wanted comprehensiveness. We wanted this to be all inclusive. We didn’t want any service, or show, or anything to be left out. As you know, Triton and Podtrac - their tracking is based on downloads, and it’s an opt-in process, so only those companies [that opt-in] are going to be listed in those rankers. We wanted the ability to put everybody on the same playing field and be able to rank all shows and all networks in the same space.
JC: So you put together the top 25. Was there anything that surprised you about the shows that were in there?
MK: After four years of putting out the US ranker, I think I was just most pleasantly surprised to see so much UK-grown content. I think there was, unfortunately, this American-ness in me that assumed that there would be a lot more in the top 25 that would have been coming out of the US. Of course, you see Joe Rogan at the top: and there’s a handful of other US shows: The Daily, Stuff You Should Know, Impaulsive. But really everything else is a testament to how unique British culture is. I really hope that the ranker encourages people outside the UK to actually check out some of these titles and maybe we’ll start to see some of these titles up on our list as well in the US.
JC: I was curious as to whether or not you saw any differences between the types of shows that are in the top 25 in the US versus the types of shows that are in the UK.
MK: Absolutely. So Miranda [Sawyer, in The Observer] points this out to some extent, but the UK top 25 is a wider range of subjects than we see in the US. True crime is way more prevalent in the US charts, and I don’t think there are any true crime shows in the top 25 in the UK, while in the United States, 6 of the top 25 fall into that category - Crime Junkie, Dateline NBC, Morbid, Serial, My Favorite Murder: those are all true crime shows that make our top 25. Perhaps that will change as we track things over the next couple of quarters, but for now, the UK is much less into true crime than we are here in the US.
JC: I think that’s a good thing! The other thing that occurred to me when I was looking down the list is that there’s an awful lot more specialism I think. In the UK list, there are shows about personal finance, there are shows about science, too. There’s an awful lot of of entertainment in the US list.
MK: Yes, entertainment and general shows, a lot of interviews. But in the UK, each show is quite different.
JC: You’re not just putting this chart together for fun, though it is fun reading it. The Edison Podcast Metrics product that you make available in the US - are you making that available in the UK as well?
MK: Yes, absolutely. First, I think that this was our first chance in the UK, so we managed to get this in The Observer over the weekend. We didn’t do this in the US - to put it in the mainstream media, and make podcasting more water-cooler: something that people would actually talk about what’s in the top 25. But, for our subscribers, in addition to being able to look at the Podcast Ranker, our subscribers have access to a lot of data in general on weekly podcast listeners.
JC: What sort of data?
MK: The main question obviously is what they listened to in the past week. We also ask a ton of demographic questions. We ask about their usage of media and technology, their podcast listening habits, what type of content they consume, and a bunch of sales targeting questions, like are you going to purchase a car in the next 12 months? That allows shows that have a large enough sample to have access to a full show profile so they can look at their show and be able to understand their audience. In the United States, subscribers are using this data to track podcast listening quarter over quarter: it’s a report card that they’re sharing with internal stakeholders. How is podcasting doing? How are we doing? How are competitors doing?
And then on top of that, our subscribers have the ability to ask custom questions each quarter, which is really fun to see what they come up with to ask. We’ve seen people ask about their specific shows or platforms; they might test the familiarity or the likeability of new or current talent. So now here in the UK we have 2000 weekly podcast listeners to talk to every quarter, and subscribers can ask them anything that they want.
JC: What kind of customers do you have for the Edison Podcast Metrics product?
MK: We have a lot of publishers as clients. When we first launched this in 2019, that was really the push was to provide our publishers, to provide producers with information about the state of weekly podcast listeners, but then also what their listeners look like and what their competitors’ listeners looked like. But then we started having conversations about the benefit of using this information for sales, and we’re seeing it being used on the agency side. Back in January - you covered this in Podnews - we signed an exclusive partnership with Nielsen to sell this to agencies; so this is starting to be in quite a few agencies hands. They’re using the rankers to really be able to look at the top shows among different demographics. We also have in the US, and eventually in the UK, an “efficiency ranker” which allows you to determine your target, and find the shows that are most like the target that you’re looking to reach. So if I’m trying to find a show with lots of women that have children, it will tell me the shows that have that.
Some publishers in the United States are really using it just to understand how is the awareness of their network changing over time? You know, how how are they doing with different demographics, with different subgroups. Has it changed the demographics of their network as they’ve added shows?
JC: We’ve seen the top 25. I’m wondering whether is there anything else that this study has unveiled about podcast listening in the UK that you might be able to to share with us.
MK: I’ll give you I’ll give you a couple of things.
One of the questions that we ask is what is the service that people use most often to listen to podcasts? It’s probably not a surprise that Spotify comes in at number one in the US and the UK. 33% of people in the UK say that they’re using Spotify most often to listen to podcasts.
That’s followed by YouTube at 19% and then BBC Sounds at 15%, so BBC Sounds coming in at number three. Then Apple Podcasts fourth - that’s third on the US chart and fourth on the UK chart here - with 13% saying that they use that the most often.
We also looked at the top shows among women. The top five shows among women change a little bit from the top in general. Joe Rogan totally drops even outside of the top 15 among UK women. So that means that his number one position in the UK is almost entirely driven by male listening. Whereas in the United States, Rogan is still number two among women. That was pretty shocking for us to see that, to see it drop all the way down. But the top five among women - Diary of a CEO, Sha**ed Married Annoyed, Off Menu with Ed Gamble and James Acaster, those are the three that are on the main list. But what pops up among women in the fourth and fifth place is Newlyweds (formerly called Nearlyweds). And then number five is Happy Place. So certainly more female-geared content in the fourth and fifth place there.
JC: Excellent. It’s always nice to have an exclusive! When do we get the next round of data? And will you be releasing things like the publisher charts as well at some point?
MK: We’re just finishing the next quarter in the field. It takes us about a month to process the data while we are able to code a lot of the open ended question algorithmically - there is still a ton, especially since it’s new in the UK, that we do need to do by hand. So we need to kind of go through and determine if the show is correctly listed and properly attributed to the producer and the network. Early November is the goal to put the next one out.
We will see top genres, which will be interesting to see too, how that tracks against the US.
JC: Melissa, thank you so much for your time. As a Brit, it is wonderful, after so many failed attempts to get a proper ranker for podcasting. I’m looking forward to seeing how the figures change.
MK: Awesome. I appreciate it, James. We’ll talk soon.
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