Will The Industry Get RAD?


How much longer will podcasters worry about how many downloads they’re getting? Many hosting companies have been working with National Public Radio on a new podcast measurement system called RAD. On Tuesday, NPR announced the technology is ready to be deployed.

RAD stands for Remote Audio Data. And, the technology is expected to give podcasters a better understanding of how many listeners they truly have — and for how long those listeners are listening. Right now, podcasters rely on downloads and listens and there’s no real way to determine exactly how long a listener stays with a podcast once it’s been downloaded.

The RAD technology shares listening metrics from podcast apps straight back to publishers. Podcasters mark within their audio files certain points (quartile or some time markers, interview spots, sponsorship, or advertising messages, etc.) with RAD tags (ID3 tags) and indicate an analytics URL. A mobile app is configured to read these RAD tags, and when listeners hit those locations in the file, bundle and send anonymized information to that analytics URL. The publisher can then use that data, from all devices, to get listening statistics.

Podcast Movement Co-Founder Dan Franks tells PBJ that on the surface this looks like a net positive for the podcast space. “Any time we can get more, better data about how our audiences listen to and interact with episodes, it’s going to be a good thing. That said, the make-or-break on this, and anything else like it, will be adoption by those in the space. What we often see with new tools and offerings is adoption by one segment of the podcast space (small independents OR large commercial OR public radio), but not the entire landscape. For Podcast Movement, we sit in the middle of the podcast ecosystem. So it’s important for us to see new things such as this be accessible and adopted by as diverse of a landscape as possible. For this to succeed, I think it’s important that this is the case.”

NPR started working on the technology in 2017. In early 2018, NPR held a one-day summit with developers, audio engineers, and advertising technology companies to discuss the RAD proposal. Through that spring and summer, working groups discussed a tech spec. NPR took that spec and created mobile SDKs, which are now being launched as open source. According to NPR, companies committing to implement RAD in their products in 2019 are: Acast, AdsWizz, ART19, Awesound, Blubrry Podcasting, Panoply, Omny Studio, Podtrac, PRX, RadioPublic, Triton Digital, WideOrbit.

“Over the course of the past year, we have been refining these concepts and the technology in collaboration with some of the smartest people in podcasting from around the world,” said Joel Sucherman, Vice President, New Platform Partnerships at NPR. “We needed to take painstaking care to prove our commitment to the privacy of listeners, while providing a standard that the industry could rally around in our collective efforts to continue to evolve the podcasting space.”

NPR will also be launching soon a free tag-writing tool for podcasters to create their RAD tags, and shares the full tech spec at rad.npr.org.

NPR One’s Android app is configured to read RAD tags now and iOS will do the same in early 2019. Additionally, Podtrac is launching a beta program to show RAD data and invites interested publishers to participate.

Visit rad.npr.org for more information on the product.
The mobile SDKs are live and NPR is inviting you to contribute: