Архив метки: NPR

Podcast industry aims to better track listeners through new analytics tech called RAD

Internet users are already being tracked to death, with ads that follow us around, search histories that are collected and stored, emails that report back to senders when they’ve been read, websites that know where you scrolled and what you clicked and much more. So naturally, the growing podcast industry wanted to find a way to collect more data of its own, too.
Yes, that’s right. Podcasts will now track detailed user behavior, too.
Today, NPR announced RAD, a new, open-sourced podcast analytics technology that was developed in partnership with nearly 30 companies from the podcasting industry. The technology aims to help publishers collect more comprehensive and standardized listening metrics from across platforms.
Specifically, the technology gives publishers — and therefore their advertisers, as well — access to a wide range of listener metrics, including downloads, starts and stops, completed ad or credit listens, partial ad or credit listens, ad or credit skips and content quartiles, the RAD website explains.
However, the technology stops short of offering detailed user profiles, and cannot be used to re-target or track listeners, the site notes. It’s still anonymized, aggregated statistics.
It’s worth pointing out that RAD is not the first time podcasters have been able to track engagement. Major platforms, including Apple’s Podcast Analytics, today offer granular and anonymized data, including listens.But NPR says that data requires “a great deal of manual analysis” as the stats aren’t standardized nor as complete as they could be. RAD is an attempt to change that, by offering a tracking mechanism everyone can use.
Already, RAD has a lot of support. In addition to being integrated into NPR’s own NPR One app, it has commitments from several others that will introduce the technology into their own products in 2019, including Acast, AdsWizz, ART19, Awesound, Blubrry Podcasting, Panoply, Omny Studio, Podtrac, PRI/PRX, RadioPublic, Triton Digital and WideOrbit.
Other companies that supported RAD and participated in its development include Cadence13, Edison Research, ESPN, Google, iHeartMedia, Libsyn, The New York Times, New York Public Radio and Wondery.
NPR says the NPR One app on Android supports RAD as of now, and its iOS app will do the same in 2019.
“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, in an announcement. “We needed to take painstaking care to prove out 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,” he said.
To use RAD technology, publishers will mark within their audio files certain points — like quartiles or some time markers, interview spots, sponsorship messages or ads — with RAD tags and indicate an analytics URL. A mobile app is configured to read the RAD tags and then, when listeners hit that spot in the file, that information is sent to the URL in an anonymized format.
The end result is that podcasters know just what parts of the audio file their listeners heard, and is able to track this at scale across platforms. (RAD is offering both Android and iOS SDKs.)
While there’s value in podcast data that goes beyond the download, not all are sold on technology.
Most notably, the developer behind the popular iOS podcast player app Overcast, Marco Arment, today publicly stated his app will not support any listener-tracking specs.

Yes. I understand why huge podcast companies want more listener data, but there are zero advantages for listeners or app-makers.
I won’t be supporting any listener-behavior tracking specs in Overcast. Podcasters get enough data from your IP address when you download episodes. https://t.co/mplhnrmCsc
— Marco Arment (@marcoarment) December 11, 2018

“I understand why huge podcast companies want more listener data, but there are zero advantages for listeners or app-makers,” Arment wrote in a tweet. “Podcasters get enough data from your IP address when you download episodes,” he said.
The developer also pointed out this sort of data collection required more work on the podcasters’ part and could become a GDPR liability, as well. (NPR tells us GDPR compliance is up to the mobile apps and analytics servers, as noted in the specs here.)
In addition to NPR’s use of RAD today, Podtrac has also now launched a beta program to show RAD data, which is open to interested publishers.

Podcast industry aims to better track listeners through new analytics tech called RAD

With $5.5M From Google Ventures, Opus, Crittercism Launches An App Performance Management Solution

Screen shot 2012-06-01 at 2.56.13 PM

Last summer, after graduating from AngelPad, San Francisco-based Crittercism announced that it had raised $1.2 million in seed funding from the likes of Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Opus Capital, Shasta Ventures, and AOL Ventures.

Today, the startup has received further validation for its diagnostic and management tools for mobile developers, as Opus Capital, Shasta Ventures and Google Ventures have all re-upped, investing $5.5 million in the startup’s series A financing. Not, in fact, $7.2 million as the company’s SEC filing stated this morning. Crittercism CEO Andrew Levy tells us that the filing included the convertible note from the startup’s seed funding.

For those unfamiliar, Crittercism began as a platform that enabled mobile developers to diagnose and analyze app crashes as well as provide quick, easy customer support to their users. The startup has since expanded its focus and today officially announced its app performance management solution, which captures and processes realtime app performance data — not only offering crash reports and diagnostics, but realtime views for app loads, system logs, handled exceptions and transaction tracing.

Levy tells us that the solution works for both small, indie developers and enterprise alike, saving companies from having to throw all their engineering resources at the latest crash, and, in turn, let developers focus on the most important issues, like analyzing user behavior and tracking specific attributes so they can optimize app performance.

The idea, Levy says, is to help developers increase their user retention, ratings and revenue, and companies like Netflix, AT&T, Eventbrite, and NPR are already on board. The startup’s solution allows for realtime app diagnostics and performance analytics on both iOS and Android — in other words, over 125 million unique devices and 3 billion app downloads. It’s currently beta testing its HTML5 SDK along with BlackBerry and Windows Phone integrations as well.

Right now, similar to other infrastructure plays, for indie developers, Crittercism charges based on volume and for enterprise charges a small flat rate per month based on the number of active monthly users using their apps. The company plans to release further pricing info in the next two weeks.

As it’s now tracking over 125 million unique devices, the startup has scaled quickly over the last year, which Levy sees as being one of its key value props to big and small companies alike. At scale, he says, Crittercism collects data that other solutions don’t touch and can thus offer a greater degree of insight, both by normalizing their data and by giving them a peek into the performance of each successive release of an app. Did v2.1 actually attract more downloads, fix the bugs that were a part a part of v2.0? That kind of stuff is critical to mobile developers that want to get the best performance out of apps — especially considering that attention spans are decreasing, and there are plenty of options to overwhelm the consumer on app stores. There’s not as much room for error as there was even a year ago.

For more on Crittercism, check them out at home here.


With $5.5M From Google Ventures, Opus, Crittercism Launches An App Performance Management Solution

Snackr For iPhone Is A “Pandora For News”

snackr-screen

Snackr (no, not that Snackr!), is a new iPhone application that delivers personalized audio news in bite-sized chunks for listening to while on the go. The app offers you a “5 minute snack” of the current headlines, as well as audio streams by category, including topics like business, entertainment, tech and startups, “top news,”  and others.

But Snackr also has another cool feature, besides just serving up fresh audio news. The app delivers a daily greeting which tells you about the current weather, your friends’ birthdays, updates from your favorite sports teams, and more.

The app, coincidentally, arrived at a time when I was becoming frustrated with information overload (a regular occurrence), and tweeted out asking for suggestions of mobile apps that could read me my RSS feeds. BuzzVoice does an OK job at this but is $3.99 and then wants $3.99 per month to keep it ad-free. I’m also not a fan of the robot voice it uses – Snackr at least has a more pleasant, British-sounding robot reading the news.

The Snackr team never saw my original tweet, as it turned out, but when they reached out, the timing was perfect. Snackr is a great attempt at solving the info overload problem. As someone whose job involves keeping up with the fast-paced world of tech news, I often feel like I get behind on other news – you know, everything else that happens out there in the real world. When I finally have time to browse the news via Flipboard, or turn on the TV, or catch a little NPR, I don’t feel like I’m keeping up, exactly. I’ll catch a few stories, maybe, but it’s a hit-or-miss experience in terms of whether they were important or impactful .

Snackr’s customized channels let you tune in to just the news that you actually care about, and it even lets you build your own channels from a large selection of categories like gaming, science, sports, fun, music, and more, or any combination of those. The channel editor still needs a little work, though. It doesn’t currently seem possible to delete custom channels, for example (or if it is, that setting is buried!).

I also wish that Snackr would let me customize the experience even further, by selecting individual RSS feeds or news sources to build a channel. At present, it only offers these pre-packaged categories for your custom channels. That’s probably fine for most people – this is more of a power user’s request, I imagine.

But overall, the app itself is simple to use. You tap to play/pause the audio stream, star to add an audio briefing to your favorites (so you can come back later and actually read the article in question), or tap the email icon to have the story sent to you. For even more automation, settings are available so you can have Snackr automatically email you your favorite stories or share those stories and your stream to Facebook. However, these were turned on by default, which I didn’t care for.

I should also point out that Snackr isn’t summarizing the news, or reading the full articles – it only reads the first paragraph. “Think of this as the audio equivalent of scanning headlines,” explains Snackr co-founder Jason Tongbai.

He and Snackr’s other founder, Brian Brunner, met in a class at Stanford, where Brian is now a senior. (Jason has since graduated). The company received a little bit of funding through Plug-and-Play’s “University Start-up Camp” program last summer, but is currently bootstrapping the app.

Jason says the idea for Snackr came to him while he was walking to class and trying to read the news on his iPhone. “I looked ridiculous, and then I was about a hair’s breadth of getting run over by a bike. If you look around today, this behavior – as dangerous and ridiculous as it is – is becoming more and more the norm rather than the exception.” He said he wanted to make news consumption less “dangerous” (ha!) while also offering a more personalized experience.

The app is still considered a “beta” even though it’s live in the App Store right now. Next week, Snackr will have a more public debut.


Snackr For iPhone Is A “Pandora For News”

I’m A New York Times Subscriber, So Where’s My Tote Bag?

new york times

The New York Times released its latest earnings report earlier this week, spurring another round of discussion about the newspaper’s paywall, which was launched near the beginning of last year. The consensus: Early signs are positive, but it’s not doing well enough to offset plummeting print ad revenue.

What’s the solution? Well, if you listen to a number of online media pundits, it’s all about bringing more value to the most devoted members of The Times’ readership. Over at GigaOm, Matthew Ingram suggests, “Regular readers should get more than just a sales rep hitting them up for a monthly payment — the fact that they are a devoted fan should entitle them to earn rewards, whether it’s money off their subscription for interacting with the paper, or offers that others don’t get.” It’s a point he’s made before, as has Clay Shirky, who wrote that “this may be the year where we see how papers figure out how to reward the people most committed to their long-term survival.”

I’m a happy New York Times subscriber, but I have to say: I don’t think The Times is doing a good job on this front, or much of a job at all. It’s odd, because NYTimes.com general manager Denise Warren appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation with Shirky, and she seemed largely on-board with his ideas:

I think Clay has outlined it exactly right. I mean, this model was not designed to get everybody who comes to our website to pay. Clay is absolutely right in terms of the distribution of the audience, and I think this is true for most publishers. The vast majority of people come and turn one article or two articles.

But there is a very loyal minority of folks who told us through rounds and rounds of research that they value the New York Times content, they’d be willing to pay to support the New York Times content. And so the key for us in this model was threading that needle – remaining open to the Web, enabling those who are coming to us for that one article or two article, et cetera, to still enjoy the content but at the same time enable those who are very loyal to have some kind of a different experience with us.

Warren goes on to outline some of the advantages of a Times digital subscription — not just access to unlimited articles (20 per month is the limit for non-paying readers, though there are lots of ways around it), but also to the Times smartphone and tablet apps, as well as bonus apps like Politics and Collections, and email newsletters giving behind-the-scenes portraits of the newsroom. Now, as someone who’s constantly reading The Times on both his laptop and his iPhone, I’m happy to fork over $15 a month isn’t a bad price for those features, but I also feel like they’re a missed opportunity.

As Shirky puts it, newspapers “must also appeal to its readers’ non-financial and non-transactional motivations: loyalty, gratitude, dedication to the mission, a sense of identification with the paper, an urge to preserve it as an institution rather than a business.” Those seem to be some of the main reasons people subscribed, but The Times isn’t doing much to encourage that feeling.

The closest it comes is through its newsletters, but those newsletters also have the clearest shortcomings. I’ve been a Times subscriber since the program started in March, and in that time, I’ve received a total nine newsletters. And of those, five are “Innovations” emails, which function as ads for new features on The Times website — useful, maybe, but not particularly loyalty-inspiring. Emails offering “The Story Behind The Story” are better (though a still a little impersonal for my taste), but they show up about once every two months.

Talk of the Nation host Neal Conan makes an interesting comment about this during his interview with Shirky and Warren: He notes that NPR has convinced one in six listeners to donate, while The Times has only convinced one in a hundred to subscribe. He later says, “If you get into the tote bag business, we’re going to have a problem.”

Here’s the thing about those tote bags — they’re nice, but as NPR broadcasters constantly remind listeners, they’re not the real reason to donate. To pick an example from my local NPR station, is there anyone who would pay $144 just because it’s a great deal on a KQED hoodie? (I hope not.) They make the donation because they love KQED, and the hoodie is a sign of their dedication.

Compare that to The Times digital subscription page and pricing model, which are all about functionality — there are three pricing levels, and they reflect different levels of mobile access. That approach has its limitations — from a functional equivalent, it can be hard to justify the price, especially when you take into account the easiness of circumventing the paywall and the low price of other online services. (As a friend pointed out, it’s $15 a month for the cheapest plan, which is more than a basic Netflix subscription.)

To keep The Times in business, however, I’m happy to pay $15 a month, and I’d probably be fine paying significantly more. I don’t think the basic subscription price should change (if anything, it seems a little high), but I suspect the paper could also offer higher price points without providing a dramatic improvement in the product. It just needs rewards that make subscribers feel loyal to The Times, and maybe a little special — the digital equivalent of a tote bag.


I’m A New York Times Subscriber, So Where’s My Tote Bag?