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NPR-led system will track podcast listening behavior

It'll need help from Apple and Spotify to get a complete picture, though.
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Jon Fingas/Engadget

Podcast creators typically don't know much about your listening habits. They can track downloads, but they seldom know when you've skipped an ad or left an episode unfinished. NPR, however, aims to fix that. It recently partnered with a host of companies to introduce Remote Audio Data, a way to share listening metrics directly from podcast apps while theoretically protecting your privacy. A total of 13 organizations have committed to using RAD in 2019 (including mainstays like PRI/PRX and RadioPublic), while the 10 companies supporting the effort include Google, ESPN, iHeartMedia and the New York Times.

There's one main problem: two of the biggest podcast purveyors aren't on board. As The Verge pointed out, Anchor found that 52 percent of podcast listens came from Apple's Podcasts app, while 19 percent flowed from Spotify's podcast section. RAD won't truly represent podcast trends without the support of those companies, and either of them is likely to change their mind. Apple has been testing its own podcast metrics and is often hesitant to share user data unless it can guarantee privacy. Spotify has also been testing analytics, while RadioPublic has a tracking system that helps creators interact with their audiences.

NPR has stressed that it doesn't provide identifiable data to podcasters and can't snoop on rivals' listening numbers. However, that might not matter if would-be partners are worried about a potential backlash from users who don't want a service tracking their minute-by-minute playback. This is coming hot on the heels of Facebook's numerous privacy scandals, remember. Although RAD is evidence that the podcast industry is maturing and becoming more of a viable money-maker, it might only have limited success.

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