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Nielsen wants to track podcast data by... calling people

The company is aiming to deliver detailed data on podcast consumption.
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Maskot via Getty Images

Are true crime podcasts as popular with Millenials as they are with Baby Boomers? Does the under-35 crowd listen to wellness podcasts? Nielsen, the company behind the TV ratings system, will begin to survey Americans about their podcast consumption habits in order to sell the data to podcast creators and ad networks.

The company's venture into the world of podcasting isn't as odd as you'd think. Nielsen Scarborough, the division of the company that is carrying out the operation, polls 200,000 people every year on everything from their craft beer drinking habits to how often they watch Mexican soccer. The surveys are conducted over the phone, online and in-person. For the podcast survey, they'll survey a sample of 30,000 people twice a year on everything from genre preferences to consumer buying habits. The end goal is better targeted advertising; companies will learn which podcasts their potential customers are more likely to consume. Nielsen has already secured its first clients, all companies that sell ads for podcasts. These include iHeartMedia, Cadence13, Midroll, Westwood One and cabana.

Any new data is good news for podcast creators, who for a long time had few options for good podcast analytics. Popular podcast hosts, such as Apple, Spotify and Google Play Music, all measure podcast downloads differently. Of course, the number of podcast downloads gives you a poor idea of whether listeners are actually listening to the podcast or not (especially since subscriptions download by default). For podcast creators looking to lure new advertisers, this may be an opportunity to offer more nuanced data on their listeners.

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