Remote Audio Data Is Here : NPR Extra NPR launches new podcast listening technology, RAD, after collaboration with industry leaders.
NPR logo Remote Audio Data Is Here

Remote Audio Data Is Here

After a year in development, RAD is being deployed for podcast listening measurement

Editor's note: This post was updated at 8:15 a.m. on Dec. 12 with additional supporting organizations.

Collaborative minds and leaders from across the media industry have worked closely with NPR to develop and launch a new podcast analytics technology: Remote Audio Data (RAD), a method for sharing listening metrics from podcast applications straight back to publishers, with extreme care and respect for user privacy.

NPR worked with a cross-section of nearly 30 companies to develop and test this new, parallel metric and we're excited to announce its open source release and launch in NPR One.

We are grateful to the enthusiastic, devoted group of organizations that have been a part of the development work. These industry leaders are joining NPR in committing to implement RAD in their products in 2019: Acast, AdsWizz, ART19, Awesound, Blubrry Podcasting, Panoply, Omny Studio, Podtrac, PRI/PRX, RadioPublic, Triton Digital, WideOrbit, Whooshkaa.

Furthermore, these companies support and have participated in pushing RAD forward: Cadence13, Edison Research, ESPN, Google, iHeartMedia, Libsyn, The New York Times, New York Public Radio, Voxnest, Wondery.

"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 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."

Downloads or Listens?

Downloads have been the core of podcast analytics. Downloads tell us audience size and device habits across all platforms, let us watch for spikes and track over- and underperforming episodes. With efforts from organizations like the IAB, the download is trusted and better defined than ever.

But the download is only part of the story. Mobile applications and major platforms, notably Apple's Podcast Analytics, have begun to share listening metrics with producers. NPR One, for example, has informed public radio about listener engagement since its launch in 2014.

While these statistics are fantastic, they are not comprehensive or standardized and require a great deal of manual analysis. Once adopted throughout the industry, RAD will consolidate that data for publishers and begin to move our industry toward new metrics around listening.

How does RAD work?

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 holistic listening statistics.

"Measurement has been one of the open challenges in the podcast industry for a long time," said Acast's Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer Johan Billgren. "As the medium continues to grow, universal metrics will be key to its success. At Acast, we believe in the power of audio and have embraced measurement and reporting since the beginning for our thousands of podcasters around the world. We are proud to support the introduction of Remote Audio Data (RAD) with NPR and believe this is a significant step for the industry."

RAD is only at its beginning, the best is yet to come ...

In 2017, the NPR One team piloted this technology for proof of concept. In early 2018, NPR held a one-day summit at our headquarters in D.C. with developers, audio engineers, analytics leads 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 we're now launching as open source.

One of these working groups was focused on security and data integrity, with the goal of keeping user privacy and measurement goals in alignment. RAD's current framework supports an anonymous session ID that persists for 24 hours and the analytics endpoints only receive the RAD events, these session IDs, IP addresses and if configured, user agent.

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.

Please visit rad.npr.org for more information on the product.

The mobile SDKs are live and we invite you to contribute:

For press inquiries, please reach out to: mediarelations@npr.org

For technical questions about RAD, please reach out to: remoteaudiodata@npr.org