Double-Edged Data

Kevin Double Edged Data Pic.jpg

Last year, over 110 million Americans listened to a podcast. For Apple users, their podcasts were listening back to them… gathering a massive amount of double-edged data.

While Americans were enjoying their morning coffee to programs like This American Life and Radiolab, Apple was quietly studying them. Did they click play or download? Did they skip an ad? Where’d they listen? How’d they listen? 

Historically, none of this data has been available, so it’s largely been a guessing game… until last month, when Apple started making it available to podcasters and advertisers, arming both sides with a huge amount of information.

This might feel like a great thing if you’re a content creator looking to sell ad spots, but be careful. There’s a difference between information and intelligence… and access to more data isn’t always helpful if someone else gets to decide what needles in the haystack matter most.

For instance, sometimes it actually pays to value general impressions, qualitatively. Other times, the nitty gritty quantitative details are incredibly important. It’s interesting to see what the data measures, but it’s also important to keep a handle on the value to the listener, which isn’t always reducible to cells in a spreadsheet. 

Before, it was possible to get a general idea of “reach” but there wasn’t as much detail. Now, the frightening potential exists for the data to prove that your content actually isn’t all that effective. 

Even worse, too much data can lead advertisers to care more about the numbers than overall brand recognition and impressions, causing them to back away and stop buying spots that were actually working just fine.

Advertisers live and die by numbers in the digital space.  They’re perched on a mountain of consumer information they can dig into at any time.  Clicks, plays, exposures, buyer habits, targetable segments. Platforms are enabling metric transparency, but content creators should proceed with caution: all the Apple data results look promising, the numbers suggest listeners are leaning in, not skipping ads, but it’s important not to get lost in the numeric fog. 

Remember, those who live by the double edged sword of data can die by it as well.

Kevin Grosch