Spotify’s acquisition of podcast analytics firms has some in the industry concerned

Some say it significantly reduces the number of third-party measurement options available.
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Illustration: Dianna “Mick” McDougall, Photo: Getty Images

6 min read

When Spotify announced its acquisition of not one but two major podcast analytics companies earlier this year, it leveled up its advertising business to include a more complete in-house campaign-measurement service. What Spotify gained, the broader podcast industry could be losing.

Since Spotify bought Podsights and Chartable, others in the industry have expressed concerns that the move significantly reduces the third-party measurement capabilities available.

Spotify is a major player in podcasting, but advertisers and publishers could be hesitant to accept campaign metrics from a streaming service that not only owns podcasts, but also sells ads on them and owns the measurement platforms used to report metrics.

“In the podcast space, and really any media channel, there’s always concern about the idea that publishers shouldn’t be grading their own homework or [that] there should be third-party verification to help advertisers gain confidence in the space,” Cameron Hendrix, co-founder of podcast media planning platform Magellan AI, told Marketing Brew

Podcast tech players including Magellan, Podtrac, and Claritas see the loss of these formerly third-party solutions to Spotify’s first-party business as an opportunity to step up and check Spotify’s work as advertisers grow increasingly interested in podcasts.

What’s new

Even before Spotify acquired Podsights and Chartable, it was able to report to advertisers about how their campaigns performed in some capacity.

Plus, the company had previously partnered with both before acquiring them to offer some attribution services for campaigns, but now advertisers who buy through the Spotify Audience Network will “have easier access to Podsights’ delivery and conversion reporting,” Khurrum Malik, Spotify’s global head of advertising business marketing, told Marketing Brew.

Of course, advertisers might be skeptical about that information, given that it’s now coming from inside the house, Hendrix explained. For those who are, they can still turn to third-party analytics companies. They just won’t be Podsights or Chartable.

“Advertisers have been able to access trusted third-party measurement solutions across Spotify podcast campaigns to validate the reach and impact of their investments,” Malik said. “Those solutions will still be available to our customers, and with our most recent acquisitions, we’re excited to up-level podcast advertising measurement both on and off Spotify.”

Mind the gap

Spotify scooping up Podsights and Chartable made waves in the industry, in part because it left a significant gap in third-party measurement options.

It’s also one of the first acquisitions by a podcast company of an attribution and analytics partner. IHeartMedia owns Triton, an IAB-certified audio tech company that offers pixel-based attribution, but podcast analytics companies have largely remained independent.

“People were very shocked that Spotify bought both at once,” said Bryan Barletta, founder of podcast-ad-tech publication Sounds Profitable, who previously worked at podcast ad companies including Megaphone and Barometric. “Buying one of them puts the pressure on the other one, it changes the space, it creates more competition. Buying both of them created a hole in the space.”

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Podsights and Chartable data could indicate what kinds of shows advertisers are most interested in, a potential competitive advantage for Spotify, which could, in turn, invest more heavily in those categories, Barletta noted in a recent post.

While podcasting is “not there yet,” Bartletta wrote, if acquisitions continue, its biggest players could go the way of Google and Facebook—walled gardens that advertisers have come to rely on despite their opacity.

Omer Jilani, VP of sales at multichannel analytics company Claritas, which partners with Spotify, questioned whether companies that “own the ecosystem” could “truly remain unbiased.”

“People wouldn’t run media on Spotify if it didn’t work,” Jilani said, but added that “whether you’re the P&Gs of the world or that small, direct-to-consumer brand, you want to feel 100% confident in the results [of your campaign] and that there’s no bias.”

Shifting tides

There are also concerns that Spotify’s consolidation could make even more data about podcast listening inaccessible to the industry as a whole.

Chartable, for instance, tracks the top podcasts across platforms and publishes those charts. Malik said that Chartable will continue to do so as long as data partners like Apple give it access to their information, although it’s possible that setup could change given competition between Apple and Spotify.

“One of the biggest challenges for both advertisers and content creators is a general lack of standardization for podcast analytics,” said Rob Deichert, chief revenue officer at audio streaming company TuneIn. “Despite the best efforts by IAB, engagement data is currently tracked differently across platforms, which has led to discrepancies.”

The IAB has certified a number of companies for measuring podcast metrics, but those metrics do not include attribution, the organization confirmed.

Spotify, on the other hand, says it’s dedicated to growing the third-party audio measurement ecosystem, investing in both in-house solutions and external partnerships to measure its music and podcast ads, Malik told us.

Still, publishers and networks using Spotify’s hosting services might hesitate to continue. For those that are, they can turn to other analytics platforms, a process that some say is already underway.

The week after Spotify announced the acquisitions, Mike Kadin, CEO of podcast hosting and monetization platform RedCircle, told Marketing Brew it “had folks reach out to us from major publishers and ask if we have attribution technology. I’m not super worried about it, but it does sadden me to see more chunks of the ecosystem getting centralized.”

Magellan’s Hendrix said he’s had similar inquiries, even though his company doesn’t yet offer podcast attribution. That’s in part because it knew Podsights and Chartable largely cornered that market, Hendrix said.

“We’ve always heard great things about their offering,” he said. “But the reality is that now they are owned by a publisher. We’ve actually had multiple partners reach out asking us what our plans are for attribution, simply because they’re looking for alternatives out there.”

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