OMD leads calls for multi-platform audio measurement
As the audio market grows to encompass streaming platforms, podcasts and new tech, agencies are calling for the sector to build a new system to effectively measure it.
Currently there is only one third-party measurement system covering the audio market - RAJAR. It is a gold-standard Joint Industry Currency that sits alongside other JICs such as TV's BARB or published media's PAMCo, both of which have evolved to cater for similar changes in their respective markets.
However, RAJAR currently only measures the traditional radio market and therefore excludes new platforms such as Spotify, webcast-only stations, or any of the hundreds of podcast platforms or walled-garden services.
Speaking at the Future of Audio, Flora Williams, OMD's connections planning business director, said agencies wanted to see a measurement system that covered the multi-platform "blind spots" created by the explosion in new audio content.
"The market is becoming increasingly complex," she said, noting that Amazon Music has just been introduced via its smart-speaker devices, and YouTube is capitalising on audio-only streams, amongst many other market changes.
"For a consumer there are many more routes to content, but this presents a challenge from an agency and advertiser perspective," she said.
Tom Coare, OMD's head of audio, added that OMD, alongside other media agencies at the IAB audio steering group, was searching for "standardised data".
"RAJAR is a leading light in terms of media measurement," he said. "It's big data, it's robust, it's consistent and it's the currency everyone has accepted to trade on."
However, Coare said RAJAR was still limited in what it measures.
"Print faced similar issues with content moving from offline to online but was able to deliver a great solution in PAMCo," he said. "To some degree, we think that should be mimicked."
Meanwhile, Williams added: "We don't expect doing any of this will be easy. But if print can do it, then so can audio. Now we need the industry to work together to create a consistent currency."
Effective and trusted media measurement is notoriously complex. Indeed, the launch of PAMCo in 2018 was a slow and expensive journey.
Meanwhile, BARB, which is undergoing similar challenges to measure across different screens in the TV market, spent the last four years developing a solution through Project Dovetail, with part of the service only launching late last year.
There is no reason why the audio market would not face similar issues.
“The digital audio market is in a very dynamic phase and we must be open to making sure that the measurement structures continue to adapt to reflect the changing needs of stakeholders," Jerry Hill, RAJAR's CEO, told Mediatel News.
"Creating a common digital audio currency and the funding mechanism to support this across a diverse range of audio services and formats has a lot of complexity that shouldn’t be underestimated."
Mediatel News understands that Spotify has already explored measurement via RAJAR, but concluded it was not a system that would currently benefit it, suggesting media-owner buy-in could prove problematic.
Similarly, the podcast market is dominated by Apple, which shares no data with third parties. It is the tip of the iceberg in grappling with an increasingly fragmented audio market.
However, radio broadcast fragmentation faced similar issues in the past, which is why J-ET, the industry-owned trading desk, was launched almost 20 years ago to make radio easier to buy and sell and to increase share of spend.
Today, online measurement organisations such as UKOM are also waiting in the wings and have already expressed a desire to help with the challenge.
“UKOM’s RFP for its contract from 2021 onwards requires the supplier to develop a capability to measure cross-device online audio, both streamed and downloaded," said Ian Dowds, UKOM CEO.
"UKOM will welcome any opportunity to explore working with other measurement bodies, like RAJAR, or trading systems, like J-ET, perhaps in the same way that PAMCO currently uses UKOM endorsed digital data to produce robust cross-platform measurement for the news and magazine industries.”
Meanwhile, Greg Grimmer, CEO of Mediatel Group, commented: “OMD’s erudite point of view at the event is one we have heard from both agency and media owner stand points.
"As an ex-agency planner myself I can appreciate the wish to have a single source point of reference and as a major tech supplier to the audio sector we will seek to deliver this as soon as the market dictates that it is needed."
Disclaimer: Mediatel Group, the publisher of Mediatel News, operates J-ET on behalf of the radio industry. All reporting is editorially independent.
Correction: an earlier version of this article stated that Verizon now sells some of Spotify's inventory - this is incorrect and has been removed.
Mediatel are the audio experts operating at the centre of audio trading, distribution and analytic processing. Contact us for more information on J-ET, Audiotrack or our RAJAR data engine.