Forever, authors and publishers in the book business had only one metric; books sold. That's all. It is somewhat analogous to the podcast measurement of downloads. While Amazon and Apple likely collect a good deal of data from e-books, there has not been a comprehensive study gauging a reader's actual behavior with a book. Did they read the entire book? Did they start and stop? If they stopped, where in the book?
A company called Jellybooks, measures readership of e-books with a user-panel. Some of the findings are certain to alarm many authors and publishers. Of the 200 books tested, only 5% were completed by 75% of the readers. On average, less than half were finished by a majority of the readers.
Women tend to quit somewhere between 50 and 100 pages and men are more brutal, dropping out between 30 and 50 pages.
There are limitations in using a panel approach, but the implications of the findings are many. One publisher reduced its marketing budget for a title after finding that 90% of the readers dropped out after 5 chapters. Another increased marketing after nearly 70% of readers finished the book.
It is another example of data challenging long-held assumptions about consumer behavior. In this case - if they bought it, they read it.
Among podcast producers and hosts there is often a prevailing assumption that if it was downloaded, it was listened to and if it was listened to, it was enjoyed.
Most podcasts are listened to via Apple's iTunes and its Podcast app (65%) and unfortunately, Apple at this point, does not share listening data beyond download numbers. So actual audience tracking data is hard to come by.
We know from numerous studies and our own anecdotal habits, that people bail on video in seconds. Time spent on web pages continues to decline. In broadcast radio, the tyranny of listener tune-out has changed the architecture of many a radio station measured by PPM. I remember reading a piece about the intro music for ABC's Modern Family which runs ten seconds. It was the result of networks noticing tune-out for long show introductions.
In 2015, TV and cable channels produced 409 new shows. That's up 200 from six years ago. As video choices proliferate, it is being referred to as "peak TV." Audio is on a similar arc with linear radio, streaming, personal music and podcasts. Listeners find themselves in an era of "peak audio."
Podcast hosts should not assume that people hang through extended self- indulgences, interviews that run too long, topics that are not well targeted, defined or executed. If the podcast isn't entertaining or informative, the listener votes with stop and/or delete buttons.
As Jellybooks demonstrates, an e-book download is just the starting point. The content needs to resonate and connect with the user.
And much like books, there are podcasts, and good podcasts and they are not always the same thing.
Read about Jellybooks in the New York Times.
Steven Goldstein, Amplifi Media