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Yes. I understand why huge podcast companies want more listener data, but there are zero advantages for listeners or app-makers. I won’t be supporting any listener-behavior tracking specs in Overcast. Podcasters get enough data from your IP address when you download episodes.
+@marcoarment is the RAD thing NPR has announced the sort of thing you’ve said you don’t want in podcasting, ie. sneaky tracking stuff?
140 replies and sub-replies as of Dec 18 2018

NPR’s RAD standard for podcast-app behavior tracking, in a nutshell: The audio files include a list of timestamps and tracking URLs, and the app is supposed to report to those tracking URLs whenever you play the file to certain timestamps. Spec:
Remote Audio Data Spec V3
Remote Audio Data (RAD) V3.4 Spec This document should be considered an “Internet-Draft”, as defined by the IETF, therefore it may be updated, replaced or obsoleted by other documents at any time and should not be cited other than as "work in progress.” Background This document outlines the spe...
Honestly, I see no reason for any podcast app to support that kind of tracking and reporting. There’s no clear benefit to the app makers (in fact, it requires more work), and it’s a privacy violation and a GDPR liability that users would likely object to if they understood it.
Maybe they gave it such a “RAD” name to help market such a nefarious standard
If not now, then soon. Why else buy a podcast app?
we don't. Official statement here:
While we're proud to have a co-owner and partner as respected and accomplished as NPR, we are an independent company with our own product roadmap. As such, we have no plans to implement RAD at this time. We thought that was worth clarifying since quite a few of you have asked.
Countdown to malicious payload compromising user privacy…
Advertisers may start requiring it though
I'm sure it's valuable for selling underwriting or advertising if you know how many people listen all the way through an episode, vs just download it via their podcatcher.
Maybe their long game is for podcasts to only work on players with RAD implemented
What if users really don’t mind? What if it makes podcasting a more economically viable proposition? Doesn’t everyone win?
Thanks. I really hope no podcast player editor will ever implement this.
Agreed. App makers would have to take extra care to make tracking default opt out, fully optional and clearly explain how the data is used. Can't see the point if tracking requires explicit consent (GDPR) and provides no clear benefit (except added creepiness?) for listeners...
The point I see is that make “default on” options and users will happily click/tap through without reading anyway to gain access to the app. That’s a pity but users usually just don’t care anymore
Yes it is a pity. This is why GDPR requires, among other things, users' explicit, informed and freely given consent. In other words: no default on options allowed!
The spec is anonymised, and assigns a different ID to each player every 24 hours. It's unlikely that NPR would have launched something which isn't GDPR compliant.
Thanks Marco.
The only reason will be $. Someone will try to pay the top podcast apps off to implement it. Mobile apps are already such a tire fire of privacy and centralized analytics, I now wish Little Snitch could work on iOS…
They already have.
I’m sure. Start listing the garbage features you don’t have in the App Store. I did research on top5 free va top5 paid games in 2015. 5 free games run for 1 minute: over 90 hosts contacted. (Excluding iCloud etc.) 5 paid games: 21 hosts I don’t even want to check now.
I agree. That’s why we’re overcoming that with @poductivity and how that works. Definitely agreed with your point here.
But how are sad, poor podcasters like NPR supposed to make any money without the creepy behavior tracking supported by their previous platform... (checks notes)
’s stance on privacy-focused things like RAD are a huge part of why I use @OvercastFM. There’s no reason for a podcast client to be phoning home as you listen to an episode.
Honestly, I see no reason for any podcast app to support that kind of tracking and reporting. There’s no clear benefit to the app makers (in fact, it requires more work), and it’s a privacy violation and a GDPR liability that users would likely object to if they understood it.
And it’s a security hazard. At the very least, it lets someone able to subvert the URLs to launch a DDoS attack using the Internet access of every listener against various servers.
I could see other parties upstream offering a revenue share with players that are willing to support this data.
Carrying this to its logical capitalist conclusion, eventually we could conceivably start to see podcasts that pay end-users [next to nothing] to listen and not skip ads. Ugh.
With that level of tracking, could the data help determine exactly which part of the podcast was most interesting to the listeners? Or does the download aspect mess things up?
Could be a good Top 4 episode for the top 4 things Overcast will never support
Sounds like a great way to enable ad skipping
It doesn’t have to be connected with ads directly: they can check out how long did yoy listen to a particular issue (with stamps every 5-10 mins).
I misconstrued RAD being an adjective instead of an acronym
As a podcaster at least i'm very curious if listeners actually have started playback, since most download HTTP requests happen in the background as new episodes are released.
As a podcast listener I’d like to save battery and data usage; these kinds of things need to be a two sided exchange
I do support that there should be a way to turn off these tracking no matter what, and making that a default for players like Overcast is a fair game.
What reason would users have to opt back in?
same reason you would opt in to submit Mac/iOS usage data to Apple; usage metrics helps improve the quality of the shows if done right
Sweet! Can’t wait for Overcast to not support it just like it currently doesn’t. Gonna be the best update all year.
And this is precisely why I stopped using Pocket Casts when NPR bought them.
I presume Pockets Casts will (or already does?) support this? Since when are IETF drafts in Google Docs?
I wouldn’t assume that they support it yet — I’d think NPR would’ve mentioned such a major entry in the list of debut apps, even though they own it.
cc @rustyshelf Any information from you and Pocket Casts about this?
Will have something official to say soon but long story short we haven't implemented it
One of their Android developers on Slack said he’d never heard of it before today. I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad. (But it’s probably bad.)
Anyone can write and publish an “Internet Draft”, it’s just a form/style for standards. Presumably the writer hopes for some level of IETF blessing, or aspires to that level of review, and a WG may or may not be involved. But it‘s not an IETF standard unless it’s an “RFC”.
Curious why you always presume @pocketcasts to be doing this stuff?(Your article about their acquisition accused them of the same thing.) They definitely aren't, as confirmed on their Twitter account. Is it because they actually make money on Android as well as iOS 😉
TIL!! Does Pocket Casts evever 'inject' ads into the podcasts? Every now and then i'll hear a really weird ad before a podcast. Sometimes the same ad appears before podcasts from different networks(i.e. divorce attys in norcal).
What do you make of Megaphone with the use of Nielsen data, to this point Marco?
Hello folks. @marcoarment is entirely correct. We don't inject ads into any podcasts nor is that something we'd ever consider. We have no interest in competing with our closest partners: producers!
Thanks for explaining. I heard the localized divorce attorney ads and didn’t realize it was from the podcast publisher itself. I didn’t realize podcast publishers use geo targeting. I thought the app did this since it knows where I am.
Irony: I know surprisingly little about ad targeting considering I’ve spent the last 6+ years at fb O_o
I've done my level best throughout my 20 year career in digital to avoid ad tech, so I feel you!
Got it, thanks for the detail -- helpful to understand your experience. Hope you never need those attorneys' services! :)
Yeah, I cant possibly imagine how I fell into that particular targeting segment!
The publisher knows roughly where you are too via your IP when you download the episode.
You're missing out on a great app. (Overcast is great as well, of course.)…
While we're proud to have a co-owner and partner as respected and accomplished as NPR, we are an independent company with our own product roadmap. As such, we have no plans to implement RAD at this time. We thought that was worth clarifying since quite a few of you have asked.
Assuming I used a podcast player which did support this standard, would there be any way of blocking the reporting through the use of an iOS app such as 1Blocker? Or does that only work in Safari?
Just removed all @nprpolitics podcasts. I use @OvercastFM of course but BS moves like this is still not OK.
This kind of thing is why I switched to an open source podcast player on Android. I don't trust the commercial ones there to not implement this sort of thing.
I suspect the people who want this to happen don’t, actually, love podcasts.
i hope @SupertopSquid rejects this in Castro as well
I’m confident they’d have the same opinion as I do on RAD.
We should add @joeisanerd in here too!
will block it for me :)
I'm totally not an expert; apart from advertising, could this be used from podcasters to have more data about listening habits? Something like YouTube that tells you the percentage of viewers that reach the x-minute of a video
Can’t you get the (near) same result using images in chapter marks *and* provide actual benefit to users?
That despicable and gross. To think I supported @NPR never giving those sleaze balls another dime.
This is a big part of why I always listen to podcasts on @OvercastFM. In addition to being a great app, I know @marcoarment will never put any creepy stuff in it, and that helps keep podcasting creep-free for everyone.
Yes. I understand why huge podcast companies want more listener data, but there are zero advantages for listeners or app-makers. I won’t be supporting any listener-behavior tracking specs in Overcast. Podcasters get enough data from your IP address when you download episodes.
Clew-less on Twitter
“@marcoarment is the RAD thing NPR has announced the sort of thing you’ve said you don’t want in podcasting, ie. sneaky tracking stuff?”
Thanks for replying. And it’s great to hear that. The rest of the internet has been screwed over by too much tracking. These companies don’t need this data. Do they do this when advertising in a magazine? No. They just get distribution info. Why mess up podcasting then?
Most digital-first agencies won't place ads in magazines for exactly the reason you listed.
Because they can’t track? Ok. It would’ve been good reasons, when someone found that granularity could be passed on. But over time that’s been abused. Now we’re at the point where there’s the nuclear options of blocking all ads and tracking and retaliation blocking from sites.
Which is why we've also shifted significant budget to social vs traditional digital.
By the way, just to be clear, I’m not against advertising. I’m against creepy tracking and selling of people’s data. The way some podcasters do ad reads are brilliant. Innovative, funny, relevant to their audience. That’s good advertising. Generic ad insertion, isn’t.
That helps no one. Not the sites, not the users. We’re going to screw it up again, this time with podcasting. No lessons will be learnt. Advertising is but one way to make money, not that you’d know that if you read a lot of the garbage articles on how to make money podcasting.
I actually consult on content & podcasting, & worked at an agency that won the first ever iTunes award for branded podcasts, but hey - you're being a bit rude, so I'll exit this conversation. Good luck.
Apologies, i did not realise I was being rude. Oh crap, that “you’d” should have been “one” or “we’d”. It was not directed at you specifically. Sorry.
No worries - glad to know I misread it! Good convo.
Thank you for accepting my apology! I need to learn to type slower and THINK a bit more. 🤦‍♂️
Don't worry, same - even my response was too harsh. Cheers!
hey man, the watch app doesn't read with voiceover on. Just thought I'd let you know.
Hardly surprising to see Google in the list of companies supporting it....
Thank you! I just subscribed to premium because of your stance. Happy to pay for good work.
How will it not help podcasts from those publishes become better? (which directly helps app makers and listeners)
Minority opinion (?): I _want_ podcasters to know when I downloaded a podcast but didn't bother listening to it. With info like that maybe they can make better podcasts.
You could always write the authors.
Where can I read more about this?
curious for your take as a digital media buyer.
Most will "pixel" once someone lands on their landing pages. But, the data that media buyers are given regarding specific podcasts is not great, never has. It would be nice to find out what brands people engage w/before dropping $100k on a podcast.
Do you use Amazon or Google?
Luckily, this doesn't threaten the distributed nature of podcast publishing. I think it will be vital for app-makers to disclose (as you have) whether their apps report back to those analytics servers.
I'm not sure whether listeners are likely to object to this kind of analytics collection. YouTube collects very detailed information regarding which parts of a video people watch, and there hasn't been widespread outcry over it.
Y'all prob know, but Apple & Spotify both provide anonymized/aggregated listening data. IMO it's helpful for any size podcaster who monetizes via sponsorships. Obviously Overcast can do w/e it wants here (decentralization is great!), but I wouldn't discount the value to creators.
Now that Marco has quote-retweeted this tweet, can't wait to see the Twitter analytics for it! 😉
I bet different demographics use podcasts and YouTube though. And really, once do you have if you want to watch something?
Can you reword that question?
Shame overcast not available on android.... Yet... Until flutter takes hold maybe 😉
This @npr_rad sounds creepy. Is it even GDPR compliant I wonder?
I’d be ok if you told them I deleted an episode before finishing. Sends a message. 😁
Thank you for this stance. There is too much tracking in the world already. If nothing else, tracking URLs use up data that I pay for. And you know that some idiot publisher is going to release podcasts that track listeners down to the second.
Which reminds me, I need to remove those podcasts I skip more often than not from my list.
You don’t think any of this data could improve a podcast for the benefit of the listeners?
Speaking of which, will Overcast feature some form of IP obfuscation (please?) I've listened to a whole bunch of DAI recently, super creepy and not enjoyable at all. Makes me feel like race-to-bottom style ruination of many podcasts may be imminent.
Can you just make it stop crashing, which it does on a daily basis on my iPhone X running the latest iOS?
Please make an Android version
Disagree. There's plenty of value for all creators. And apps. Listeners not as much, but I would say their favorite creators benefiting from greater data would be a positive for many listeners.
But what about creators? You don't have to be a huge podcast network to want a better sense of what your listeners are engaging with. Independent podcast producers are guessing what works without data. It's not just about ads.
But then the listeners will hate you and resent your ads and start blocking the privacy violating data.
But putting ads aside - my shows don't have ads (yet) - but I still want to know things like - how long does one listen to the show? How long after it's downloaded to they play it? Do they listen for 10 seconds and move on? That's valuable data that has nothing to do with ads.
Besides having the best designed podcasting app out there, THIS. This is the reason I will stick with Overcast over everything else. Thank you Marco!
Just love you, and love Overcast. Money well spent. Thanks!
... time for a blogpost to compare different podcast apps and their privacy behaviors
I'm not happy with this attitude at all. Podcast apps need more analytics. Like YouTube shows number of plays of every video. Having that for Podcasts is 100% doable but bad attitudes like this keep us from getting nice things.
To be clear I'm not saying you need to add RAD, I'm just voicing my opinion that more analytics help listeners, makers, and app makers.
We fundamentally disagree on that assumption. I don’t believe anyone has provided ample, compelling evidence that podcasting needs more analytics, nor have they provided any credible assurances that such analytics wouldn’t do more harm than good in the long run.
<tangent> Thank you for providing and example of civil disagreement and discourse online. It’s refreshing to see.</tangent>
Jack, I am going to send you something in DM. Maybe we can build a platform from scratch that will have innovative ways to draw in traffic the other platforms have not figured out yet? (Plus address your other points too).
Zero advantages? Podcasts are an immature medium that rely on limited advertising spend precisely because the reporting metrics for publishers and advertisers are so limited. If it benefits the publisher, it benefits the listener - better content that is monetarily sustainable.
If that were true, podcasts with sponsor-relevant audience sizes would widely be having trouble selling their inventory at high CPMs or selling it at all. Or most advertisers wouldn’t be repeat buyers because they weren’t seeing returns. But none of that is happening.
That's an entirely specious argument based on arguing for the status quo, not growth. The value of advertising is directly related to the data about the audience. TV and radio advertising grew exponentially because of tracking methodology (Nielsen et al).
I mean, this is incredibly obvious if you think about what an advertiser wants. You're just making a pointless stand against it because of the orwellian-esque ad tracking the majors (Google & Facebook) do, but this is a non-proprietary standard that costs nothing and...
benefits producers and consumers by maturing the medium beyond the technical limitations/stagnation caused by RSS feed distribution.
Again, you’re making claims based on the assumptions that the current model is insufficient and/or harmful to producers today, and that more tracking is both assumed to be forward progress and would bring zero downsides, none of which is actually true.
You're putting words in my mouth. I did not say "zero downsides". I am just articulating a basic truth of media production and monetization, which are choosing to engage with in a semi-combative manner. I mean, don't you think actual playback data would be useful for a producer??
In the long run, no. Let’s look at the web, the best and most recent example of a mass-market, highly diverse, mature, fully-analytics-capable medium. How did that turn out for all sides involved? Is web publishing a healthy business while minimizing consumer/privacy abuse?
And that was my pushback against your criticism in the first place. This is not a closed analytics platform controlled by the majors (Goog/FB). It's an open standard. Again, I'm not arguing it has 0 downsides, but it's also an inevitability for maturation of the medium.
Marco doesn't have an argument here and he knows it. He's just being an arrogant ass. Ad supported ecosystem is a natural habitat for the podcast medium. Period, end of story. Stopped using Overcast long ago and I hope serious producers flee their platform.
1/4 Not having analytics just further splits the ecosystem between hobbyists who don’t need it and large publishers who can devote resources to measurement and monetization in other ways.
2/4 Lost is a whole range of podcasts--like the ones I produce for a non-profit—who are not trying to monetize, but who nonetheless must demonstrate some ROI to justify investing org resources on it. Usually this means be able to show you’re reaching a target audience.
3/4 For a couple of my podcasts, there’s enough twitter buzz to justify it anecdotally. But for another, which has ~500 subscribers, I have no idea who is listening. Can ask directly, but unlikely to be useful. Show’s likely going to get axed as a result.
4/4 Analytics helps measure value creation for a niche/non-monetized podcast. Preventing better analytics is reinforcing monetization as the best objective measure of success.