A recently launched podcast analytics company is debuting its newest product today: trackable URLs that will let creators know how listeners found a podcast and whether the marketing message that got them there was effective. The tool, called SmartLinks, comes from Chartable, and it emphasizes just how much work needs to be done to make podcasts as trackable as the rest of the web.
Right now, podcast marketing often involves sharing links to a show, whether that means Instagram, Facebook, newsletters, or another podcast’s show notes. It’s easy to track whether someone clicked those links. What’s more difficult is telling whether someone actually pressed play on an episode once they clicked through. Right now, that information isn’t widely available, but Chartable’s new product should open it up to a lot more podcasters.
SmartLinks pair a custom URL with a cookie to track social media users when they click on a podcast link. Chartable collects each person’s IP address and then cross-references it with the IP addresses of a show’s listeners. That’ll let marketers know how effective their message was and where listeners are learning about shows. These custom links can be set with specific rules, like whether to direct all iPhone listeners to Apple Podcasts or whether to allow listeners to choose their app of choice.
Chartable co-founder and CEO Dave Zohrob says that listener information should be reflected within an hour of a user downloading the episode. He notes that the IP address checks aren’t perfect — imagine a space like an office where multiple people have the same address — but that it’s “better than what’s available” right now, which isn’t much. Other companies have tried to solve the problem of linking to a show that lives across multiple platforms, but those solutions haven’t tried to track how many people became listeners.
The tool’s been in beta with a few dozen partners, including The Verge’s parent company Vox Media, over the past month and a half, and Zohrob says the feedback’s been positive. “It does what we said it would do,” he says, so the company’s already focusing on the next iteration. “The stuff that we’re working on now is if I buy ads with this [tool], how can I optimize the ads?” he asks. So if a marketer has two versions of an ad for a podcast, Chartable would like to help that marketer figure out which ad brings in more listeners.
For SmartLinks to fully work, podcasters have to integrate Chartable into their RSS feed, and Zohrob says more than 1,000 creators have already done so. Chartable offers core features for free, including SmartLinks, but certain pro features, like URLs that use custom domains, require a pro subscription that costs $100 a month.
Chartable also announced today that it’s raised $1.5 million in seed funding, which it plans to use to continue to expand. Zohrob says the team is looking toward “building our audio promotional marketplace,” or helping podcasters reach potential listeners on other podcasts while also providing analytics and attribution for how those ads perform.
The podcast industry overall has seen a wave of investment recently, most prominently led by Spotify, which has said it plans to invest $500 million in the space this year. Other podcast startups, like Luminary and Himalaya, have each received $100 million in funding. The industry brought in $314 million in revenue in 2017 and is expected to grow to $1.6 billion by 2022, according to an Interactive Advertising Bureau / PwC report. Part of that maturation involves improving and formalizing ad products that allow for better, more reliable ad tracking, and Chartable’s effort clearly speaks to that movement.