Steve Mulder

Senior Director of Audience Insights

Steve Mulder is Senior Director of Audience Insights at NPR, where he spearheads digital analytics and insights across the organization, ensuring that NPR and public radio stations have a comprehensive understanding of audience across all digital platforms. As part of NPR Digital Services, he launched an Analytics Service for stations that provides tailor-made measurement, reporting, and insights for the public radio system. 

In his previous life, Steve worked with organizations such as Nokia, Fidelity, Samsung, 3M, and TripAdvisor on their digital strategy, user experience, and design. He is a regular speaker at web conferences and the author of The User Is Always Right: A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas for the Web. 

Ways to Connect

In an average week, 2.4 million people listen to public radio via NPR stations' live digital streams. Even though that number had been growing steadily over the years, it plateaued in 2014-2015, making us all wonder whether big growth in digital listening was only going to be about podcasts from now on.

In the fall, when we did our last semi-annual PubMetrics presentation, the news about public radio live streaming wasn't great. After years of steady growth, we saw streaming cume and total listening hours level off.

2016 looks very different. Total listening hours are growing again, up 14% year on year for Q1 when we look at a broad range of 240 station streams. Cume is up 8%. More people are listening, and listening time per session also ticked up in Q1.

What's happening on your website right this second? How many people are there and what are they doing? Are there things you should know right now that could inform what stories you publish or where you invest more time?

By now you may have heard the news about an exciting collaboration amongst public media partners to develop new guidelines for tracking podcast audience metrics. Below is a bit of background information, details on how the new guidelines are being incorporated into the on-demand audio dashboards in the NPR DS Station Analytics System, and what the change may mean for your own podcasting stats.

New Public Radio Podcast Measurement Guidelines

Twice a year we step back and look at the overall digital trends in public media. In last year's PubMetrics presentations, the news about live streaming was mostly positive: While cume wasn't growing, our existing audience was listening more often, so listening time overall was still on the rise.

We all have access to useful metrics on our sites and our live streams. But on-demand audio created by stations - including audio segments, archived programs, and podcasts - has been a black hole. Not anymore.

It's that time of year again, when the DS Analytics Service takes a broad view of public media and finds the big trends everyone should know about. I have good news and I have bad news: Looking across the entire system, our station streaming is growing, but our audience isn't.

From the start, the local/national partnership that is NPR One has been about experimentation and learning based on data. So we're delighted to announce the launch of a new dashboard that provides each station with data on how its audience is using this new platform, so we can all learn together.

The new dashboard, part of the Station Analytics System, is focused on answering three key questions:

Last month during our semi-annual PubMetrics presentation (video and slides are available), the most notable digital trend we shared concerned live streaming. When we look at the performance of 179 station streams across the country, we see a bit of good news and a bit of bad news.

Eric Bennett/Flickr

We all know that digital listening is on the rise. But exactly how much listening is now streaming vs broadcast, and how can you track this over time for your station?

To find out, you need to compare broadcast numbers from Nielsen Audio (formerly Arbitron) to streaming numbers from Triton Webcast Metrics. But sadly, these two sources measure things a bit differently, and there are details you need to know in order to compare them accurately.

The Infinite Dial is an annual survey of consumer media usage conducted by Edison Research and sponsored by Triton Digital. It's full of important trends and statistics on listener behaviors that matter to public media. Here are a few highlights:

Looking at analytics data can sometimes feel like watching one Olympic bobsled run: In isolation, you have no idea if what you're looking at is good or bad. Context is everything.

For web metrics, we can look at our data over time, which gives it context and meaning. We can also look at our station numbers compared to other public media stations like us using the Station Analytics System. Comparisons can turn data into actionable insights.

So how do we compare our stations against the most important digital competition we have: the websites of local newspapers, TV stations, other nearby radio stations, local music sites, and so on?

Did you know that approximately 9% of all public radio streaming is happening using TuneIn, one of the biggest audio aggregators? And that TuneIn is seeing faster streaming growth than most public radio stations are seeing on their own websites?

These are the somewhat surprising discoveries made recently as we analyzed metrics on hundreds of public radio streams available in TuneIn.

The Era of Digital Transformation is upon us. Listening is moving online, and more and more of our audience connects with us through computers, tablets, and phones instead of radio. One of the great things about digital is that we have so much more data at our fingertips than ever before. We can measure every listening moment, every story read, every link clicked, every point of interaction.

We're excited to announce the launch of new digital metrics dashboards for stations, with critical data on your site and your streams. Station Analytics presents key metrics on your station's audience growth and engagement - plus the ability to compare your numbers to other stations like you.

 

We're excited to announce the launch of a new Digital Services offering: Station Analytics. Its purpose is to provide stations the best business intelligence on your site and your streams, so you can measure your digital performance, benchmark your progress against other stations, and discover insights that support your decision making for all things digital.

 

The Station Analytics system provides:

When Digital Services embarked on our quest to create a mobile web experience for stations, we had a simple theory: If we optimize the user experience for small screens by focusing on what our mobile audience needs most, we should see mobile engagement increase. (Read about why we focused on mobile web.)

With a few dozen stations now using our new mobile web product, the initial results are in: Engagement with stories is up and the amount of listening is skyrocketing.

Streaming via the mobile site has more than tripled. That's the biggest headline when we look at data from 20 of the stations that have been using the new mobile web experience.

We've always known that public radio is a force to be reckoned with over the airwaves. Now it's becoming clear to everyone that we are a major player in online streaming as well.

Every month, Triton Digital releases its Top 20 Ranker, which is an MRC-accredited list of the top-performing Internet audio stations and networks in the US as measured by its webcast metrics service. We're happy to announce that NPR member stations appear as #19 for June, with over 7,000 average active sessions across 88 stations being tracked. (View the entire list.) This is a big deal, because the Triton Top 20 Ranker is like the New York Times Best Seller List of Internet audio.

Flickr: 401K

I'm guessing that headline got your attention. Many stations have an informational web page that explains all the ways people can support your station. Our testing shows that you'll bring in more revenue during pledge drives if you skip over this support landing page and send users directly to the pledge form. And we have the data to show it.

The idea for this particular test came out of a proven rule of thumb from the for-profit world: If you're trying to get users to give you money, fewer steps in the process translates into a higher conversion rate. The fewer pages in the funnel, the more people end up finishing.

We wanted real data on whether this truth applies to our online pledge funnels as well. So we ran an A/B test to find out.

We all want our stations to become as powerful online as they are on air. The hard part is figuring out how - and being able to measure progress. That's where business intelligence comes in.

What do I mean by business intelligence? In a nutshell, it's data and insights that help you answer key questions:

  • Who exactly is my digital audience?
  • What do they want?
  • What are they doing online?
  • Is my audience growing and engaged with my content?
  • What's working (or not working) online?

DATE CHANGE! Due to a death in the family, we must postpone the June 14, 2012 webinar. Join us on Thursday, June 28 at 2 p.m. ET for a webinar tour through everything that Digital Services offers to stations around business intelligence

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