Just had a conversation with Michael Lanz, the analyst on the podcast survey by Nielsen/NetRatings whose findings were released yesterday. He said that while the firm's news release said more than 9 million audio and 5 million "podcasts" were downloaded, well -- maybe they weren't all podcasts.
The question that was asked about downloading included music files as an option. Lanz said, "depending on how narrowly people interpreted the question about 'podcasting,' there are some music downloads there, too."
Few people would argue that music downloads are more popular than podcasts ... so, 9 million people downloading podcasts over the last 30 days? Ehhh ... maybe not.
Nielsen/NetRatings concedes its news release about podcasts was not accurate.
"Podcasting Gains an Important Foothold Among U.S. Adult Online Population" was the headline. "Nielsen//NetRatings, a global leader in Internet media and market research, announced that 6.6 percent of the U.S. adult online population, or 9.2 million Web users, have recently downloaded an audio podcast; 4.0 percent, or 5.6 million Web users, have recently downloaded a video podcast," the news release said .
Then it got foggy. "Podcasters Most Likely to Be Young, Apple Fans," said the subhead. A chart reporting the number of audio and video downloads during the past 30 days was headed "Market Size Estimation of Audio and Video Podcasters."
I called the Nielsen p.r. people, and left a message for Michael Lanz, the analyst quoted in the news release. A few hours later (!), a Nielsen spokeswoman said that, yes, where the release said "podcaster" it really meant "podcasts" - which is a big difference.
Marianne Richmond, Jon Watson ("Nielsen nonsense") , and Bob Scoble ("Lame beyond belief") all caught the "confusion" and lambasted the researchers. "So what does downloading a podcast have to do with publishing a blog?," asked Richmond.
Fun as it may be to attack the messenger, there's a bigger issue here.
When firms like Nielsen/NetRatings and Forrester Research pay attention to podcasts, that's good. By studying podcasting they're saying, "There's interest here. People willing to pay for our reports want to know what's going on."
It's bad, though, when the researchers get tangled up and misuse podcast and podcaster. Ignorance? Haste-made-waste? The summer interns did it?
For all the money the clients pay, they have a right to expect accuracy. Doesn't Nielsen/NetRatings have a podcaster in the house? They should.
(Update: And since 'music' files are in the reported number, can we hope the next survey will be more specific to music tracks, video podcasts, and audio podcasts?)