Understanding Podcast Stats: Q&A with Libsyn’s VP of Podcaster Relations Rob Walch
September 30, 2015
A few weeks ago, I started publishing backstage conversations that I recorded at the 2015 Worldwide Radio Summit as a podcast series. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, in Stitcher, in AudioBoom, or by RSS.
One of my goals is to use this series to show radio broadcasters how they can enter the world of podcasting. This week, we’re going to discuss podcast statistics. How do you measure podcast listening?
I asked Rob Walch, Vice President of Podcaster Relations for Libsyn, the world’s largest podcast network, to give me some insight.
1. For radio broadcasters, the key stats are the number of listening occasions (the number of times that people tune in) and the average amount of time spent listening. Are there equivalents in podcasting?
Yes and no. In podcasting, you get the download number; this is the total number of times a file is requested for download or progressive streaming. If your podcast host is doing its job, it will filter this number to remove duplicate requests and byte range requests. This is something that not all webhosts and podcast hosts do well.
As for time spent listening, there is no real accurate way to get that information, because about 70% of all consumption happens in either iTunes or Apple’s Podcasts app. Another 10% of listening happens in other podcast aggregator apps, and none of them report back any information about how much of an episode was played. Given Apple’s philosophy with regards to the privacy of their users, they will probably never report that information.
2. What are the other key stats podcasters should be looking at?
The user agent information and the geographic breakdown are two key metrics that podcast producers should be looking at. With the user agent information, you want to make sure your downloads are coming from good core user agents such at AppleCoreMedia (Apple’s Podcasts app), iTunes, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocketcasts and other aggregators that show you have an engaged and subscribed audience.
You want to monitor your geographic breakdown so you know where your audience is located; that will be important for many advertisers.
3. So...how are my numbers? There don't seem to be public numbers for podcasters to benchmark themselves against. How do we know if we're doing well?
On Libsyn’s own podcast The Feed (released every other week), we go over numbers for shows hosting with us to give people a sense of the bigger picture. Typically, the median number of downloads for an episode that has been live for 30 to 60 days is around 160. In other words, half of all podcast episodes released are downloaded more than that and half are downloaded less than that. So your show is already doing better than over 50% of the podcasts out there. Congrats!
4. What kind of numbers do podcasters need to hit before a podcast attracts interest from advertisers?
Most of the advertisers we work with want to see a show with at least 5,000 U.S. downloads within 30 days of release of an episode; this is especially true of advertisers placing demographic ad buys.
For advertisers placing psychographic ad buys, that number can go lower - down to 1,000 downloads or even fewer - depending on the specific psychographic they are looking to address.
5. How many podcasts actually reach that number?
Less than 10% of podcasts reach that 5,000 download number.
6. You work with a lot of podcasters at Libsyn. What are the most popular podcasters doing right?
They are providing content that provide value to their audience. Sometimes it’s entertainment value with comedy podcasts like Joe Rogan, Aisha Tyler, Christopher Titus, and others. Or if it is providing educational value like with Hardcore History, or Revolutions, or Grammar Girl. Sometimes they are just giving information about a niche that people are passionate about, like with the many Game of Thrones fancasts, technology podcasts like Today in iOS or Mac OS Ken, or fitness podcasts like Ben Greenfield's Fitness or Trail Runner Nation.
The beauty of podcasting is there is a show for every niche - and the ones that do best are the ones that offer value to those interested in that niche. They often connect with their audience and make them part of their show.
7. I saw you speak at NMX and Podcast Movement, and you debunked a lot of podcast myths in your presentations. What's the biggest podcasting myth that you'd like to dispel?
There are a few big ones - but the biggest is this myth of "Guaranteed Audience Growth: Just sign up for this paid webinar or course to grow your audience!" It is, to put it bluntly, pure BS. No one can guarantee audience growth. There is no magic bullet for audience growth. It is what it has always been: word-of-mouth marketing - and that does not happen unless you have really good content.
Rob Walch is the Vice President of Podcaster Relations for Libsyn. Prior to joining Libsyn in 2007, he was President and founder of podCast411, Inc. Rob is the co-author of the book, Tricks of the Podcasting Masters, an editors’ pick as a "Top 10 Reference Book" for 2006 by Amazon.com. Rob was listed as the 5th most influential person in podcasting according to the book, Podcasting for Dummies. He has consulted on podcasting for Jack Welch, Senator John Edwards, Governor Bill Richardson, Noah Shanok (Stitcher), Tim Ferriss, and the Sacramento Kings/Monarchs. He is also a monthly columnist for Podertainment: The Podcast Magazine.