Podcasts Stats: What We Know (A Follow-Up)
August 23, 2016
Photo credit: Dan Taylor-Watt via Flickr
In July, I posted a piece about how much we don't know about podcast stats. Today I wanted to write about the iTunes podcast chart: because it isn't a chart, and not nearly enough people know that. But before I do, a few points from the last time I wrote about this.
As a result of my earlier piece, Blubrry outlined to me how they get some data: by watching the servers for partial requests, which means that a listener is streaming a podcast rather than downloading it (something they call an 'active play'). This gives them quite a bit of data about how much of a podcast people listen to - and where they skip - and is a useful sample of the full audience behavior.
Omny have since announced that they have magic that somehow gets data from 30% of plays within Apple's podcast app. It offers "approximate understanding of verified plays, skip and drop-off points from a previously untrackable sample of Apple Podcast listeners." I suspect there's some relationship between what Blubrry does and what Omny are doing.
And so to the iTunes Podcast Chart. Please, can we stop calling it a chart? Because it isn't a chart. Let's call it the iTunes Podcast Number Thing.
The fundamental thing is: it doesn't measure downloads. That's what I mean when I say that it isn't a chart. The podcast that's #1 is not the podcast that has the most amount of downloads.
The iTunes Podcast Number Thing is there to help people discover new podcasts. So it doesn't measure downloads (since it would be really hard to change the chart). Instead, it measures the number of new, unique, subscribers that a podcast has had, averaged out over a few days.
That's why it's constantly changing - because it's designed to. And why, if you find your position in the iTunes Podcast Number Thing going down, as it inevitably will, it's nothing to do with the amount of downloads your podcast has or your popularity as a podcaster - it's merely that the amount of new, unique, subscribers for your podcast that week has decreased. So, promote it more.
Radio talent, especially, thrives on numbers: because we want to be liked, and how better to know you're liked than numbers of followers on Twitter (11,500, since you asked), or an appearance on another kind of chart: like the iTunes Podcast Number Thing. But this one has nothing to do with consumption or audience or anything.
The iTunes Podcast Number Thing is only an indication on how good you are at driving new subscribers to iTunes. If it is a chart, it just lists the best marketers in the business: which is why we in radio have an unfair advantage in that we have a recognized brand, and hundreds of thousands of listeners every day who we can market a new podcast to.
The real numbers you should be pushing for are total podcast downloads. Go hunt those down. And ignore the iTunes Podcast Chart. Because it's not a chart.