Podcast stats explainer


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Podcast stats explainer

What do all those numbers mean?

Podcast stats are the currency podcasters use to measure success. 

They’re also a way to get sponsors interested in your show so understanding what they are, how they work and which ones are most reliable is important.

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What are the stats inside your podcast host?

These are pulled from your RSS feed so wherever your show is played or downloaded it will register inside your podcast host.

The exception to this might be Spotify, which didn’t use to be included in podcast host stats but has now been incorporated into most of them (if not you’ll find them in your Spotify dashboard).

Looking at your podcast stats inside your host can be useful to see an aggregate of all the places your show is being listened to.

If you want more granular information about how people are interacting with your podcast including consumption data you can look inside the dashboards for individual directories like Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

It’s important to note podcast hosts measure things slightly differently although hosts who are “IAB v3 compliant” or “IAB v3 certified” are pretty comparable.

If those letters and numbers mean nothing to you, don’t worry.  You don’t have to dive too deep into what certification or compliance means (unless you want to).

Just know it’s best to go with a host that’s IAB certified otherwise your numbers could be overreported.

What is a podcast RSS feed?


Why don’t you want your podcast stats to be over-reported?

You might be thinking “The more downloads the better, right??”  But as the industry is becoming more standardised you’ll eventually feel the consequences if you’re with a podcast host that isn’t accurately reporting.

If you’ve told advertisers you’re pulling in a certain number of downloads then you shift to an IAB certified podcast host or your podcast host decides to adhere to the regulations (which they will have to if they want to compete) you might notice a drop in downloads. 

That can be, at best, a real blow to the ego and, at worst, a difficult conversation to have with advertisers as they realise they’ve been paying money for downloads that didn’t exist.

What happens when you change podcast hosts?


Is the ‘podcast subscribers’ statistic accurate?

As podcasters we spend half our lives asking people to ‘subscribe’ and despite this, at the moment, it’s hard to work out exactly how many subscribers your podcast has.

You might have seen the number inside your podcast host but it’s a bit of a guesstimate, so much so that some hosts like Whooshkaa don’t even bother reporting it.

Because each directory interacts with your RSS feed slightly differently there’s, at the moment, no standard for registering a subscriber.

Even inside the specific podcast directory dashboards, it’s not always accurate so at the moment the main number to focus on is downloads.

How do your download numbers compare to other podcasts?


Is the ‘unique podcast listeners’ statistic accurate?

This number will sometimes be referred to in the back end of your podcast host as ‘unique listeners’ or ‘total listeners.’  

This number isn’t 100% accurate but podcast hosts are getting better at triangulating the data based off IP addresses and user agents.

Despite that, the limitation of this number is if you start listening to a podcast on your home wifi, jump on the train and start pinging off cell towers then finish off the ep when you get to the office, you might register as multiple users.

Again, podcast hosts are trying their best to work out ways to prevent this kind of duplication and they’re getting better and better.

How do you grow your podcast audience?


What’s the difference between a play and a download?

Some podcast apps only download or stream the audio of your episode if a listener presses the play button.  Others automatically download each new episode whether it gets played or not.

At the moment, most podcast hosts register these two things as the same thing (IAB compliant hosts will only count the ‘play’ if 60 seconds of the file was played/downloaded).

Obviously, this means there are limitations to this measurement because some people don’t listen to every episode that’s been downloaded onto their phone.

So while it might be counted there’s always a chance the content may not have been listened to.

How to choose the right player for your podcast


So where does that leave us?

Podcast stats aren’t perfect but as the industry grows and there’s greater demand for measurability the tech is only going to get better.

It’s already light years ahead of where it was and accurate measurement is a real badge of professionalism for podcast hosts so there’s incentive for them to continue to invest and get it right.

Because we’re all working off roughly the same measuring system (if your host is IAB compliant) we can compare shows.  But the most useful way to use your podcast data is for making comparisons within your own show.

Look at your listening and audience trends over time, watch how your podcast is growing and pay attention to the podcast apps where you’re getting the most downloads.

Also, look into the stats in individual podcast directory dashboards to get a better understanding of how people are interacting with your content in those places.

Looking at all that data together and watching the changes in your show over time can help you make much more informed decisions.

Just make sure you start out with a podcast host that takes measurement seriously because you want your data to be measured as accurately as possible from day one so there’s no nasty surprises.

If you want to dive even deeper into podcast analytics, check out this article on Podnews.

Got a burning question you’d like answered on the podcast? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

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Discover all the tools and tech you need to get your podcast started. Plus get access to my weekly podcasting tips delivered straight to your inbox!