Podcast analytics is one of the most contentious topics among content professionals right now. Unlike other types of online content, which often can support exhaustive (if not downright creepy) levels of audience reporting, podcast audience measurement is still pretty much at the “read the tea leaves” stage of development.
On websites, we can easily know how many people reach a specific page, how far down that page they read, and what they’re doing when they get there. Right now, we have to take a leap of faith that the number of downloads reported by a podcast’s hosting platform roughly translates to a reliable audience number.
In some ways, that’s good. A lack of definitive analytics across podcast listening platforms means we haven’t seen the over-optimization that crushed creativity among bloggers and website publishers. Advertisers treat podcasters more like traditional radio broadcasters, who’ve always operated with a bit of wiggle room when it comes to disclosing audience numbers.
There’s a hunger, most often expressed by large advertisers and by major audio production networks, to cultivate the same programmatic approach to podcasts as we’ve seen with video and with text on the web. The team at Basecamp railed at this notion on a recent episode of their Rework podcast, even jumping ship to a new hosting platform when they discovered their previous hosts made open statements about new, aggressive sales and data collection tactics.
For most podcast producers, I’ve found that worrying about the exact size of your audience doesn’t solve for much. When you put that energy into developing great content, marketing your show to new listeners, and asking your existing audience for the right kind of feedback, the numbers end up falling into place.
Every good podcast hosting provider will tell you how many downloads each episode generates. Better hosting providers can estimate how many of those downloads came from unique listeners. There’s still a catch—some listening platforms will download and cache your audio to their servers, so a single “listen” reported to your audio server could represent dozens or even hundreds of networked listeners.
For now, regardless of where you fall on the privacy-vs.-creativity debate, the best thing you can do is watch your podcast’s overall trend lines. If your podcast downloads are steadily growing from month to month, it’s safe to say you’re gaining audience. If you’re successfully raising funds from merchandise sales or on Patreon, those numbers count even more toward validating your success.
Hop on a complimentary discovery session call with our team, and we’ll be happy to walk you through how we help measure success for our own podcasts and for those of our clients.