Podcasts stats: what we know (a follow-up) | radioinfo

Podcasts stats: what we know (a follow-up)

Sunday 28 August, 2016
Photo credit: Dan Taylor-Watt via Flickr

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

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 behaviour.

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 do 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.

Nick Quah from podcast newsletter Hot Pod asked a bunch of his readers how the iTunes Podcast Number Thing was calculated earlier this year. Here are the opinions he got back

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 is 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 recognised 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.


About The Author

James Cridland is a radio futurologist: a writer, speaker and consultant on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business across the world.

A former radio presenter, James has worked for stations and companies across the world, including the original Virgin Radio in London, the BBC, Futuri Media, Imagination Technologies and Seven Network. He has judged many industry awards, including the CBAA, ABC Local Radio, RAIN and the UK's ARIAS.

He writes for publications across the world, and runs media.info the worldwide media information website. He also runs a free weekly newsletter with news of radio's future.  

British by birth, James lives in Brisbane, QLD and is a fan of craft beer.


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