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Are Podcast Downloads Overstating Listener Numbers?

By Tom Seest

Are Podcast Downloads the Same As Listeners?

At PodcastBig, we help new podcasters develop strategies to create content, traffic, and revenue from podcasts based on our experiences and experimentation.

Podcast downloads provide one means of measuring popularity; however, unique listeners offer more accurate indicators of audience engagement and loyalty.
Podcasting is long-form content that requires dedication from its listeners, so comparing its audience sizes with YouTube views or social media followers would be meaningless.

Are Podcast Downloads the Same As Listeners?

Are Podcast Downloads the Same As Listeners?

Are Podcast Downloads Really Representing Actual Listeners?

Podcast download numbers give listeners an indication of an episode’s general reception; however, these metrics only reveal part of the picture; in order for your show to truly succeed it must fulfill other criteria like unique listeners, engagement and loyalty.
First and foremost, any podcast must provide value to its listeners. This involves both content and audio quality considerations. High-quality podcasts will retain their dedicated audiences while drawing in new ones; to maintain this standard it is important for producers to continue refining their skills and equipment; furthermore listeners must be able to easily follow along.
Podcast listeners frequently judge the popularity of a podcast by its listenership numbers, yet these may be deceiving if not measured accurately. When measuring listenership statistics accurately there are two major metrics: downloads and unique listeners. Downloads measure only how often an episode has been downloaded while unique listeners measure unique listeners who have actually listened.
Unique listeners are identified by an IP address assigned to a listening app, providing more accurate and reliable measurements of audience segments as well as engagement.
Though measurement may seem complicated, it is possible to assess podcast listenership using third-party tools and podcast databases. But only its creators and hosting platform know the true numbers behind each show’s listenership; other podcast apps may miscount downloads due to dynamic ads or miscount downloads differently. Apple Podcast Analytics could count downloads incorrectly for some shows while not others due to dynamically inserted ads causing inaccurate counts.
Without access to advanced statistics and paying a premium fee for access, it can be hard to obtain precise numbers about your podcast downloads. Only your hosting platform knows the true numbers; even then they usually keep mum about them.

Are Podcast Downloads Really Representing Actual Listeners?

Are Podcast Downloads Really Representing Actual Listeners?

Do Downloads Translate to Engaged Listeners?

When someone listens to a podcast episode they haven’t downloaded, they are hearing a stream. Likewise, people using streaming devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home and listening directly through them are known as unique listeners – this highlights why having your podcast distributed across as many platforms is crucial for its success.
Ausha, as a podcast hosting platform, collects all the listening data from all your distributors and makes it accessible through their analytics dashboard. While downloads provide an indicator of popularity for your show, unique listeners provide more in-depth data about your audience and their commitment to your content.
Definitions of download can differ between podcast hosts, platforms and devices – something Apple Podcasts only reports downloads occurring through their app; other services like Spotify will report streams instead – creating some confusion when looking at podcast statistics; some episodes may appear to have more downloads than they actually have.
Furthermore, podcast downloads may vary based on factors like listener device and usage habits – for instance if someone listens to five minutes of a 60-minute episode before closing their player, the download may be interrupted; when they return the next day and resume their podcast session they may hear just a preroll and not the full episode; this counts as two downloads (albeit one being an impression).
Even though differences between podcasters’ audiences and yours may appear, this should not be taken as evidence that you can’t expand them; rather, this suggests the need to produce engaging podcasts to reach as wide a demographic as possible.
Podcast listeners tend to be young, wealthy, and educated – making attracting them a challenge that shouldn’t be taken lightly in your quest to increase download numbers. Keep in mind, however, that comparing your download numbers with that of another is like comparing an area in your house to that of the Amazon rainforest!

Do Downloads Translate to Engaged Listeners?

Do Downloads Translate to Engaged Listeners?

What Drives Listener Engagement?

Downloaded podcasts can be enjoyed across any device with access to their app. Podcasters use download counts as an indicator that people are listening even when they don’t actively use their app – yet this number doesn’t tell them much more about their audience than that – for instance it doesn’t provide details such as how often or for how long episodes were watched or even their length.
Unique listeners provide podcasters with an accurate measure of their audience since listeners counted each time an episode is heard rather than counting re-listens as unique listeners. Unfortunately, gathering such data requires collecting it from platforms before aggregating it for the podcast host to view. But as its name implies, unique listeners is sometimes harder to compile but often provides more reliable data about listening patterns over time than simply counting viewers who rewatch episodes over and over again.
Unique listener numbers tend to be more variable than download numbers due to how different podcast players handle download sessions; some download sessions may be interrupted and result in discrepancies between download and unique listener figures. Furthermore, some podcast episodes run for over an hour at once, meaning that it may be consumed throughout a day at different points in time.
Additionally, many podcast listening platforms such as Spotify and Gaana cache podcasts (download them onto their own servers), making the situation even more complicated for podcast hosts as listener plays may go undetected by these services.
While podcast listener tracking may be complex, most podcasters still put considerable stock in downloads as an indicator of success. After all, your primary objective should be engaging as many listeners with your content and creating enjoyable listening experiences for them.
One effective strategy to do so is by producing high-quality podcasts that provide insightful information and entertainment for listeners, which will earn dedicated followers while increasing downloads over time.

What Drives Listener Engagement?

What Drives Listener Engagement?

How do we measure engagement with podcasts?

Downloads may provide an indication of engagement, but they only tell part of the story. Listeners who listen on digital media players without downloading it still engage with your show, which is why it’s crucial to track listener reach through other metrics like unique listeners and average listening time.
As podcasting becomes more and more popular, it can be easy to become bogged down in numbers game of downloading episodes or shows, rather than targeting specific audiences. But this approach could result in you not reaching out enough directly to target demographics; remembering podcasts are long form content which takes more effort for someone to engage with than short form media does makes finding niche niche audiences much more successful than targeting mass market demographics.
If you want to expand your audience, it can be helpful to consider what other types of content will interest them. Producing videos, blog posts and social media posts relating to your podcast could drive more traffic and engagement with it.
At the same time, offering a free trial of your podcast can help potential listeners explore its contents before making up their minds on subscribing. This could increase subscriber numbers and improve your chances of achieving downloads and unique listeners goals more easily.
At the end of the day, only you and your hosting platform know exactly how many podcast downloads have taken place. They collect this data from listener platforms that distribute your show, then compile and present it all in an accessible dashboard when you sign into your account.
Podcasting is an evolving industry with great potential to provide consumers with valuable services. To measure its success and make informed decisions regarding potential improvements, understanding podcast metrics is vitally important.

How do we measure engagement with podcasts?

How do we measure engagement with podcasts?

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