How Do Podcasters Recapture The Ones That Got Away?
Not everyone who listens to your podcast is going to like your podcast. In fact, most people who listen won't like your podcast. At least not enough to ever download another episode. How can we use that reality to our advantage?
You are one of the thousands of unique individuals who have downloaded an episode of Podcast Pontifications since I moved over to Captivate.fm earlier in the year.
(No, this is not a commercial for Captivate. Yes, I am on their advisory board.)
Not that I’m bragging about the size of my audience. My audience is tiny. And that's okay. This is a niche podcast designed for a very small segment of the population -- working podcasters like yourself. So I don't have any delusions of someday seeing tens of thousands or millions of downloads of episodes of this show. I'm fortunate to work on programs that do have much bigger audiences than my modest show, so I get my fix of seeing big numbers on a regular basis.
A note of caution before we begin: This was not the topic I had planned to cover on today’s episode. But my brain went on a tangent 15 minutes before showtime, and it’s kind of in control of what I do. So here we are, pontificating on the fly!
One of the cool features Captivate offers (I still promise this is not a commercial for Captivate.fm) is some insight into the number of unique individuals who have ever downloaded an episode of your podcast. Try not to get too wigged-out over how they arrive at the number and what that might mean for privacy. This is about numbers of unique people, not who those actual unique people are, OK?
It’s not a secret that some people will listen once to an episode of a podcast and never listen again. Better said, a lot of people will download an episode of a podcast once, never to download another episode or that podcast again. Harsher reality: They might never even listen to the file they downloaded.
What’s less clear is the scale at which that happens. Captivate exposes that data, and that data surprised me.
Unique Downloaders vs Unique Downloads
In a moment, I’m going to share with you the numbers of unique downloaders for my show. But I need you to understand that “unique downloaders” (which Captivate calls “unique listeners” even though they don’t have insight into actual listening behavior that can only be done on the listening device) is not the same as the number of unique downloads, either measured across episodes or for a specific episode.
Advertisers care about unique downloads of episodes where their ads appear. Podcast owners, showrunners, producers, or others who work on the program should care more about the total number of unique people the show reaches.
So even though the name is similar, unique downloads is different from unique downloaders. And it’s the latter I care most about and find most puzzling.
Getting To The Truth Of The Size Of My Audience
The numbers I’m sharing are actual, accurate numbers from my dashboard as they appeared at a little after 7:00a PT on July 29, 2020. Thes numbers are not indexed. I haven’t rounded up or done any of the other tricks to obfuscate reality or paint a better picture. Nope. You’re getting the unvarnished truth.
Today’s unique downloaders: 22
Unique downloaders today doesn't mean a lot to me. (And what does “today” mean? A rolling 24-hour block? Just the seven hours since my local midnight happened? The dozen or so hours since midnight local Captivate time (GMT +1)? I don’t know. And I don’t really care.) I suppose it might give me some insight into how many die-hard fans await new episodes with bated breath each day. But it’s probably too narrow of a window to make much of a difference to me. Or you. Still, I’m glad to see it. Moving on.
Yesterday’s unique downloaders: 148
This timeslice is a little more interesting. (Though I’m still not sure if it’s a rolling 24-hour window, or the actual 24 hours in yesterday, or was that my yesterday or the UK’s yesterday?) But problems with understanding parameters aside, what’s that telling me? It’s probably telling me the size of my “subscribers” or the dedicated people who grab an episode -- either automatically or intentionally -- the day it’s published. I assume this number in my dashboard on Sunday would probably look quite different when I haven’t released an episode in 3 days. Even though I produce a daily show, this is probably a too narrow timeslice for me to focus on.
Last 7-Days unique downloaders: 399
Here’s where things start to get interesting to me. A rolling 7-day window of my audience is probably a good candidate for a proxy to the size of my show’s audience. For me, it directionally lines up pretty well with my average 7-day downloads my episodes see, which is about half of that. I put out four episodes a week, which is a lot. My audience is busy, so it’s not surprising to me many of them queue up downloads of multiple episodes and binge.
This is the first viable candidate for a metric that answers the question: Is my show growing? I just wish I had a historical chart to examine so I could track change over time. Something for the suggestion box!
Last 28-Days unique downloaders: 755
Yeah, I think 28 days is a weird timeslice. But the math works when you’re tracking weekly. So think of this as “the last four weeks”. But I wish they’d do 30 days, as that’s more of a standard. Hey, I can only advise, right?
On the surface, this seems to be a better candidate than 7-Days for the proxy metric for audience size. It’s a big enough timeslice to get all the stragglers in there as well as a few opportunistic listeners. But it’s also starting to point out the problem implied in today’s topic: 755 different people downloaded at least one of my episodes in the last 28 days. Roughly speaking, one half of them didn’t keep downloading.
Is that the result of a deficiency on my part? Maybe. Let’s continue with the other metrics.
Last 90-Days unique downloaders: 1,667
Bear in mind that my show was on break for ~70 of those 90 days. So 2/3rds of those tracked were not downloading new episodes.
I’m not going to shout that my podcast’s audience is around 1,600 people. While I don’t doubt the number, I think a timeslice this wide captures a lot of noise. Captivate does an excellent job of scrubbing out bots and other bad actors from their stats. No, the noise I speak of has more to do with one-time downloads or other human interactions that resulted in a download that was never intended to be listened to. More on that in a moment, but first:
All-time unique downloaders: 3,134
Well if I wasn’t going to claim an audience of almost 1700, I’m sure not going to claim to have over three thousand listeners, now am I? Again, not that I doubt the data. But if the 90-Days number was noisy, we’re approaching near-complete signal loss for this timeslice. But it’s a big number, and podcasters like to see big numbers. (Nota bene: I moved to Captivate earlier in the year. So “all-time” for me is like 6 months.)
Searching For Meaning In The Numbers
Let’s rip the bandaid off: Thousands of people download this show, but I’m only converting around 10% of them to regular listenership.
Does that seem troubling to you? I think we podcasters often have this romantic notion that once someone listens to an episode of our show, they’ll likely stick around.
The numbers I shared above refute that. It’s entirely possible that I’m not meeting the needs of those who downloaded well enough to get most of them to return. I put out episodes four times a week. That’s a lot. I often dive deep into weighty, philosophical waters -- around podcasting, fer chrissakes! I’m not doing mic shootouts, offering can’t-miss marketing advice, or giving 101-level how-to-get-started-podcasting advice. I know I lose a lot because there’s a mismatch in what they need (at least right now) and what I’m offering.
Another way to look at it that 10% conversion number is… well, as a conversion number. And a 10% conversion rate is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it’s pretty fantastic. Marketing is weird!
Tomorrow I’m going to talk more about meeting audience expectations (as opposed to just your expectation, podcaster). So it’s good my brain went rogue so I could flesh this out first. It’ll be instrumental in tomorrow’s episode.
“So How Do We Recapture The Listeners Who Got Away, Evo?”
Yeah, I don’t know. Sorry, but I don't really have an answer, beyond questioning the entire premise. Did you ever have them to begin with? A download isn’t a listen, and even a listen isn’t guaranteed that they’ll become a regular listener.
As a reminder: BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra now has special perks for members. So if you’ve previously supported with a one-time purchase of a virtual coffee; thank you. Consider making that recurring via the membership portion and you’ll have access to some perks.
Finally, and perhaps a way to help recapture some of my lost audience, I ask you again to ask one other podcaster today, “Hey, do you listen to Podcast Pontifications?” That'd be awesome.
I’ll be back tomorrow for yet another Podcast Pontifications.