Spotify has made their podcast ranking charts available via a public webpage. It's the same ranking data provided in their app. But it no longer requires logging into Spotify to see the data. That’s yet another clear and bold proclamation by Spotify that they, not those other purple people, are the dominant force in podcasting.
Whether or not their proclamation is true matters not. Whether or not you, the working podcaster, believe Spotify is the leader in podcasting matters not. What matters to Spotify is that their users and the general public believe that to be true.
Should you play along, podcaster?
De-mystifying The Top Charts
No, I don’t have the actual algorithm Spotify—or anyone else—uses to calculate rankings. But Spotify—and everyone else—have given us some good guidance on how they build their rankings. See James Cridland’s excellent breakdown on how podcast charts work if you really want to nerd out.
Spotify tells us that a show’s follower count and user play activity are used in determining which podcasts and episodes appear on their refreshed-every-24-hours charts. Which makes sense. Shows with big audiences that get a lot of recent plays are exactly who should be there.
With some caveats. First, this is US-only data for now. Second, and most important, is that this only takes into consideration followers and plays inside of Spotify. Spotify has zero visibility into how other apps, directories, or services access your content. This is, unsurprisingly, a 100% Spotify-based determined list using 100% Spotify-only data.
Around 80 million of Spotify’s ~350 million users listen to podcasts, so it’s a very large sample size. Which is probably why the shows that appear Spotify’s charts are fairly in line with what Apple Podcasts shows on their charts. (Charts I can’t link to because Apple Podcasts only shows their charts to users of the Apple Podcasts app. Yet?)
Why Spotify Wants You To Push For A Top Podcast Ranking
Because their page is public, and because Spotify is really really good at tooting their own horn, it is very likely that shows that appear in Spotify’s podcast charts will get more attention from new listeners, which means more downloads and followers for that podcast. And everyone wants more listeners—especially on Spotify—so why not make the push?
Spotify is hoping (strongly suggesting might be more apt) you’ll spend considerable effort convincing as many people as you can to follow and listen to your show on Spotify. Net new listeners? Sure. But also existing listeners using other listening apps who’ll do you a solid and switch to whatever app gives you and your show the biggest boost.
Yeah. About that…
There’s an old saying in marketing of “Your strategy is showing”, and that’s the case here. Because the primary benefactor of Spotify’s top podcast chart is Spotify. Or any other app/service providing a public ranking that requires more usage of their app/service to determine those rankings.
Yes, the shows who make it to the top of Spotify’s podcast charts will likely reap plenty of rewards. But it’s the toil of the hundreds of thousands of podcasters who’ll never make the charts but still keep pushing who sowed that abundant harvest.
The Impending Arrival Of Podcasting’s Picks and Shovels Purveyors
(If you thought that farming metaphor was tortured, you’re going to love this one about mining for gold!)
I predict three quick actions to come on the heels of Spotify’s announcement.
1. Show ALL the charts!
I expect more (most? all?) apps, services, and directories to publicly display their own top rankings of podcasts built from usage stats from their platforms. Because why not? If they can peel off even a small slice of those podcasters who’ll never break into the Really Big Charts but have a solid chance of dominating the Little Pond Charts, it’s a win for them, finally getting podcasters to really make a promotional push on their behalf.
2. Chart-monitoring dashboards
These already exist, and possibly before the day is out, some of them will have already found a way to scrape Spotify’s public page and add the data to the rank-monitoring dashboards for their clients. And each time one of their client’s podcasts or episodes makes an appearance in Spotify’s charts, they’ll send an email and track the movement of that show or episode up or down. And their client podcasters will publicly proclaim “I broke into the charts!”, further helping Spotify in their mission of total podcasting domination.
3. “I get you ranked on Spotify’s Top Podcast Charts” spam in 3… 2...
I figure those start coming to me this weekend. That should be long enough for unscrupulous scammers who already have stacks of mobile phones with cheap data plans gaming Apple Podcasts’ charts to set up a plethora of free Spotify accounts. And then they’ll do the same thing, hitting follow and play for 12 hours a day to game these quite-easily-gamed algorithms just to stroke the egos of podcasters who weren’t hugged enough as a child.
The Role Of Top Podcast Charts For +95% of Podcasters
With absolutely no disrespect to the amazing shows that make the kind of content that attracts huge audiences necessary to legitimately gain a top ranking on these charts; these charts don’t mean much to the rest of us.
Leaving aside shows that game the system to achieve a false ranking, the shows already on Spotify’s charts—and Apple’s charts—are huge. Really really big following on Spotify with lots of listeners. Breaking into that requires you have the same. And that’s an expensive acquisition.
But it all depends on the size of your budget. If you’ve a marketing plan with several tens of thousands of dollars or more dedicated to promoting your podcast, then you should absolutely get in touch with Spotify and share that plan with them. They’d love to help you with very specific actions on how you should spend your several tens of thousands of dollars to promote your show with some Spotify co-branding. The same goes for Apple, by the way. Paraphrasing American poet Lefty Frizzell; If you’ve got the money, honey, they’ve got the time (to help you spend it).
Next Steps, Because Why Not?
At the risk of repeating myself: These top podcast charts benefit the makers of the charts more than anyone else. But there’s one thing you might consider doing because podcasting is an ever-changing medium, and we never know what’s happening next.
Take a look at the home page of your podcast and see where your link to Spotify shows up in your list of “places to follow’. Or places to subscribe if you’re still on that kick. Spotify should absolutely be listed on there. But I’m suggesting you do what I did several months ago and give the top spot to Spotify.
The announcements of the public podcast charts by Spotify show that as good sense. They’re going to spend a lot of effort promoting their service. Hundreds of thousands of podcasters are going to start shouting “follow the show on Spotify”, raising Spotify’s profile even more. To me, that’s enough to give Spotify the top spot on my site, just in case someone hits my website and doesn’t recognize the other badges.
And here’s how you can pay that forward: Visit the home page of a fellow podcaster. Maybe someone your close to. Maybe someone you want to be close to. If they don’t already have Spotify listed first, suggest they do so. And send them a link to this episode as justification as to why they should. Maybe you’ll be their new best podcasting friend.
If you'd like ideas and ponderings like this, please go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and slide a virtual coffee my way.
No episodes from me on Friday, so enjoy your weekend. I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.