When Apple Podcasts launched their portal—Podcasts Connect—several years ago, I was terribly excited at the prospect of getting more data from the most widely used podcast listening app and directory. And I wasn’t alone, as just about every podcast pundit was looking forward to getting some real, meaty data.
And then it came out, and all of us had to dial back our expectations.
Some jumped into Apologist mode, explaining away the difference between what Podcasts Connect was telling us and what download activity from Apple Podcasts we were seeing in our podcast hosting companies’ dashboards. ‘Cuz they weren’t the same. Not even close. And what we got from Podcasts Connect was rather thin.
Given Apple’s tendency to hold things close to the vest, the thin data they provided isn’t at all surprising. But we all know they can do more. And with the fresh news that Amazon Music/Audible has quietly launched a podcasters portal, they’ll soon join the ranks of Apple, Spotify, and Google Podcasts, probably disappointing podcasters when it comes to our data needs.
Who’s next to launch a porta/dashboard for podcasters? iHeartRadio? Pandora? Overcast? Why not every single podcast app? Would giving podcasters more data about how our content is being consumed on those apps be a bad thing?
No Creepy Details Required To Provide Great Insights!
I’m not suggesting the podcast listening apps give us any data that would help identify an actual user. Yes, I’m sure some douche-bag (or maybe just ignorant) marketers would love to have that data. But fear not, privacy advocates. There’s plenty of meaningful behavioral data to be shared that has nothing to do with an email address, user ID, or any other private data that should never be shared or leaked.
How Big Is My Podcast’s Audience?
It blows my mind every day that in the 16+ years podcasting has existed, we still can’t answer the most basic question every podcaster wants to know: How big is my audience?
But as straightforward as that question is to ask, it’s a tricky one to answer. Do we mean actual listeners? What constitutes a listener? Is there a time-spent-listening requirement? What about repeat listens? Family plans?
The current portal providers try to answer that, at least as far as their platform goes. Spotify’s Podcaster Dashboard has a metric they call “Listeners”, even though it’s not listeners. It’s the number of unique users on their platform who started an episode. But does a single second count? And over what time frame? Spotify also gives us a count of “Followers”, which is exactly what it sounds like and is probably 4-5x smaller than your total “Listener” count. So that makes sense, though I’d like some more explanation around the parameters.
Apple Podcasts Connect provides “Devices”, which is a much better name, IMHO. Similar to Spotify’s “Listeners”, this number counts unique devices that have played an episode of the podcast. Once again, we’ve no idea if there’s a play-length requirement or what time frame the number is based on. But Apple does give us a percentage-growth number, which is nice. But it’d be a lot nicer if we knew the time frame that increase—or (yikes!) decrease— occurred. Weirdly (?) Apple does not provide a corresponding metric that shows total subscribers (soon to be followers) even though they know it.
If you log into Google Podcasts Manager, you won’t find a single number that shows the total number of unique Google Podcasts users who’ve played an episode of your podcast. That’s not terribly surprising, since Google Podcasts is baked into Google Search, and you don’t have to be logged in to search Google. But still, they are counting plays on individual episodes, so they clearly have access to this data point. Interestingly enough, Google Podcasts does provide a “Total Subscribers” metric, though there’s no way to adjust the time frame, so I guess it’s just “current”?
I don’t know what data Amazon Music/Audible will make available on their podcaster’s portal, but it could be better. And for some of the smaller apps, making their own portal for podcasters and giving us better data could be something that sets them apart.
Because we have questions. And they have answers.
Which Discovery Channels Are Bringing Listeners To My Podcast?
The in-app discovery process is a bit of a mystery, but it doesn’t have to be. Of the current crop of podcast portal providers, Google Podcasts Manager is the only one that starts to answer this question. But it’s not really about in-app discovery and is instead about Google Search discovery, which makes sense for Google.
But for the other apps, why not provide some info about which part of the app drove discovery and listening of our podcast episodes? How many listeners (and followers) came from a category listing? And which category? My show is listed in three different categories. Which is most meaningful to my listeners?
Was my show discovered with the in-app search engine? Granted, those are uniformly terrible, but maybe they aren’t? If we got keyword-level data from the apps, it would help us write better descriptions for our shows and episodes.
What percentage of my listens/followers came from a direct link to my show’s listing in the app? If they passed along the referral data—the URL/site/domain where the link was clicked—it’d give us some great information on which channels are working for us, and which one we need to spread the word on. Word-spreading that comes with a direct link to that platform, naturally.
How Many Listeners Come Back For More Of My Podcast?
It’s great to have a huge total audience, for sure. But segregating the one-off listener from the loyal listener would be super important. Stats packages like Google Analytics are good at showing 7-, 14-, and 30-day repeat visitors. I want that for my podcast episodes too, because I want to make content that is not only worth following/subscribing to, but also listening to on a frequent basis. Knowing that return percentage would be great.
How Many Of My Followers Swipe Left?
We all know that not everyone listens to every episode we produce. Some sit in download queues forever. If you’re anything like me, you probably look at your listening queue and decide some just aren’t worth your time, so you delete them with a swipe-left. Harsh? Maybe. But with an out-of-control queue, it’s a necessity.
Knowing which episodes had a higher dismissal rate is every bit as informative as knowing which episodes saw a higher completion rate. I could look for patterns specific to those episodes to identify weak titles or descriptions. Or maybe topics of interest to me that are less interesting to my followers?
How Is My Show Ranking/Charting?
I still think charts/rankings are little more than a vanity metric, but what if I’m wrong? The apps could provide that info to all podcasters easily, showing how the podcast is currently charting, how that ranking has changed historically, and what percentage of listeners/followers came directly from a chart.
Amazon might be the first to make that happen. On the book-side of Amazon, they provide some good data to publishers on how their books are ranking. It’s far from perfect, and there’s still a lot of correlation required. But they could do better with podcasting and leapfrog the competition.
What’s The Listener Flow Like For My Podcast?
Once someone listens to an episode, what do they do next? Do they listen to the next episode in my feed? Or do they bounce around looking for another episode that gets their attention? Do they listen to less and less of each episode until I never see them again? Or do they mainline a bunch and then finally hit the “share” button?
Show me a Sankey diagram that gives me a great overview of how listeners are encountering and consuming my episodes on your app and I promise you I can make a better, more sticky show that keeps people using your app for longer.
What’s The Demographic Makeup Of My Podcast’s Audience?
Spotify does a decent job of this, showing aggregate gender and age information. Apple gives up some geography data. But they know more, including other shows listened to and a variety of marketing buckets where they’ve segregated their users. No, I don’t expect them to turn over all of that to us, and certainly not at an individual level. But in aggregate, it would help to know if our shows are reaching the right audience on their platforms.
Who Will Win The Podcast Browser Wars?
When I was a younger man, I saw the carnage of the Browser Wars. No, wait. There was no carnage. Just a never-ending race to out-feature the competition. A race that normal humans largely ignored because they didn’t really care about what the geeks thought was cool. They just wanted to check their web-based email, log into a social network to see funny cat pics, and maybe see what the weather would be like this weekend.
Podcasting apps aren’t markedly different. Though I do think that the podcast listening app that gives podcasters the most useful data could get a big boost. Because the vast majority of us do not care which app our listeners use. But we’d happily promote the heck out of a listening app that gave us more insight into actual listening data.
Speaking of insight, if you derived any from this episode, would you consider going to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and showing your appreciation through a virtual coffee or 20? I’d appreciate it.
I shall be back tomorrow for yet another Podcast Pontifications.