S1E12: Understanding Your Numbers

S1E12: Understanding Your Numbers

Hey Podcast Messengers! Welcome to episode 12 of The PodQuest Show. I am your host Michael Neeley, and today, we are going to do a deep dive into a better understanding of your podcast – by the numbers. More specifically, we’re going to look at reading your stats – what they mean and what you can infer from them, along with what’s real, what’s bogus and what you’ll never know.

To truly understand your podcast by the numbers, we’re going to have to have a “let’s get real” moment. I’m just going to put it out there first, and then we’ll break it down.

Here it is – “you don’t, and perhaps never will, know how many listeners you have”. That’s the truth of the matter that you need to get right up front. And, as has been said on other episodes, anyone that tries to tell you definitively is blowing smoke up your ass, or they simply don’t know that they don’t really know.

So, before we get into your stats, let’s define a few things to make this more clear.

A download does NOT necessarily equal a listen!

I subscribe to many podcasts. Many of them! And my iPhone automatically downloads them. That doesn’t mean that I listened to them yet, nor that I ever will. Some will get deleted without ever being played.

And while many hosting platforms would like to measure the “plays”, they simply might not have the capability.


Because even though they are hosting your show – the actual playing of an episode is happening outside of their realm.

Now to be fair, Apple is giving more access to your analytics so that you can see some play stats. You can look to see how much of your episodes (on average) are being consumed.

But here’s the thing: this is a subset of all of your downloads. And while it’s certainly a decent enough sample-size, it’s still just a subset. Perhaps your listeners on Spotify are more voracious of your content and they listen more. Again, you may never know.

Similarly, be careful of platforms that tell you you’ll get more detailed information on your plays, your downloads, heck, even on your listeners. If they’re telling you that – it is likely ONLY going to be details about listeners who choose to use their player. In other words – they can’t give you any more play detail than Apple would. They simply don’t have the data.

Using Soundcloud as an example, if someone is playing your episode on the Soundcloud platform – sure, they’ve got the details to share with you. BUT ONLY the details of plays that happen there – which, in the big picture, is a really small percentage.

So… knowing that you don’t have those type of full analytics available to you (at least not at the time of this recording), what CAN you know?

Well, for starters, you’ve got your download stats. And while downloads don’t necessarily equal plays, at least we’ve got a number to work with. And that’s a great start.

We still can’t use those numbers as factual data, though. Why?

Because not all downloads are created equal.

In other words – some are legit and some are not.

There are bots that scour the web looking for keywords and often they end up clicking a “play” command on one of your episodes. Not a real play – certainly not a real listener – thus, a bogus download.

But don’t let that discourage you… on the bright side, these are common enough and relatively consistent enough that we can still look at the usefulness of our numbers.

Ahhh, but there’s more.

Sometimes, a listener may start your episode on their phone as they’re commuting to work, but they may finish your episode by playing it on their PC at home. Thus, this will look like two downloads, when in fact it was a single listener.

Or maybe they subscribed to your show on Apple Podcasts, but recently found a cool new player they love and they like to listen to your show there.

If they didn’t unsubscribe on Apple Podcasts, they are downloading your show twice (or more) but still it’s only one listener.

Fortunately, these occurrences are small enough to not be overly concerned with. The only real value of your numbers, at least in the beginning, is as a time-bound comparator.

What the frack does that mean?!?

Look at it like this: Today (we’ll call this Day 1) you release a new episode and within 24 hours you get 1,000 downloads. Does it matter if that number is not 100% accurate? Nope, not at all.

Now, over time, we take a look at Day 8, a week later. Again, you release a new episode and within 24 hours you get 1,047 downloads.

That’s an indicator of growth. At least potentially. There are other factors to consider, which we’ll cover in a moment; however, with all else being equal, we could look at those numbers, with all of their ugly inaccuracy, and still surmise that we had some growth.

If the numbers had been down, we could assume a decrease in listenership.

My word of advice – ignore small difference and focus on the big ones. In other words, if my shows fluctuate by a degree of 5% or less, I don’t pay it much mind; however, if there is a big difference – I pay attention.

Now, let’s take a moment to see when things are NOT so equal. As an example, perhaps on one of those episodes you bring on a very well-known guest. That alone could contribute to a major spike in your downloads.

More likely, though, perhaps your guest has an engaged following, whether they are well-known or not, and they promote the hell out of their interview with you. That could also cause a big spike in downloads.

Other anomalies that could impact your downloads include timing (did you release an episode over the Holiday?), topic (is your episode super timely with something that’s hot in the media at the moment?), and promo (did you do anything special or new in your promotional efforts, like running a Facebook ad or one in a magazine?).

Always be sure to account for these things when analyzing your numbers, and of equal importance is to look at them in a grander scale and not so much on the minute. Comparing Month to Month might be better than week to week. And of course, be sure to compare months with the same numbers of days. February will notoriously be a lower trending month due to having fewer days than others.

Ideally, you are only comparing your show to your show. Don’t worry about how it is stacking up against someone else’s download numbers. Are you growing your audience? Then that’s a good thing and stick to it. If it’s decreasing in size – look at that as well, and see what you can do to reverse that trend.

And here’s another tip on your numbers – especially for a new show – don’t look at the episode download count as complete for at least 30 days, and more fitting is probably at about 6 weeks.

In advertising, if you are looking to have sponsors, you will typically give them your download count on how an episode has done at 6-weeks from the original posting date.

Of course, numbers will spike on Day 1 and 2, then continually drop off over the following weeks, with perhaps another small spike or two if your guest does some late promoting.

After about 6 weeks, the downloads will become negligible even though you’ll continue to get hits for months and years to come. Most advertisers don’t want to wait that long for their investment to pay off.

Thus, I like to use the 6-week marker as my determining factor for the power of an episode. What does episode 32 look like on day 42? And what does episode 47 look like on day 42? All else being equal, I’m hoping to see an increase.

And while we’re on the numbers, I also want to be really clear about the difference between listenership and potential listenership.

Not much irks me more than hearing a podcaster boast about being syndicated on so many networks and then translating that into THEIR audience. That is tantamount to me saying I’ve got an audience of 2.5 Billion people on Facebook, simply because I have a page there.

What a crock of shit!

You can put out a television show and have it syndicated on Hulu with 25 million viewers and that does NOT translate that a single one of them has or ever will watch your show!

So, please don’t be that guy or gal, and certainly don’t buy into the hype of that guy or gal. They are actually doing a disservice to the podcasting industry, because if someone believes their hype, goes on their show thinking they’re going to get great exposure and then they get nothing but crickets – they begin to think podcasting isn’t effective or that it doesn’t work.

No, it’s just that you got taken by a bullshitter. Make it a habit to ask what their actual download numbers are – not what their potential audience size is. In truth, my potential audience size, even for this show, is about 5 Billion or more.

And your show could have that potential, too.

Speaking of which, let’s take a moment to hear this promo-bite from a show that my nephew in Missouri co-hosts with a couple of his pals.

PROMO-BITE: We Used to Be Friends

They’re just getting started, but they’ve got a lot of potential. And the first thing they did was to get some industry insider support, and then they set up their show and submitted it to Apple Podcasts, where most downloads occur, worldwide. As a matter of fact, let’s make that our PQ token for this episode. Apple Podcasts. That is your PQ token, be sure to remember it, and then go to the link you’ll find in the show notes or at PodQuest.net so that you can play.

This show is now 12 episodes in, and I’d love to get your feedback. Is it helping you? Is it shining some light on areas you hadn’t thought about, or missed entirely? What can I do to make it even better for you?

Go to PodQuest.net and leave me a message on the Speakpipe recorder there. It’s the little red bar on the right of the page. You can ask a question, make a comment or just leave some feedback. If fitting, we’d love to use your comment or question on the air.

And finally, if you want to get your show launched effectively, or if you’re already launched and want to take it to the next level, how would you like to do that at SEA?

I lead Podcast Launch Retreats throughout the year, and right now I’m planning one for January 2021 that will take place aboard a Carnival Cruise Ship. If this sounds like something that might be of interest to you, drop me a line at [email protected], or go to the link in the show notes for more details. And sign up for a quick call with me.

I’d love for you to join me on this 8-day Caribbean cruise where we’ll spend most of our time playing, some of it networking, and just enough of it to help you get your show launched with ease. Best of all, the price will amaze you! I’m pulling out all the stops on this one to make it a no-brainer for you. Just go to the link in the show notes and join me for a free launch breakthrough call to discuss the details.

Alright, where have I been and where am I going…

I was recently interviewed on Kidtastrophe and that was a total hoot. Any parent knows about the trials of traveling with a kid, and some of the things that happen are funny as hell. Check it out when it goes live soon.

I also was interviewed on the Audacious Leader’s Podcast; another fun one you shouldn’t miss.

And if you’re going to be at Podcast Movement Evolutions in Los Angeles from the 12 to the 15th, please drop by the PodQuest Booth and have a chat with me.

And until next time, Happy Podcasting!

Don’t forget to listen for your PQ Token and go to PodQuest.net/Rewards to enroll and play for awesome prizes.

Follow us on Facebook and check out our Website for more details and to engage with our podcast community. If you’d like to have your own Promo-Bite for your show, go HERE. And if you’d like to be a guest on the show, click HERE.

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