Mert Bulan

The problem of knowing your podcast's stats

| reading time: 5 mins

Apple HomeKit setup

I started podcasting 5 months ago with my friend. On our podcast, Farklı Düşün (Think Different in Turkish), we are talking about Apple, books, the software industry, and a wide range of topics. Before beginning podcasting, we made quick research to find out how we can do it easily because this is not going to be our main job so we wanted to simple solution.

We found and started to use Simplecast to host and distribute our podcast. So far, everything works perfectly there. We didn’t have any issues besides not being able to access our audience data from time to time.

There is something that I am not happy with it about podcasting and it is really frustrating: statistics and discoverability of our podcast.

It starts with the apps. Right now, our listeners can listen to our podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Castbox, and Google Podcasts. Each app (and also Simplecast) provides some numbers about our podcast but unfortunately, we can’t have an overview by looking at those numbers. Let’s deep dive into each app one by one.

Apple Podcasts

As an Apple user, I like Apple products but it is so obvious that the company is so bad when it comes to internet services. If you are using Apple Music, you know what I am talking about. When I look at my podcast’s stats on Apple Podcasts Connect, I can see a similar experience there.

First, Apple doesn’t provide you with any follower numbers. This is bad because we never know how many people are following us on Apple Podcasts. Since we are talking about Apple products and services on our show, it is really important for us to know those numbers. Imagine that you have a YouTube channel and you don’t know how many subscribers you have.

The second problem is about the listener numbers. For each episode, Apple provides listeners (the number of unique devices that have played more than 0 seconds of an episode), engaged listeners (the number of unique devices that played at least 20 minutes or 40% of an episode within a single session. Pausing or stopping an episode does not count as starting a new session) and plays (the number of plays on unique devices where the play duration is greater than 0 seconds). The problem is that when I look at those numbers, they look super weird. For example, we had an episode that had 1.985 plays but 208 listeners. So, the numbers don’t make sense and match with each other. It looks like every listener paused and played the episode at least 5 times. Almost all of the episodes have similar weird numbers.

The third problem is about how Apple is promoting our show. When you check the Browse section of the Apple Podcasts app, you can see podcasts that are promoted by Apple. The problem here is that when I look at the New & Noteworthy section, I see podcasts that are not being updated for more than a year but I can’t see my podcast there, even though it is in the Top 5 in the Technology category and has multiple 5-star reviews. There is probably some curating going on there instead of some algorithms but seems like they are not up to date, or they are pushing some podcasts into that list no matter if they are still publishing a new episode or not.

The only thing that I like about Apple Podcasts is that you can see the average and the median number of listeners of your podcast and compare it with each episode. What I learned is that in the podcast world, the only important metric is that the number of listeners that listen to each episode 7 days after release. So, if we decided to have a sponsor, that number will be really important for us and I’m glad that Apple is providing it out of the box.

Spotify

Spotify is the most used app (50%) by our listeners and because of that, it is really important for us to know to get some insights about the numbers. Thankfully, Spotify is providing followers numbers on their Podcasters website unlike Apple but they have different problems.

The first problem is that you can’t select a category for your podcast on Spotify. They are picking the category that you selected on Simplecast. That might look fine in the first place but when you see that your category is not visible on the podcast section on the Spotify app then you want to select a different but still relevant category so new listeners can discover your podcast.

When it comes to the categories, everything is super messed up on Spotify. If you look at the podcasts section on your browser or on the Spotify desktop app, you see a category called Business & Technology. The first problem is that you see podcasts that are not relevant to that category, like meditation or psychology podcasts. The second problem is that instead of considering the popularity of the podcasts just for your country, seems like they are considering the whole popularity of the podcasts. So, you see foreign podcasts that would be impossible to get in the top 3 in your country under the Business & Technology category. The third problem is that when you open Spotify’s mobile app, you don’t see Technology or Business & Technology category under the Top podcasts section. That means it is impossible for a new listener to discover our podcast without knowing our podcast’s name on the mobile app. This is super bad for our podcast because most of the people who listen to podcasts, listen on their mobile device and we don’t have proper visibility on Spotify’s mobile app.

The last problem is that Spotify is not giving you the average or median listeners number for your podcast, unlike Apple. They show numbers for starts, streams, and listeners for each episode but they don’t calculate the median or the average listeners for the first 7 days after release for your podcast.

Google Podcasts

Even though only 1,5% of our listeners use Google Podcasts, I also wanted to mention it because our audience might grow later there. On Google Podcasts Manager, you can see the total subscribers of your podcast but you don’t see the average or the median listeners for your podcast, you can only see the number of plays for each episode.

The only useful and different information on Google Podcasts Manager is the “How people find your show” section. In this section, you can see the top search terms that your show got impressions on Google search results. Not many people use Google Podcasts so it might not make sense to publish your podcast there but it would definitely help you to grow your podcast’s audience by using Google’s search power. At least, your podcast would be visible on some search terms besides your podcast’s name and then people might start listening to it on their favorite podcast app.

The sad thing about Google Podcasts is that you can’t apply for promotion of your podcast for the Turkish market.

Castbox

CastBox is an app that I have never heard of it before until I checked the top listening methods of our podcast. It was right there on the third spot with 7,5%. The good thing about CastBox is that you can see the number of subscribers and plays of your show publicly. When you claim your podcast, unfortunately, you don’t see more stats. That’s it. The only number of the listens and the subscribers.

The other problem with Castbox is that the badge of CastBox is thicker than all the other apps’ badges. So when you put all the badges next to each other, their badge looks really weird. Also similar to Google Podcasts, you can’t apply for promotion of your podcast for the Turkish market.

Simplecast

Simplecast’s Audience section is probably the one that I check very often. Since we are hosting our show on Simplecast, it is way easier to see all the numbers on a single page. Simplecast offers a bunch of numbers including the first 7 days downloads for each episode but they don’t provide average or median listeners for your podcast. So you can’t see easily if your podcast’s audience is growing.

Maybe one problem with Simplecast is that sometimes I check the numbers on Spotify and Apple Podcasts and then sum up those numbers and compare them with the Simplecast numbers. Most of the time, I see that the numbers don’t match. Because of that, sometimes I am suspecting that Simplecast doesn’t count the downloads properly.

So?

In the end, there is no single and easy way to know your podcast’s most important metric. You need to deep dive into each app’s service that they provide for podcast publishers. If you think that podcast is invented more than 20 years ago, it is super sad to see that there are a lot of missing things out there. I hope in the future, companies like Apple and Spotify invest more in the infrastructure of podcast publishing instead of trying to buy popular podcasts.

The cover image is designed by pikisuperstar / Freepik.

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