Why podcast analytics are so confusing, which stats matter, and how to find your analytics
November 2, 2020 | Megan Heibert
Podcast analytics are sometimes treated as a long-lost cousin that we don’t quite know how to interact with. We don’t really know how to access them, or even what we should do with them. However, it is well worth the time and energy to learn about podcast metrics and data so you can better serve your podcast listeners and expand your overall impact.
Before we jump in, let’s clarify that podcast analytics are a set of data points to help you know how well your podcast is performing. This can include how many people have listened, how much they listened to, what your top-performing episodes are, geographic locations for your listeners, and more. We’ll explore the unique facets of these analytics by covering:
Podcast analytics provide an analysis of listener data that gives you, the podcast host, an insight into your audience. They help you better understand who is listening to your content and on what platform. Ultimately, by utilizing podcast analytics, you are more equipped to serve your listeners and craft content that is better suited for them.
All of this data allows you to gauge how your content is landing with your listeners.
From there, you can then evaluate possibly changing things up in order to better suit your audience. It’s important to keep referring back to these analytics because they’re prone to keep changing and you want to be informed as you continue to produce content.
When you intentionally track the performance of your podcast, you’ll be able to gauge your growth in order to keep enhancing your effectiveness. There are always ways to improve and studying your analytics are one easy way to do so. By staying aware of how your podcast is growing, you increase your chance of making it profitable.
These analytics matter because they help to measure your monetization potential. Podcasts often include advertisements, where a sponsor will pay for ad space based on how many per-thousand listeners download your episodes. This is called CPM (“cost per mille” – “thousand” in Latin).
For example, if a podcaster charges $10 CPM and your episodes are downloaded five thousand times, the sponsor will pay $50. Thus, simply by reviewing how many people are downloading your episodes, you can begin to strategize how to create ad space on your show and make money.
Podcast analytics have caused a lot of confusion and stress over the years for many podcasters. At first, it seems simple: just log into your podcast hosting platform and look at the stats. But it’s not always that easy. Let me explain why.
Each podcast has a unique RSS feed that has to be submitted to all the major podcast directories. Most of these directories download your episode though your hosting platform every time a new listener downloads an episode. But some, like Spotify, have a “walled garden” which means they download your podcast from your RSS feed onto their servers once and then share it to your listeners. This is why some hosting platforms exclude the data from Spotify entirely within the analytics they provide you for your show.
The fragmentation between the analytics from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and the rest of the directories, large and small alike, can lead to misleading data about your show.
Recently, Apple Podcasts downloads on Apple Watches were causing inflated numbers on some shows since the devices automatically downloaded a copy of the show to a separate device. IAB Tech Labs pushed for Apple Watch Downloads to be filtered out from download data so that these inflated numbers would be fixed over the summer of 2020. This is one example of the confusions and conflated data that sometimes leads shows astray when studying their podcast analytics.
While the technologies for analytics are advancing and new innovations are happening in the industry, it’s important to be aware of some of the challenges to piece together a complete picture of how well your podcast is performing.
The number of downloads has always been an important datapoint in podcasting. But with advancements in podcast directories like Apple, Google, and Spotify, new methods for experiencing podcasts have evolved. For example, Apple Podcasts allows you to download only new episodes of a show after you either subscribe, download all episodes, download single episodes, or stream an episode. Simplecast has done an excellent job of explaining the default settings for downloading and streaming across the top listening apps.
Downloads are counted when a device downloads a copy of an episode to their local device storage. But unfortunately, a user can download a show without ever listening to it. That’s why we highly encourage podcasters to pay attention to stats like Apple Podcast Connect’s “Average Consumption” which shows how long the audience is tuning in.
Streams are when users listen to podcast audio on a directory without downloading a copy of the episode to their local device. Streaming also refers to when platforms like Spotify download a single copy of your podcast episode and lock it behind their “garden wall.” From there, they can allow users to stream or download a copy of an episode. Many hosting platforms do not pull the analytics from Spotify because this garden wall can lead to inaccurate data.
Listens are the number of actual times that a user pressed play on a podcast, whether by downloading or streaming the episode. This metric is very important to understanding how the audience is actually engaging with your content. Unfortunately, according to Podnews, many hosting platforms do not have the capability to tell the difference between the number of downloads vs. actual listens.
There are dozens of ways to subscribe and listen to a podcast, from different apps like the “big dogs” Apple, Spotify, Google, or from smaller apps like Overcast, Himalaya, Castro, or even from YouTube, Amazon, Pandora, and iHeart Radio (just to name a few). Because there are so many platforms where users can subscribe, it is very difficult to determine the official number of subscribers that a podcast has. Individual platforms, like Apple, share data such as how many listeners who heard an episode have subscribed to the show, but it is very difficult to find out the official subscribe count a show has because of the separations in data ownership across all of the directories.
While it would be nice to know the exact amount of subscribers a show has, this is not ultimately the most important metric. Instead, we recommend focusing on the data that shows how well your audience (no matter how big or small) is engaging with the audio.
Like we mentioned above, the number of times your audience actually listens is far more important than even the number of downloads.
Seeing which episodes have the highest number of listens can help you determine what content is most appealing to your listeners. Perhaps it is performing better than other episodes because of the title, content matter, length, etc. You can utilize this data by comparing top-performing episodes to those with a lower number of listens.
The average consumption shows you how long listeners are engaging with your content and where they are dropping off. Studying the performance of your individual episodes is crucial to understanding how your content is really performing on a granular level. By studying where listeners are skipping and dropping off of an episode, you can learn a lot about your audience and the type of content they want.
Are your episodes far too long or do they need to be broken up into multiple sections to keep listeners engaged? This point was inspired by Pacific Content’s compelling article on the most important podcast stat that nobody is talking about. I highly recommend checking out their resources to learn more about podcasting.
Who is listening to your podcast? It is important to know if you are reaching your target audience, so you can adjust your content accordingly. Maybe you are consistently reaching a gender or location you weren’t expecting — knowing this can make you a better podcast host as you cater towards those actually listening.
Spotify for Podcasters has some great data collecting tools for studying your audience demographics. They show you the gender and age of your listeners, but also show you “artists they’re listening to” in Spotify. This information can help you get a more well-rounded look at who your audience is. To see a more holistic picture, though, you will still need to pull data from other platforms like Apple, Google, and your hosting provider.
Observing your podcast analytics will only be helpful to you if you know where to find them. Because of how the podcast eco-system of RSS feeds and podcast directories work, this can be somewhat of a confusing process when you are starting out.
There are 4 main sources for tracking analytics, and then a number of third-party solutions for enhancing your data. To accurately track the performance of your podcast across all of the directories, you need access to the following platforms.
Whichever podcast hosting platform you have chosen to host your podcast will have some sort of analytic capability. This should really be a key factor in determining a hosting platform, because of how important this data is to the long-term effectiveness of your podcast.
Hosting platforms typically aggregate the data for your podcast across all of the main podcast directories, as well as the data from their podcast microsite (if they offer one) and website embed players.
Hosting platforms typically show the number of downloads, where listeners are downloading your show (Apple, Spotify, Google, Overcast, etc), and top geographic locations for listeners. Some also go further and show the average consumption time and what time of day listeners are tuning in.
Once you submit your RSS feed to Apple Podcasts Connect, you will get access to Apple Podcasts’ suite of analytics.
Apple can show you:
We recommend paying special attention to the average consumption of your episodes to better understand how well your content is performing, how long listeners are engaging, and any common factors that might be leading to listener dropoff.
It’s important to understand that Apple’s analytics are only reflecting data from users who listened to your podcast on Apple Podcasts (across any and all Apple devices). This does not include analytics from Spotify, Google, or any other podcast directories. While Apple is one of the largest platforms, accounting for a massive chunk of podcast consumption, it is not the only platform where users can subscribe.
To get started with Apple Podcasts Connect you need to submit your RSS feed from your hosting platform. Learn more about how to submit a show to Apple Podcasts to claim your data here.
To see the data for your podcast on Spotify, log in to the Spotify podcast dashboard.
Spotify for Podcasters will show you some in-depth insights into how well your audience is engaging with your content. They offer data for the podcast as a whole and for individual episodes as well.
The unique thing about Spotify podcasts is that they are able to collect more data from your audience because of their unique position as a music streaming service and podcast directory. In fact, they already use this power to show podcasters what musical artists their listeners have been engaging with recently. This will show you total downloads, average listen, and music your audience listens to so you can better target them.
Spotify for Podcasters can show you:
You can learn more about each of these specific stats in their quick guide to Spotify’s Podcast Analytics. Additionally, if you haven’t set up your podcast to distribute on Spotify, you can learn how in our guide here.
In order to access information on how your podcast is performing on Google Podcasts, log in to your account.
When it comes to data and analytics, Google offers some of the most powerful self-service tools around. With Google Podcasts Manager, you will get insight into two main data sets: how well users are engaging on Google Podcasts (across all devices) and how well your content is performing on Google search. This second feature is really what differentiates Google as a podcast directory and analytics tool.
Google Podcasts Analytics can you show
Google Search Analytics can show you
Google podcasts is an especially important platform to use for studying how your audience is engaging on android and other third-party devices. While their apps are also available for iPhone, they come preinstalled on all android devices, making it far more likely that your audience who is tuning in on Google is on an android.
If you haven’t set up your podcast to distribute to Google Podcasts you can learn how to set that up here.
After collecting data from your podcast hosting platform and individual directories, there are still a couple more tools that are able to help you fill in some final data about your podcast.
Check out these tools:
Chartable provides podcast analytics tools to both publishers and advertisers. They offer marketing tools for podcast publishers to help track the marketing and monetization of a podcast.
Their top features are Smartlinks, SmartPromos, and SmartAds.
Smartlinks are a clickable link for sharing your podcast on social media and other channels that will recognize what device a user is on (eg, iPhone or Android) in order to share the appropriate link to Apple or Google podcasts. These links also track what channels people come from and whether they download an episode once they click through the link. This is a super effective tool for using on social media, email newsletters, and other external marketing efforts, so we highly recommend this tool.
SmartPromos help podcasters track the performance of trailers and other podcast ads (both baked in and dynamic ads) shared on other podcast feeds.
SmartAds are a cutting-edge technology in beta-testing that track the effectiveness of podcast advertisements. By tracking things like IP address and user agent, they compare users listening to a podcast ad to their actions on a website to try to measure the performance of ad campaigns.
RadioPublic primarily provides marketing tools for podcasters such as a podcast website, embed players, and timestamped podcast links. But they also offer a really interesting integration with Google Analytics that tracks events on your Radiopublic Podsite such as how long listeners are playing episodes on your website.
Podtrac provides aggregated data to track your podcast trends and audience across all of the channels your podcast is on. They are IAB Tech Lab compliant and provide an excellent overview of your podcast stats. They also have a Podtrac survey tool which helps you directly request data from your audience such as education, income, job function, and more.
Blubrry provides advanced podcast analytic features for data-driven performance. They are first a podcast hosting platform but also offer their analytics tools to podcasters who host on other platforms as well. They can help supplement your podcast host’s data if you are currently on a hosting platform that doesn’t support all of the specific analytics you want to see.
If you post a video podcast on YouTube, you can utilize the YouTube Studio analytics dashboard to study how well your show is performing. YouTube has been building out their analytics tools for many years which can be really valuable for podcasters.
YouTube Studio Analytics Includes
As you study the data from your podcast on YouTube, you can also make some general extrapolations about the type of audience you are attracting. This information can be used to fill in a more complete picture of how well your podcast is performing and how to keep improving your content.
When you choose to host your podcast with Resonate, we provide high-quality analytics to help you best serve your audience. We offer a dashboard that gives detailed data on:
With these features, you will be able to measure the effectiveness of your content and track how your audience is engaging with your podcast, so you can make adjustments accordingly. You can learn more about Resonate Hosting Analytics in this post from our CTO Troy Harvey, or you can sign up for a 14-day free trial here. We would love to talk with you about how we can help meet your hosting and analytics needs!
Podcast analytics give you the unique opportunity to get a glimpse into your audience’s engagement with your podcast. By giving heed to these metrics, you will be better equipped to produce podcast content that will create a growing base of loyal listeners.
If you have any questions about how to analyze your podcast data, feel free to schedule a call with our team!
Megan is a senior at the University of Louisville, where her passion for people, writing, and digital media have led her to studying Communications. She enjoys finding new coffee or donut shops, traveling, listening to a variety of music, and watching thriller movies.