Podcast downloads are a way to measure a certain flavour of what’s going on with your podcast. Unfortunately, it’s often used on its own. This is a mistake but an understandable one. If we think of podcast metrics as a way to measure your podcast growth as a recipe and not a single ingredient, then we can get a fuller, deeper idea of how your podcast is really doing. This bigger picture view of your podcast growth will help you make real changes that will impact your listeners' experience and your podcast’s future growth. For simplicity's sake and because I’m an awful cook, our podcast metric recipe for today will have only 3 ingredients. Once you master how to track these, you can add on more to make your metrics that much more complex and delicious.
Before we add more measurements onto downloads, there are a few clarifications to make. The most common type of downloads used by reputable podcast hosts are downloads and unique downloads measured in accordance with the IAB Podcast Measurement Technical Guidelines. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of these standards. But, you do need to know what they contain. What you need to know is to focus on unique downloads, because the same listener on the same device can download and listen to your podcast and thereby count as 2 regular downloads, but only 1 unique download. Unique downloads in the first 30 days of a new episode is the standard measurement that’s used in podcasting.
Having said that, the other important factor is that even unique downloads don’t account for telling you how much of your podcast someone listens to. So if they listen to 1 minute of the entire episode, it counts as 1 download. Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and some other platforms have something called “consumption data,” which shows you more details on these downloads, like how long a user actually listens. Well, how long they didn’t hit the stop button, anyway.
Because tracking is slippery, you really want to remember that, at best, downloads can give us a hint at what might be happening with your podcast growth. Viewing your podcast downloads over time and with other metrics is the best way to get the most out of them. Just like a recipe makes one ingredient yummier.
Believe it or not, even though the vast majority of podcasters focus on podcast downloads, there are many other metrics to keep track of. Here are some common ones:
And this isn’t a complete list. So with all of these options, how do you focus on 3 metrics? That’s simple: it depends on your podcast why.
Your podcast “why” is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the reason why your podcast exists. Let’s look at some examples:
Podcast 1’s podcast why: to build a community around a subject/topic
Podcast 2’s podcast why: to attract customers to a small business
Can you see already how these two podcast why’s would create very different metric recipes? A community-focused podcast might not worry about tracking money-related items, but instead would probably be more concerned with slow audience growth. Whereas podcast 2’s metrics would be more money and sales-oriented. Let’s dig deeper into one of these examples.
Before we mentioned that we’re going to stick to 3 metrics to start. Since we know that unique downloads are one of these metrics, we just need 2 more to complete the recipe to build community. Which of the metrics from the above list do you think would fit this podcast why?
Let’s say for example, this is an Indonesian movie podcast that has monthly online live events where they can track how many people attend. Then I can see that they might get a substantial amount of passionate movie buff DMs on their social media and/or emails about their episodes. We can count all of those as private messages and as one metric. So, we’re done!
Podcast 1: Indonesian movie podcast
Podcast why: Build Community
Now that you’ve got the 3 ingredients necessary for your podcast metric recipe, you need to combine them and cook them for a few months. I mean watch them.
If you’re a numbers person you can track them in a spreadsheet like this:
And if you’re more visual, like me, you can easily convert this spreadsheet into a few quick bar charts.
It’s easy to make quick charts in Google Sheets from this data. With these 3 charts, we can visually see the overall growth trend in all 3 metric areas, which is great. If there was a dip in all 3 for a month, that might be telling you that something you did differently was not liked by your audience. But by having a few metrics to look at it’s more likely that the trends that are showing are real and not just a technical issue with downloads or something along those lines.
They create a richer metric dish that you can really dig into and appreciate instead of the quick, fast-burning snack that is downloads alone.
However you decide to track and analyse your specific podcast metrics is up to you. Just remember to first identify your podcast why and then track 3 metrics over a period of time. This data can help you understand how your podcast growth is going more effectively than the slippery single data point of podcast downloads.