Apple recently released an operating system update that may have a major impact on podcast downloads. The TL;DR of it: Apple is changing the way podcast episodes are being downloaded to iOS devices. This change may skew your download numbers on Apple Podcasts to be a bit lower than they typically are. The change was made with the best intentions, though, in an effort to improve the accuracy of downloads.
What Was the Update?
The key change in the September update affects those subscribed to podcasts on Apple Podcasts. Prior to the update, if a listener subscribed to a podcast, forgot about it, and returned after some time, every unplayed episode would be downloaded to their iOS device. However, after the iOS 17 update, when returning to a podcast after a listening hiatus, it simply resumes and does not download previous episodes.
In addition to that change, episodes that are older than 7 days (even those recently added to back catalogs) are no longer automatically downloaded. Before the update, if a podcaster added old episodes to their Feed, they would be treated as “new” episodes and be automatically downloaded.
What It Means For You
The changes implemented by the iOS 17 update may end up warping podcast download numbers. Since returning subscribed listeners no longer automatically download entire catalogs in one instance, these large spikes will no longer occur and download numbers may appear lower than you might be expecting.
Bumper recently posted a blog article with information on how to determine if your show may have been affected by this change.
For RedCircle members, you can check your downloads for Apple Podcasts specifically on the Downloads page. You’ll want to look from September 18th onwards for any oddities. (Need help navigating the Downloads page? We’ve got you covered in this Help article.)
You can then check the number of daily listeners on your Apple Connect Dashboard to see if there’s an actual decline in listenership, or if it’s the iOS 17 update affecting total downloads.
Both of these metrics should help you to determine if the sudden dip in downloads is due to the recent iOS 17 update.
Ultimately, this change helps to better align podcast downloads across the industry, which both Advertisers and Podcasters can appreciate!