Podcasting Tips

Understanding Your Download Numbers

Download statistics can be a mystery for many podcasters. They can mean so many different things depending on how the places you work with define them. Podcasters and advertisers alike see them as the total composition of a show, but they’re really just one part of what makes up a show and its success. We’re here to help dispel the myths of downloads and to better understand what they mean for you and your podcast.

What’s a Download?

At RedCircle, we strictly adhere to the IAB’s definition of a download which states that a download refers to audio content that is streamed or downloaded for at least (1) one minute. Most hosting companies follow the IAB guidelines to ensure some level of consistency across the industry.

Of course, you may be wondering what exactly is the IAB and why is their definition the agreed-upon industry standard? According to their Missions page, the IAB Tech Lab (which is responsible for the Podcast Measurement Guidelines) “is a non-profit consortium that engages a member community globally to develop foundational technology and standards that enable growth and trust in the digital media ecosystem.” They’re comprised of industry professionals who lend their expertise to create guidelines and align the industry as a whole. 

It’s important to stick with places that follow the IAB guidelines as those that don’t may count your downloads in a looser way, creating a huge discrepancy in stats. A place that follows their own definitions of a download may inflate your numbers to the thousands as they might be counting any amount of audio played as a download, versus an IAB-compliant place that’s more accurately measuring your data in line with a global standard.  

Following this guide, downloads are also uniquely counted – meaning that the same listener tuning in from the same network and/or the same device within 24 hours is counted only once. So, no need to worry about those listeners who like to take breaks during your show!

Downloads can also tell you a lot about your audience! If you’re looking to understand your audience size, then it’s generally recommended to look at either your 30-day or 90-day post-release episode numbers. This is because advertisers are mostly interested in these data points.

What Download Numbers Are Considered Good?

A question that’s more tricky than initially presented. There are plenty of resources floating around the web that claim X number of downloads is the perfect number while others say Y is what you should be aiming for. It’s difficult to state how many downloads constitute as good since there are several factors that contribute to the meaning of “good” (at least when it comes to podcasting.)

You may be tempted to compare download numbers to more easily understood metrics like social followers. But those numbers are wildly different. Downloads are a unique measurement that cannot be compared to social metrics like these. The number of followers someone has doesn’t mean all of those people are reading every post. But with downloads, each one represents a real person actively engaging with your content for a set amount of time.

There’s not a ton of data shared among hosting platforms, but those who have made their podcast data public only account for less than 10% of the market. There’s still 90% of podcasts unaccounted for in these comparisons, so those recommended download numbers should be read with a grain of salt.

There are general stats we all know, though! First, let’s take a look at the number of podcasts in the world. According to the Podcast Index, there are somewhere around 4 million podcasts globally. But this also includes spammy podcasts, abandoned podcasts, and more. If you look at “active” podcasts, or those with episodes posted within the last 90 days, there are only around 450,000 “active” podcasts. But this number omits older podcasts that may have a truly dedicated fan base. 

But none of these numbers take into account the type of content. Podcasts focused on widespread cultural moments will almost certainly have more downloads than a show focused on a niche hobby or topic. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the show with more downloads is more successful than the niche show though.

What’s really important is your audience’s engagement level. This can take the form of your listeners interacting with you over social media, the number of quality reviews on your podcast, and even good old-fashioned fan letters. The more engaged with your show, the more successful (and monetizable) it is. These dedicated listeners can also help to boost your growth by sharing your show within their own networks. Never underestimate the power of highly engaged audiences!

Download numbers can often be a source of stress for podcasters, but they don’t have to be. They are simply one piece of the whole pie. They’re helpful in gauging the success of your podcast but they don’t make up the entire picture.

If you’re ready to grow and see your download numbers grow, then check out what RedCircle can offer you!