Do you claim to be a top 1% podcast?

Is that because Listen Notes told you so?

Oh dear. You may not want to read this article without a tissue to hand.

A picture of a host of the world's number 1 podcast. Possibly
Photographer: Soundtrap | Source: Unsplash

One of the most irritating marketing tricks being played by podcasters – claiming they’re the world’s number 1 podcast using fake metrics!

Thousands of podcasts are falsely claiming that they’re a top 1% podcast, in a bid to make us think they’re the world’s number 1 podcast.

I’m here to tell you they’re not.

And not only is it massively dishonest to use this vanity metric as handed to them by the third party website “Listen Notes” but it’s also quite cringey.

What is the Listen Notes ‘Top 1% ranking’ that some podcasts claim?

Listen Notes is a third party podcast aggregation website that ranks podcasts in real time.

And it does this by using Christ-knows-what kind of measurement system.

But certainly none of the factors in their system are actual listener stats.

One of the most addictive aspects that some podcasters enjoy about this site is the ‘Listen Score’.

This score allegedly takes the most popular podcasts and gives them a global ranking based on a bunch of witchcraft and snake oil.

And again, not using any actual podcast listening stats at all.

Don’t believe me? Check out their own description from their own website!

“Listen Score (LS) is a metric that shows the estimated popularity of a podcast compared to all other rss-based public podcasts in the world on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher, the more popular. It’s like Nielsen ratings for podcasts.

You can see the Listen Score on a podcast page (Example), a search result page (Example), and a Listen Later playlist page (Example). We only display Listen Scores for the top 10% podcasts (ranked by Listen Score) for now.

Listen Score is also included in our commercial products: Podcast API and Datasets (i.e., batch export podcast metadata to CSV files).”

Why shouldn’t you use the Listen Notes ranking to claim you’ve got the world’s number one podcast?

Do not, and I cannot stress this enough, DO NOT use inflated vanity metrics and rankings when marketing your content.

Especially if your content is attached to your brand, and your services.

Here’s why.

It’s 2022.

It’s not 2008.

Web2.0 is nothing new and people are savvier on the internet.

In the early days, you could get away with buying followers on Twitter, and selling stuff based on your fake popularity.

The world's number 1 podcast is probably not ever going to be yours and Listen Notes is lying to you
Photographer: Brett Jordan | Source: Unsplash

Scammy marketing is a problem in podcasting

A few years ago, you could sell a book on Amazon, run several marketing campaigns and engagement pods and get enough sales to call yourself a ‘bestseller’.

Until quite recently, you could buy some bot listens, get your podcast into the ‘chart’ (it’s not a chart) call it a ‘success’ and lure some sponsorship.

But every single person doing any of these is taking a huge risk with their online reputation.

You don’t have a brand without brand trust.

And if you breach that trust, you’ll never get it back.

People know when you’re inflating your success, trust me.

They have a thing called Google that helps them learn the truth behind any ranking system.

Photographer: Mitchell Luo | Source: Unsplash

In short, Listen Notes is a liar, and few of the top 1% podcasts they claim actually are

If they Google it, they’ll learn that Listen Notes is backboned by a geek and his computer running some automated scripts that estimate podcast numbers based on a number of weird factors. As they admit in the wording on their own website – as explained above!

By the way, the podcasts they’re measuring yours against in order to determine whether it’s the ‘world’s number 1 podcast’ include millions of now dead podcasts.

Podcasts that released one episode as part of a crack and then went “nah mate” before completely forgetting about it for all time, never to be revisited.

A picture of a woman looking depressed because she's presumably learned she doesn't have the world's number 1 podcast
Photographer: Magnet.me | Source: Unsplash

Listen Notes is no more an indication of your podcast’s KPIs than a poll on social media.

If you’re working with someone who makes claims about your podcast and says it’s a top 1% or even top 5% podcast I urge you to do this.

Ask them what their source for that ranking is.

If it’s Listen Notes, fire them immediately.

Photographer: Eemi Tirronen | Source: Unsplash

Scammy podcast marketers love Listen Notes

Scammy podcast marketers are using this website to give clients falsely inflated ‘demonstrations’ of their credibility.

There is actually a relatively well-known ‘podcast expert’ who uses this fake ranking to convince her clients that she knows what she’s doing so she can sell her services.

These people don’t have your best interests at heart and they’re risking guiding you towards serious brand damage.

All they want to do is convince you that their actions are getting you some fake ROI so they can continue getting paid.

Podcasters and would-be podcasters! Please! Always, ask more questions!

So how can you find out if your show is a top 1% podcast and in with a chance of being the world’s number 1 podcast?

The only way of knowing how your podcast compares with other podcasts is to ask the people who know how many listeners other podcasts have.

And that’s the hosting companies.

But not just any hosting companies.

Buzzsprout announces it’s average listening numbers every now and then, but Buzzsprout is not even close to being the world’s biggest hosting company with the biggest number of podcasts hosted.

That recognition goes to Libsyn (click the link to get two months of free hosting courtesty of Podknows!)

Libsyn has most of the world’s podcasts hosted on their servers.

So they’re a good authority on how many listeners the world’s podcasts have.

Every month, Rob Walch from the company announces the average download numbers that their shows are enjoying over a 30 day period on the company’s podcast “The Feed”.

This means that you can hear exactly how many listeners the top 1% podcasts have over a 30 day period.

And the top 2% podcasts.

Also, the top 5% podcasts.

And so on.

Here’s a visual representation of those stats for you.

As you will see, you need to be getting 34,000 downloads on your episodes within 30 days of release if you want to actually call yourself a top 1% podcast.

And if you’re going to be working with brands who you want to give you money, you’re going to be able to provide these kinds of numbers.

Because they’re definitely aware of them.

And if when these brands approach you because you’re claiming to have a top 1% podcasts, and then what you show them is download numbers of fewer than 10,000…


So, if you’re claiming you’ve got a top 1% podcast and essentially alluding to having the world’s number 1 podcast, you’d better have at least 34,000 downloads of every episode, every month!

Update on the inaccuracy of Listen Notes and their 'top 1% podcast' ranking farce - using actual case study podcasts!

Since originally writing this article, I, Podknows Podcasting‘s founder Neal Veglio, have obtained actual accurate listener data.

This data not only proves beyond reasonable doubt that the accuracy of Listen Notes ‘Listen Score’ is gossamer thin, but also just how incredibly far of the mark it is.

Let’s take two hugely popular podcasts for an example.

Fearne Cotton’s “Happy Place” podcast is ranked in the ‘top 0.01%’ of all podcasts by the website.

The podcast’s actual audience is (rounded) 7,000 listeners per month.

Goalhanger Podcasts’ “The Rest Is History” is ranked on Listen Notes as a ‘top 0.5%’ podcast.

Yet, the podcast’s actual audience is 34,000 listeners per month.