"How much audience do I need for my podcast before I can consider it a success?"
The most common question I get about podcasting stats - sponsorship
I loved this new question I had from a client during a recent audit call.
They asked what I thought the ideal listening stats of a successful podcast were.
The common question I hear is “When will I be able to get some sponsorship for my podcast”.
(If you know anything about me, you’ll know that’s not my preferred method for monetisation anyway, and I advise against it.)
This question was so refreshing because it was framed with a long-term goal-oriented mindset.
They weren’t looking for an immediate return on investment or a cash-out.
They simply wanted to know what their KPIs were so they had a clear target in mind.
The podcast’s own stats.
Their podcast had been running for about eighteen weeks at this point, with their stats showing around 50 downloads per episode, although some had way fewer.
They were getting some good feedback from listeners who said that they loved the podcast.
But, like many other podcasters who start from scratch without professional help, they had no idea whether fifty listeners was great or terrible.
And they had a boss to keep happy. He didn’t appreciate the value of podcasting and called it a ‘fad’.
He’d also tried blogging in the past in a previous role and had found it was more reliable for generating traffic than the podcast was.
Of course, when challenged on that, he had no metrics to prove this point.
Therefore, my client and his team persevered with their podcast.
The wider podcasting stats 'problem'
The podcasting industry – podcast statistics in particular – is pretty poorly measured in the UK due to a lack of accepted centralised body and there is a lack of solid data available.
So, people automatically say “podcasting doesn’t work”, but these are people who have no real clue about where podcasting fits into the commercial aspect of branding.
How are podcasting stats measured?
Podcast statistics are measured from a range of places and that’s what makes it such a complicated issue.
The downloads will also be measured in-app by the individual platforms, such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and then reported back to your host company.
Just for the record, the majority of podcast listeners are hanging out in Apple Podcasts.
Regardless of what you might read in some of the technology blogs, Spotify still accounts for less than half of all podcast listening.
So you’ll definitely want to get yourself an Apple Podcasts connect account so you can monitor your podcast in-depth.
Podknows Podcasting has a channel on Apple Podcasts which is regularly used to manage podcasts on behalf of clients, and check their specific in app analytics.
How to analyse your podcast stats and measure growth
When you’re analysing your podcast downloads, (only do this once per quarter or you’ll get obsessive!) you’ll hopefully notice the number of overall podcast listeners grows gradually with each passing month.
Like with money, podcast listening is subject to the compound growth effect.
You’re not just building growth from your current episode’s listeners. All of your previous episodes continue to contribute to your overall trajectory.
How big is the average podcasting audience?
This is what you’re here for, right? How does my podcast stack up against the other hundreds of thousands of (active) podcasts that are out there, desperately grabbing for my potential audience?
So here it is.
The average podcast has around 500 monthly listeners.
I know. Shocking.
Diary of a brilliant self-promoter!
But, but… Steven Bartlett has MILLIONS!!!
Have you seen his stats?
You’ve seen his podcast in the charts, sure.
You’ve listened to his podcast and heard him talking about how many listeners he has.
But have you logged into his hosting account, or his Apple Podcasts dashboard and seen his episodic numbers each week with your own eyes?
There are a lot of nuances when it comes to podcast stats.
One episode can absolutely fly. The next can massively tank.
And those episodes mean very little for the overall journey of a podcast with a consistent and reliable feed.
And by his own admission, Steven Bartlett was struggling for over a year to get any kind of audience for his podcast.
He wasn’t approaching it correctly, and his audience suffered.
It was only after consulting with professionals that he learned he needed to stay consistent and put out content that people could rely on showing up in their podcast apps, when they were expecting it.
So, back to this visualising stats thing then?
Ahh yes! Well reminded.
It’s my goal to help you appreciate that your ‘lowly’ 500 downloads per month podcast is worth your love and persistence.
And I’m going to achieve that through the medium of crowd visuals.
As someone who in a past life used to be a radio personality who’d often stand up on stages and address crowds of hundreds and sometimes thousands, I know how hearing an audience number can be way less exciting than seeing it.
What your terrible audience of 100 people looks like
So we’ve established that the average podcast gets around 500 unique listeners per month.
(Now, we could delve more deeply into the difference between a unique listen and an IAB listen, but that’s a much bigger topic for another post.
For the purposes of this one, let’s assume to stick with 500 unique listeners per month.)
Some podcasts have far more than this amount of listeners per month, and will often scream about it on their social media.
On the flip side, there are way more podcasts with far fewer than this number of podcast listeners.
But does that mean their show is less successful?
Well, it depends entirely on your perspective.
Let’s start by talking about those podcasters who would practically sell their soul to get 500 listeners per month. Maybe they’re getting anywhere between 20 downloads and 80 downloads per week.
So, an average of 50 per month then?
Ok, shall we give them a reassuring hug and tell them “it’s ok, we still love you!”
Or should we instead show them this picture?
Yep, this is what 50 people look like.
Imagine you had this amount of people in a room, and you were going to play them your podcast.
Wouldn’t you be a bit nervous?
Oh my god!
Actual people, actually listening!
But what if your podcast stats are showing 100 downloads per month on average?
Here’s a picture of what that would look like if they were real people in a room.
The real-world difference of a handful of extra listeners...
I can’t resist it.
I know I’m on to a winner of a point here.
But why stop there?
It’s not just about the overall number of average listeners we get all hung up on.
What about when we’re sat there on our stats page repeatedly hitting refresh, and then we notice one episode has 25 listeners more than another.
Oh my god!
Where did we go wrong?!!
So, your one episode with 125 downloads makes you feel sad about your one episode with 100 downloads?
Shall we show you what 125 people look like?
Not that much of a glaringly obvious difference really is there?
It’s still a LOT of people!
Stop getting all hung up on your stats week to week or episode to episode
Yes, podcasting KPIs are all about how many people are listening to your shows.
On the most basic level.
But, the truth is that you can’t rely on numbers alone to tell you what a successful podcast sounds like.
That would be too easy, wouldn’t it?
You could buy your listens on a dodgy website and say “yes, my podcast is successful.”
(Here’s looking at you, current ‘successful podcaster, regularly in the Business ‘chart’ on Apple Podcasts. You know who you are.)
We should always be looking for ways to improve our podcasting productions by listening to our listeners AND analysing stats for individual episodes or over time.
At the end of the day though, podcasting success takes practice.
Reach out to me if you’d like some help getting your podcast sounding good enough that people will want to listen to it.
But remember, the numbers are largely irrelevant at this kind of scale.
When you have thousands of regular, engaged listeners, that’s when you should invest the time time to drill down into your stats so you can identify trends.
You can analyse useful info such as where your messaging is hitting home, and where you might need to do a little more work.
You can start to deep dive into your dashboards, and analyse retention rates and drop-off zones.
That's all great, but I need specific advice about my podcast stats!
I’m more than happy to book in a session to talk more in depth with you about where you are right now, and where you’d ideally like to be.
Click the link below to access my calendar.
Every podcaster is on a different journey.
All you need is a decent map.