The Difference Between Podcast Downloads and Listens

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One of the biggest grey areas in podcasting is not knowing how many people actually listen to your podcast. It’s also something that a lot of podcasters would love to know with more accuracy than is currently possible.

Sure, you can look at the analytics in your hosting service but those numbers don’t give a perfect picture.

The headline number you'll usually see is downloads. In technical terms it's how many times your feed is requested. Think of it like how many times a website is visited. Each time a website is loaded by someone it’s then then logged as a visit.

You’re might think “yeah that’s great since I’m getting plenty of downloads” but hold on just a moment;

Downloads do not equal listens

As a podcast listener you might be the perfect example to that demonstrates this. When you open your app of choice are the latest episodes ready for you to listen to? Do you listen to them all or only a select few and delete the rest?

This is exactly where the pinch point is. Lots of people have their apps set to download episodes but don’t end up listening to them for whatever reason.

Taking this a step further, it might be that someone downloads the episode on their phone, tablet, and computer, but again, doesn’t get round to listening to it. This would mean there are three downloads in your analytics dashboard but no listens.

Returning to the website analogy, you might click on website but then click off it right away without reading or engaging with anything. It still gets logged as a visit.

Currently only a small number of apps are able to gauge how long an episode is listened to. Apple Podcasts gives you this information but only for listens with Apple’s own app and Spotify offers a comparable set of information too, though you’ll be hard pressed to find listening data for all the places your podcast is available.

All of this isn’t to say that your download numbers should be ignored; on the contrary. They give you insight that you wouldn't get without them. What I am saying is to not see your download numbers as the whole picture and to take them with a pinch of salt. The feedback you receive from listeners is more valuable than numbers can ever be.


This originally featured in the Sonics Podcasts monthly email

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