So you want to start your own podcast? To make it really work and for your podcast to become successful you may make a serious investment of both your time and money. Podcast charts could be one of the elements that can lead you to the right decision. From whether you should enter the podcast ring at all to what kind of podcast genre you should work within.

Like any other set of charts out there, podcast charts represent sets of statistics. On one hand, they are a useful tool both for podcasters themselves and for potential investors and podcast advertisers. But as PodNews notes, they can be confusing and complex. Nonetheless, they are an essential tool for any podcaster and those seeing podcasts as an investment opportunity.

As one podcast expert points out, “podcast awareness and listening continue to rise in the United States, driven by an explosion in new podcast programming, the pandemic, and consumer adoption of “smart speakers” like Amazon Echo and Google Home devices.”

Some of the more recent podcast numbers say:

  • 78% of Americans are Now Familiar with Podcasting. This is approximately 222 million people and an increase of 10 million in one year — a 4.72% increase.
  • 57% of Americans Have Listened to a Podcast. This is up from 55% in 2020 and 51% in 2019. This indicates that roughly three-quarters of the people who are familiar with podcasts have actually listened to one.
  • Podcast Listeners Have Grown 29.5% in 3 Years. In 2018, 44% of Americans 12 or older had listened to a podcast, compared to 57% in 2021.
  • Monthly Podcast Listeners Have Grown 61.5% in 3 Years. In 2018, 26% of Americans 12 or older listened to podcasts monthly, compared to 41% in 2021.

How to understand podcast charts and stats

These are just some of the basic numbers, which all show that podcasting and its business potential are on a continuous rise. So, it is quite important for anybody dealing with podcasts to be able to properly understand podcast charts and the statistics they present.

But as PodNews (above) notes, there is one problem. There is no unifying podcast chart, either worldwide or for a specific country like the United States. “There are some podcast rankers that do seek to compare total downloads. These only count podcasts from participating publishers: and are not representative of all podcasts in all countries.”

The two podcast charts users and interested parties refer to most two are The Apps Podcast “Top Shows” and Spotify’s podcast charts. The problem with both is neither measures podcast downloads.

Another problem is the fact the podcasters don’t have available the number of how many people subscribe to their podcast. “Apple Podcasts gives publishers a “total devices” number; Spotify does give actual follower numbers for signed-in users; Google Podcasts gives you total subscribers, but none of these give you an overall number for a podcast.”

So how are podcast charts measured anyway? According to the same source, some platforms work by telling a listener’s phone to check your RSS feed (most notably Apple Podcasts and Podcast Addict). Other platforms work by checking your RSS feed on a central server, and then telling a listener’s phone when they spot a new episode.

Some hosts or services will use IAB standards to measure a device’s IP address and its user agent, to estimate the total number of subscribers. This may significantly overestimate audiences.

How do the charts of key podcast providers work?

Apple’s Podcast Charts only measure activity on Apple Podcasts. According to Apple itself, their podcast charts “encompass a mix of new subscriptions, playback activity, and completion rate; ratings and reviews aren’t factored into these charts.”

An appearance on the Apple Podcast charts, therefore, mainly reflects a podcast’s ability to attract a larger number of new subscriptions to their podcast over recent days. It is not related to downloads. You can appear very high on the Apple Podcast charts by planning all activity around your podcast release on one specific day, and encouraging as many followers on that one day as possible (PodNews).

Spotify’s Podcast Charts only measure activity on Spotify’s platform.

Spotify re-launched its podcast charts in April 2021. According to their blog post, top Podcasts are “determined by a combination of overall follower counts and the number of recent unique listeners.”

Top Episodes are “determined exclusively by the number of unique listeners on that day, providing a look into what’s buzz-worthy at the moment.” There are separate podcast charts for each country (same source).

Both of these two largest podcast providers have their own analytics.

“Apple is responsible for about a third of global podcast downloads, and users can opt-out of being tracked, so Apple Podcast Analytics only measures a small proportion of your downloads.”

Apple Podcast Analytics only reports a sample of your audience. They are an incredibly useful tool to help you understand how people are consuming your podcast. They do not give you the total numbers for your podcast, and will always be different from your podcast host.

Google also provides analytics for podcasts that go through their services. The numbers there will be smalls since Google is responsible for less than 5% of all podcast downloads.

podcast charts

Spotify for Podcasters and podcast statistics in general

As the largest streaming service in the world, Spotify has the largest share of available podcasts. It also provides analytics only for Spotify-only podcasts. This can be done through a log-in into ‘Spotify for Podcasters.

Besides the consumption data, “Spotify also gives useful genre information for your show, above gender, age, geographical location, and what music they listen to.” Spotify does not measure downloads but listens. Spotify supplies two numbers.

According to Spotify itself, “Starts measure any listener who clicked on a podcast episode. There is no minimum time limit to be counted as a start on Spotify. Starts align to a download used by other podcast listening platforms.

Streams measure any listener who listened to at least 60 seconds of your podcast. Streams align to the IAB definition of a download, an industry-wide accepted metric.”

Here, PodNews points to two cautionary elements:

  • Spotify, Gaana, and in certain circumstances Amazon Alexa devices, may cache your podcast (they take a copy and host it on their servers). Your podcast host may not see individual plays on these services. Make sure these numbers aren’t elsewhere on your podcast host’s dashboard or hidden altogether.
  • All podcast hosts measure downloads differently. Ones using the standard (they may describe themselves as “IAB v2 compliant” or “IAB Certified”) are roughly comparable: but even these podcast hosts do not have identical measurement mechanisms. Ones that don’t use the standard, most notably Soundcloud, may appear to give you four or five times the amount of downloads. They’re not: they’re just counting them differently. When switching hosts, you won’t get the same numbers: they may go up or down.

Podtrac analytics and podcast rankers

Podtrac is a free service for podcasts. It measures downloads in a consistent way, whatever the podcast host or app used. You can use Podtrac to compare numbers for any podcast: but the numbers for individual shows aren’t made public. Podcasters need to sign up with Podtrac (free) to measure a podcast. Most producers don’t; so the Podtrac numbers will always only show an incomplete picture of the podcasting landscape (PodNews).

There are some products out there that might claim to show podcast analytics. However, unless they are directly built into your RSS feed or you’ve given them access to your hosting account, they do not know podcast download numbers.

Apart from Podtrac, there are podcast rankers in Norway, Sweden, Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Latin America, and the US. They’re run by different companies (though Triton Digital runs many of them), and these work by looking through podcast log files to calculate a figure of total downloads.

Individual country podcast rankers only count downloads from that country, not from others: and they only count downloads from publishers who want to appear in the ranker (and, in most cases, paid to be there). Some monitor audience; some average downloads per episode. They are not a complete view of the podcast industry, or consistent.

There is a specific US-only podcast study periodically conducted by Edison Research. They conduct by interviewing 8,00 people about the podcast they say they have listened to. Based on it, Edison Research comes up with a periodical top 30 podcast list.

Podcast charts – confusing but useful

It is quite obvious that a unifying podcast chart or charts are still not available out there. Looking at the methodologies used by Spotify, Apple, and podcast rankers like Podtrac can be confusing. Still, all of them combined to give a general picture of the rise of podcasting, podcasting services, and business opportunities available herein.

The statistical numbers presented above go to prove this point. But to underline it here are two more statistical facts:

  • Each Week, More Americans Listen to Podcasts Than Have Netflix Accounts. In 2021, 28% or 80 million Americans are weekly podcast listeners. There are now 10 million more weekly podcast listeners than the 69 million Netflix account owners in the U.S.
  • Weekly Podcast Listeners Tune in an Average of 8 Podcasts per Week. On average, podcast fans listen to 8 podcasts during the course of a week. This average is skewed somewhat, however, by hard-core podcast devotees. 40% of weekly podcast listeners consume 1-3 podcasts per week, but 19% listen to 11 or more podcasts! Overall, more listeners are listening to more podcasts per week as compared to 2020 in which 51% of listeners listened to only 1-3 podcasts per week.

These are further indicators that all podcast charts point to one key fact. Podcasts as potential business projects are still on the rise and so are the available opportunities. So you think that starting a podcast is something to explore, or that using podcasts as an advertising vehicle is now essential.

If so, BunnyStudio certainly presents quite a few opportunities to engage a quality, professional freelancers that can help you with audio and voice recording, ad copy, or post-production. Feel free to contact us on any of these possibilities.