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How to Use the New Apple Podcast Follower Metrics

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Apple recently announced some new features in Apple Podcasts Connect, the most striking of which is that podcasters can now see follower metrics for the Apple Podcasts App. This is great for many reasons. Not only can you tell how many folks are following your show through Apple Podcasts, but you can also tell how many are engaged listeners. How can this information help you grow your show? Let’s take a closer look at Apple Podcasts Connect’s new listener metrics and find out.

Is There Anybody Out There?

Defining an accurate subscriber count for your podcast hasn’t always been easy. As listening apps and directories improve, so do their tracking methods. Spotify for Podcasters‘ Dashboard shows how long people listen, broken down by age and gender. Now, Apple has a similar metric.

More importantly, Apple Podcasts Connect’s new follower metrics show numbers for listeners and engaged listeners. They define “listeners” as “the number of unique devices that have played more than 0 seconds of an episode”, and “engaged listeners” as “The number of devices that played at least 20 minutes or 40% of an episode within a single session.” They further clarify that pausing or stopping an episode doesn’t count as starting a new session. Some other good intel that Apple Podcasts Connect provides is the number of plays, and how many unique devices per country or city played the episode. Time frames are adjustable, as well.

What Can Listener Metrics Do for Me?

Many media hosts provide geographic download data. But, sometimes this costs a little bit more. They also don’t show how many devices played the episode, or how much of it. If you’re using free or low-cost media hosting that provides a minimum of analytic data, Apple Podcasts Connect’s new followers metric is extremely helpful.

This can also tell you what your audience finds most interesting. Let’s say your podcast’s format divides your episodes into segments. Maybe you open with a few minutes of banter with your co-host, pivot to a guest interview, and then pivot again to a segment with your co-host. If you know that your interview takes up the middle 40% of your episode, and you see the numbers abruptly drop around where the interview ends, it’s pretty easy to figure out what your audience finds most interesting.

You can see here that Apple Podcasts Connect reports that this episode has 645 listeners, but 533 engaged listeners. And, at the outset, the drop is pretty steep, falling from 594 to 555. The drop at the end, in the last minute, is where the credits roll. I’m going to guess that the steep drop at the beginning means that the Apple Podcasts app downloads a little bit of each episode to the user’s app so that it plays right away when the user clicks on it.

What Can You Do With This Data?

If I were planning to monetize this podcast, the difference between 533 and 645 is important. It tells me that about 17% of the “listeners” aren’t really listening. They follow the podcast and might read the show notes, but they’re not pressing play or listening for very long.

Another important piece of data here is the top city. Apparently, this episode is a hit in Seattle. Nobody directly involved with the podcast lives there, and I don’t have enough friends who do to justify engaged listens. So, I’m pleasantly surprised!

What I could do with this information is communicate with small businesses in Seattle about sponsorship. I could tell them that our most engaged listeners live in their neighbourhood, and send them a media kit. If I were planning a live show, these numbers tell me it’d have more of a chance of success in Washington State than in Washington, D.C.

Apple Podcasts Connects listener metrics can also show you some odd surprises. A friend sent me this screenshot from his listener analytics.

apple podcasts connect listener metricsener metrics

One person listened to the same episode 34 times. In this case, the media host could have reported 34 episode downloads, which, prior to Apple Podcasts Connect’s new listener metrics could make you think that audience has 34 unique listeners. I hope for their sake that it’s one incredibly committed superfan.

listening while in medical treatment or recovery

They’re Real, and They’re Spectacular

Fake streams, or downloads initiated by bots or click farming, aren’t just a myth. In 2019, indie music publisher Louis Posen estimated that fake streams cost the music industry over $300 million a year. Despite attempts to curb this practice, digital manipulation of streams continues. The music industry (and music journalism) has the wherewithal to shine a light on this problem. All independent podcasters can do is hope that platforms, such as Apple, and third-party analytics providers, can obtain and share this kind of useful data with independent podcasters. The good news is that with Apple’s new listener metrics, podcasters can get a sense of who’s really paying attention, and why, and engage their audiences in a way that’s more meaningful and productive.

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