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What’s a Good Number of Downloads for a Podcast?

Can you measure the success of your show purely by its download numbers?

Download numbers are one of the most obvious metrics for measuring the success of your podcast.

Download stats are immediately accessible to you, from the minute you launch your first episode. Watching the numbers climb can be rewarding. Some might even say addictive.

But after the initial novelty has worn off, it's natural for podcasters to begin asking the question, “are my download numbers good?”.

So, are your download numbers “good”? Let's take a look.

How Many Downloads Should I Be Getting?

In a world of YouTube views and Twitter followers, we've become accustomed to figures in the hundreds of thousands, and even millions.

It's important to realise though, these numbers are completely irrelevant to podcasting. The time and effort it takes for someone to click ‘Follow' on Twitter, or watch a few seconds of a Youtube video, should never be compared to podcast listening.

Podcast listening is a commitment, and an investment. It's long form content that isn't immediately accessible via shiny sidebars and viral social media clickbait.

So comparing your downloads to someone else's Instagram followers is like comparing the number of rooms in your house, to the number of trees in the Amazon. It's completely irrelevant and utterly pointless.

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Does it (as usual) Just Depend?

Of course it does.

Could a podcast about breeding Russian white dwarf hamsters realistically expect to see the same downloads as a podcast about Game of Thrones? Absolutely not.

Does this mean that the podcast with more downloads is the more successful one? Again, absolutely not.

If you ran a podcast about a topic that was only interesting to literally 10 people in the world, and you were getting 7 downloads an episode, statistically, you'd be running the most popular show in history.

It's the size of your potential audience that's the big factor. Here are a couple of things to consider.

Firstly, how many folks out there are interested enough in your topic to actually want to consume content about it?

Secondly, how many of those people are current podcast listeners?

Thinking along these lines will help bring you closer to seeing what those cold hard download stats tell you. They can help you set realistic goals, that don't involve drawing comparisons with viral videos and celebrity social media accounts.

Podcast Downloads

Audience Quality & Engagement

An audience might seem “small” in a numerical sense. But with long-form content like podcasting, it's often shows with smaller, but more niche hyper-targeted shows that are considered the more successful.

I've given this example before. If you ran a podcast about the technology needed to fly people to Mars, and your only listener was Elon Musk, would you consider this a successful show?

Granted, it's a far-fetched example. But it's always more about exactly who is listening, than how many of them there are.

And, it's about the engagement. This isn't something that can be achieved overnight. But, if you're creating good content, over time, you'll begin to hear from your listeners.

This could be because you've asked them a question, or recommended they check something out. It could be purely because you've talked about a subject that resonated with them so much, that they felt compelled to reach out.

Measuring engagement requires a little more digging than simply staring at your download stats dashboard. But often, they can tell you a lot more about the impact your show is having.

If your podcast host provides this data, take a look at the geography of your podcast downloads. Are you suddenly getting a burst of downloads in a particular region or country? Check the news and find out what's happening there.

For more on this, check out our guide to encouraging audience engagement, and 8 ways to measure your podcast engagement.

I Still Want a Gauge

One of the easiest ways to get a snapshot of podcast download stats as a whole, is to listen to Libsyn's official podcast The Feed.

Libsyn are one of the biggest podcast media hosting platforms in the industry.

Naturally, they can only provide stats based on the shows that host there. But there's over 50,000 of them, which makes it a pretty significant sample size.

Their show – The Feed – is also essential listening for any podcaster – even if you don't host with Libsyn. They provide great statistical data every other week. This can help you to see how your numbers measure up in the grand scheme of things. Remember, though, that it's far from the whole story.

At the time of writing, here were the latest figures. These are based on the number of downloads in the 30 day period following the release of a new episode.

If your new episode gets, within 30 days of its release:

  • more than 136 downloads, you're in the top 50% of podcasts.
  • more than 1100 downloads, you're in the top 20% of podcasts.
  • more than 3200 downloads, you're in the top 10% of podcasts.
  • more than 7,700 downloads, you're in the top 5% of podcasts.
  • more than 20,000 downloads, you're in the top 2% of podcasts.
  • more than 36,000 downloads, you're in the top 1% of podcasts.

Source: The Feed – Episode 145

Summary: Podcast Downloads

Ultimately, asking the question “what's a good number of downloads for a podcast?” is similar to asking “how long is a piece of string?”. Every case is unique. No two podcasts are exactly the same.

By all means, keep track of your download stats. But this isn't going to help grow your show.

Instead, spend your time on the things that do move the needle. Here are some resources for you, going forward.

Use these guides as a framework, and you'll inevitably start to tap in to your potential audience.

And, if you'd like even more help with growing your show, check out The Podcast Host Academy. That's where you'll find all our downloadable resources, checklists, courses (like 30 Days of Audience Growth), our community forum, and our regular live Q&A sessions.

You'll find everything you need in there to grow a successful podcast.

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Written by:

Matthew McLean

Matthew is an audio drama writer and producer who enjoys talking about podcasts. He makes the tea at The Podcast Host, and is a loyal servant of adopted house rabbits.

July 8th 2019