Do We Really Need More Podcast Charts?

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Do we really need more podcast charts? No, we definitely don't. If podcasters are focusing on the charts, they're doing it wrong. Here's why.

When’s the last time you used one of the “best of” podcasting charts to find your next favorite listen? For me, the answer is quite literally never. 

Like many other podcast listeners, I find the next binge-worthy podcast by

  • asking those we trust
  • checking out opinions of bloggers we know and love, or
  • searching for a specific topic using one of those handy little in-app search bars.

Heck, I might even use Google. But not very many of us actually take heed from the arbitrary “New and Noteworthy,” or another like category.

Why? Because, why would we ask a stranger’s opinion (or worse, technology’s) when there are so many options out there? Why not follow recommendations by those that we know already understand us?

It turns out, I’m not the only one who foregoes the recommendations from podcast charts. In The Podcast Host's own discoverability survey, only 13 percent of respondents actually cared about what the chart says. Most people preferred to just search on their own within their favorite app for the topic they wanted.

This makes sense to me, and it also means that SEO and keywords are way more important than New and Notable or the Top 100 [insert category] Podcasts

Charts Are a Distraction

Once upon a time, getting into Apple’s New and Noteworthy was all the rage. Podcasters thought that it would somehow suddenly thrust their podcast into the spotlight. But, every podcaster that I’ve talked to, who has actually made the holy grail newbie chart, reported that while they did see a spike in downloads, they didn’t get optioned for TV the next day. Too bad, right?

Then there are the category charts—those I can tell you from personal experience don’t even move the download numbers needle. I’ve had podcasts on the top 100 charts in multiple categories, in different countries around the world. It didn't make a lick of difference. Heck, I can’t even figure out how we got there in the first place.

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Podcast charts are a distraction. They’re like the New York Times Bestseller’s list. They don’t mean much, except for maybe to a few corporate executives in some office somewhere, for some reason.

They don’t measure the most downloads, because then the needle would never move. It’d be the same collection of podcasts on there every week. They don’t qualify the best of podcasts. I’ve listened to some stellar under-the-radar podcasts that definitely beat out the heavy hitters. But, I’ve never seen them on a chart. And, perhaps most alarming of all, podcast charts are pretty easy to game. $5 on Fiverr can even get you there.  

What Should We Focus On?

Spotify announced their own chart system. Unsurprisingly, it's full of big names making podcasts you’ve probably already heard about. They're mixed in with a heavy load of their own shows. For podcasters looking to make a big splash, instead I’d recommend zeroing in on long-lasting marketing techniques. That will give you a slow steady incline in listeners, who are there to stay.

Write better, more accurate episode descriptions. Zero in on your podcast’s elevator pitch (aka your show description). This way, prospective listeners know exactly what they’re getting into before they hit the play button. Promote, promote, promote, and market, market, market. Long-lasting success comes with a steadily growing audience that loves your show as much as you do. And, you probably won’t find them in the podcast charts. 

When it boils down to it, the key to podcast success lies in building a good relationship with your audience. The Podcast Host Academy can help you learn more about the intricacies of podcasting, and master this subtle art form.