Podcast downloads are the golden metric in podcasting world. Even though there are many other statistics that track a podcast’s performance, podcast downloads gets all the attention. 😇
So, a good question is “what number of downloads means success?” Like all of the best questions in podcasting, the answer to this one is “it depends.”
But do not worry, we are not going to leave you hanging there. In this blog post, we are going to dive into the numbers and talk through the details. 🤓
When you finish reading this, you should have a decent idea of what your target download goal is. At the very least, you will understand the overall context of podcast download numbers in the industry.
First, we are going to look at the research out there about podcasting download numbers, both industry-wide and some hosting-platform level data. Then we are going to show you how to calculate your own “success number” for your podcast’s downloads.
Let’s get started! 🥳
Industry Data on Podcast Downloads: A Few Warnings
To meaningfully interpret your podcast statistics, including deciding what is a successful podcast download number for you, it is important to put it in the context of the podcasting universe. Here are some things to be aware of.
The first thing you should know about podcast downloads is that there is no one centralized, transparent source where you can find all the podcast downloads statistics for each show. So do not wear yourself out looking for it. 😫
In fact, the podcast download stats for individual shows is basically impossible to get a hold of. Even if you pay a lot of money for a podcast database and research platform, like some podcast companies do, chances are you are not going to get the detailed info you really want.
The good news is that if your show is not getting many downloads right now, no one else really knows. If fear of embarrassment or failure is what is holding you back, use this fact to empower you! 😅
Only you and your hosting platform will know your true metrics, and here at Ausha our lips are sealed. 🗝️
Make Sure It is IAB-Certified
Whenever you look at any data in the podcasting world, the very first thing you should check is if the data provider is IAB-Certified (here at Ausha we are!).
Being IAB-certified means that you follow the industry standard for calculating metrics. ⚖️
For example, some non-IAB-certified bodies will count something as a podcast download if one second of audio downloaded. IAB-certified bodies can only count something as a podcast download if at least one minute of audio was downloaded. So a non-IAB-certified body might say that a podcast episode has 3,000 downloads, but a IAB-certified body might say it only has 100 downloads. 🙀
These differences can be huge so always make sure the data you are examining is IAB-certified.
This Ain’t Social Media
On social media, the stats tend to be big. A Facebook Ad can make hundreds of thousands of ‘impressions’ in a day or two. A Tweet can get a thousand views in fifteen minutes. An Instagram selfie can get you dozens of quick likes.
If your dopamine meter is calibrated to social media positive feedback, you are going to need to re-calibrate. The same goes for what you consider success. 📊
Podcasts downloads are tough to earn. Most listeners do not just download and keep scrolling. If they download, chances are they have made the decision to give you at least thirty minutes of their day. That is a big deal! 🤩
So keep this in mind as you judge your podcast download numbers.
The Industry Numbers We Do Know
Ok, now that we have covered what data not to expect in podcasting, we will cover what data is available.
Overall Podcast Production
According to Listen Notes (a trusted podcast database), right now there are about 3 million podcasts and 160 million episodes in the world. 🌍
Of those 3 million, 1.8 million podcasts are in English and 1.9 million are made in the United States. 🇺🇸
Note: There were a ton of new podcasts started during 2020 due to pandemic restrictions. In fact, new podcasts doubled. But many of those do not still exist today, and the rate of new podcast creation has gone back to pre-pandemic levels.
US Podcast Listeners
Edison Research’s annual “Infinite Dial” survey is considered one of the best sources for information on US podcast listeners. According to the 2022 report, about 177 million, or 62% of Americans have listened to at least one podcast. About 109 million, or 41% of Americans, listen to podcasts monthly, while 74 million, or 26% of Americans, listen to podcasts weekly. 📆
Those 74 million weekly listeners listened to an average of 8 podcast episodes a week. Broken down in greater detail: 14% of weekly listeners listened to 1 podcast episode/week, 18% listened to 2, 13% listened to 3, 21% listened to four or five, 16% listened to 6-10, and 18% of weekly listeners listened to 11 or more podcast episodes in a week.
It is also important to note that broadly podcast listeners are likely to be white, young to middle aged, affluent and have higher education degrees. Gender-wise, podcast listeners are split pretty evenly between women and men. 👫
How Does This Industry Level Data Help?
Why is this information relevant when figuring out what success if for your downloads? It helps you to start to form a picture of how many possible download opportunities there are out there for your show.
If 74 million Americans are listening to an average of 8 podcast episodes a week, then that is 592 million average total episodes downloads a week. That’s a big market you can tap into! Your show can certainly win over a few hundred or thousand of those 592 million downloads, right? This is totally doable! 🤗
While this broad data can and should give you a ton of confidence, it has a note of caution for some. Remember, podcast listeners right now are mostly white, younger, affluent, highly educated. That means that if your podcast does not cater to this audience, then you are working with a much, much smaller piece of the downloads pie.
But of course that does not mean success does not happen for these podcasts. You do not have to please the majority of podcast listeners to have a lot of downloads! Making an awesome show for a potentially smaller population can still bring your success. And, maybe part of your show’s marketing and mission is to make the pie bigger and more diverse… you are recruiting traditionally non-podcast listeners to become podcast listeners! 💪
Data from Hosting Platforms
Like we said earlier, your number of podcast downloads is basically knowledge that only you and your hosting platform have access to. Your hosting platform gathers all the download metrics and other metrics from the listening platforms it distributes your content to. Then you sign into your hosting platform to look at the gathered data. How good that information is depends on how good your hosting platform is at retrieving from the listening platforms and organizing it for you to analyze. 🧑💻
However, some hosting platforms do give aggregate numbers in terms of how many podcast downloads all their hosted shows have in total. That way they are not giving away any individual show’s exact numbers.
While this data is still not super specific, it does give us more detail than the overall data we have from sources like ListenNotes and Edison. 🕵
Two hosting platforms that have been around a long time, release these kind of numbers from the podcasts they host: Buzzsprout and Libsyn.
Two Hosting Platforms
Buzzsprout bases its podcast downloads data on seven day window, meaning that it only counts downloads for the first seven days after a new episode drops. The format of how it gives this data is to say if your show gets more than X number of downloads, you would be in the top X% of the podcasts we have on our hosting platform:
- > 30 downloads, top 50% of podcasts
- > 105 downloads, top 25% of podcasts
- > 405 downloads, top 10% of podcasts
- > 975 downloads, top 5% of podcasts
- > 4,588 downloads, top 1% of podcasts
Libsyn bases its podcast downloads data on a forty-five day window, meaning it counts episodes downloads for up to 45 days after the episode has dropped. So this is not comparing apples-to-apples with Buzzsprout. 🍎🍊
Libsyn uses the opposite format as Buzzsprout, saying if your show gets more than X number of downloads, you are doing better than X% of the shows on our hosting platform.
- > 154 downloads, better than 50% of podcasts
- > 1,200 downloads, better than 80% of podcasts
- > 3,500 downloads, better than 90% of podcasts
- > 8,100 downloads, better than 98% of podcasts
- > 32,000 downloads, better than 99% of podcasts.
How Does This Platform Level Data Help?
The information we just showed you is a lot more digestible than the huge, industry-wide numbers we gave you in the previous section. You can size up your current or future podcast to these numbers and figure out where you stand. Very refreshing and helpful, right?
Yes, BUT… 👀
Buzzsprout only hosts about 5% of all podcasts and Libsyn only hosts about 3% of all podcasts (per ListenNotes). In other words, over 90% of all podcasts are not represented in those lists of comparison we just gave you. 😵💫
So again, those numbers are helpful only to a certain degree. You are only comparing your podcast against a relative handful of podcasts, not all the podcasts. It is hard to say if these podcast are representative of all podcasts. Maybe the other 90% of podcasts do much worse, maybe they do much better. We just do not know.
Anchor, Spotify’s hosting platform that only automatically distributes to Spotify, hosts about 50% of all podcasts and they are not sharing their data. Even if they did, since they only automatically distribute to Spotify then it would not be an apples-to-apples match with podcasts that are distributed to all major listening platforms. For example, almost half of all podcast episodes are listened on Apple (you can thank the iPhone and iTunes for that). 🎧
Ok so where in the world does this leave us? 🧐
Well, we have a decent idea of the universe of podcast downloads and we have a few touch points from hosting platforms about their podcast download numbers. So it kind of answers the question of “How many podcast downloads are good,” but not all the way. That’s why then you need to pivot to building a success number for yourself.
How to Calculate Your Own “Success Number” for Podcast Downloads
While knowing industry numbers is helpful for context, podcasters really need to develop their own number when it comes to evaluating their own success. There are a two main, different ways to do this.
The Organic, Social Network Calculation
This is the most grassroots kind of approach to figuring out what your threshold for success is. 🌱
First, think about your personal network. This may include your extended family, friends, colleagues, people you are connected to on social media, etc. It can also include people in your alumni network (high school, university) and professional organizations.
Basically just think of anyone who you could reach personally or you could reach through just one gatekeeper (like the contact person for your alumni network monthly newsletter). 🧑✈️
Then do a deeper search for any social media groups or other groups that are directly related to the content your podcast is about. For example, if your podcast is about public transportation in cities, you may want to look for groups for cyclists, groups for people with disabilities, environmental groups, etc. Be sure to include Reddit in your search of social media sites as it often attracts people who are actively engaged and curious about a topic.
Again, these are people that you will be able to reach out to directly or through one easy gatekeeper. You will need to do more work with these folks to build a connection, but the power is still in your handles if you are willing to do the work. 👷
Then take the total number of all these people (personal contacts, social media groups, etc) and decide what percentage of these folks you think you could get to become subscribers for your podcast.
For example, let’s say you have figured out that there about 5,000 people that fall into this category and your goal is to get 20% of them to be subscribers. That means your success number for downloads would be about 1,000 per episode. ⬅️
Create New Goals Over Time
Once you have achieve this success number for downloads, you can create a second goal.
From those 1,000 subscribers on listening apps, how many do you think you can get to share the podcast with a friend. How many will forward your podcast email to their network of people after they read it? In other words, how can you activate your listeners to add a new set of listeners? 🗣️
After your podcast becomes a certain level of popular, you can base your new goal on more than organic, relationship-based growth. Your podcast will appear higher people’s search results (Google and listening apps). That means your reach now goes beyond just personal networks.
As you can see, this is a never-ending process. Once you hit what you consider is a good amount of downloads, you can change that goal to an even higher one. But it all starts in figuring out your goal based on your organic, personal network. 👩🌾
The “Make it Worth My Time” Calculation
There is another way to develop your definition of what a good download number is for you. Think about what download amount is worth the time and energy you put into recording your podcast. 🏋
If your podcast is about something you know is niche, but super important to share, maybe you will be happy if 20 people play each episode. That is an absolutely fine goal. It satisfies you. There is absolutely no reason to chase after other people’s idea of success. 🧘
There are lots of different ways to monetize your podcast, but if you are reading this blog post, chances are you are interested in how many downloads you need to attract advertisers. This is a completely understandable goal.
The rule of thumb for podcasters is that generally advertisers are looking for at least 5,000 downloads per episode. 💰
Let’s say you get an advertiser for your pre-roll slot ($15/cpm), midroll slot($30/cpm), and post-roll slot ($10/cpm). With 5,000 downloads that means you will make ($15×5) + ($30×5) + ($10×5) = $275 per episode.
Of course that number will go up as your downloads go up. If you want to make $500 an episode then your download goal would be closer to 10,000 downloads.
It all depends on what you define as success. 🤙
The Most Important Thing: Track Your Success
We will leave you with a critical piece of advice. No matter what your goal is, no what you choose as your “good number of downloads,” always track your downloads over time. 👈
If you are an Ausha member, you can simply look at your Analytics dashboard— we make it easy. 😎
If you are not an Ausha member, you may have to go into each listening app (and YouTube if you do video episodes) and gather the download numbers. But it is super important that you do this.
By tracking your progress, you will be able to develop milestones and goals that are applicable to your specific show. And that is the most important part of figuring out “how many podcast downloads are good.” 🥇
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