Measuring audience engagement

With popularity of podcasts increasing, Brands are aggressively pursuing podcasts as an advertising channel. In fact, according to a report by Edison research, the average podcast listener demographic is high income, educated and sophisticated.

That means brands are ready to pay top dollars for advertising on podcasts. The advertising spend in podcasts is increasing 100% YoY and in 2017, advertisers put in $314 Million for podcast ads.

Every advertiser is interested in the RoI of their investment. They would like to know the numbers - impressions, size of the audience, click through rate, goal completion rate etc. In other industries like social, text or video ads, the analytics are quite detailed and granular. That way advertisers can measure the audience and estimate the reach of their ads.

Unfortunately, podcasting has been with us since the 1980s yet the quality and quantity of data in podcasting is minimal.
Till recently, all iTunes provided was # number of downloads which is a vanity metric and not very useful. When you listen to a podcast from sources such as iTunes Stitcher etc. you are actually accessing the file after it is being downloaded from the host’s server (it means even if you are streaming a podcast, it is technically counted as a download from host’s server). So once you have ‘technically’ downloaded it, there is no way for the host to find out how much podcast have you listened to, or have you not listened to it at all!

Say, you get 100 downloads, how many of them actually listened to the podcast? How many listened to only the first 10 minutes? How many listened to the entire episode? Lack of data around this makes it really difficult for a podcaster to measure his audience.

Another issue with measuring the podcast engagement is that in cases where a podcast is downloaded to multiple devices, the podcasters can never find out whether these devices belong to the same person or they are different people altogether. This means if I download a podcast on my mobile and then on my tablet, there is no way that the podcaster will know whether it was just me or two different listeners.

Thus such challenges make it very hard for podcasts to gauge the engagement and audience involvement. This might sound disheartening, but can be an advantage.

Measuring your audience engagement properly can help you attract quality advertisers. The data is in the industry is so bad, that even if you are able to give some data backed estimates about your audience, you are better than 95% of other podcasters.

So, let’s focus on doing just that.

1. Accessing advanced iTunes Podcast Analytics

In early 2018, Apple updated their analytics and now give much granular analytics. To access these analytics

a. Go-to

b. Login with the email id you use for iTunes/ podcast submission

c. Under “My Podcasts” You will see all your active podcasts

d. Click on the drop down arrow next to “My Podcasts” and click on Podcast Analytics.

This is being updated by Apple slowly and counts listeners who have the latest version of iOS and iTunes. So, don’t be discouraged if the numbers look low.

2. Check the Number of Subscribers

Subscribers are the people who have taken the pains of going out of the way to push a button so that they can get notifications of your episodes. These people must absolutely love your content and are a much stronger metric than downloads.

Another metric to track is the download/ subscribe ratio in the first 3 days after your podcast. If this ratio is growing with every episode, that means you are creating great content that is resonating with your target audience.

After measuring this for 3-4 episodes, you can project it ahead for the entire year and try approaching advertisers.

3. Use Backtracks or and are full fledge podcast hosting services that boast advanced analytics. Backtracks is probably the most advanced podcast analytics platform out there and collects behavioral and performance data about your audience and can give you an unfair advantage. is free and starts at $39/ month.

4. Run a Survey for Your Audience

You can create a survey for listeners on your website or FB page or take a poll on Twitter. The survey can be on topics they want to listen, or guests they want to feature and in that survey, you can ask for some demographic information as well.

At the beginning and end of every episode, ask your users to head to the website and fill your survey. If you keep the survey short, more people will fill it.

Use this survey as a sample to have a ballpark idea about the demographics of your listeners.

5. Rely on Unique Downloads

A unique download refers to a media file that is downloaded progressively (not streamed), from a specific IP in a 24 hours span. This method is subject to few chasms such as a unique download may not necessarily mean that the user has listened to the podcast completely or it can also mean that multiple people must be listening that one download.

However, this is the closest you can get to find the unique number of users who have engaged with your podcast and this is the only way that you have got as of now. It is a much better metric than only the downloads.

6. Listener drop-off ratio

Let’s say you have a 30-minute episode. At around 15 minutes, you can ask users to visit a unique URL ( to do a simple thing like checking out the show notes or a recommended product, video or infographic.

Similarly, you can add another URL at the end ( Track the number of clicks that you get on both and you will have a rough idea of the listener drop-off rate: how many people listen to half or the entire show. Remember to ensure proper sampling. If the number is too low, the sample size is not enough and you should continue getting more clicks before coming to any conclusion.

7. Download/ Review Ratio

Download/ Review and subscriber/ review ratio are also very interesting metrics. They measure how many reviews you get for every download. Reviews are the social proof of the popularity of your podcast. Only the most enthusiastic and engaged visitors will bother to take that initiative to give you the reviews. You can ask your listeners to give you reviews on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or any other directories that you seek.

For a small audience, a high download/ review ratio indicates the content is unique and resonating well lwith users.

8. Direct Response codes

Once a podcaster has gained the trust of his listeners, it is very likely that based on his recommendation, the listeners are willing to buy a product or service suggested by them. Have a unique discount code (say ABC) or unique URL and measure it. The unique is called direct response as that is what users will type out when they visit the sponsored product page. The product or services that you are endorsing could be yours or could also work out an affiliate program as well.

9. Organizing a Live Event

Organizing a live webinar or a chat is one of the ways where you can find the most engagement. This will also mean that the listeners love your show so much that they are willing to show up to these events. Even if these shows are free or don’t make a profit, these can be very lucrative to advertisers.

These are the users who have been following you religiously and are the part of the fan club. So try conducting a Q&A session or maybe teaching them something new about your niche through live events. Measure how many people knew about the event and how many actually came. Highlight this in your pitch to advertisers.

Final Thoughts

Podcast Analytics are not sophisticated yet but that will slowly improve. Till then we have to be approximate using some of the methods mentioned above.

Remember, the most important part of analyzing audience engagement in a podcast is to observe the consistency and the pattern in the behavior of the users. It is only after many trials that you will start understanding what kind of listeners you have and what kind of content resonates most.

Anup Gosavi

Anup Gosavi

Co-founder, Spext

Co-founder, Spext