It’s Not Just About the Downloads 

April 1, 2020

By Alison Osborne 

January 2020

When someone thinks of podcast metrics or success, immediately the word “downloads” comes to mind. But it’s predicted that podcast metrics will move away from downloads in 2020 and here’s why. 

As you can tell, Spotify has really made its mark in podcasting. An interesting aspect to look at when it comes to Spotify and podcasts is the fact that there’s no way to download an episode. Spotify’s listener count instead comes from the number of streams. Tom Webster of Edison Research states that: 

“The download economy will start to show some cracks. We are seeing some publishers start to ‘podcastify’ all kinds of content that we might not have traditionally thought of as podcasts to generate more implied impressions. Spotify has already become a significant distributor of podcast content, and as other platforms ramp up walled and proprietary content, those stats are going to look different to the download stats we are all used to. Making a combination of downloads, listens, streams and impressions make sense for advertisers is going to be an existential question for content publishers.” 

Understanding Your Listener

But on top of this, downloads are starting to lose their power when it comes to telling the success of a podcast series. With the emergence of niche podcasts that have a focus on a smaller but highly targeted listener base, downloads don’t always accurately measure the value of a series. Instead, emphasis will shift towards the narrative around a podcast, who’s talking about it? Who’s listening to it? Rather than how many listeners are there. 

Dane Cardiel from Simplecast says it incredibly well: 

“We’ll see a shift in 2020 where the download metric begins to lose its prominence as the main measurement of what makes a successful podcast, successful. Podcasters will have to be diligent in collecting and interpreting any ancillary data to help craft a more compelling story about what makes their connection with their audience more impactful — and more importantly, they will need to educate their partners about why having the full context of their listeners carries so much more value than how many times an episode was downloaded.” 

Overall, we’re excited to see the industry shifting away from just looking at the number of downloads and instead, diving deeper into who it is that’s downloading. And as Spotify continues to grow in the podcast field, we can expect that downloads won’t be nearly as important since the platform counts listens through streams rather than episode downloads. 



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