How Monthly Stats Mislead

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(By Dave Jackson) I do a podcast called the Podcast Rodeo Show where I grab a random podcast and see how long I can “hold on” and then give my honest first impression (www.podcastrodeoshow.com). In checking my stats (the show just celebrated one year of publishing), I am getting close to 6,000 downloads per month.

I was at a conference where they announced that the next speaker coming to the stage had launched a few months ago and had already achieved 10,000 downloads per month. 

In hearing these stats, if you do a weekly show, you might think, “WOW, 10,000 downloads a month calculates to 2,500 downloads per episode!” This is a natural conclusion to jump to as many podcasters (following the example of television shows) deliver a weekly podcast. 

The problem is, my show (6,000 downloads per month), and the other show (10,000 downloads a month), both publish three times per week. Instead of four episodes per month, there are 12. 

This leads you to think my Podcast Rodeo show gets 500 downloads per episodes (6,000 downloads divided by 12 episodes per month). The show with 10,000 downloads per month appears to have 833 downloads per episode (10,000 downloads divided by 12 episodes per month). These are still impressive numbers (think of yourself standing in front of a room of 500 people). However, you would still be wrong. 

When I look at my show, I get between 200-300 downloads per episode. If my calculated total was 500 downloads per episode (6,000 downloads per month divided by 12 episodes) what is the source of these other 200 downloads? (I calculated 500 downloads, my stats show a max of 300, 500-300 = 200). 

The answer is my back catalog. I have 156 episodes published. When someone finds and likes my show (as a podcast review show it is evergreen content), they also download the entire back catalog. When an episode from November 2017 gets downloaded in November 2018 that stat shows up as a download for November 2018. 

So, the break down would be:
– 12 episodes a month getting 300 downloads per episode = 3,600
– People downloading my back catalog = 2,400
– Total downloads for the month 6,000.

If you are talking with sponsors, you shouldn’t count that back-catalog number in your stats. The number that is recommended to use is the total number of downloads per episode after the episode has been published for 30-45 days (as this is when you get most of your downloads). 

A smaller download total is why getting paid per thousand downloads (CPM) does not work for most podcasters. We need to quote the episode (not monthly) downloads as we want the sponsor to know what to expect. By setting realistic expectations, a sponsor can know what kind of return on their investment they can honestly expect. 

When I was speaking at DC Podfest, I had the audience repeat after me, “Monthly stats are crap.” While they are not crap, they can be misleading. The more accurate stat is the number of downloads per episode after 30-45 days.

Dave Jackson is a Hall of Fame podcaster and consultant. He started the School of Podcasting in 2005 and has helped more podcasters with their podcast than any other human on the planet. Find him at www.schoolofpodcasting.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. But… the other wrench in the works is the frequency of your podcast. A monthly podcast will have a “lifespan” well beyond the “30-45 days”. Hardcore History will likely have a 6 month to 1 year lifespan. However, a daily podcast is probably only good for 7 days.

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