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The Truth About Downloads

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What is the truth about podcast listening during the Pandemic? There have been quite a few stories tossed around lately about downloads and podcast listening during the coronavirus. None of them are consistent to the point where podcasters could feel confident on what the truth is. One can only imagine what advertiser believe if our own industry isn’t even on the same page.

We dialed up Libsyn’s Vice President of Podcaster Relations Rob Walch to get his take on the recent download and listening stories. Here’s what he told us…

I’ve been looking at downloads very closely the past few weeks - and I compared them to the averages from the weeks of Jan 12th, 19th and 26th - what I’ll be using as a base line number for this and future mentions. What we found for the week of March 15th is the following - for the whole week Sun to Sat - there was a decrease of around 12%. But if you looked at just Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, traditionally the biggest days of the week for downloads - we saw a decrease of around 16.6%. But here’s some interesting and positive - looking at Sunday/Saturday we saw an increase of around 1%.

For the entire week of March 22nd there was a drop of around 12.5% - but for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - the drop was 18.1% - and Sunday/Saturday the drop was just 0.54%. For the week of March 29th - the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday numbers and VS. the baseline average in January - there was a drop of  17.8%. For Sunday/Saturday - there was a 3.21% drop, and for the whole week - the drop was 13.4% VS. the baseline weeks in January.

I’ve seen some pretty bad and misleading reports on what’s happening with download numbers. One company compared year over year numbers - which are completely worthless in this scenario. That means nothing in the context of the pandemic.

Another company put out a post saying they had their best weekend ever.  Really - how did the middle of the week do for you? Also bragging about your network numbers being up - is well… tone deaf - And doing so when only looking at your weekend numbers is misleading at best.

Now is not the time to mislead people. Now is the time to say this is what we’re seeing and here’s how we’re looking at it. Use some common sense and ethics when doing so.

That podcast downloads are down JUST around 12 to 13% for the whole week overall is not bad - we lost a lot of commuters.  But with any situation there are some shows that went up. Virology podcasts are up over 10x for their weekly numbers compared to January numbers. But if you have a podcast on Hockey or Basketball or Baseball show - your numbers are not going to be up 10X or up at all right now.

Every show will be impacted in its own way - do not fret right now if your individual numbers are down and please don’t celebrate if they are up - well at least not publicly.  Just concentrate on that which you can control - the CONTENT - and stay connected to your listeners through all of this. In many cases you’re part of their social connections and You’re providing them comfort in these crazy times.

Rob Walch can be reached by e-mail at

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