Did Your Podcast Grow In 2019?

Evo Terra
6 min readJan 7, 2020

Did your podcast grow in 2019? It’s surprisingly hard to answer that question. And the answer find might be less meaningful than you imagine. Luckily, there’s a way out.

Hello and welcome to another Podcast Pontifications with me, Evo Terra. Happy 2020, everyone! Thanks for letting me take a break these last few weeks, and I’m glad for all of those who accepted my request to guest host while I was away.

Today we’ll find out whether or not your show, my show, everybody’s show… saw any growth in 2019. I said at the beginning that’s a hard number to track. Because… what do we actually track to indicate growth of a podcast? We can’t really track subscribers. At least not easily. Surprisingly, most of our podcast hosting companies easily tell us how many people have picked up our various podcast RSS feeds. But even if they did track and report that to us, subscriber count is not all that meaningful.

A lot of the new listeners podcasting has attracted in recent years don’t subscribe to the podcasts they listen to. Today’s listener is much more likely to pick-and-choose which episodes they wish to listen to. And ask anyone on YouTube how much the subscriber number for their channel has to do with the number of views any given video receives.

Your good enough at math to realize tracking the total number of downloads is a bogus number. Shows like mine that produce daily content have more episodes for their audience to download than producers who drop episodes weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or on a more ad hoc schedule.

Also often enough, a new person discovers a long-running show and downloads the entire back catalog. This happens to me fairly regularly, so I’ll often see a spike of 300 downloads in one day, skewing the number.

Then there’s the fact that most of the podcasting apps out there — Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or others — aren’t always auto-downloading episodes anymore, especially if your content is unlistened to by a subscriber. A lot of them are set to stream-by-default, where the app polls the RSS feed to display new content for subscribers but leaves it up to them to click the button to trigger the download. Should those subscribers be counted?

No matter how you slice it, it’s hard to find a universal “track growth this way” formula. Why? Because what counts for a good way to measure growth for one show might be very different for the way it’s tracked by another show.

One big factor: The amount of evergreen value your content has.

If you’re putting out a daily news show where you summarize the news of the day, I would argue that the evergreen value of your content is quite small. But if you’re doing a much more in-depth thought piece, then the evergreen value is much higher. If your content is designed to be consumed episodically (like this show) as opposed to a serial show (like an audio drama or podcast fiction as we call them today, an investigative journalism series, or true crime), the audience has a different consumption expectation.

So did your show grow in 2019? You might have a hard time answering that question. I can answer the question for me. Yes, it did! How much? Well, that’s a little weirder.

If you’ll notice the artwork of this particular episode (I’ll have a link in the in-app episode notes as well as on the blog post for the episode) you can see the evidence that yes, my show did grow.

2019 per-episode download growth chart for Podcast Pontifications

Here’s how I made that chart. I looked not at daily downloads, which you might be tempted to do. Not at total downloads, but I looked at downloads for each episode produced in 2019. And then I looked at two metrics, neither of which I could get from my podcast hosting company. (You probably can’t either, but maybe you can.)

  • 7-day downloads (the total number of downloads each episode received after seven days of it being published)
  • 30-days downloads (same as above, but for a longer time frame)

Again, my hosting company, Libsyn, does not break stats down by 7-day and 30-day downloads. They just don’t, and that’s their choice. (I’m assuming your podcast hosting company likely doesn’t either.) So to get at those data, I use Chartable.

No, this is not an ad for Chartable. Yes, I like Chartable. I use Chartable for all of my clients. But they didn’t pay me to say these nice things about their service.

I give Chartable my login information from my hosting company, Libsyn, and Chartable then logs into Libsyn and re-processes Libsyn’s data, and then does a much better job of displaying that information, like the 7- and the 30-day download numbers.

So again, if you look at the resulting chart, you will see that while the show has a lot of ups and downs, it is clearly going up into the right. That means the number of downloads my episodes received overtime is going up. I even put total downloads with no time restriction in there just for a reference point because my show consumption habits aren’t that drastic. Yours may be.

With the warning I made earlier that the type of show you do may result in a completely different consumption habit for your listeners, I’m a fan tracking downloads per episode is a better way of tracking growth.

Did your podcast grow in 2019? If it didn’t grow, why not? Did you intend for it to grow? Did you take any actions to actually make it grow? We’ll get into some of those topics a little later on. Not in this particular episode, but later on in the show. Because a lot of podcasters still think that their show will grow without any effort. But it won’t. You’ve got to measure the success of the actions you took to make your podcast grow.

But first off, let’s find out if any natural growth happened. Now’s a good time. It’s the beginning of 2020. Go back. Pull all your episodes for 2019 the way I’ve done above and tell me if you’re show is growing. I want to hear about it.

Now as we come to the close of the program, two things for you.

  1. I recently heard of this new cool service called RateThisPodcast. All you have to do try it out is go to RateThisPodcast.com/podpont (because “pontifications” is too hard to spell) and see how slick and easy it is to leave a rating for a show. This show, specifically.
  2. if you think the information I have is of value, you can still go to BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra. Yeah, that makes me very happy.

I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.

Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!

This article started life as a podcast episode. The 246th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇

Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.



Evo Terra

Professional contrarian. On a mission to make fiction podcasting better. he/him. คุณ | https://theend.fyi | https://home.social/@evoterra