How to market your podcast, part 5: Measuring success

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Podcasting has found new favor with the marketing world. Marketers are creating podcasts left and right, but are spending so much time on creating it that they forget to market it. This series is for you, so that people listen or watch your new creation.

Posts in the How to Market Your Podcast series:

Interested in a real-life example? Check out my marketing podcast, Marketing Over Coffee!

In today’s installment, let’s talk about measuring the success of your podcast. It’s one of the most controversial and tricky areas of podcasting. In podcasting, there are 4 sets of metrics that you likely have access to: feed/file, reach, web, and marketing metrics. We’ll dive in from the top.

Feed/File Metrics

Feed and file download metrics are the earliest form of podcast metric. They are essentially the number of times your digital files have been downloaded and the number of people subscribed to your RSS feed. While basic in nature and easy to understand, they’re highly unreliable for two main reasons: caching and completion. Many services such as iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and other podcast listening software will make a copy of your episodes and serve them from their servers. This reduces load on your server, which is not a bad thing. However, one copy made of a file from your server can be played hundreds or thousands of times, and you won’t know.

Completion is the second reason why feed metrics are unreliable. Just because someone’s subscribed to your show or downloaded your episodes doesn’t mean they’ve listened to you. Here’s an example from the Freakonomics Podcast that’s on my phone:


As you can see above, I’ve listened to none of these episodes yet. However, they still count as downloads. If you’re trying to gauge the success of your show, it’s relatively easy to see how misleading feed and file numbers can be.

Reach Metrics

Reach metrics are the top of the audience and media funnel:

  • How many people in your audience have you exposed to your material?
  • How many have engaged?
  • How many have clicked on a podcast player in your Twitter feed, for example?

These numbers will come from a variety of sources like social media listening tools, Twitter and Facebook audience tools, and can be part of your overall podcast analytics package. If you’ve got a huge social following but no one clicks on anything, then you don’t have much reach into your audience.

Web Metrics

Downstream from audience and engagement metrics are things like web analytics. Assuming you’ve set up the basic content infrastructure for your podcast, you should have web analytics available to tell you how people are finding your show and how often they stick around.

GA podcast stats MOC.jpg

All of the basic web analytics metrics apply, such as new and returning visitors, form fills, and pageview/engagement times.

Business Metrics

Finally, down funnel even further are your business impact metrics. Who did something meaningful such as sign up for an email newsletter, ask to speak to a sales representative, or even buy something? Here’s an example of my on-site survey asking people how they heard about me, personally:


For this survey period, 2 out of the 13 people who filled out the survey indicated that my podcast was part of the way they found me. That’s fairly compelling.

The Big Picture

Each of these metrics should be lined up in a dashboard or report so that you can see – and your advertisers/sponsors can see – what kind of numbers you’ve got. I’ve taken metrics from each category and combined them into a spreadsheet, then charted it out for a big picture view of the health of the show:


What do we see?

  • [1] is the subscriber count. We’re looking for direction here more than anything, because of the aforementioned caching and completion problems.
  • [2] is the reach number. This combines media mentions, social shares, and other measurements.
  • [3] is website traffic, straight out of Google Analytics.
  • [4] is email list subscriber growth, the number of people signed up for the Marketing Over Coffee mailing list. Again, looking for trend here.

I could add in all kinds of other metrics, too, such as LinkedIn group members, Twitter followers, sponsor revenue, etc. in their appropriate buckets, but this is more an example than anything. When you do this for yourself, you will almost certainly have to resort to pulling all the data together in a spreadsheet. There are just too many data sources that aren’t connected to each other to build an all-in-one dashboard that isn’t custom-made.

Advanced Big Picture

Using the visualization and analysis techniques from my book Marketing Blue Belt, I can take the above data and figure out what the trends are:

Tableau_-_mocstats 2.jpg

The blue lines were simplified into 14 day moving averages for visual clarity. The black lines put atop them are trend lines (2 degree polynomial fitting) that show the general momentum of each data series. What does this tell me? The top two series, subscribers and reach, are going in the wrong direction. The bottom two lines, web analytics and email list growth, are doing okay. Thus, from this analysis, I should spend more time growing the audience in order to restore momentum there.


Each individual metric above has issues. Combined, they can paint a picture that gives us some sense of what to do and whether things are going in the right direction or not. There are more advanced podcast metrics available, but typically out of reach for smaller shows like mine. Tom Webster and his team at Edison Research have the scoop on the top shelf stuff.

This also concludes our how to market your podcast series. I’ll have either a book or webinar (or both) coming at some point in the future, but for now, this is a good start. Thanks for reading, and be sure to tune into Marketing Over Coffee!

Posts in the How to Market Your Podcast series:

Interested in a real-life example? Check out my marketing podcast, Marketing Over Coffee!

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