No subscriber count? No demographic breakdown? No takers for your ad slots? No problem.
It’s no secret that podcasting is back – in a big way. Sadly, it’s still difficult to track your success in any great detail, as the anonymous nature of RSS downloads don’t allow you to track numerous vital statistics. These would be anything from how many subscribers you have, how many people download and never listen, whether anyone listens long enough to hear your ads.
Finer distinctions would also be useful, such as who your listeners are and whether ‘five downloads’ are five separate people or one person commuting on mobile internet and changing IP addresses.
Compared to existing forms of mainstream media, the majority of podcast hosting platforms offer only rudimentary metrics on show reach and demographics, a fact that can scare off advertisers and companies looking to get into the content marketing space.
Apple iTunes, which delivers between 70-80% of total podcast traffic worldwide, offers almost nothing in terms of metrics. And, while there are several services locked in an arms race to harvest and provide better podcast stats, these services remain limited to smaller audiences and lie beyond the reach of those shows with modest budgets and limited resources.
It’s worth looking for ways to extract additional insights from the few metrics that are available. Here are just a few tips to get the ball rolling:
Direct response is the name of the game
Casper Mattresses. MailChimp. Squarespace. Stamps.com. Harry’s. Audible. Most regular podcast listeners will be familiar with the somewhat omnipresent ads from this handful of companies. So how has this cohort found such success where traditional businesses see uncertainty and risk?
It all comes down to direct response campaigns. Instead of worrying too deeply about the lack of metrics for audience engagement and demographics, these companies run ads with promotional coupon codes targeted to each podcast and campaign, each of which can be tracked for successful conversions from their on-air advertisements.
Some campaigns call on listeners to respond by visiting different web destinations or using codes at point of purchase, giving a proportional sense of how long audiences are listening to episodes.
A cost-effective way to motivate fans to visit a webpage or complete a survey is to produce a bonus episode available exclusive to listeners who visit the page.
Know what your listeners like
To the infinite frustration of podcasters everywhere, RSS feeds don’t return subscriber numbers. This means that it’s near impossible to obtain an accurate subscriber count.
Thankfully it is possible to develop a graph approximating when the ratio of recurring subscribers to one-off listeners goes up or down. To do this, simply record weekly measurements of how much traffic is coming from an RSS feed compared to how many direct referrals the podcast has (most hosting and syndication services will provide these stats).
Plot three or four months’ worth of this data onto a graph to give a consistent enough idea of where that ratio sits to be able to notice and respond to changes in listening patterns. This sort of data is very useful for understanding what your audience engages with.
Keep tabs on geographic trends
As the 2016 US elections made clear, there are stark divides between urban and rural demographics. This can be very valuable data when it comes to tailoring content and advertising to an audience. Although most services provide geographic data, quantifying a demographic divide may require a little legwork.
To obtain a rough idea, simply compare the state-by-state audience to traffic attributed specifically to major cities in that state. For instance, let’s say an episode gets 500 downloads in California, of which 420 come from major cities; this indicates urban listeners account for 84% of listenership.
Want more? Try this: Get ready for the golden age of podcasting
Sadly, the availability of this data is varied. Libsyn provides city-by-city information for the United States but not Australia, for example. The method also requires a little bit of digging with no promise that the numbers will be terribly exact. That said, this is a great stat for sharing with stakeholders as it provides a point of comparison to traditional media markets.
Don’t forget to get social
While podcast metrics themselves may not offer a complete or comprehensive picture, coupling them with more sophisticated channels of analysis like social media, may offer the level of insight needed.
In addition to traditional demographic analysis, modern social media tools provide the ability to conduct psychographic analysis of your audience’s response to your podcast. Where companies were once reliant on expensive focus groups to gather unfiltered opinions on their work, through social media listening tools, you can tap into conversations across the broad spectrum of social media not directed at you and then construct psychographic profiles of your demographics’ reactions.
Want more? Try this: Five podcasting lessons I learnt from Ira Glass
While gathering audience insight, you might even discover a potential podcast guest or two.
Now that you’re armed with additional datapoints, you’re ready to go over the top and join the real battle: analysing trends and extracting insights into your changing audience. The numbers themselves are only half the battle; your analysis will be the foundation of your success.