Everyone cares about podcast listens, but what about podcast downloads? Is it something you should track, care about, and grow? This is what we'll talk about in this piece.
But first, let's cover what podcast downloads are in order not to confuse them with podcast streams. Then, we'll head over to why and how to grow them.
What are podcast downloads?
Just as the metric's name implies, podcast downloads are about how many times a podcast episode or an entire show has been downloaded and saved to a listener's device. This metric reflects the popularity, reach of the podcast content, and the number of subscribers to your show since some podcast directories automatically download new episodes for subscribers, so the correlation between the number of subscribers and downloads can be quite clear.
Besides, if people download your show episodes over and over, it indicates their intention to listen to your podcast again and get back to it later. It's a measure of initial interest and demand for an episode, meaning that listeners are interested enough to obtain the content to consume it later.
The more downloads your show has, the more enticing it is for advertisers, which broadens your monetisations opportunities.
Podcast downloads vs. podcast streams
When your podcast episode is saved and when it's just played on a listening platform are two different things.
A download is counted when a listener presses the download button and obtains an episode to listen to offline while streaming involves listening to an episode in real-time over an internet connection without downloading it first.
Podcast hosting platforms and podcast directories (Spotify, Apple Music, Google Podcasts, etc.) often provide creators with analytics that detail the number of downloads their episodes receive.
Hosting platforms track download requests through unique URLs and tracking codes. The number of downloads represents how many times an episode file has been requested and saved by listeners.
Listens are typically tracked by the hosting platform or streaming service when the listener presses the play button. Platforms collect data about how much of the episode was played, how long listeners stayed engaged, and more.
Streams, unlike downloads, provide insights into actual engagement with the content. It shows that the episode attracted enough interest for a listener to begin consuming it. It's possible to track whether a listener finishes the episode or if they drop off before the end.
Why podcast downloads matter
It's pointless to track downloads without growing the streams and discoverability of your show. However, here's why podcast downloads are worth growing and tracking:
- High download numbers suggest that your episodes are resonating with your target audience and keeping them engaged. It simply means you do everything right.
- Many podcasters monetise their podcasts through sponsorships, ads, or premium content. Advertisers and sponsors take download numbers into account to determine the potential reach of their marketing messages. At the end of the day, it's good to know that your ad message is saved along with the episode it's streamed in, right?
- High download numbers can attract influential guests or co-hosts to your podcast.
- Higher download numbers can lead to better visibility on platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.
- Download data helps you make informed decisions about content strategy, episode length, guest selection, and promotional efforts. It guides your decisions on what's working and what needs adjustments.
How to measure podcast downloads
Podcast downloads are typically measured by podcast hosting platforms and distribution networks through specialised tracking mechanisms.
Most podcasters use hosting platforms to store and distribute their podcast episodes. These platforms, in turn, provide analytics tools that offer insights into the podcast's performance, including download numbers. The process involves:
- Unique URL generation: When a new episode is published, the hosting platform generates a unique URL for that episode. This URL is what listeners use to download or stream the episode.
- Tracking codes: The hosting platform embeds tracking codes in the URLs. When a listener clicks on the URL to download the episode, the tracking code records the action.
- Server logs: The hosting platform's servers record each instance when the tracking code is triggered, indicating a download request.
To track how many podcast downloads you have, check the analytics dashboard on your hosting or streaming platform. You will more likely see such metrics as total downloads, daily downloads, monthly downloads, subscriber downloads, and others.
How to increase podcast downloads: 12 tips
Now straight to the point.
#1. Create a compelling title & description
Craft intriguing episode titles and descriptions that pique curiosity and clearly convey the episode's value. Even if your listener doesn't have time to check what you have to say right away, motivate them to at least save the episode and get back to it later.
Don't forget to keep it relevant, though, as podcast directories use this info to recommend your show to people who search for content like yours.
#2. Make an eye-catching artwork
Design visually appealing podcast artwork that represents your brand and stands out among other podcasts. This will draw listeners' attention to your show's title, notes, and description and eventually might motivate them to download your podcast.
#3. Submit to different directories
Ensure your podcast is listed on popular podcast directories like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and other places.
Different podcast directories cater to different audiences. By submitting your podcast to various platforms, you increase the chances of reaching listeners who prefer specific directories. Besides, many podcast directories have their own search algorithms. By being listed on multiple platforms, you increase your chances of appearing in search results on various platforms, enhancing your podcast's visibility.
#4. Promote the episode on social media
Share episode releases and teasers on social media platforms and relevant groups to expand your reach. Don't forget to leverage the reach of your interview guests and co-hosts!
Release short teaser clips to generate excitement about upcoming episodes on Reels, YouTube Shorts, X (formerly Twitter), LinkedIn, and other social media. You can also share snippets or highlights from the episode to generate interest in Instagram stories and TikTok.
#5. Engage with your audience in the episode
Encourage listeners to leave reviews, ratings, and feedback. Always respond to comments and messages to build a sense of community. It won't harm to include CTAs within episodes to prompt listeners to subscribe, download, and share the content. Encourage listeners to share their own stories or experiences related to your podcast's topic.
💡 Tip: Craft episodes that offer unique insights or valuable takeaways, encouraging listeners to share the content with their network.
#6. Leverage guests & collaborations
Invite experts, influencers, or well-known figures in your niche to guest on your podcast. Popular people will surely draw some attention to your show regardless of the niche and topic.
Collaborate with guests to cross-promote the episode to their audience, expanding your reach. If you only start, don't go for A-list guests; go for someone smaller instead, as they will more likely help you promote your show among their audience.
#7. Publish more (& consistently)
It goes without saying, but the more you upload, the more chances you have to get your episodes downloaded.
Just don't forget about the quality > quantity rule. And by quality, we mean not just the content itself but how this content sounds and looks (if that's a video podcast). To achieve that, choose a podcast recording studio that can do both!
💡Tip: When you publish consistently, a podcast streaming service's algorithms 'pick you up'. That was the case of this Redditor, who hit 1 million downloads in under four years.
#8. Offer exclusive content
Create bonus episodes, behind-the-scenes content, or exclusive interviews for your loyal subscribers, or use premium content as an incentive for listeners to subscribe and download more episodes.
#9. Leverage email marketing
Motivate your audience to become part of your exclusive email community and send an email to this curated list whenever you release fresh content. Don't forget to add a handful of links to access the new episode.
#10. Add podcast notes
Podcast notes are written summaries of the content covered in an episode. Including detailed podcast notes with relevant keywords can improve your podcast's search engine visibility. This makes it easier for potential listeners to find your podcast when searching for topics related to your content. Not everyone has the time to listen to an entire episode. Providing podcast notes allows users to quickly scan the episode's highlights and decide if it's worth their time to listen. This accessibility can attract more listeners who might otherwise skip over your podcast.
When creating podcast notes, remember to keep them engaging, concise, and accurately reflective of the episode's content. Including timestamps for different sections of the episode can also be helpful for users who want to jump to specific parts.
Two bonus tips to increase your podcast downloads (no bottom line)
- Don't bother with podcast download numbers for the first six to eight months if you're only at the beginning. Pay attention to the feedback you get from listeners, ratings, and if people listen to you at all. This will let you figure out what content people are resonating with and make more of that.
- If you're not Joe Rogan, don't record too long episodes. Lengthy episodes might scare off people from downloading the content. And if they do, they might leave the episode on their stockpiles of saved content and never listen to it. So keep it concise.