Bryan Goodwin
December 8, 2014

Aim for Listeners not Listens

LIsteners are better than just a listen

One of the great addictions of podcasting is stats. How many people are listening to my show! How well am I doing? How many people are listening? You look at your host and your downloads show this huge number. Time to celebrate, right? There is a chance that you could be looking at the wrong set of numbers. What numbers should you be looking at to see if your business podcast is getting out to your audience?

When it comes to people who are looking for the chance to talk to advertisers they see this huge download number for a podcast episode, and instantly think, “Wow! We are popular and they go out with these huge numbers and hit up an advertiser that really hasn’t had any experience with digital downloadable media. Set up a deal and shortly after the sponsor starts seeing that there is not as much traffic as the podcast host claimed.

Though I love podcasters and the pioneering spirit they have by finding a way to get things done. Yet, sometimes podcasters will read the wrong set of numbers. There is a big difference between Listens and Listeners.

The Difference between Listens and Listeners.

Let first get some definitions out of the way. A listen is a download. This is when a person downloads a file whether it is an audio file, a video, or a PDF If a file is downloaded then it is a listen. While a listener is a person who subscribes to your show and is actively listening to your show.

There is a big difference between the two set of numbers. When it comes to finding out how popular your show really is, knowing the difference is huge. The difference is the “Listener” “Listens” to your show. To help explain this lets look at the different forms of listens, and why there are more listens than listeners.

On Facebook you have the ability, on a couple of media servers, to post your episodes on to the time line of your friends. Every time a person clicks on the link in their news feed you will get a ‘listen’ on your stats, or in other words they download the file. Whether they finish the show or not. Many times people will start the show and ‘listen’ for a few minutes then stop the file and go the next link. Is that an active listener?

How about you have a person who is streaming your show while driving across country. In the world of computers there are these identifiers called an IP address this number or address in this case is unique to that computer. In this case the computer is the cell tower that is sending the streamed file to the phone in question. So with each new tower that the phone connects with, that becomes a new download of that media file. So, this question then is raised is that a popular episode?

The answer is no to both of those questions, is no. To both question you can have lots of downloads and no real listeners or a real listener can have lots of downloads. So, this make for a new problem. How to find out who the real listeners are?

First thing would be to use a media server that has a good stats program connected to it. Blubrry or Libsyn both have stats that take this problem into consideration and lists how many times the file was listened. Now you still have a problem with people only getting partial listens and you do not know how many people are subscribed to you show. You can get a rough estimate as to how many subscribers there are with Feed Burner but that service could be there for another 10 years or Google may close it down on the next Spring cleaning session.

There is not a great way to tell how many people are active listeners to your show. Yet there are a few things you can do. In BluBrry and Libsyn they give you a more accurate download for each person so if the same person is streaming your show while traveling across the Country then they will only count as one download. This Helps keep the numbers to a more reliable number, but it doesn’t help to keep the fly by listeners numbers down. So, you still not going to have all the information you are wanting.

The truth is there is no true way to track all of your listeners. Your best bet to gauge your listeners is to build an engaged audience so if you ask your audience to go to a site they will and help show your potential sponsor that there is a crowd. Many talk radio hosts have this power they have been known to shutdown congress switch boards, and choke even the hardiest of websites. That type on engagement is what you as a podcaster want.

Work on engagement, not sponsors. Create the greatest content you can and your audience will grow. As you continue to provide value for your true listeners they will come back each time and be willing to engage in anything you ask. Gather names not numbers. Get out and meet your audience shake a hand or three. Let your audience/customers know you are listening to them and they will act to the smallest suggestion.

So next time you hear someone talk about getting 10,000 downloads dot get too jealous or discouraged ask them how many listeners they have and realize that it is not as high as it seems. Embrace those people who are your listeners.

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Bryan Goodwin

Writer / Podcast Producer at Goodwin Social Media`
Bryan Goodwin is about customer service. Bryan has delt and received bad even horrible customer service. So he knows when it comes to customer service that doing it right will result in better customer experience. When you help a customer out they are more willing to tell a friend. Give a customer bad service and they will tell 10 friends. This is more so now that we have social media. Yet companies seem to have forgotten art and need for customer service. That is where Bryan comes in. You can read about his views on social media over at

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