Stop Measuring Your Downloads and Measure This InsteadAug 31, 2022
Last week I shared about a major download milestone for me and why it’s probably not the best way to measure success, especially as a Christian podcaster. The number of people who responded was awesome!
There’s a question for you at the end of this email, too, and I’d love to hear your response.
For now, we are talking about what it takes to reach your download goals.
The first thing you need to reach a podcast download goal—whether you t’s a thousand or a million—is patience. I know, that might seem like a trite and obvious recommendation but I’m not so sure.
Do you know how many inactive podcasts are out there with only one episode?
That’s 627,777 people who thought podcasting was a good idea and went to the effort of trying it only to quit. It was too much work. Or they didn’t know what to talk about. Or their first episode didn’t get listened to by anyone. (Number is from Daniel J. Lewis on Podcast Industry Insights, btw.)
To put this number in context, there are only 2,402,400 podcasts. That means that over a quarter of podcasts never make it past episode one.
What can we learn from these facts? First, if you’re past episode one, pat yourself on the back. You deserve it! Second, patience is really important if you are to reach your podcasting goals. Many people stop before they ever reach their ambition. I don’t want you to be one of them.
And if, by chance, you started your show with stars in your eyes like me—or you had more modest ideas—you might have been hit with a cold, hard dose of reality.
It takes time to build a podcast audience and downloads do not pour in just because you published something and shared it on social media.
I know how you feel because that was me too. I heard about how great podcasting was to attract an audience. I listened to the gurus who talked openly about their download numbers. If they could do it, why couldn’t I? So I started…
In the first seven months of Halfway There (I launched June 6, 2016), we had 4,836 downloads. That’s not bad but it’s not quite what I was hoping for. Most of my 33 episodes had less than 200 downloads months later and my Advent series had less than 100 each. I learned quickly that building an audience takes time.
There were days when I was discouraged and afraid that no one would ever listen to my show. What if I went to all this effort for nothing, I asked myself.
But then I learned how to stop focusing on downloads and start focusing on momentum.
Before I go any further, I’d like to ask my eighteen-year-old self to forgive me for what I am about to say. He wanted to be an actor, an artist, and would probably give you a grumpy sigh if he read this next part.
I learned two ways to measure my momentum and they both involve spreadsheets (sorry, former me).
The first way is to calculate the number of days it takes you to reach a certain number of downloads.
At first, you need to know how many days to reach 100. If it takes you ten days to reach 100 downloads then you know what to compete against. Say you measure it next quarter and find it only takes eight days to reach 100 downloads. Now you know you have positive momentum. It evens out the rollercoaster that watching daily (hourly?) stats can be.
The great thing is that this scales. You can easily change your number to 1,000 downloads once you hit 100 every day (and you will if you keep at it). Or even 10,000 when you get there. Or 100,000.
The second measurement I like to use is the number of downloads per episode at seven days, 30 days, and 90 days. Track each number for every episode. Do this over the course of three to six months. You'll start to have a good picture of how your episodes perform over time. Then you calculate your average and use it as a baseline for performance.
According to Rob Walch at Libsyn, the median number of downloads after 30 days is 148 as of September 2021. Compete against that number to start. Over 148 in 30 days and you’re doing better than 50% of the shows out there. Under and you have work to do and that’s okay. (Also, listen to his podcast, The Feed. It’s really good!)
This can be a little hard to understand in writing so here is a link to a Google sheet that you can plug your data into and see how you’re doing. Make a copy and tweak for your show as necessary.
Growing your podcast and reaching more people is a matter of time, faithfulness, and patience. Master your craft and stay focused and it will happen.