How To Analyze and Improve Your Podcast Performance

Learn how to grow your podcast.

Measuring success can seem daunting for creators and producers alike in podcasting, where new shows sprout daily and seasoned ones strive for rejuvenation. But fear not, many clients have approached us with the same burning question: “How do I actually know if I’m doing a good job with my podcast? Am I hitting the right notes with my audience?” It’s not just about patting ourselves on the back after releasing an episode; it’s about understanding the dynamics of your podcast’s performance — and at The Podcast Consultant, we’re here to guide you through this process. Visit our client case studies to see how we’ve helped others succeed.

This article will introduce you to the essential metrics every podcast creator should understand, provide practical guidance on analyzing them, and show you how to benchmark your show against others in your niche. By the end of this article, you will know how to implement meaningful changes and enhance your podcast’s reach, engagement, and overall performance.

What Are Podcast Metrics and Analytics?

Understanding podcast metrics and analytics.

Understanding podcast metrics and analytics is crucial for any podcaster aiming to grow their audience and elevate their content. Let’s begin by exploring podcast metrics and analytics.

Podcast Metrics

Podcast metrics are individual data points that measure your podcast’s performance, such as downloads, plays, and streams. They provide the raw, quantifiable data to evaluate your podcast’s performance.

Podcast Analytics

Podcast analytics interpret these metrics to uncover patterns and provide insights. Analytics help understand the broader implications of the metrics, allowing for strategic improvements to your show.

Podcast Metrics: Understanding What to Measure and Why

Understanding the different metrics used to measure your podcast’s performance is crucial to improving your podcast. These metrics provide invaluable insights into how your content is being received, helping you make data-driven decisions to improve your podcast. There are three key podcast metrics: plays, streams, and downloads. In this section, we’ll discuss these metrics and how podcast analytics can use them to provide actionable insights.

What’s the difference between Plays, Streams, and Downloads?

A lot of language is thrown around when it comes to podcast stats, and It’s essential to know that plays, streams, listens, and downloads can indicate different levels of engagement:

Podcast Plays

Apple Podcasts defines a podcast play as “the number of plays on unique devices where the play duration is greater than 0 seconds.” Podcast plays indicate the number of times a listener has started an episode, which helps understand the initial interest in your podcast content. However, since a play is counted as soon as playback begins, it doesn’t provide information on how long listeners stay engaged. Brief, accidental starts can inflate this metric, so while it shows reach, it doesn’t necessarily reflect deep engagement.

Podcast Plays: Key Points

  • Shows initial interest
  • Tracked from the moment playback begins
  • Does not detail how much of the episode was listened to

Podcast Streams

Apple Podcasts defines a podcast stream as “the number of times an episode was played where duration is greater than 60 seconds.” Podcast streams go a step further than plays by setting a threshold for what counts as a meaningful interaction. Streams offer a better indication of genuine interest by requiring a minimum of 60 seconds of playback. This metric helps differentiate between brief, casual starts and more intentional listening.

Podcast Streams: Key Points

  • Requires at least 60 seconds of playback
  • Provides a better indication of interest compared to plays
  • Helps to weed out casual starts from more engaged listening

Podcast Downloads

Downloads are typically defined as the aggregate of both plays and streams and are usually counted when the audio file has been delivered to the listener’s device. Downloads track that the audio file has been delivered to a listener’s device, showing intent to listen. However, downloads don’t guarantee that somebody actually played the episode. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has set standards to ensure accurate and reliable measurement of downloads — crucial for monetization and comparing performance across platforms.

Podcast Downloads: Key Points

  • Tracks delivery of the audio file to a device
  • Often used as a primary metric for audience size
  • Governed by IAB standards to ensure accuracy
  • Doesn’t guarantee that somebody played the episode
Download the Top Tips To Grow Your Podcast PDF from The Podcast Consultant.

Additional Metrics to Understand Your Podcast

We’ve explored three of the primary metrics, but there are even more data points that can help you understand your podcast’s performance more granularly:


Subscribers or followers (depending on the podcast hosting platform) are a great way to measure your most engaged listeners. People who subscribe are likely to listen more frequently and are more willing to follow up on any calls to action you set forth.


Ratings and reviews provide specific feedback on the show’s content and quality. The quantity and quality of these ratings are good indicators of how listeners feel about the show and how many of those listeners are invested enough to provide feedback.

Social Media Followers/Engagement

Social media followers are another excellent metric for seeing how many listeners will engage in further dialogue with you as a host. Quantifying comments, likes, and shares will provide a sense of what content resonates with your audience, offering a peek into who your target market may be. 

Newsletter Subscriptions

People who want to stay updated and connected via newsletters are typically your most engaged and supportive listeners; this is a great way to measure how many die-hard fans you have. Establishing a direct line of communication with them is also highly beneficial for promotional purposes. 

If you don’t have a newsletter, we recommend setting one up to build a stronger relationship with your audience and provide them with regular updates and exclusive content.

Podcast Analytics: How to Examine Podcast Performance

A podcast host looking at a transcript.

Podcast analytics leverage metrics to show insights into listener demographics, episode popularity, and overall engagement, enabling you to refine your podcasting strategy. Below, we share some of the most common analytics indicators and what they mean.

Downloads and Streams: Measure your podcast’s reach. High download numbers indicate good reach, but combining this with stream data can show a clearer picture of how your content is received.

Listener Retention: Analyze how long listeners stay engaged with your episodes. High retention rates suggest that your content hits the “right notes” with your audience.

Subscriber Growth: Tracks the growth rate of your audience over time. Steady growth is a sign of increasing popularity.

Engagement: Measures interaction on social media, such as likes, shares, and comments. High engagement indicates that your content resonates with listeners.

Podcast Analytics in Action

Here are practical examples of how utilizing podcast analytics can elevate your podcast:

  • Content Adjustment: Does the data show listeners dropping off around 20 minutes? Adjust content to be more engaging or shorten the episode length.
  • Audience Targeting: Do metrics reveal a significant portion of your audience in a specific location? Tailor content to that region or plan targeted marketing efforts.
  • Optimized Release Timing: Is your audience most active on weekday mornings? Schedule episode releases during these times to maximize immediate engagement.
  • Better Sponsorship Deals: Detailed listener demographics can attract specific sponsors — use this data to negotiate more lucrative sponsorships.

Zeroing in on podcast analytics can help you refine content, target audiences more effectively, optimize release times, and secure better sponsorships, leading to a more successful podcast.

How to Access and Analyze Podcast Metrics

How to Access and Analyze Podcast Metrics.

Podcast hosting sites like Captivate or Acast collect your data via your RSS Feed.

Depending on your platform, you can track downloads, subscribers, location and demographic data, third-party platform listenership, and more. Most sites allow you to customize charts and graphs to reflect specific periods. One of the best hosting sites for analytics is Captivate as they have comprehensive and reliable data that is IAB-verified.

Two examples of metric Captivate that reflect when and where people are listening.

Captivate Analytics
Pictured above are two examples of metrics in Captivate that reflect when and where people are listening.

Metrics from Acast that reflect what time of day listeners are downloading episodes and from which platform.

Pictured here are metrics from Acast that reflect what time of day listeners are downloading episodes and from which platform.

Spotify for Podcasters and Apple Podcasts Connect
While hosting sites provide valuable data points, you can go the extra mile by signing up for creator accounts directly with podcast player platforms. Spotify for Podcasters and Apple Podcasts Connect are the most important. An account allows for direct customization and platform-specific data such as subscriber counts and age and gender demographics.

Metrics unique to Spotify for Podcasters Analytics referencing the age and gender of listeners.

Spotify Audience Data
Pictured above are metrics unique to Spotify for Podcasters Analytics referencing the age and gender of listeners.

Metrics in Apple Podcast Connect reflecting data such as follower counts, episode comparison data, top-ranking listener regions, and more.

Apple Podcast Connect Analytics
The image above shows the overview of metrics in Apple Podcast Connect reflecting data such as follower counts, episode comparison data, top-ranking listener regions, and more.

Additionally, if you upload your podcast to YouTube, you can access their comprehensive analytics in YouTube Studio. Unlike traditional podcast platforms, YouTube data is collected separately from your RSS feed and, therefore, is not aggregated into the stats on your hosting site.

Metrics found on YouTube.

If this sounds too complicated and time-consuming to learn, remember that professional teams like The Podcast Consultant can walk you through these details—and much more—when you sign up for our podcast launch package.

Podcast Benchmarks: What are the average downloads for a podcast?

In the competitive world of podcasting, understanding where your show stands can be challenging. With millions of podcasts available and varying levels of success, it’s essential to have benchmarks to measure your performance. Knowing the average download metrics and key indicators can help you set realistic goals and track your podcast’s growth effectively.

Benchmarking your podcast

With podcasts now numbering literally in the millions, it can be difficult to ascertain an average download metric, especially since most podcasts’ analytics aren’t publicly available. However, industry-wide surveys can offer a general sense of the field from a numerical standpoint. Buzzsprout, one of the largest hosting sites, provides global data accessible to the public.

An excellent metric for monitoring the health and growth of your show is the number of downloads your episodes get in a 7-day period after release. This timeframe gives a snapshot of your podcast’s initial impact and audience reach.

Chart showing the top performing percentiles of podcast downloads after 7 days.

In the chart above, you can see it’s not unreasonable to expect to place in the upper percentiles overall because of the sheer number of shows. However, remember that these numbers are not necessarily a measure of overall success or achievement; that depends on your ultimate goals. 

Given the wide variety of shows with different resources and objectives, what’s considered successful can be highly subjective. When analyzing your podcast’s performance, this reality can be frustrating—but asking for an average download number overall isn’t the right question. Instead, you should define your goals for the podcast and assess your download metrics in the context of those goals.

Asking for an average download number overall isn’t the right question. 

While advertisers often base financial support on download counts, other factors such as location, age, and gender demographics attract sponsorships.

If monetization is your ultimate goal, consider utilizing different podcast business models, such as a listener-supported model or using the podcast to steer listeners toward other products or services you offer. A small, highly engaged audience in a niche market can be more beneficial than a large, passive audience.

It’s important to note that it’s rare for a podcast starting from scratch with minimal resources to become profitable within the first 18 months. Therefore, it’s best to define your show’s “raison d’être” and focus on quality and consistency while maintaining a solid growth plan.

Setting Personal Goals Over Comparing to Others

Setting personal goals rather than comparing yourself to others is essential when benchmarking your podcast. Every podcast is different, with its niche, target audience, and style. By setting personal goals, you can focus on what makes your podcast unique and build on those strengths rather than trying to emulate someone else’s success. Setting goals for your podcast could be as simple as:

  • Aim to release episodes consistently every week for the next three months.
  • Strive to double your listener engagement rate over the next six months.
  • Achieve a milestone of producing 50 episodes and celebrate this with your listeners.
  • Determine what makes your podcast unique and focus on enhancing these aspects.
  • Periodically assess your progress and adjust your goals to stay on track.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate when you achieve your goals, no matter how small they may seem.

By setting personal goals and focusing on your podcast’s unique journey, you can achieve meaningful success and growth that aligns with your vision and values. This approach fosters a more positive and fulfilling podcasting experience and helps you build a dedicated and engaged audience.

Growing a Podcast: How Do I Get More Downloads and Listens?

Growing a podcast through social marketing.

Monitoring Progress

Monitoring analytics regularly as a part of your podcast growth plan is highly recommended as a starting place. Make sure you set interval periods and goals for the various metrics you wish to grow, and make sure to widen your lens beyond just downloads. As mentioned, social media engagement, reviews, and subscribers are just as crucial to success. Still, if you ask us for ONE core metric to keep an eye on, we always tell clients they need to keep track of their download numbers.

These recurring check-ins are a good starting point, but there are many different strategies for creating growth for your podcast. It can be difficult to identify which of these factors to focus on, which is why, at TPC, we offer a full podcast audit service to point out improvements to help you reach your goals.

Consistency and Quality: Keys to Podcast Growth

Consistency is key—this is a truism in many fields but essential in podcasting. Listeners tend to form habits around listening to their favorite shows and will develop routine listening if you consistently keep to a regular release cadence. It’s important to note that all podcast platforms reward consistency and create algorithmic advantages for shows with rigid release schedules and regular listenership. 

Overall, production quality is an essential factor in the continued growth of podcasts. Poor-quality audio and video production is one of the main reasons listeners stop listening to a show—learn why upgrading your podcast from audio to video can make a difference. You may want to seek professional services if you are not technically savvy or simply don’t have time to learn the skills to produce your podcast to the highest technical standards properly. 

The overall production quality is an essential factor in the continued growth of podcasts.

At TPC, we offer all the necessary production services to ensure a professional-sounding show every time. Using trusted hired professionals also allows you the time to focus on the content and planning side of the show. 

Maximizing Social Media for Podcast Promotion

Podcast Distribution Checklist - The Podcast Consultant.

Social media promotion is a huge factor in the sales and marketing of all products in today’s market. However, it is uniquely vital to podcasting. Ensure a solid social media presence is part of your promotional plan. Get a sense of what social accounts in your genre are the most successful and use that as inspiration for your strategy. Discover how to promote your new podcast effectively

Almost every new successful podcast heavily relies on posting highly produced video and audio clips to maintain engagement and extend discoverability. As this can be time-consuming and technical, you may want to outsource this work. At TPC, we also offer social media asset creation as part of our services.

Top Tips for Growing Your Podcast

You now have a fuller picture of how to analyze your podcast data and adjust your growth strategy accordingly. Here is a summary of what we discussed:

  • Focus on these key metrics:
    • Downloads
    • Subscribers/Followers
    • Ratings/Reviews
    • Social Media Followers/Engagements
    • Newsletter subscriptions
  • An excellent metric to monitor the health and growth of your show is how many downloads your episodes get in a 7-day period after release. 
  • You should first define your goals for the podcast and assess your download metrics according to your ultimate goal.
  • Listen to your episodes after you record them and focus on how you conducted the interviews. Are there any areas that you could improve as a host?
  • It’s unlikely that you can monetize to the point of profitability within the first 18 months, so focus on quality and consistency while maintaining a solid growth plan.
  • Consider hosting through sites such as Captivate that offer comprehensive and reliable IAB-verified data.
  • Set interval periods and goals for the metrics you wish to grow and broaden your focus beyond downloads.
  • Listeners tend to form habits around listening to their favorite shows and will develop routine listening if you consistently keep to a regular release cadence.
  • All podcast platforms reward consistency and create algorithmic advantages for shows with rigid release schedules and regular listenership. 
  • The overall production quality is an essential factor in the continued growth of podcasts.

The Bottom Line

Understanding and utilizing podcast metrics and analytics is essential for growing your podcast and reaching your goals. By focusing on meaningful data, setting personal benchmarks, and avoiding unnecessary comparisons, you can tailor your content and strategies to serve your audience better.

Whether you’re just starting a podcast or looking to improve an existing show, consistent effort, and quality production is crucial to success. Remember, success is not just about the numbers but also about creating a podcast that resonates with your listeners and aligns with your vision.

If you need help with the complexities of podcast metrics or optimizing your show, The Podcast Consultant is here to help. Schedule a call with our team today to learn how we can help you achieve your podcasting goals.