What’s the Real Value of Podcast Listener Attention?

A really good formula to sell your boss on making an original podcast for your brand

What’s the Real Value of Podcast Listener Attention

Written by Audience Development Specialist Jennifer Leask and Head of Strategy & Development Annalise Nielsen

Brands have been embarking on the journey of producing podcasts for years now– Pacific Content will be celebrating our ten year anniversary next year (!!!). But still, compared to other marketing mediums, podcasts are still relatively new territory for a lot of marketers. Even as marketers intuit the power of producing a podcast, it can be challenging to measure this power. And that can make it difficult to justify the investment to their boss. (Though we’ve shared some helpful tips for convincing your boss to make a podcast on our blog in the past.)

Over the past year, there’s been way more scrutiny around marketing budgets. So when it comes time to assess where money is being spent, how do podcasts compare?

What are original podcasts from brands really good at?

There are some problems that podcasts can help you solve better than other mediums:

  • Capturing your consumer’s full attention for an extended period of time
  • Demonstrating brand values through rich storytelling
  • Introducing potential customers to key thought leaders within your company
  • Increasing brand affinity
  • Building thought leadership

Many marketers have become accustomed to measuring success in terms of impressions delivered. Social media does a great job of putting big numbers in front of buyers– and you can grow those numbers simply by spending more money. When it comes to podcasts, we typically measure reach through downloads. But downloads don’t really tell the full story– they don’t measure any of the things that podcasts are actually good at.

Downloads tell you how many people came to your podcast party, but they don’t tell you how long they stayed or if they want to come back again. That’s where attention and unique listeners come in. Attention is the amount of time people spend with the podcast. You can break it down like this: If you have 100,000 downloads of your 30 minute podcast and each listener only spends ten minutes (33%) with the podcast, you have a million minutes of listen time. But if you have have 50,000 downloads and each of those people really like your show and spend 25 minutes (83%) with the podcast, you have 1.25 million minutes of listen time. That’s 250,000 extra minutes with your brand– with half the audience.

And if we’re looking to compare across mediums, 100,000 listens of your podcast episode could be worth much, much more than 100,000 scrolls past your Instagram post. Both are considered metrics that measure “impressions,” but really these two metrics don’t compare very well.

So, how can we take it a step further and get beyond just the downloads?

Measuring Attention

One of the most important metrics that we like to encourage all our clients to focus on is listener retention. Are listeners sticking through the entire episode? This is a much better metric to measure those “sitting-in-your-car-to-finish-the-episode” moments, the moments that really amount to actual benefits for your brand.

But for senior marketers unfamiliar with podcasts, this metric might feel a little hard to compare to other marketing initiatives. So how can we take this engagement metric and put it into terms that can be compared across other mediums? How can we measure the impact of your marketing dollars?

The Cost of Attention

We’d like to introduce you to a new metric to help highlight the power of podcasts in comparison to other marketing initiatives: Cost Per Minute of Attention.

Here’s a sample of the formula:


To calculate total time spent listening for an episode of your podcast, we need three important data points:

  • Downloads
  • Episode length
  • Average episode completion (we take this number from Apple, which typically accounts for 65–80% of a podcast’s audience and gives us a great number to extrapolate engagement numbers across other platforms)
(A screenshot from Apple Podcasts showing average consumption for each episode of a sample podcast feed I released several years ago)

With these data points, we can do some quick math to calculate total time listening.

First, let’s calculate the average amount of time each individual spends with the episode:


Now, let’s take this number to find the total minutes of attention.


(For a more refined calculation of total minutes of attention, check out Bumper’s formula for Listen Time).

Finally, we can calculate the cost of attention:


When we calculate the cost of attention, it’s important to remember that price goes down over time. How is that? The long tail of podcasting and the evergreen nature of what we produce at PCC means new people come to the show even after it is not releasing new episodes. Which means the number of minutes of attention goes up, while the original production cost doesn’t.

How could we apply this formula to other mediums? How does your podcast compare to other mediums? Which medium is the winner?

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