In early 2018, I wrote about our recipe for podcast success. It’s… a graph. This is the graph:
To briefly recap…
Creative Bravery is the challenge to make the best show that you can. How far can you push yourself to become so good that people can’t ignore your podcast? How much can you differentiate yourself from the other 700,000 podcasts out there so that you stand alone and make the show that only you can make, and the show that your desired audience will absolutely love?
Commitment is the challenge to do everything in your power to reach all the right people with your amazing, Creatively Brave show. Are you using all your strengths and all the channels possible to share the podcast with your potential audience? Are you committed to using them with every episode? And are you talking to both podcast listeners and non-podcast listeners in ways that will get them to listen to their new favorite show?
Overall podcast success means that you have made an AMAZING show for your desired audience and you have told all of them about it. That’s the biggest win possible — all the right people know about your show and they love it.
So the next question is this: how do you measure if you’re actually being Creatively Brave and whether your Commitment is effective?
Measuring Creative Bravery
Creative Bravery is essentially a yardstick for editorial excellence. Are you creating a podcast that your listeners truly value? Is it fantastic content that is worth their time and attention?
The best way we have found to gauge Creative Bravery is to measure the amount of time people are spending with your episodes — a.k.a. the Average Consumption. (We recently wrote about the importance of Average Consumption). If everyone who clicks ‘play’ is spending a huge amount of time listening to your show, you win.
Here is the Apple Podcasts Average Consumption rate graph for the “No Harm, No Foul?” episode of Choiceology — this has 92% average consumption, which translates into an average listening time of 33 minutes. This is a great example of Creative Bravery. 👇
Even though Average Consumption is our favored metric, there are other ways to measure Creative Bravery. Our friends at Audience Insights regularly conduct Brand Lift studies for our clients and their podcasts, which have provided clear insights into how much the target audience enjoys the show. And you could even use Apple Podcast ratings and reviews as another indicator of whether people are enjoying the show or not.
Commitment is all about using every tool in your toolbox to market your amazing podcast. So how do you measure Commitment? It’s pretty easy…
New downloads over time. 📈
After all, if you’re doing a great job telling all sorts of the right people about a fantastic new podcast, there will regularly be new people downloading the show and sampling it. There are a number of new measurement tools that are making this easier. Chartable’s SmartLinks allows you to track which channels are the most effective at driving new downloads and subscriptions. Simplecast’s new Unique Listeners metric helps concretely measure the growth of new listeners over time.
If you don’t see any new downloads over time, or you don’t see enough new downloads over time, you have a marketing problem.
Of course, there are other factors that can influence new downloads — you might have made an episode that is spreading via word-of-mouth and is more of a reflection of editorial quality than marketing.
Generally speaking, though, new downloads over time are a reflection of your marketing effectiveness.
Why it’s important to distinguish between measuring Creative Bravery and Commitment
This is obvious, but it’s also really, really important and bears stating clearly:
If you don’t have a lot of downloads, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem with the quality of your show.
If you have high completion rates and low downloads, you don’t have an editorial problem. You have a marketing problem.
If you have high completion rates and low downloads, you don’t necessarily need to change your show. You need to change your marketing or start marketing more aggressively.
The opposite is also true, but definitely more rare. If you have a lot of new downloads with every episode and low completion rates, you have a content problem. And that likely means that the people who are showing up to listen aren’t going to come back for another episode. It’s a cliché, but you only get one chance to make a first impression, and it’s just as true for a podcast as it is for a date.
Finally, the worst case scenario! If you see fewer downloads over time and your completion rates are low, that is very likely a sign that there is a marketing problem and a content problem. And maybe you should reconsider making that podcast :-)
The Sweet Spot
If we return to the graph, it’s clear how to measure overall podcast success. If you have high Creative Bravery, you’ll have high consumption rates. And if you have high commitment and are marketing effectively, you will have new downloads coming in with each new episode. If you can do both, you’ve got yourself a successful podcast.
What are other metrics or strategies that you use for measuring effective podcasts?