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how to measure podcast results

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With the boom in working from home this year, the many people who listened to podcasts while commuting dwindled. Despite the substantial drop in podcast listeners due to Covid-19, podcasting remains a viable PR and marketing strategy.

The much-predicted popping of a podcast bubble has never materialized. A few podcast programs actually saw a jump in listenership since the epidemic. For instance, more people began using the Podrunner workout-music series as gyms closed.

Many brands still consider podcasts a worthwhile PR and marketing venue. Companies can advertise on podcasts or create their own branded podcasts, and invite their top executives or subject matter experts to be guests on the programs. Podcasting offers a superb strategy for establishing authority. It also requires fewer resources than video and is frequently more accessible to consumers.

Podcasts may regain their former popularity as employees return to offices and work-from-home routines stabilize.

But how do marketers and PR pros know if podcasts meet their business goals? Podcasters typically focus on the number of daily, weekly or monthly downloads of each episode. However, downloads don’t necessarily equal listening since people can download and not listen.

Some basic podcasts metrics and their pros and cons include:

Downloads. Examine unique downloads, since a listener can download the same podcast on multiple devices, advises James White at Thirty Seven. Also look at the number of downloads per episode to find what type content listeners want the most.

Subscriptions. Subscriptions indicate that people want to hear more from you and that they don’t want to miss an episode. They are the loyal listeners who drive success.

Social media mentions. A social media listening tool can report likes, shares and retweets and analyze sentiment of comments. “If people like the content of your podcasts, they are likely to talk about it on their social media channels,” White notes.

Backlinks. Backlinks from other websites are another sign of the podcasts popularity. However, check the quality of backlinks, as there’s a small chance a website might criticize the podcast.

Landing pages. To help market the podcast, a dedicated landing page can measure website traffic and subscriptions and announce promotions that can provide additional insights. The trick is to set a time limit on offers to encourage quick action.

Limits of Downloads

Downloads may seem miniscule at first, especially in a niche topic.

In addition, downloads don’t measure two major benefits of podcasts: relationships and waterfall content in other media, points out James Carbary, founder of Sweet Fish Media and co-host of the B2B Growth Show on iTunes.

Brands can initiate relationships with clients, partners and industry experts by asking them to be guests on their programs. Those relationships can lead to business referrals and other opportunities, Carbary explains in Huffington Post

“During your interviews, you’re having human-to-human conversations and you’re able to connect in a way that doesn’t require black text on a glowing screen,” Carbary writes. “Podcasts are a rare form of media that cut through the formalities of typical business protocol, and allow you to create strategic relationships in a genuine and personal way.”

Podcast audio files can be repurposed into waterfall content – or blog posts, guest posts, social media posts and other marketing materials. You can measure effectiveness of that content with Google Analytics and a social media measurement tool.

“By measuring the true ROI of your show (relationships, written content, backlinks, social mileage, and guest blog posts), you’ll start recognizing the significant impact that your podcast is having on your brand,” Carbary concludes.

A Baseline Survey

If the main goal is executive brand building — that is, establishing your CEO or other spokesperson as a thought leader — your desired outcome is an increase in the percentage of your target audience perceiving the CEO as a leader, says PR measurement expert Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing. In that case, first conduct a survey to establish a baseline metric. Ask your audience whom they consider leaders in the niche and ask them to rate your CEO and other authorities in terms of innovation and thought leadership. Repeat the survey at the end of the year or campaign to gauge progress to the goal.

Between surveys, track the download figures as well as exposure of key messages. Feature your key messages in several places in each podcast, Paine adds. By tracking the percent of people who listen to the entire podcast, you can determine how many key messages they heard.

What do Listeners Say?

Podcaster Florante Valdez asserts that the number of reviews offers the best gauge of podcasts.

“Sometimes podcasting just ends up as a numbers game, much like a basketball [game],” Valdez writes in All About Podcast. “But if you look at it on another angle, the success of a podcast is not just about the numbers. It’s really about your listeners.”

Reviews indicate if you’ve reached your target audience; critical reviews help you improve as a podcaster. Ask listeners to leave reviews; don’t pay for them. Remember that you seek a defined audience and don’t need to try to please everyone, Valdez advises.

Bottom Line: It’s essential for PR and marketing teams to measure the effectiveness of podcasts. Leading podcasters and measurement gurus agree analytics are essential, but offer different perspectives about the best strategies and metrics for measuring podcasts. Podcast measurement strategies vary depending on the brand’s marketing and PR objectives.

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This article was first published on June 12, 2017, and updated on Sept. 4, 2020.