At this point, the podcast is up and running. The podcast is being promoted through several methods. There is no point in using the methods if they are not working. A host needs to know if those methods are working. Metrics help determine if the podcast is growing. The most useful metric is the average listening time.
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Downloads are not an accurate measure of the number of listeners for a podcast. A download counts when a podcast episode is in a podcast player. An episode in a podcast player does not mean someone hears the episode. Months can go by before a listener plays an episode.
Average listening time tells a host if the people have listened to an episode. Average listening time takes the average time an audience listened to an episode. Average listening time breaks an episode down into four quadrants. For example, imagine a host has a ten-minute podcast. The podcast has two listeners that listen up to minutes two and three. Then, people are only listening to the first quarter of the podcast. Which has an average listening time of two and a half minutes. The host knows they need to change the podcast's beginning to get people to listen to the rest of the podcast.
A host can find out the average listening time of their podcast by looking at their analytics. A host has to check each podcast player for the information. The different players might have a different title for it. Look for a title with the word "average" in it. Each podcast player will most likely have a different average listening time.
A host can use the average listening time to improve their podcast. They can place items or topics that they want listeners to hear in the average listening time limit. A host can put a call to action for the listeners in the average listening time limit.
A host can charge more based on average listening time if a host is monetizing their podcast through ads. A host can charge different rates based on average listening time. If a host monetizes through ads, they might have different types of ads. The might have pre-roll ads and midroll ads at different rates. If the podcast's average listening time is within the mid-roll ads, a host could charge a higher rate for the mid-roll ads.
If a host does not like the average listening time amount or thinks people are leaving too soon, figure out why!
How can a host figure out why people are leaving too soon? Send out a survey. Ask people if they have any problems with the show, what they would like on the show, or how long they listen to the show. A host can always ask for reviews. When people have a problem with a product or service, they will let the public know. Remind them how to do it.
The fact that average listening time is not a standard metric is important. It shows that the podcast industry is underdeveloped. Other content platforms have their own version of the average listening time as a standard. For video platforms, the metric is called average view duration. Blogging platforms call it average read time.
If a host knows the average listening time is low, a host can improve content. Only knowing download numbers would not provide the same opportunity.
A large number of customers asking about a feature will make companies look into it. After some time, companies will add it. Other companies will see the change and add it too.
Hearing about the metric through news will encourage companies to add it. News sources will make companies aware of the metric.
News sources get information to write about from discussions or events. Discussing average listening time will lead to news sources writing about the metric.
A venture capitalist's goal is to make money. If a host can make average listening time into a dollar and cents problem, then VCs will fund the solution. Get out after series B, though.
For downloads, an analytics provider only has to keep track of how many hits an RSS feed gets. For an average listening time, an analytic provider has to track how many times. Also, how long each hit was for, which can be expensive.
Everyone understands the significance of download numbers right away. For average listening time, everyone has a different number. The significance is different for each podcast. For a 10 minute podcast having an average listening time of 9 minutes is good, but for a 2-hour podcast, it is not. But a host would have to explain why the 9 minutes is significant. If a host were to say, "My podcast's latest episode has 100 downloads." People immediately understand the significance.
One problem with average listening time is that it is an average. If there is a problem with a podcast, the problem might not show up for a while. One lousy episode might look like an outlier in the data.
A host must go through each podcasting platform and track the metric one by one. Making the tracking difficult for hosts. Hosts do not get a clear number and have to continue to track every platform.
I have a theory for the implementation of average listening time. An RSS feed needs to track the entire time someone listens to a podcast. That will be expensive to put in place. Getting companies to make the average listening time a standard might be difficult to do. From a company standpoint, there is not much to gain. The industry has survived without it for years. Why spend the money adding it?
A host can find a podcast player that already has average listening time as an offered metric. Use that player as the main link to promote and send to people. This will make a good chunk of listens on that player and will make it easier to track average listening time. Next, take downloads per episode + the number of people that listen to the entire episode. Use those numbers to get a more accurate estimation of the people that actually listen. If 100 people download an episode of BAIB podcast. If 33% of the 100 listen to 99% of an episode, that episode has 33 listeners.
This post is an excerpt from the Open Podcast Community book. The book is available for purchase here.