Guest columnist Steve Pratt is co-owner and Partner of Pacific Content, which creates original podcasts for brands including Slack, Mozilla, and Dell. This article originally appeared on the Pacific Content blog.
Time and attention are the most scarce and valued resources for anyone making content.
If you’re looking for a metric to determine if your podcast is successful, that metric should be able to answer this question: do people voluntarily spend their time and attention on my show? And if so, how much?
Downloads (in isolation) are not the best way to answer that question.
And yet, most of the conversation about measuring success in podcasting is about the size of the audience. Lots of downloads = success. Not so many downloads = not so much success.
The Problem With Downloads
Downloads, though, are not always the most strategic measure of success.
For example, there are great shows built specifically for small, niche audiences, so they won’t have large download numbers. For those shows, however, a small number of the exact right people who love your show and spend lots of time listening is a huge success. Downloads are not the best way to measure this success.
Another example. You might have an AMAZING show, but you have an ineffective marketing plan and no one knows that your amazing show exists. In this case, do download counts measure the full picture of success for this show? No. They primarily highlight a marketing challenge.
So how else can we think about success in these scenarios?
Enter… Average Consumption
Since Apple Podcasts debuted the Average Consumption metric in their Analytics suite in December of 2017, podcasters have been able to measure how much time and attention listeners are giving to their podcasts. (Spotify and Stitcher have had this functionality for a while, too. Spotify calls it Episode Performance and Stitcher calls it Average Completion Rate.)
Average Consumption percentages are an amazing way to measure the quality of content. And yet it is rare to hear podcasters, or the podcast industry, touting Average Consumption as a marker of success.
I’d like to make a case for two reasons why podcasters should be talking about Average Consumption a lot more often and a lot more loudly. The first is for measuring editorial quality and audience engagement. The second is to champion the unique strengths of audio compared to other media.
THE Metric For Editorial Quality & Engagement
Whether you’re a podcast creator or an advertiser, Average Consumption is an amazing metric for determining whether an individual episode is valued by listeners.
I’m going to use examples from shows that we produce with our clients, simply because we have access to this data and have permission to share it. We also want to get the industry more comfortable sharing Average Consumption, so we’re going to show you ours first 🙂
This is the Printers episode of Dell Technologies’ Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson podcast. It’s got an insanely great Average Consumption of 98% and an average listen per device of 26 minutes. This is about as close as it gets to editorial perfection!
This is the Hitting Your Number episode of Schwab’s Choiceology podcast. Look how flat this line is! The average completion rate of this episode is 92% and the average listen per device is 31 minutes.
We’re really proud of these numbers and we think all podcasters should embrace this metric. It’s very powerful to show how many people stay for the whole episode.
Who benefits from seeing more public Average Consumption percentages?
- Brands and agencies who want to know what shows to advertise with
- Podcasters wanting to know how their shows compare to others in the industry
- Podcasters wanting to know which episodes are most engaging and why
- Podcasters wanting to know where and why people stop listening to an episode
And, in Pacific Content’s case, if you’re a brand making your own podcast and you want to know if it is having an impact on the audience, this is an amazing way to measure editorial success and high levels of engagement.
If all you’re looking at it is downloads, you’re missing a major part of your success story.
Podcasting versus Other Media
Everyone in podcasting wants more people and more brands to discover the magic of audio.
Here is a major opportunity… use Average Consumption to compare audio to other media. If brands or advertisers are considering getting into the audio space, this is a key metric that the entire podcast industry should strongly consider championing.
Consider this as a pitch to a potential brand or advertiser that spends a ton of money on video…
“What is the only digital medium that can keep an audience engaged through 98% of a 30 minute show? The answer: Audio. And audio alone.”
According to brand new 2019 data from Edison Research, 93% percent of people who start a podcast listen to most or all of the episode.
That is insanely great as a measure of success. Especially compared to video.
Here is one public benchmark that references video completion rates:
“Shorter videos hold viewers’ attention the most: those less than 90 seconds long had a completion rate of 59% in 2017, up from 53% in 2016. That compares to a 14% completion rate for the longest videos (at least 30 minutes).”
The video platform, Wistia, shared this post about ideal length of videos that includes completion rates at various lengths:
Compare those numbers to this Average Consumption from McAfee’s Hackable? podcast. Their Digital Breadcrumbs episode has a 92% Average Consumption — the average listen per device is 24 minutes.
According to Wistia’s analytics, a 1-minute video has a lower average completion rate than any 30-minute podcast we make at Pacific Content. I’d be willing to make a big bet that we are far from alone in the podcasting industry.
And just to take it one step further… can you imagine what the Average Consumption is on a 30-minute blog post?
If there is one complaint podcasters get regularly from advertisers and brands, it’s that they want more data. So let’s use THIS data.
Here’s the bottom line: audio is unique compared to other mediums. People spend a LOT of time with audio. Average Consumption is a phenomenal way to champion this big strength of the medium and to help non-audio people understand the power of audio.
Let’s all make a more public case for why brands who value engagement should be thinking a lot more about audio. And let’s do it by talking about Average Consumption.