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Joint Statement on the Continued Integrity of the Download Metric

Joint Statement on the Continued Integrity of the Download Metric

Written By

Bryan Barletta

Know the Author

October 12, 2023

Several months ago, the podcast industry recognized a chance to enhance the credibility of our primary metric: the download. Unlike the enclosed ecosystems seen in other media channels, our open podcast industry – encompassing multiple hosting platforms, measurement providers, and podcast players – adheres to universally accepted standards, ensuring accountability.

We identified an opportunity to make recommendations to the team at Apple Podcasts regarding the behavior of their automatic download feature, which would further align reported downloads with listener consumption. New ways of looking at how frequency of ads impacted attribution by Podscribe put renewed attention on the issue, and a coalition of industry partners, facilitated in part by Sounds Profitable, consolidated these recommendations (primarily concerning their automatic downloading feature) for review by Apple.

These suggestions aligned with Apple’s own research on user behavior, and as a result, changes were implemented to that will help hosting providers further refine download metrics. We are pleased that the team at Apple has been responsive and continues to make these improvements.

The improvements were incorporated in the iOS 17 release on September 18th, 2023. Podcast publishers may observe variations in their download statistics for Apple Podcasts, especially for older episodes. Factors like the show’s catalog size, listener habits, listenership on Apple Podcasts, and iOS 17 adoption rate will influence the rate and extent of this change.

This is by no means a first for the podcast industry. We previously emphasized metric accuracy when adopting the IAB v2 Podcast Measurement Guidelines in 2018. Our industry’s philosophy remains consistent: whenever possible, we will refine our offering for listeners and advertisers. Our open nature ensures we maintain mutual accountability.

We look forward to collaborating with advertisers to understand and adapt to these changes and we anticipate these adjustments will lead to improved campaign performance. We also ask publishers for patience as they navigate these modifications. Any reduction of inventory, especially entering the fourth quarter, requires a strategic approach to sustain success.

Bryan Moffett, COO of National Public Media, said, “Since podcasting’s inception, automatic downloads have ensured access to favorite shows anytime, anywhere. Industry professionals have recognized that not all automatic downloads lead to plays, sparking discussions with Apple over the years. The challenge has been striking a balance between user convenience and potential unused downloads for advertisers. The download remains the primary reliable metric. Our industry has tirelessly refined its definition, and Apple’s recent adjustment is a step forward.”

Acast CEO Ross Adams said: “The engagement between the listener and the podcaster is what drives advertising effectiveness in podcasting, which makes unique listens one of the most important metrics to our medium. At Acast, we’re continuing to see this data point increase, and according to research from Edison, the share of time spent with podcasting has grown 5X in the last five years, compared to other forms of audio.”

Tom Webster, Partner at Sounds Profitable and an 18-year veteran of the podcasting space, noted the following: “It is important to recognize that podcasting’s listener base hasn’t declined – it continues to grow at a robust rate every year. The weekly podcast audience 12+, in fact, grew 19% this year over 2022 figures, according to Edison Research. From an audience perspective, the space has never been stronger.”

Moffett added, “Years of attribution studies have shown that the medium works amazingly well, and this change will only increase that performance.”

Questions about this initiative may be addressed to Sounds Profitable. These improvements were made possible with the support and input from Apple and the following partners:

The Axis
JAR Audio
Radio America
Sound That BRANDS
Stampede Social
OSSA Collective
Bold Collective
MCS Media
DCP Entertainment
Blue Wire Podcasts
Adalyst Media
Lower Street
Edit Audio
Sound Off Podcast Network
Larj Media
The Law Offices of Lindsay Bowen PLLC
Evergreen Podcasts
Telling Media
Ad Results Media
Signal Hill Insights
Glassbox Media
Bold Co
Oxford Road
La Coctelera Music
Pacific Content
Culture & Code
Magellan AI
Ramsey Network
Veritone One
Assembly Partners
Backyard Ventures

Press Contacts

Sounds Profitable
Press contact: Bryan Barletta
Sounds Profitable – Partner

Molly DeMellier
Acast – PR Lead, Americas

National Public Media
Devon Landis
Marketing & Communications, NPR

About the author

Bryan Barletta (He/Him) is the founder of Sounds Profitable, and a widely-cited expert in adtech, sales, and monetization of podcasting. He founded Sounds Profitable in 2020 after a successful career working with some of the leading companies in advertising technology, including AdTheorent, Claritas, and Megaphone. Barletta helped to design some of the tools in use by podcast platforms today for attribution, measurement, and serving audio ads, and uses that expertise to help clients and sponsors get the most from their sales and advertising efforts. He founded Sounds Profitable initially as a platform to help educate persons working in the podcast industry about advertising and sales technology, but has since expanded the brand to become the industry’s premiere source for education, advocacy, and insights designed to grow the entire space. He is an avid gamer and father of two boys, neither of whom have their own podcast, yet.