Blubrry Goes Deep into Podcast Statistics

Blubrry LogoThere’s been a lot of discussion about podcast statistics lately. As the podcasting industry continues to expand and more players move into the space, differing opinions have arisen as to how podcast listenership should be measured. Of course, podcast statistics themselves are nothing new. Companies like Podtrac, LibSyn, and Blubrry have been recording and reporting statistics for years. And while it seems like this topic should be rather straightforward at this point, there are still a lot of misconceptions out there about how podcast statistics work.

Last week, Blubrry/Rawvoice CEO Todd Cochrane and Blubrry/Rawvoice CIO Angelo Mandato recorded an hour-long video presentation on the topic. The pair took a dive deep into the massive pool of statistics they’ve gathered thru the Blubrry podcasting network:

This is a in-depth behind-the-scenes look at how Blubrry Podcast Statistics measure and filter every podcast downloaded / live play delivering an accurate report to our podcasters, network customers and media buyers.

This deep dive video, while long, is perfect training for podcasters, reporters, media buyers and anyone else in the media space that want’s to understand how Podcast Statistics work.

Check out the video thru the link above or watch it right here:

Disclosure: I work part-time with the Blubrry support team and Podcaster News Executive Editor Todd Cochrane is the CEO of Rawvoice, parent company of Blubrry.

Podcasting and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving balloon by Jen Thorpe 2015It has been said that podcasters should give their fans a very special episode to listen to over the Thanksgiving holiday. No, not “very special episode” as in the After School Specials from back in the day. Instead, the idea seems to be to make sure that you put your best effort into the episode that will be released shortly before Thanksgiving.

Going along with this idea seems to be one commonly heard in the podcast-o-sphere. There is talk that releasing a fantastic episode for Thanksgiving could not only make your loyal listeners that much more interested in your podcast, but might also draw in new listeners.

Following that line of thought is the hope that at least some of the people who heard your extra-awesome episode will contribute to your Patreon. You do basically have a captive audience of commuters, right? Some of them might appreciate a well done podcast to listen to while they travel.

In general, I think the idea that: “Great Episode + Thanksgiving = You Win The Internet” is overly optimistic. It doesn’t take into account some of the realities surrounding Thanksgiving. Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in November. Canadians celebrate it in October. People in other countries might not celebrate it at all and have their big holiday meal with the family over Christmas.

While it is true that many Americans will have at least a few hours off during what has become “Black Friday Weekend”, your international listeners will be having a typical work week. As such, your extra special episode might have more impact if you post it for a milestone episode (like episode 100, for example) than if you release it during Thanksgiving. People from all across the world can take time to tune in to a milestone episode of a show they are interested in. It’s a bigger audience than you might get during the hectic Thanksgiving holiday.

Another thing to consider is what might seem natural, but can turn out very awkward. The first year I did NaPodPoMo almost all of the American podcasters did an episode about Thanksgiving on or after Thanksgiving day. This resulted in some interesting takes on the Thanksgiving holiday, and some fun soundscapes, but it was difficult to differentiate them from each other. Nothing stood out because they were all on the same topic at the same time.

Your listeners might find it strange if you spend an episode talking about an American holiday that takes place in November if it isn’t something that fits the general topic of your podcast. Historical podcasts could delve into the pages of history to talk about the holiday’s origins. That topic might be a nice fit. Podcasts about travel might make that work, and so could family history or genealogy focused podcasts. However, podcasts about other subjects might not be an appropriate place for an episode about Thanksgiving.

How to Evaluate a Health Podcast

medical symbolPodcasts that focus on health, or that give listeners health related advice, are becoming popular. Everyone wants to have good health. It can be tempting to start doing whatever a random podcaster said you should do – especially if the suggestion appears to be easy to do. Before you make any changes regarding your health, you should take a moment to evaluate the health podcast itself.

Is the podcaster selling something?
The podcaster tells you that he or she had bad health – until they started using a particular product. It just so happens that the podcaster can sell some of that product to you. How convenient!

It is entirely possible that the podcaster really did get a good benefit from the product they want to sell to you. Keep in mind that they are giving you a biased review of the product, and that the podcaster is not offering any alternative viewpoints of it.

Is the podcast about health related apps?
These types of health related podcasts are safe. What you are getting is a personal review of an app that you might have been considering purchasing. In general, these types of podcasts cover the functions of each app, and compare similar ones to each other.

In other words, the podcaster is pointing out tools that can help you count calories or track the number of steps you took in a given day. If you are already walking and/or counting calories, the apps the podcaster suggests could be a helpful tool that you can use continue doing something you already made the choice to do.

Is the podcast focused on “one simple trick”?
The health related podcast you listened to states that you can live longer, or look younger, or have more energy, or quickly lose weight, if you do this one special thing. Typically, the “one simple trick” the podcaster suggests is not going to actually improve anyone’s health. These podcasts are the equivalent of the questionable ads that collect at the bottom of less-than-credible websites.

Is the health suggestion too good to be true?
Stay away from health podcasts that suggest that a medication, an essential oil, an herbal remedy, or a special diet, can cure cancer. No matter what that podcaster is discussing (or selling) it cannot possibly do what the podcaster claims it can. Be wary of podcasts that suggest that their advice can cure diseases or conditions that medical science has not found a cure for.

Is the podcaster a health practitioner with the proper certifications?
It is important to note the background of the podcaster who is making health related suggestions on his or her show. Is that person a doctor? Does that person have the proper credentials and certifications? Is the podcaster discussing topics that are within the wheelhouse of what he or she went to school for and is now practicing? If things don’t match up – what you are getting is little more than some random, unqualified, uncertified, person’s opinion about health.

Third-Party Platforms Don’t Care About Your Podcast

SoundCloud LogoAn article about how the Guy Friends Podcast was recently banned from SoundCloud due to copyright claims is getting a lot of attention this week in the podcasting community. It’s a cautionary tale on two fronts about: 1.) Using unlicensed music in a podcast. 2.) Relying solely on a third-party platform to host all of your podcast assets, including your RSS feed.

The first point about unlicensed music is definitely key to the story. But a dozen lengthy blog posts probably wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface on that topic. The second point, relying on a third-party platform, is what I’ll focus on here.

In podcasting terms, we usually think of “third-party platforms” as service providers like web or media hosting companies. To get literal, you (or your podcast) are considered to be the first party. (We’ll skip over the second party for now.) As the first party, anyone you hire or pay for services is then considered to be a third party. And while often times in podcasting, third parties hold important assets like web or media files, they don’t technically own them. Unless otherwise specified, those assets are yours. You own and control them. You’re just renting some space from whatever third-party service(s) you’re using. That makes these third parties into quasi-landlords over your digital domain. Break their rules, and they can (and probably will) evict you with little warning.

In the case of the Guy Friends Podcast, the show’s producers thought they were following the rules by relying mostly on music that itself had been mixed and mashed up by SoundCloud-hosted artists. The show’s producers understood that the songs contained unlicensed samples. But it only stood to reason that, if the DJ’s who remixed those samples weren’t getting takedowns on SoundCloud, the Guy Friends Podcast should be safe, too. They were even careful to make sure the songs they picked were licensed under Creative Commons. But these precautions weren’t enough to keep them clear of SoundCloud’s content ID system. After three years of hosting everything (including the show’s RSS feed) on SoundCloud, the Guy Friends Podcast was completely removed from the platform:

You can’t listen to anything we’ve ever created in three-plus years on iTunes either, as the RSS is broken. We face a dilemma many others who work online have dealt with as websites are shut down or reworked; our links are dead, our content is sailing around like ghost ships on the internet.

Again, getting back to the copyright topic, there’s a whole lot that could be written about how SoundCloud handled the removal of the Guy Friends Podcast. But if the producers of the show had taken the time to establish their presence on a domain they owned and controlled, the SoundCloud issue would’ve been a bump in the road instead of a major disaster. Instead, the Guy Friends Podcast went all in on SoundCloud’s platform. Now, the show’s producers are faced with the challenge of rebuilding their audience in a new location, with no direct way to carry over their previous subscribers.

This kind of thing has happened many times before in podcasting’s history. But usually, it occurs when a podcasting platform closes shop on short notice, leaving its users out in the cold. The situation with Guy Friends Podcast is slightly different, as SoundCloud is still in operation. But the outcome is the same.

Throughout the article about the Guy Friends Podcast, the show’s producers lay out a series of points that led them to believe SoundCloud was supportive of their show. But SoundCloud eventually gave them the boot because, in the end, third-party platforms don’t care about your podcast. They can (and will) remove your content if you break their rules.

The best preventative measure against this is to always own and control your own space, especially your RSS feed. Knowing that third-party platforms don’t care about your podcast, ask yourself this question: Do you?

Google is your Friend

As I approach my 11th anniversary in podcasting I want to share a few secrets that gain me new listeners every single day. Having been podcasting since October of 2004, this strategy has been an integral part of my podcast growth throughout the years. It is so effective that I invest nearly $15,000 dollars a year — for paying writers, attending events and more — building my audience through this strategy.

I was a blogger before I was a podcaster, not a great blogger as I always tell folks, but when I started my podcast I probably had 300 to 1,000 people a day who visited my tech site to read my spin on what was happening in the tech world, and that played a major role in my show growth strategy.

I was one of the very early podcasters and quickly grew an amazing audience. Before I was on my 50th episode, my audience was pushing 50,000 listeners per episode. The numbers continued to climb, but at a certain point the growth stagnated.

Meanwhile, I continued to pump out a lot of articles each week on technology, and even in those early days I noticed that Google was driving me more and more page views every month to those articles. Since my blogs’ beginning, my writing team and I have averaged around a 1,000 regular blog articles a year, plus another 200 to 300 interviews from tradeshows, and of course my 100 or so podcast episodes annually.

Today, Google drives 40,000 to 50,000 page views a day to my site. On each and every page of the 15,000 articles on my website there is a big, fat and juicy iOS and Android Subscribe button, and a portion of those daily visitors subscribe to the show. While not all of them stay subscribed, a portion does. That adds up to a lot of new listeners each and every month.

Let’s do a little math. Let’s use a baseline of 20,000 page views. As we know, daily bloggers can get to 20,000 Google Search views in a couple of years. Twenty-thousand page views x 30 days = 600,000 page views. So let’s say that .0025 percent of those visitors subscribed — that’s 1,500 new subscribers. Let’s assume 50 percent do not stay subscribed — that is still potentially 750 new listeners each month or 9,000 new listeners each year. I will tell you my percentages are better than .0025

I will also tell you I have never been in New and Noteworthy, but what I do have is a sponsor that recently celebrated 10 years of continuous sponsorship of my show. The question people ask all the time is how I did that. With new subscribers coming in each month, they help keep my new customer conversions at record levels.

For those of you not worried about new and noteworthy and/or your show rank in iTunes, you have an exceptional opportunity to grow your audience in the long haul by supplementing your podcast content with a written blog post.

Of course some of you need a blog, a platform and your own domain name to do this. For those of you that have your podcasts hosted on a third-party podcast site that is driving your SEO to the gutter because of the other sites on that service, maybe it is time to reconsider your strategy on building your show.

We all know building audiences is not easy, but the pay off can be big. For the first five years, I grinded out all the articles myself. As my show grew and revenue grew I was able in five years to afford to pay writers who I trusted to write for my site. Ninety-percent of the writers on my site today came from my audience.

I still write a handful of articles each month. The Google traffic value from the 15,000 articles on my website and the ongoing new articles weekly drives an incredible amount of new eyeballs to my very visible podcast subscribe link.

Every article on my site is original, no sponsored post, and/or ghost writers. Google and the rest of the search engines love original content. With more than 2,000 interviews on the site, I also have great page rank from those corporate luminaries I have interviewed who have linked to my site from theirs.

Writing one or two articles a week is probably not going to help you. You need to put up a meaningful blog post every single day, except show days. It’s a grind, but it is one of many strategies I use to build audience. Oh, and for all those folks that say blogging is dead, they can just keep thinking that.

If you want to see that strategy in action visit my personal site @

Off The Cuff Reactions to “The Netflix of Podcasting”

Howl logoMy (mostly) unedited reactions to a recent Fast Company article called Is Howl The ‘Netflix Of Podcasting’ We’ve Been Waiting For?

1.) No one’s been waiting for a “Netflix of Podcasting.” Any app with access to a directory of podcasts (in other words, pretty much all of them) is already a “Netflix of Podcasting.”

2.) People who are “generally into podcasts” already know how to listen to them. They already have easy access to whatever they want to listen to.

3.) No single platform can or will “blow up the audience for podcasts.” A platform that puts content that can easily be found for free behind a paywall seems even less likely to do this.

4.) Podcasts have been proliferating for twice as long as “five plus years.”

5.) “iTunes is an à la carte experience” that allows users to collect all of the podcasts they want in one location. But somehow it isn’t a “true one-stop, all-you-can-eat shop” for podcast consumption. True, some podcasts aren’t listed in the iTunes directory but they can still be manually added fairly easily to the application’s podcast aggregator.

6.) Howl is a product of Earwolf/Midroll and will contain all of the Earwolf shows along with “licensed” content like Marc Maron’s WTF. I’m unsure how a tightly curated list of shows will “build a model to advance the medium as a whole.”

7.) “$4.99 per month… at launch, Howl includes access to the full archives of every show on the network plus WTF and a large library of Comedy Central specials, behind-the-scenes photos from each episode, and host commentary and Twitter streams.” Adding premium content thru a paid subscription is a nice touch. It’s a process that more podcasters would use if it were easy to implement.

8.) “One limiting factor is that if you want to create a viable podcast, you really need to create a show that is long running, has a cost structure where the costs can stay relatively low and you can do 30-50 episodes per year, build up an audience, get ad sponsorships.” At least he didn’t say you could become rich overnight by starting a podcast. Granted, most shows probably won’t reach a point where they can get a Midroll sponsorship even if they publish 50 (or more) episodes in the first year.

9.) “We have documentaries that are a single episode of an hour and five minutes long, and there is only going to be a single episode… You could never afford to make an audio documentary that was just an hour long because you would never be able to monetize that with ads.” A good point here, when you’re creating content for the sole purpose of monetization. But, if Howl’s subscription revenue will help to fund things that are experimental in nature, that could be good. But then, if that content is only available to Howl subscribers, is it truly “advancing” the medium?

10.) “You still get people that just aren’t in the habit of listening to podcasts… They always say, ‘I’m late to the party…’ I think access is a big thing, and it’s really one of the few mediums where there’s a huge possibility for growth.” We’ve been saying this since 2005. But somehow, a closed platform with a relatively small catalog is going to bring podcasts to the masses?

Facebook Video Faces Massive “Freebooting” Problem

Facebook logoFacebook has quickly become a major player in the online video space, thanks to the site’s ability to import and display videos natively. This has created a quick and convenient way for users to upload and share short clips and home movies. But it’s also created a new venue for social media savvy celebrities and big brands to distribute shareable content, similar to YouTube. The big difference being that native Facebook videos are easier to share on the massive social networking website. This has been a boon for some creators who’ve seen success in posting exclusive content to their Facebook pages. But it’s also created a problem for others, who’ve seen their videos posted natively to Facebook without their permission. This practice is called “freebooting” and it’s become fairly prevalent on Facebook.

The freebooting issue is felt most by YouTube creators who discover that their videos have been ripped from YouTube and then uploaded to Facebook without their permission. Freebooting is a problem that’s really as old as the World Wide Web itself. But it’s gotten a lot of attention recently due to a post on Medium by YouTuber/author Hank Green, which reports that:

According to a recent report from Ogilvy and Tubular Labs, of the 1000 most popular Facebook videos of Q1 2015, 725 were stolen re-uploads. Just these 725 “freebooted” videos were responsible for around 17 BILLION views last quarter.

That’s a lot of freebooted content! Naturally, Green is pretty upset by this, since it’s definitely cutting into the YouTube traffic he relies on for ad revenue.

Freebooting like this probably isn’t as big of a problem for most podcasters. In fact, most of us release our content under Creative Commons licenses that might even allow for this kind of redistribution. But when a third party gains from your work, whether it’s in direct financial compensation or just social currency, it’s a problem. Especially when that third party isn’t even providing proper credit or attribution for the work.

If you suspect your creations have been freebooted, reach out the party responsible for posting your content and politely ask them to remove it. If they decline, file a DMCA takedown request with the website’s administrator or hosting company.

How Do You Present Ads in Your Podcast?

Audible logoNot every podcast includes ads. Those that do often include the advertisement close to the middle of their episode. The New York Times has an article titled: Ads for Podcasts Test the Line Between Story and Sponsor. It got me to thinking about the way I’ve presented ads in some of the podcasts that I’ve been involved with.

The article talks about advertising in podcasts, and points out that more and more companies are seeking to place ads into the episodes of the most popular podcasts. The thing is, they want more than placement. They are seeking ads that come across as less like advertisements and more like an entertaining story.

This, to me, is problematic, especially when the ad is being delivered by a podcaster who is already known as a serious journalist. How is the listener to differentiate between the advertisement and the true content of the episode, when the person delivering it is someone they expect to provide news and story? The lines are becoming a bit blurred.

One thing that makes this possible is the fact that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has no oversight on podcasts. There are rules regarding how ads are presented on commercial radio. Ads are not allowed at all on public radio. Currently, there are no boundaries in place that limit how ads are presented on podcasts.

It makes me think of the really early days of television, when hosts of children’s programing literally told the children viewing the show to ask their parents to buy them a certain kind of cereal. The kids, of course, weren’t able to identify that as an ad. They just knew that the TV person, whom they liked, told them to get their parents to buy the cereal.

I have been involved in two podcasts that each had Audible as a sponsor. In each show, the audible ad was prefaced by something similar to “Audible is the sponsor of our show”. We tried to make it clear that what we were about to say was an ad.

That being said, the two shows handled the ad differently. The gaming podcast I’m involved in clearly states the sponsorship, and gives details of what Audible offers. That’s it. The music podcast that I was involved in, that has since “podfaded”, did the same, but added more. My co-host and I honestly enjoyed talking about the books we read, and we chose to include a discussion about one of those books into each ad. Each book was available on Audible.

Did we unintentionally make things confusing for our (admittedly few) listeners by handling the ad that way? My co-host really did have an Audible subscription, while I did not. It probably appeared as if I did, though. Was I being dishonest with my listeners? I’m not entirely sure.

Anyway, the point I’m making is that podcasters should be aware of how their ads are being perceived by their listeners. There is a fine line between including what is obviously an ad, and producing what amounts to a “segment” that just so happens to be about a product from a company that sponsors your show.

The Fair Use App Provides Guidance for Media Creators

New Media Rights logoPodcasters are often faced with the challenge of determining whether or not they can incorporate a piece of media into their productions. Most often, this comes with music. But it can extend to things like movie/TV clips or other soundbites. The best rule of thumb is, if you don’t have explicit permission to use a piece of media in your podcast, DON’T. But thanks to the complex nature of copyright law and its Fair Use provisions, many creators believe there are loopholes they can exploit to use the media clips they want without repercussion. The Fair Use App, a service provided by the New Media Rights organization can offer some guidance to creators who are unsure if they’re operating under Fair Use or not.

Before I go any further, I must stress that The Fair Use App is useful. But it can’t give you a 100% bulletproof answer as to whether or not your creative intent can be claimed under Fair Use. The app starts off by doing some simple troubleshooting like asking if the media you intend to use is in the Public Domain or if it’s covered under a Creative Commons license. If you answer no to these questions, the app will ask a series of followup questions in an attempt to advise you what is, and what is not, considered Fair Use. In the end, it’ll be up to you to decide whether or not to proceed with your work and in turn, potentially suffer any legal consequences.

The Fair Use App is geared in its terminology towards filmmakers but most of its test questions can be easily applied to podcasters. So, if you’re feeling compelled (as I have!) to do an in-depth breakdown of the latest Star Wars movie trailer on your podcast, check The Fair Use App first and see what it says about using media clips from the trailer. If Disney/Lucasfilm sends you a cease-and-decist order, relying on The Force alone may not be enough to save you.