How to Check a Podcast’s Subscriber Numbers

Determining the number of subscribers for a podcast can be challenging, but there are several methods you can use to get an estimate. As a podcaster with over 10 years of experience creating shows in various niches, I’ve learned the ins and outs of tracking podcast popularity.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share tactics to gauge subscriber numbers, the challenges in getting accurate data, and tips to grow your listeners based on these insights.

Why Podcast Subscriber Data is Hard to Come By

Podcasts are hosted on servers that simply track when an audio file is requested and served. So there’s no way for hosting providers to definitively state how many people have subscribed to or actively listen to a show.

Platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts have more listener data, but choose not to share it publicly to protect creator interests. Even the podcasters themselves rarely share their numbers.

Without access to backend data, we have to get creative in estimating subscriber counts. The good news is there are several decent methods to gauge popularity.

7 Ways to Estimate a Podcast’s Subscribers

Here are the top ways to gauge the subscriber numbers for any podcast:

1. Calculate Downloads Per Episode

While downloads don’t equal subscribers, you can get a ballpark by:

Total Downloads ÷ Number of Episodes = Downloads Per Episode

Popular shows tend to have a higher number of downloads per episode. This indicates a large subscriber base tuning into each new release.

2. Social Followers

A podcast’s social media follower count can indicate subscribers, especially if engagement and followers are high. But follower counts can be inflated with bots and fake accounts.

3. Reviews and Ratings

The number of ratings and written reviews indicates a podcast’s reach. But reviews can be faked or manipulated.

4. Category Ranks

A top 50 or 100 podcast has likely earned a large subscriber base. But lower-ranked shows can still have decent listener numbers.

5. Third-Party Analytics

Services like Chartable and Podtrac provide podcast download estimates based on industry data.

6. Ask Directly

You can try reaching out to podcasters directly via email to ask about their subscriber numbers. Some shows may share while others prefer to keep this data private.

7. Advertiser Disclosures

Some podcasts share their subscriber numbers on advertising or sponsorship pages as a means of attracting sponsors. But this data may not always be current or accurately presented.

While none of these methods give definitive subscriber counts, they provide enough insight to gauge a podcast’s general popularity.

Challenges in Tracking Accurate Podcast Subscriber Numbers

There are a few reasons why podcast subscriber numbers can be unreliable:

  • Downloads get counted but may not represent actual full listens. Many podcast apps automatically download new episodes which leads to inflated numbers.
  • One listener can generate multiple downloads. Someone who downloads episodes both at home and on their phone could get counted twice.
  • Geography and IP data can be unreliable. VPNs, shared networks, and mobile IPs make it hard to accurately count unique listeners.
  • Podcast charts can be manipulated. There are techniques to artificially inflate subscribers to improve chart rankings and perception.
  • First-party data is closely guarded. Platforms like Spotify, Apple, and Google have accurate listener data but choose not to share it publicly.

Due to these challenges, most methods creators use to estimate subscribers come with caveats. The incentives around perception and monetization further complicate getting transparent, accurate numbers.

But estimating subscribers still holds value for benchmarking, gauging traction, selling ads, getting press coverage, and measuring growth.

Tips for Growing Your Podcast Subscribers

While downloads offer indications of popularity, your focus should be on actively growing subscribers. Here are 5 proven tactics:

1. Promote Your Show Heavily at Launch

It’s important to make a splash when first launching a podcast to build momentum. Tell everyone about your show to maximize initial subscriptions.

2. Release Episodes Consistently

By sticking to a regular release schedule, you train subscribers to expect new episodes. This helps retain listeners.

3. Run Targeted Ad Campaigns

Use paid platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Spotify to get your podcast in front of targeted listeners that are likely to subscribe.

4. Pitch to Industry Publications

Earn press coverage on blogs and news sites related to your podcast niche. This raises awareness to potential new listeners.

5. Collaborate with Influencers

Work with leaders in your space to cross-promote episodes. Their built-in audience offers a subscriber boost.

Key Takeaways

  • Accurately tracking podcast subscribers is challenging since platforms don’t share listener data.
  • While downloads don’t equal subscribers, you can use this to estimate a show’s reach along with social followers and reviews.
  • Third-party analytics tools, asking directly, and monitoring advertiser disclosures offer additional signals to gauge popularity.
  • Consistency, promotion and partnerships are key tactics to actively grow your subscriber base over time.

I hope this guide gives you a well-rounded sense of how to benchmark podcast subscriber numbers. Let me know if you have any other questions!