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Measuring Podcast Performance – More Than Just Podcast Analytics

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In this interview excerpt, Brian Peters from Buffer, the social media management platform, tells us how he and the team at Buffer measure the performance of their podcast The Science of Social Media.

We asked Brian:

How does the Buffer team track the success of the podcast overall, as well as the performance of individual episodes?

In his response, he broke down the importance of both quantitative measures like podcast analytics, and qualitative measures like survey feedback, in assessing the performance of a podcast. Read on for practical insights and tips that will help you measure your podcast performance like a pro.

Podcast Analytics Used to Report on the Quantitative Success of a Podcast

Observing analytics and taking note of performance is just the tip of the iceberg when evaluating podcast performance. The data has to speak to you – you must make inferences from the data that paint a picture of how listeners are interacting with the podcast, which is exactly what Brian has done:

“As many podcasters know, Apple and Libsyn, and other podcast host providers don’t really give you a ton of data. But, I think they’ve come a long way.

“In terms of quantitative measures, we do base our success on, of course, download numbers. But now in iTunes Connect, you can actually look at the stats of how many unique listeners listened to each episode and the percentage of the episode they listened to.

“For us, if people are listening to the entire episode, that’s a good barometer of how interesting our content is. So, if people are only listening to 42% of the show, that’s a pretty good indicator of ‘okay, they downloaded the episode because they were interested in the topic, but what we were saying on the topic isn’t necessarily what they wanted to hear.’ If people are listening to 89% of an episode, that’s a good indication that we engaged them correctly. Right now, the Buffer podcast is hovering right around a 90% listen rate, which is great, but of course we always want to do better.”

Qualitative Measurements Used to Report on Podcast Success

Qualitative measures are the gateway to truly improving the quality of your podcast moving forward. If you care to grow your listenership and increase the percentage of episodes listened to as mentioned above, you can use qualitative feedback as a way to fill the gaps between the data points. Brian and the Buffer team found a way to not only tap into that feedback, but also took every comment to heart and created a full-blown improvement cycle that makes each episode better than the last:

“I think one of the things we learned really early on is to get as much qualitative feedback as you possibly can on the podcast, rather than just relying on the quantitative measures like downloads, etc.

“We wanted a way to get some actual feedback from podcast listeners. But early on we didn’t really have a mechanism to do that. You can have a survey or newsletter that can generate feedback, but we wanted a quicker way to get feedback. So, we started #BufferPodcast.

“At the end of every show we give a CTA like, ‘Hey if you enjoyed this episode, or you have any questions, or you want to reach out, (or whatever), tag us on social media with the hashtag [#BufferPodcast] and we’ll respond to you!’

“That’s been really awesome for us. We’ve gotten hundreds of responses. And we actually respond to all of them. It was a great way for us to get the qualitative measures that we were missing through iTunes and Libsyn.

“What that qualitative information has helped us do is get very quick feedback loops going with the podcast. The trouble with just relying on quantitative data for podcasting is that [typically] you have to wait a week in between each learning.

“So, let’s say you release an episode every Monday. Well, you’re not going to know your full weekly podcast download numbers until the following Sunday. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to make improvements on the next episode. The Buffer podcast hashtag has allowed us to get much quicker, more direct feedback about the podcast that we can then use to improve the very next episode.”

See the success of the hashtag for yourself:

#BufferPodcast on Facebook (note, this link requires you to be logged into Facebook)

#BufferPodcast on Twitter

Consider making a feedback hashtag for your podcast as well. Keep it short and simple to avoid misuse and encourage its use in every single episode.

Implement These Measures to Collect Podcast Analytics and Qualitative Data on Your Own Podcast

All feedback is good feedback. Buffer’s success with their hashtag is pretty impressive! But Brian also pointed out the value in creating surveys and sending them through your email lists or including them in your newsletters, etc. Though the ideal scenario is to, of course, accomplish the rapid fire feedback cycle as Buffer has, setting yourself up to receive this kind of qualitative information will prove itself useful as you venture into episode improvements.

Measuring podcast performance goes hand in hand with thinking creatively about promoting your podcast, too. Check out another interview excerpt with Brian on how Buffer promotes their podcast.

Have any questions on podcast measurement? Reach out to Brian using the hashtag, or visit this podcasting community to see what they’re saying about measuring podcast performance.

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