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Don’t Stress About Downloads: How to Measure Success for a Branded Podcast

Don’t Stress About Downloads: How to Measure Success for a Branded Podcast

When it comes to measuring the success of your branded podcast, download volume is not the end all and be all.  

Participating in my first Podcast Movement conference in Dallas last month was an eye-opening experience. I was struck by how much time and attention breakout group panelists and podcast technology providers devoted to podcast success metrics and measurement. I spent the first day-and-a-half listening to speakers in the “Marketing Track”, during which independent podcasters touted the number of downloads they have racked up, and various podcast business and tech experts showered us with tips on how to turbo-boost their audience growth numbers. Most of the podcasts that had achieved high totals were focused on entertainment, comedy, sports, religion, gaming, and a variety of lifestyle topics.

Then I sat in on the “Branding Track”. I walked away with one mind-blowing conclusion: If you’re creating a podcast branded podcast for your business, you don’t have to generate a gazillion downloads to consider your branded podcast a success. The key here is to think critically about what your business objectives are and pick metrics that measure whether or not you’re reaching them. Here are some examples:

Branding Uplift at Sleep.com

One of the most impressive branded podcast examples was a series called “Are You Sleeping?” sponsored by Sleep.com and created with the help of Vox Media, a major podcast destination site. When asked about how they defined success,  their Product Manager,  Jefferson Burress @jeffersonb stated that they focused almost exclusively on “upper funnel metrics” – most notably measure those that pointed to “brand uplift” – as opposed to leads generated or visitation numbers associated with e-mail or social media campaigns. Here’s what they measured:

  • Positive brand perception: Sleep.com achieved a 6-point improvement for this metric
  • Category awareness: 2 out of 5 people will think more about their sleep
  • Repeat listeners: 1 out of 4 will listen to the next Episode.  

For measurement, Sleep.com conducted a “forced exposure survey” to enable them to solicit answers directly. We didn’t talk about what those costs or what it entailed, but the key point is that measurement in this case was very deliberate, and again, not focused on things that one can count. They did, however, measure rate of audience growth, and found that the last Episode had the highest count, which is a good thing.

Completion Rate

This metric appears to have been the hottest metric at the show. Completion rate measures the percentage of the audience that listens to a given Episode to the very end. Chris Colbert of DCP Entertainment @DCPofficial made the point a number of great points here. First of all, you can have all the downloads in the world, but if people are listening to the first few minutes and cutting away, or only making it halfway, are they getting the message? Is the brand getting the brand perception, knowledge transfer, and customer intimacy benefits they’re seeking? In other words, have the stated business objectives been met?

Also, a straight audio podcasts appears to have higher completion rates than video podcasts. I heard numbers as low as 12% for the latter, and numbers as high as 92% (congratulations, Jefferson!) for audio only.

Lead generation

Now I’m going to contradict myself here. While many of the podcast marketers were nodding their heads while the aforementioned speakers spoke, a few conversations at the legendary nightly Podcast Movement parties shed light on what some creators of branded podcasts really want: Just give me some damn leads! What better way for a small professional services firm to attract potential buyers that inviting them onto their show? I talked to one executive leadership development entrepreneur whose sole channel for getting business is taking this approach. The revenue generated by just a couple of new clients secured this way dwarfed the cash outlay required to produce and promote his podcast series!

Solicit feedback

On a separate but related note, almost every speaker who spoke about measurement also emphasized the important of soliciting audience feedback. A variety of techniques were cited:

  • Ask for feedback during the podcast (and be specific on how the listener should provide it!)
  • Post your Episode on all of your social media sites and ask for feedback again!
  • Actively encourage sharing among listeners.
  • Respond directly and personally to anyone who comments on your Episode.

Doing all of these things ensures that you generate the ideas needed to continually improve you podcast. It also generates discussion and buzz, leading to more audience growth. And when you check in on Libsyn or Anchor or wherever you track your downloads, pour yourself an adult beverage of your choice and chill out a bit!

We’d love to start the conversation with you about your own podcast aspirations. We welcome you to visit our website at www.gomodpod.com, or reach out to us via our Contact form or at info@gomodpod.com.

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