Apple probing sudden declines of up to 40 percent in reported podcast listeners

in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV
Apple says it's "investigating" an issue with its podcast data showing sharp and unexpected declines in listenership -- but with no corresponding drop in actual listeners.

Apple's Podcasts app on iOS 12.
Apple's Podcasts app on iOS 12.

"We have received reports of steep consumption declines in reporting," the company said in an email to podcasters, seen by AppleInsider. "We are investigating these figures as they do not match playback data in Podcast Analytics."

Ad-sponsored podcasts are dependent on accurate data as way of justifying investments. It's unknown, though, if any podcasts have temporarily lost financial backing.

Looking at data available to AppleInsider across several podcasts, the number of downloads attributed to users listening through iTunes is being under-reported by as little as 28 percent and much as 40 percent of what it should be, across six different podcasts spanning multiple genres.

Podcasters are especially dependent on accurate data from Apple. While shows can be distributed through a variety of platforms, iTunes is still a primary hub that podcasters rarely ignore. The term "podcast" in fact originates from Apple, since it's a portmanteau of "iPod" and "broadcast." Podcasts allowed owners of iPods and other early MP3 players to get around the lack of internet streaming and/or FM radio on those devices.

Apple introduced formal support for podcasts with iTunes 4.9 in June 2005. Until then podcasting had required third-party apps, and controversially the company began cracking down on apps using terms like "pod" or "iPod" in their names. It has since relaxed that policy somewhat.

Apple's email separately warns of delayed submissions for new podcasts during the holidays. That includes a Thanksgiving break -- Nov. 16 through Nov. 26 -- and one for Christmas and New Year's, extending from Dec. 21 to Jan. 2.


  • Reply 1 of 3
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,005member
    did someone hack Apple's database of podcast usage?
  • Reply 2 of 3
    jdgazjdgaz Posts: 381member
    My guess is some security adjustment in ios 12.1 is causing the data to be unavailable. But guesses are just that.
  • Reply 3 of 3
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,720member
    Hmm, if the data from Apple's own sources is mis-matched, then it's likely just a bug.

    At first, I thought maybe this was about 3rd party places like Facebook or whatever auto-playing podcasts (i.e.: differentiating true audience vs. some feed/bot that just plays a few seconds).

    Also, I take issue a bit with the statement, "Ad-sponsored podcasts are dependent on accurate data as way of justifying investments. It's unknown, though, if any podcasts have temporarily lost financial backing." While I suppose this is true - as far as it goes - podcasters and other web-media already have better stats than any of the traditional publishers, who seemed to be able to sell advertising. I think producers of these newer types of media need to get educated and start pushing back against a clueless ad industry.

    Or, better yet, move to newer models like value-for-value, 
    sponsorship/influencer forms of marketing/support. Even as an end-user, I am impacted nearly zero by any kind of traditional advertising on podcasts/websites, while in the last few years, I've purchased several products mentioned in less ad-like ways by podcasters or from website reviews, and have sent money to a couple value-for-value model podcasters doing exceptional work (with zero ads).
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