How to judge your podcast’s success

Posted by Terri Lydon | May 31, 2021

Return on investment (ROI) for a podcast can be a tricky thing to measure. Rarely does a podcast episode lead to direct, measurable revenue. That can be frustrating to explain to those who judge every branding or marketing initiative solely on ROI. 

But that doesn’t mean content marketing is without value. Quite the opposite! There are other ways to measure its success—especially for business podcasting.

Here are four great ways to judge a business podcast’s success:

1. Reach

The absolute number of listeners or downloads is the most obvious metric. But it can be confusing for two reasons:

 - A download doesn’t always equate to a listen. “Total downloads will typically overestimate the true size of your listening audience.” Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) guidelines hold that a unique download represents a podcast episode that is progressively downloaded using the same app from the same IP address, all within a 24-hour window—which is helpful, but makes the actual reporting cumbersome.

 - Sometimes a brand’s goal isn’t to reach a mass audience but rather maximize its engagement with a niche audience. We've had clients on both sides of this. We always ask this simple question: What’s your goal? We’ve had customers who want to reach a small (but lucrative) audience, others who only want to reach their own global workforce, and others who want their message out there for the world to hear.

Consider three clients we’ve worked with:

The American Medical Association targets doctors, residents and medical students—and not the population at large.

GE targets its employees. They assess their podcast’s success through internal newsletter open and click rates on links to their podcasts.

Deloitte targets business leaders and others who will benefit from inspiring stories of grit. Success for them is global listening.

Once we’ve established a target audience and reach, we need to know how clients have previously engaged with their target audience. Email newsletters? Social media accounts? A blog? That’s where we want to feature a podcast. It’s hard to change someone’s behavior; we aim to reach the audience where it already is.

2. Ratings and Reviews

It takes effort to rate and review a podcast. And, as entrepreneur Andrew Thomas explains in Inc., a customer [listener] who has a positive experience is unlikely to leave a good review, but that a customer [listener] who has a negative experience is more likely to share that experience by leaving a bad review.

Don’t dismiss positive reviews as just nice-to-have! Engaging with your audience on a level that compels them to stop what they’re doing (which is probably about 27 things at any moment), find your podcast or social media, and write out how your content’s helped them in some way is no easy feat. Use those reviews in your marketing, and internally to celebrate a podcast’s success.

Our podcast for StreetWise is a great example: In the process of bringing attention to the serious issue of underreported homeless numbers, we partnered to develop a compelling story. Getting listeners engaged enough to rate and review the podcast is a big win. 

3. Engagement

According to the IAB, “Podcast audiences represent a growing segment of marketable media and are considered to be some of the most engaged.” A great podcast asks listeners to engage further. Give them a phone number to submit questions, or an email address to submit audio or text questions or suggestions. Ask them to rate and review your podcast (see Point 2!) Ask them to share the podcast with others. 

Our client FER has used its podcast masterfully to engage with field techs—including an email box and a voicemail line to collect comments and feedback, which they incorporate in later episodes. 

4. The Halo Effect

The halo effect is a cognitive bias that claims that positive impressions of people, brands, and products in one area positively influence feelings in another area.

While audience engagement may not directly relate to dollars, branded podcasts convert listeners into brand loyalists. The key is understanding your audience and how your brand can interact with them in a way that resonates with their everyday lives. In fact, 60% of fans are more willing to consider buying products and services they learn about during a podcast (Businesswire). 

Consider a podcast Deloitte produces on the importance of maintaining physical, mental and emotional health. In the competitive world of recruiting top talent from business schools around the world, this podcast sets Deloitte apart as an organization focused on its people’s wellbeing.