Today I want to dive into some recent data on platforms put out by two Podcast hosting companies (Libsyn and Buzzsprout) and how to think about these kinds of data in the future. There will also be animals.
First, the facts of the case: both hosting companies recently released data on the percentage of their downloads by platform, and there were some sharp differences. According to the excellent reporting on the topic from Podnews, Libsyn reported that Apple accounted for 60% of their April downloads, while Spotify came in a skosh over 13.5%. Meanwhile, their rivals at Buzzsprout also released their April data, and it showed a Very Different Thing: Apple and Spotify tied at around 29%.
James Cridland, the editor of Podnews, did a great job diving into some of the more technical aspects of these data, and concluded that Libsyn was overstating Apple, and Buzzsprout somewhat understating Apple. Do read that. But, as he also states, these technical issues don’t account for the full measure of disparity between the two services. Inside Podcasting reported on the issue, advising that podcasters would do well to question the data they receive from their hosting platforms.
I’ll pose a question that at least some of you may be thinking — why do we care? I’ll give you two reasons: one, as James himself said in the post I linked above, “if Spotify is as big as Apple, that’s big news.” This matters well beyond the posturing of two hosting companies — it cuts to the very changing nature of podcasting itself. After all, if a podcast is a digital audio file delivered via an open standard for automatic downloading, then what we have on Spotify are not podcasts. They are shows. Except Spotify calls them podcasts, the hosts refer to them as podcasts, and the listeners refer to them as podcasts. So guess what: Spotify shows are podcasts.
As I have said before in this space an in others, after 15 years of answering the question our family and friends have often posed — “what’s a podcast?” — do we really want to re-litigate this, now that we have finally made podcasting a household name? Did the Joe Rogan Experience automatically stop being a podcast when it went exclusive to Spotify? Some in the industry would say “yes,” but as far as the listener is concerned, this is a big…