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How to decode your audience data (pt 2)

Dan Page 

Dan is founder and CEO of Podspike. He has made it his mission to give podcasters access to easy, affordable and effective marketing services, and regularly contributes his advice to the podcast marketing community

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In part 1 we talked about how to decode your podcast stats when it comes to telling others how many followers, subscribers, listens, plays and downloads you have. In part 2 we’ll talk about how you can use these same stats to decode who might be listening – and how. 

Why is this important?

Put simply podcasting is very competitive – hundreds of thousands of shows are chasing similar audiences. Some shows are good, some not so good. Some have marketing budgets, others don’t. But research suggests that – on average – audiences listen to eight different podcasts each week. Therefore your job is to battle your way into being one of those eight, meaning you should look for every opportunity to gain an edge on the competition.

One such edge is understanding who you want to reach, what they like to listen to and how they like to listen to it. Armed with this information you can refine your content, and your marketing, to really hone into this community of listeners.

Figuring out your target audience

Every podcaster should have a target audience in mind when they create, publish and market their show. Although tempting, a common mistake can be to define your audience only in terms of what they like, rather than who they are. ‘People who enjoy comedy’ is a great example – it feels meaningful but in reality is too broad to be of much help. After all, almost everyone likes comedy! 

What can be more useful is to think about age, gender, relative wealth and listening habits. With these four bits of information you can start to build a powerful picture of your audience that you can use to sharpen up your promotion. If your podcast is about investing, you might be most interested in older men with a relatively high income, or for a women’s football podcast the ideal audience might be young women studying at college. So how can your podcast stats help you work out if you’re reaching these listeners?

Getting smart with your stats

Unfortunately no audience data is going to tell you with 100% certainty how many older male investors or younger female college students are listening to your show. But there are some rough and ready approximations you can use that will get you some of the way there.

1. Get data on devices

Not every hosting platform provides this (and some charge extra for it), but understanding downloads or listens by device (eg laptop, smartphone etc) can be an indirect way of understanding two very useful things: how old (or young) your audience is, and their spending power. Ofcom research in the UK shows that older audiences tend to prefer listening on laptop/desktop computers and tablets, and younger audiences prefer smartphones. So if you see a lot of traffic through web browsers, the chances are your audience are listening on a laptop or tablet, which means they’re likely to skew older. Equally, people who listen using iOS devices (Apple’s operating systems) tend – as a general rule – to have more spending power compared to those listening on (usually) cheaper Android devices. Got a surge of listeners on iOS tablets? That could be the affluent boomer generation enjoying your content! 

2. Analyse which apps are popular

Like with devices, knowing which podcast apps people are using to access your show can give you a good steer on their age and relative wealth. As a general rule, Ofcom research shows that UK audiences who listen with Spotify skew younger, Amazon audiences skew older, and Apple… well it sits firmly in middle-age territory. Apple Podcasts isn’t available on Android devices, so a big share of Spotify listeners could indicate a more budget-conscious audience.

3. Get stats from first-party data collectors

When you sign up to a platform that collects ‘first-party data’ this means they are collecting data directly from you, rather than inferring it (or even buying it) from somewhere else. This means they can decide which data to collect from you and how they will use it. A good example is listeners who sign up to Spotify will be asked for their date of birth and gender. As well as being used to ensure they are of the correct age to access content, this data is also used by Spotify to profile audiences. We know this because Spotify offers everyone who is signed up a Spotify Podcast dashboard, which you can use to find stats on your podcast including, crucially, the age and gender of your listeners. This level of data is very rare in podcasting but it should be noted that this data only represents Spotify audiences, who tend to skew younger or more budget-conscious. Even so, the gender data can be particularly helpful and you can combine this with data from the first two sources to really start to bring things into focus.

4. Work out when

One thing that podcast hosting platforms can be very good at is telling you the time of day that people are listening to your show. From that, you are able to infer a lot about who is listening. For instance, if you see a spike at 8am this could well indicate the commuter rush – which means working age men and women. A peak around late evening? This could be parents grabbing a few precious moments to themselves before bed. Daytime demand? This could be stay-at-home mums and dads, perhaps those who are retired, or college students listening between lessons. Again, you can’t be certain, but it’s another important piece of the puzzle.

5. Connect with Apple Podcasts

While Apple may collect similar data to Spotify, it doesn’t provide this as part of its platform stats. What it does provide, however, through its Apple Podcast Connect service, is some of the best information available on how much of your content your audiences are consuming. While this doesn’t tell you much at all about who they are, it can be a good indicator in understanding whether your show is really landing with audiences – or whether they’re skipping off the surface. Once again, though, remember these stats will only be for Apple listeners and won’t represent all audiences.

Taking action

Between these five sets of stats you now have a real opportunity to start to piece together an – albeit hazy – view of your current audience and how they’re listening. And armed with this knowledge you can start to be proactive in your content and marketing.

Not reaching who you set out to reach? Time to look again at your show and make sure it’s truly offering what you think it is – and is as good as it can be. Just discovered a whole new segment of listeners you didn’t even know were fans? Time to think about what more you can offer them. Your data shows you’re bang on the money? Maybe it’s time to go back to that sponsor you’ve been chasing – this time with more evidence than you had before.

It may involve a little bit of art alongside the science, but taking the time to decode your audience data like this can help you gain that little bit more when it comes to breaking into those eight podcasts slots that everyone is chasing.

Good luck and happy data-hunting

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