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The Difference Between Podcast Downloads and Unique Listeners

Last updated on

November 2, 2023

The Difference Between Podcast Downloads and Unique Listeners

Gain insights into the importance of tracking both downloads and unique listeners metrics for your podcast performance evaluation. Discover why these metrics matter and how they can help you better understand your audience.

Tianna Marinucci


 min read


Podcasts have become increasingly popular in recent years, with millions of people tuning in to listen to their favourite shows every day. 

When it comes to measuring the success of a podcast, there are two metrics that are often analyzed: podcast downloads and unique listeners. 

While these two metrics may seem similar when you first look at them, they actually represent two different aspects of a podcast's audience. In this post, we'll explore the difference between podcast downloads and unique listeners, and why both are important when measuring the success of a podcast.

What are podcast downloads?

Let's start with podcast downloads. 

A podcast download refers to the number of times an episode has been downloaded from the internet. This is a straightforward metric that simply counts the number of times a particular episode has been accessed by listeners. 

Downloads are typically measured by the hosting platform or app where the podcast is distributed. Many podcasters will keep track of their downloads through their hosting platform's analytics dashboard.

While podcast downloads are a useful metric for gauging a podcast's overall popularity and awareness, they do have some limitations. For example, downloads can be skewed by bots or automated programs that repeatedly download episodes 

Additionally, downloads don't take into account the number of unique listeners that a podcast has, which we’ll get into next.

What are podcast unique listeners?

A unique listener represents an individual who has listened to at least a portion of a particular episode. Unique listeners are typically tracked through IP addresses or other identifiers that distinguish individual listeners from each other. 

The key differentiator between downloads and unique listeners is that with unique listeners if a person listens to an episode multiple times, they’re only counted as one unique listener.

Unique listeners provide a more accurate picture of a podcast's actual audience. They can also be used to  measure the engagement and loyalty of a podcast's listeners. For example, if a podcast has a similar number of unique listeners episode over episode, it can mean that those listeners are loyal listeners that tune in every episode. 

Additionally, unique listener data can be useful for advertisers or sponsors who want to understand the true reach of a specific audience.

Measuring downloads and unique listeners

So, which metric is more important: podcast downloads or unique listeners? 

The truth is that both are important when it comes to measuring the success of a podcast. Podcast downloads can give you a sense of how popular a show is, while unique listeners can help you understand the level of size and loyalty of a podcast's audience.

It's worth noting that different podcasts might prioritize different metrics depending on their goals. For example, a podcast that relies heavily on sponsorships might prioritize unique listener data to show potential sponsors the size and engagement of their audience. On the other hand, a podcast that's focused on repeated listeners might prioritize download data.

In conclusion, podcast downloads and unique listeners are two important metrics when it comes to measuring the success of a podcast. 

Downloads provide a general sense of a podcast's popularity, while unique listeners provide a more accurate picture of a podcast's audience engagement and loyalty. 

Both metrics have their limitations and should be considered in context with other data points. And ultimately, the success of a podcast depends on a wide range of factors beyond just these two metrics.