It's a thrilling moment when you see the numbers climb – your branded podcast is resonating, growing, and the community you envisioned is starting to thrive.
But then, something changes. Month after month, you notice a troubling pattern; those numbers aren't just plateauing, they're starting to dwindle.
Episode over episode, listeners are dropping off, and that excitement gives way to frustration and anxiety.
You've poured your creativity and strategic thinking into this project, believing in the power of this medium to connect with audiences.
Now, the excitement of each analytics update has been replaced with nerve-wracking anticipation.
How do you explain this to your team? What will you tell leadership?
We’ve got you.
Listener churn is about human connection, not just numbers and trends. This article will delve into the heart of the listener's experience, uncovering the real reasons behind the drop-off and offering tangible solutions to kickstart your podcast's growth.
How do you measure podcast listener drop-off rates?
Average Consumption Rate:
Average consumption rate refers to the amount of time that listeners actively engage with and listen to an episode, represented by a percentage.
Instead of solely relying on metrics like downloads or unique listeners, which only indicate whether someone has listened to the episode, this metric provides a percentage of the actual duration audiences spend listening to your podcast.
Research indicates that approximately eight out of ten podcast consumers in the US dedicate over seven hours per week to listening to podcasts. That’s a lot of listener attention.
Engagement metrics like average consumption rates give you insight into how long you’re capturing a listeners attention for and whether or not your content is resonating.
Similar to consumption rates, the listen-through rate (LTR) is the percentage of an episode's content that listeners engage with.
A high LTR implies that a significant portion of the audience remains engaged and attentive to the podcast content. A desirable benchmark for the Listen-Through Rate is an average of 70%-90%, indicating that, on average, audiences are completing 70% of an episode.
Now that you understand how to measure listener churn, let’s dive into our top tips to reduce podcast drop-off rates:
Microsoft Research has shown that the average human has an attention span of 8.25 seconds – that is 4.25 seconds less than in 2000.
This observation is in line with podcast consumption rates – podcasts experience a significant drop in listenership, ranging from 20 to 35 percent, within the initial five minutes of an episode, making this the prime window to captivate your listener's focus and establish the tone for the upcoming episode.
For an engaging first impression, we suggest having a podcast intro between 30-60 seconds - your listeners don’t want to wait for you to get to the value of the podcast. You can add elements to your intro like music and sound effects and lour your listeners in with high-profile guests and catchy taglines.
By optimizing your podcast intro, you're not only mastering the art of captivating your audience from the outset but also significantly enhancing your chances of mitigating listener churn.
If you want a deep dive into how to write a top-tier intro and outro, check out our complete guide on How to Write a Great Podcast Intro and Outro.
2. Keep episodes digestible
Aim for a manageable episode length that suits your content and audience preferences.
While some topics may warrant longer discussions, consider dividing longer episodes into manageable chunks. With this route, you just turned one podcast episode into 2 or more.
CoHost’s State of Branded Podcasts report reveals that the most popular length for branded podcasts is 21-30 minutes, followed by 41-50 minutes.
But there are many elements that go into determining the ideal length of your podcast.
We suggest asking yourself the following questions and going from there:
- What is the format of my show? Are you opting for a format similar to The Tim Ferriss Show or The Daily Boost?
- What is the goal of your podcast?
- Who is your target audience? Are they people after in-depth-candid discussions or are they busy and just looking for the latest scoop?
- What resources do you have? Do you have a team helping you?
- What does your pre and post-production process look like?
3. Encourage audience feedback
What better way to understand why your listeners are dropping off than to hear from them directly?
From the offset, foster a sense of community around your podcast by encouraging listener interaction. Invite them to share their thoughts, questions, and feedback via social media, email, or dedicated podcast platforms – because again, who knows what your listeners want better than them?
While asking for user feedback may seem obvious, the vast majority of podcasts have no ratings or reviews. Of the 1.3 million podcasts Pacific Content analyzed, about 850,000 of them had no ratings.
With this information, they were able to extract some useful benchmarks:
- 4 or more star ratings, you have more ratings than 50% of all shows
- 11 or more star ratings, you have more ratings than 75% of all shows
- 34 or more star ratings, you have more ratings than 90% of all shows
- 81 or more star ratings, you have more ratings than 95% of all shows
- 595 or more star ratings, you have more ratings than 99% of all shows
If you aren’t getting enough ratings and reviews to help you gain insight into your audience’s preferences, try adding a CTA asking for ratings and reviews at the end of each episode, on your website, on social media, or in any other show materials.
If listeners still aren’t biting, you can incentivize them with premium content, free merch, early releases, or products from your advertisers. In order to ask for something from your audience, you have to give something in return.
And we know if seems obvious, but once you’ve gathered this feedback, make sure you actually put it into action. We recommend a Google Doc or Miro board where you can collect this feedback and decide which suggestions to implement.
4. Incorporate video
While you may be hesitant to incorporate video into your podcast (after all, podcasting is a uniquely audio format), video podcasts have proven to significantly boost engagement.
In light of recent statistics that reveal 43% of monthly podcast listeners have enjoyed podcast content on YouTube within the past year, many podcasters have turned to leverage YouTube, which currently boasts 2 billion logged-in users and only continues to grow.
YouTube aside – 32% of Americans prefer listening to podcasts with video — increasing to 46% among podcast listeners who listened to a podcast within the last month.
Therefore, adding video to your show not only improves its reach but also enhances the listening experience for a nearly third of your listeners.
You can also leverage autoplay videos on social media. Short video snippets or highlights from your podcast can be shared on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, attracting attention, generating engagement, and, ultimately, driving eager audiences back to your full podcast episodes.
5. Analyze episode-specific drop-off points
Leveraging podcast analytics can be useful to tell the tale of what’s going on with listener churn.
Analyze episode-specific drop-off points to pinpoint precisely where your audience is dropping.
- Did a conversation stray too far off-topic?
- Did a podcast ad run too long?
- Did listeners not like the guest?
- Is there a segment within your podcast that isn’t resonating?
While podcasts have proved to be a remarkably effective advertising channel, listeners didn’t tune in to the shopping channel for a reason. If you’re including a dedicated ad for your brand within the podcast, we suggest keeping ads short (60-90 words for a 30-second ad), to the point, and above all – engaging.
If the same segment repeatedly causes listeners to drop off, edit it and adapt it to listeners' preferences. Just because listeners don’t want to listen to this ad, for example, doesn’t mean they won’t want to stick around for another.
Create content your audience wants to listen to
As we continue to explore ways to better understand listener churn, it's essential to reflect not merely on the tactics and strategies but also on the human-centric philosophy that underlines successful podcasting.
Your teams initial vision for your podcast was a starting point. However, what you set your podcast out to be is rarely what it ends up being, and that's to be expected with this medium.
Embrace the adaptability mindset with your podcast, especially when listener churn comes into the conversation since clearly, something needs to change.
So don't hesitate to pivot, explore new formats, or change your marketing strategy if it means keeping your content fresh and exciting for audiences.
If you want to learn more about reducing listener churn, chat with our team!