Podcast Business Journal ran an unusual headline last week: Does Podcasting Have a Chart Problem?
To support this notion, PBJ cited [link] the most recent top podcast publisher charts from Podtrac Analytics and Triton Digital.
Podtrac says that iHeartRadio is the top podcast publisher. Triton says NPR is the top podcast publisher and doesn’t even list iHeart as a publisher.
This is confusing and it reinforces the stereotype that the podcast industry is run buy a bunch of amateurs who are looking for bragging rights.
Unlike other means of communication, there is no common currency like Nielsen has in radio and TV ratings. The lack of a believable metric causes advertisers to pause before spend money to advertise in podcasts.
On the right is a chart Spark News compiled showing the Top 10 podcasts from four charts.
Each of the vendors use data collected during different time periods. This makes it difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison.
Each of the four companies obtain data in different ways. Podtrac and Triton count incoming clicks and downloads without knowing if the respondent is actually a human being.
Triton only lists their clients. iHeart is not a client of Triton, so they aren’t listed.
Podtrac does include publishers that are not clients but requires publishers to use its proprietary software tracking system. But neither Podtrac or Triton acknowledges that The Joe Rogan Experience is probably the top podcast in the U.S.
Illustration courtesy of Forbes
To its credit, Stitcher offers podcasts from all sources including Joe Rogan.
We are tempted to call Edison’s chart the best of the bunch because it doesn’t use analytics and relies of interviews with a random sample of population. But, Edison’s chart also has flaws.
The Edison top ten list covers three months of data. The chart is almost out of date when most people see it. The information was obtained between January 7th and March 30th. Edison's report wasn’t available until late May.
The same pattern is found when evaluating podcast publishers. Because of the “redlining” discussed above, both Podtrac’s and Triton’s charts are not telling the full story.
Any of the four companies will gladly sell you as much data you can afford. But cheating also exists.
According to a May 2020 article by Jay Kapoor in Forbes [link], one company is charging thousands of dollars for a top place on their charts. Sometimes charts are removed after they are published because of manipulation.
Charts that rely solely on data are particularly vulnerable to bots and other forms of deception.
One podcaster told Kapoor: Please stop using these charts as validation.