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Apple’s iOS 17 Cuts Into Top Podcasters’ Download Numbers While iHeart Stays On Top.

In a hint of what is to come, changes made by Apple in iOS 17 that impact automatic podcast downloads appear to have weighed on the results of top publishers measured by Podtrac. It reports that even as the average U.S. unique monthly audience for the top 20 publishers grew six percent last month compared to September, total downloads for the top 20 were down one percent month-to-month and off by nine percent compared to a year earlier.

The impact is expected to become more pronounced in the coming months as more people update to iOS, which was released Sept. 18. Mixpanel data shows fewer than one in five Apple devices have made the switch.

The update is focused on how automatic downloads are dealt with by Apple Podcasts. Prior to the release of the iOS 17 operating system in September, when a listener would un-pause automatic downloads, the system would automatically download all un-played episodes. But now with the release of iOS 17, Apple Podcasts will resume automatically downloading only the new episodes. And the previous episodes will not be downloaded at all. Apple Podcasts also says that when a podcaster publishes an older episode of their show, they will no longer present themselves as new. The changes came at the request of several podcast companies, which have said the resulting data will be more accurate.

Podtrac says iHeartPodcasts again topped its monthly ranker of the publishers it measures. With a list of active shows that now tops 900, iHeart had 33.6 million unique listeners in the U.S. last month, a four percent increase compared to September. But its total downloads dropped five percent to 369 million, a split between audience and downloads that is emblematic of other publishers across Podtrac’s latest update.

Second place Wondery and No. 3 NPR had a similar situation, as they saw their unique monthly audience grow from a month earlier even as their total downloads declined. Wondery’s total downloads fell four percent to 160 million, and NPR’s declined two percent to 153 million.

Ranked by audience size, Podtrac says the New York Times pulled ahead of NBC News last month. The Times had a 19% jump in its unique U.S. audience, while NBC News was up eight percent versus the prior month.

The monthly update also included a first-time entrant as Hispanic podcaster reVolver debuted at No. 19 with a unique U.S. audience of 1.8 million listeners and nearly 8.3 million downloads for its 78 podcasts during October. The arrival of reVolver pushed American Public Media out of the top 20.

The Apple Podcast changes were also reflected in numbers for the four sales networks that Podtrac measures. It says the combined audience for the four was up five percent month-to-month, but downloads were down across the board.

The Wondery Sales Network led the way with its 428 shows delivering an audience of more than 24 million unique U.S. listeners, which was a one percent increase versus September. Yet its total downloads declined four percent, despite having added four additional podcasts to the network compared to the prior month.

Second place Acast saw a ten percent rise in its unique U.S. listeners last month, which topped 23 million, while Libsyn AdvertiseCast had a four percent increase in its total monthly reach, which totaled 17.2 million. But its downloads fell six percent, which was likely caused by not only iOS 17 changes but also having 41 fewer shows in the AdvertiseCast network compared to a month earlier.

The unique audience was up six percent for the PodcastOne Sales Network, totaling just under six million, while its total downloads declined five percent month-to-month even as it added four additional shows under its umbrella.

Overall, October brought what is expected to be several months of unsettled data as the iOS 17 impact shakes out. It will also make year-to-year comparisons less useful. Even so, all but one of the top 20 publishers had either growth in their unique monthly audience figures or were flat compared to the prior month. Among the top 20, the average unique monthly audience was up six percent from September, although it was down six percent from a year earlier.

In terms of downloads, Podtrac says global downloads for the top 20 publishers overall were down one percent month-to-month during October, and they were down nine percent compared to a year earlier.

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