Podcasters knew changes to how Apple Podcasts were going to bring some dramatic movement to download numbers, and this month’s Podtrac report has now put a number to how large the impact will be. It says total global downloads for the top 20 publishers it measures were down 15% between October and November, and down 19% from a year ago, which Podtrac says is mainly the effect of the iOS 17 changes.
The update was focused on how automatic downloads are dealt with by Apple Podcasts. Prior to the release of 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 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 to 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.
It is possible the download dip could grow bigger in December as more people update to iOS 17, which was released Sept. 18. Mixpanel data shows fewer than half (46%) of Apple devices have made the switch to date.
Even with the effects of Apple’s changes rippling through podcasting, Podtrac reports iHeartPodcasts easily remained the biggest publisher among those it measures. It says iHeart had 318 million downloads during November, with a unique U.S. audience of 33 million as its total number of shows fell by 19 moth-to-month. Wondery ranked No. 2 with 136 million downloads and a unique reach of 21 million. Third place was again held by NPR, the New York Times and NBC News. Each of the top five companies posted month-to-month declines in both reach and their U.S. unique monthly audience numbers.
Podtrac also for the first time released data for The Athletic, the New York Times-owned sports publisher. It had 11.5 million downloads last month, with a unique U.S. reach of 1.6 million listeners. That was good for a 20th place finish.
Meanwhile, Hispanic podcaster reVolver, which joined the ranker in October, remained at No. 19 last month.
The Apple Podcast changes were also reflected in numbers for the four sales networks that Podtrac measures. But while downloads fell for the four networks, their combined audience was up nine percent month-to-month.
The Wondery Sales Network led the way with its 435 shows delivering an audience of more than 23 million unique U.S. listeners during November, which was down four percent from a month earlier. The network’s total downloads declined 15% despite having added seven additional podcasts to the network compared to the prior month.
Libsyn AdvertiseCast was the big mover among the networks, accounting for the group’s growth last month as it rose to second place. Its total monthly reach jumped by a third to 22.9 million as the number of podcasts in its network grew to 886, up from 743 a month earlier. And those additional shows helped AdvertiseCast overcome the impact of Apple Podcast changes, as its total downloads jumped 17% month-to-month.
Libsyn’s rise pushed Acast back to third place, as Acast saw a two percent drop in its unique U.S. listeners last month, which totaled 22.7 million.
The PodcastOne Sales Network’s unique audience was down two percent last month, totaling nearly 5.7 million. The network’s total downloads also declined 15% month-to-month even as it added one more show.
Overall, November again brought more unsettled data as the iOS 17 impact shakes out. It will also make year-to-year comparisons less useful. Even so, it says three 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 down three percent from October, and it was down nine percent from a year earlier.
In terms of downloads, Podtrac says global downloads for the top 20 publishers overall were down 15% month-to-month during November, and they were down 19% compared to a year earlier due largely to modified download behavior by iOS 17.