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Podtrac: iHeartPodcast Was Top Publisher In February As Download Numbers Remain Unsettled.

Podcast downloads remain unsettled as the impact of changes to Apple Podcasts in iOS 17 continued to play out in February, a month that also had two fewer days than the one before. As a result, Podtrac says downloads were down nine percent among the top publishers in February compared to January. Despite that, it reports six of the top publishers it measures managed to see growth in their unique monthly audience numbers last month. 

The Apple Podcast update, which changed how automatic downloads are dealt with, has been an overhang for the past several months. 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 since the release of the new OS, 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 in the long term. 

The list of top publishers among those measured by Podtrac was led by iHeartPodcasts, which had more than 194 million downloads and streams and a reach of nearly 34 million in February. NPR and Wondery followed. The top ten was largely the same as it was in January, although PodcastOne re-entered the top 10 as Paramount moved from No. 9 in January to No. 12 in February.

Like its U.S. focused report, Podtrac’s new ranking of the top global podcast publishers shows a soft month with total downloads were down three percent in February compared to January. The measurement, which for the first time includes viewership of podcasts on YouTube, offers a glimpse of how audio and video performed. Potrac says audio downloads fell four percent month-to-month while average views on YouTube feeds were flat.

Libsyn AdvertiseCast, the sole network in the global ranker, remained on top in February with more than 146 million audio downloads and streams to its portfolio of 905 podcasts. But with only eight of those shows also on YouTube, it ranked fourth in terms of video views. 

Paramount, with 28 podcasts that also stream via YouTube, ranked first in terms of video with 31.6 million YouTube views. The Daily Wire ranked second on YouTube with 24.7 million views, followed by Barstool Sports with 12. 8 million.

Podtrac has said the inclusion of YouTube viewership acknowledges the growing significance of multi-platform engagement and reflects the adaptability of podcast publishers and networks in catering to diverse audiences worldwide.

Overall, the impact of changes made in iOS 17 continue to make year-to-year comparisons in download data problematic. But Podtrac says total U.S. downloads for the top publishers was down nine percent month-to-month between January and February. It blames in part the calendar, with two fewer days last month than in January.

In terms of reach, Podtrac says the average U.S. unique monthly audience among the top 20 publishers was down three percent month-to-month. And it was down four percent year-to-year.

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