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September Poll: Podtrac Puts iHeart On Top Once Again.

After big gains in podcast downloads and audiences during August, the Labor Day holiday and an end to summer brought some mixed results for September. Podtrac says global downloads for its top 20 publishers slid one percent last month, although they remained up a solid 37% when compared to a year earlier. It was a similar story in terms of audience size, with a month-over-month decrease in the average for the top 20 while year-year-over it jumped double-digits.

Podtrac says iHeartRadio remained the top publisher during September among those it measures with more than 34 million unique U.S. listeners and downloads and streams that topped 455 million. Last month also marked the first time that iHeart had more than 700 active shows in its network.

Wondery, with more than 200 active podcasts, held onto second place. Its unique U.S. audience was more than 19 million with downloads and streams totaling nearly 177 million. NPR held third place with 19 million unique listeners and more about 166 million downloads.

While the New York Times remained the fourth-biggest podcast publisher last month per Podtrac, it was one of the seven in the top 20 that enjoyed month-to-month growth. That was due in part to its Serial podcast that jumped from No. 80 in August to No. 13 in September as its story became headline news. Podtrac says New York Times downloads increased six percent as Serial released a bonus episode. And the unique U.S. reach of Times-produced podcasts rose seven percent to about 12.5 million.

Podtrac says TED returned to the top 20 during September with just under 40 million downloads. And the Cumulus Media Podcast Network dropped out of the top 20.

Overall, Podtrac reports the average top 20 publisher had a four percent month-over-month decrease in their U.S. unique monthly audience last month. Yet compared to a year earlier, September 2022’s unique reach for the top 20 publishers was up 21% versus September 2021.

Podtrac also reports seven of the top 20 publishers posted an increase in their unique monthly U.S. audience in September compared to August.

In terms of downloads, Podtrac says global downloads for the top 20 publishers overall declined one percent month-over-month during September. But they were up a solid 37% compared to the download numbers from a year earlier.

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Bloomberg News reports that iHeart is inflating their numbers by paying mobile advertising firms to display ads for their podcasts in popular mobile games. The ads reward gamers who click on them with additional in-game points or rewards, but, they also automate the download of a podcast episode onto the gamers’ phones—thus boosting the download tally for the company. iHeart then earns more money by translating the boosted web traffic into additional ad sales.

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