Has podcasting reached a peak? Nope, it’s just getting started!

has podcasting reached its peakDuring last year’s Social Media Marketing World, Micheal Stelzner stated “Podcasting, bar nothing in our study, is the hottest thing in 2013”. We saw hundreds of new podcasts launching every week last year. So has his prediction come true? Has podcasting reached a peak? Nope, not even close.

I have my own personal observations to prove that it's just getting started.

Dropping to 91 from 19 in one day

Apple's iTunes charts (What's Hot category listings) have me convinced there is still the potential for huge growth in podcasting.

You see, my podcast dropped from 19 to 91 overnight. Why? My downloads are steady and I received 2 iTunes reviews early last week. Why such a disparage in my rankings?

It’s because the market isn’t big enough to hold me down or to keep me at the top, it only feels that way from where I’m sitting.

The Top 10 podcasts are cruise ships

podcasting cruise shipThe podcasts in the Top 10 hold the largest market share of overall downloads, new listeners, and latest reviews. They are big ships that aren’t swayed by the wind or carried by currents. They serve hundreds of people each time they sail (release a podcast episode) but there are still very few of them when compared to the number of planes, trains, or automobiles, i.e., other medium.

Look at John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur On Fire. He guarantees his sponsors at least 14,000 listeners per show. Only 14,000? Most podcasters would kill to have that many dedicated followers but in the scope of things this is a really small number.

Week after week his show is ranked in the Top 10 for Careers. If 14,000 listeners keeps a show at the top of the iTunes charts then podcasting has a long way to “grow”.

The Top 200 are boats

In this interview on Technology Advice podcast, Rob Walch from Libsyn stated the median number of downloads is between 170 – 190 per episode. Shows that get less than 1,700 downloads per episode, like mine, are not cruise ships – they’re boats.

Our shows rise and fall with each wave. Heck, even the wind can effect where we go. It doesn’t take much for podcasts with smaller audiences to get moved around in iTunes.

My 19 to 91 stats: On April 12th my podcast was ranked number 19 in Investing. My downloads were steady, not huge, and the most recent 5-star reviews were more than 48 hours old. Yet today, April 13th, my podcast ranks at 91. Did I do something wrong? Is my RSS broken? Was I being punished?

Here’s what I think happened yesterday:

  • My little boat lost some steam
  • Someone else’s boat gained a few new listeners
  • Other podcasts received 5-star reviews

While my downloads per day remained fairly steady (a difference of only 296 from Thursday to Saturday), others may have raced past me.

There aren’t many differences between their boat and mine, it's my perception of how big the waves are that makes me think this is a big difference. I'm sure it will feel different when I have 10k downloads a day. Maybe I should just stop watching the iTunes charts, huh?

Pat Flynn says “Podcasting is just getting started”

What all this tells me is podcasting is still in its infancy. Michael Stelzner may have seen podcasting as the hottest thing in 2013 but I agree with Pat Flynn. In October 2013 I asked Pat if he thought podcasting was alive, dead, or just treading water. He said “It’s just starting out” (start watching at the [5:04] mark in the 6 minute interview).

Progress is pointing to podcasts as the next big medium. We (you and I as podcasters) know this to be true in a world where the most popular question about podcasting is still “what’s a podcast?” Technological advancements and growing trends moved people away from VCRs and into DVD players, and now DVDs are losing ground to streaming movies.

It’s the same progression for people moving from radio to podcasts. Just wait and see.

Turn your dinghy into a podcasting cruise ship

If you are frustrated with where you rank in iTunes charts then take heart: There is so much more to come. Technological advancements are coming with podcast apps being installed on smartphones and Apple’s new Car Play system bringing podcasts to the dashboard.

Here’s how to grow your little podcast into a Top 10 show in iTunes:

  • Connect with your listener (email list, social media, FB group, etc)
  • Ask them to share your show with others
  • Make sure your website is mobile friendly
  • Give each episode a creative title
  • Ask for reviews
  • Don’t quit

You are not sinking and you haven’t stalled – you’ve just need to find your wind. Pick up new passengers along the way, ones who won’t jump ship when the next shiny boat comes along side, and keep growing.

My final thought on stats

I’ll admit, I get excited when I go to look at my stats. Downloads per episode, per day, and looking to see where my podcast ranks in iTunes “What’s Hot” category is the reward for all my hard work.

However, checking my stats twice a day is like using the stars for navigation – it’s important to know where we are but making too many course corrections takes away from getting to Point A from Point B in the shortest distance possible.

I've decided to only check my stats every few days, with a focus on the day after an episode is released Monday morning. It didn't take long to realize that I wasn't missing much by checking stats less often.

The takeaway: Focus your energy on content and your listeners. We are just getting started and need more podcasters to captain the vessels in this large, vast ocean.


Stitcher Radio for podcasters - Interview with Rachel Eaton
30 minute presentation: What Can A Podcast Do For Your Business


  • Stuart Mackey

    April 16, 2014

    Thanks for the great write up! Great quotes and resources, too.


      April 17, 2014

      Hey Stuart, you are welcome. I’m checking out your post for how to use Intro Designer. Very impressive! You present the information wonderfully.