Podcast Growth in Action

In my previous post I talked about a $5 a day Facebook Ad strategy for growing your podcast audience. I’d like to share some results with you.

We launched The Myths, Folklore, and Fairytales Podcast a few weeks ago. We had zero subscribers and we launched with two episodes. We had three strategies to grow the audience:

  1. Facebook Ads
  2. Medium.com
  3. Mailing list

For Medium’s part we created Medium.com/myths. Every episode gets a companion post with unique content (meaning support for the episode and not regurgitation of content).

Our website, hosted by Podpage.com, has a nice little popup which captures email addresses in exchange for updates and bonus content not otherwise available. We use Benchmark to send episode announcements and aforementioned bonus content.

We’re also using the podcast to funnel traffic to a premium offering: The Daily Read (hosted by Supercast.com,whom we absolutely love)

As you can see, there’s real effort going into this and, monetization being a game of numbers (1% conversion rate from free listener to paying subscriber being a fair expectation at the outset of a new production), listener and subscriber growth is key.

The Facebook Like Campaign We Ran (your jaw will drop)

First of all, we spent $300 for our like campaign and we spent it in less than five days. At $5 a day, this would take you a little more than two months following the beginner budget outlined in our last article.

But that doesn’t matter. What matters is the cost at which new likes are gained.

If I spend $10 and get 100 likes, and you spend $1 and get 10 likes, we’re both equally effective, you may just not have $300 to piss away in a 3-day period.

Okay, caveat out of the way. Here are the results of those three campaigns:

1700+ likes in one day
2500 likes in one day
2600+ likes in one day

Here’s the ad copy. Nothing fancy, as you can plainly see.

Artwork commissioned, credit to Paolo Puggioni

Here’s our current Facebook like count (we accomplished 90% of this in 3-days using Facebook ads):

6900 likes, in less than two weeks. 6000+ of which were achieved in less than 5.

And you’re likely wondering about the targeting. Well, here you go (we modified for gender slightly in one campaign, just to see how the ad preformed for women specifically — it didn’t do as well with one gender as it did when both male and female genders were included — other than that it’s the same)

If I ran this again I would specify English (All) under Languages. Our show is only presented in English.

Okay so what about subscribers? These are just Facebook likes.

Indeed! But this is an important step. Your target must first know you exist before it can know your podcast exists. Plus, you need a place to interact with your audience, Facebook (and Facebook Groups) is a good place to do that.

Now we can target these people, reliably, with boosted posts for every new piece of content we drop. Don’t skip the community building part of this.

Yeah but, seriously, what about the subscribers?

We run another campaign for that, we just started running it actually, and we’re going to continue to check in with stats. We’re only four episodes in so this upcoming week is our first big push for subscribers. But I want to share early results with you!

We’re currently running just one subscriber campaign, and here’s how it’s progressing:

126 link clicks to our Apple Podcast subscriber page in two days, at a cost of $15

Here’s the targeting:

Here’s the ad copy, just our cover art:

I’m very happy with those shares.

But how do you know this is resulting in subscribers? How do you know they’re subscribing in the end?

There not being a “SUBSCRIBE” button on this ad type is very frustrating, because I bet it could further filter the results, but, that said, you ask a good question. How can we be sure?

If you have access to your Apple Podcasts beta analytics dashboard (in this case we are only targeting iOS users, so it’s relevant) you could see a clear increase, though you wouldn’t be able to validate their source. That said, a clear increase in Apple Podcast Analytics during a time when you are running an iOS specific ad for your podcast — well, there’s not much of a jump needed there.

We, however, host with Podcast.co and do not have access to ours (though I’m sure if we asked nicely they would tell us). We have to look instead at the analytics on our host and do some figuring. And, spoiler alert, it’s not the download numbers you should be focusing on.

Let’s look:

These are our “unique” downloads per episode. Like I said, we’re a very young podcast, so don’t let that 183 put you off. We launched June 13th, so we’re 30-days in exactly.

There’s a metric that hosting providers don’t track, and it’s one that they should — and I hope one day they all take my advice and do so — because it is incredibly useful when determining the number of actual subscribers you have, and not just the number of listeners.

I call it Half Life.

Half Life is the amount of time it takes a podcast to obtain 50% of all its current total listens. It is an indicator of both *how quickly* your episodes are consumed and *how many people* are consuming them.

Let’s explore that a little:

The Finding of Fire has been downloaded 183 times since it was released on June 14th (28-days ago).

The Secret of Iidamachi Pond has been downloaded 88 times since it was release on July 9th (3-days ago).

The Finding of Fire (our first real episode) achieved 50% of its as-of-today-total-downloads in 11-days:

IMPORTANT: The tooltip here is for the current day, not cumulative. I added manually.

The Secret of Iidamachi Pond (our most recent episode) achieved 50% of its total downloads in less than 3-days:

IMPORTANT: The tooltip here is for the current day, not cumulative. I added manually.

And you can see this trending up in every episode since our first. That gives us our growth rate — but we’re not ready to share that since it’s far too early to do so (there’s just not enough data yet).

Using some other metrics we’ve been able to determine that our podcast has gone from 0 subscribers to ~110 subscribers since launching 30-days ago.

How do we know that?

Well, we don’t know it the way we know I’m 6’1″, but we hold it as truth-in-flux as our data increases. It’s kind of like detecting new planets when you can’t physically see them. You don’t look for the planet, because you can’t, you instead look for gravitational perturbations caused by planets and visited upon things you can see.

A strong indicator of our subscriber count are the conversion rates we’re tracking for certain activities: subscriptions to the premium podcast being a big one.

At 110 subscribers, we should be seeing between 1 to 3 “action conversions” (people electing to take a non-free — which can be defined in different ways — action we’ve asked them to) and that’s exactly what we’re seeing.

Asking people to sign up for mailing lists, asking them to leave reviews, asking them to share, and asking them to subscribe to a paid product; these are all “asks”, and when people do what you’ve ask, that’s a conversion. If the fair expectation is 1–3% (as previously mentioned) then you should see 1–3 conversions per 100 subscribers.

And, as I said, that’s what we’re seeing now.

I hope this has been helpful.

As always, if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I love helping people solve problems.

Take care.


Update: as of 7/20/2020 our podcast ranks #50 in Arts and #12 in Books on the US podcasting charts (Chartable.com). The podcast has been in production for six weeks and all paid advertising has been done on Facebook.

Update: on 7/21/2020 we dropped the daily budget for Apple Podcast subscribers from $20 a day to $5 a day. Within 24-hours we dropped to #69 in Arts and #17 in Books. My suspicion is that to climb to #1 in Arts and break into a Top 100 spot (outside of a specific category), I’d need to have a budget of $50/day for this campaign:

This campaign is aimed only at users logged into Facebook on an iOS device at the time of ad delivery. It is a link directly to the Apple Podcasts page for the podcast.

Update: at 7pm on 7/21/2020 we bumped the ad spend up to $50/day and will let it run until Friday at 5pm. Updates to come.

Update: As of 3pm on 7/24/2020 we hit the Top 10 and Top 50 of the Books and Arts categories respectively.

Top 10 in Apple Podcasts’ Books Category
Top 50 in Apple Podcasts’ Arts category (parent category of Books)

As far as download increase, when compared to the ones shared when this article was originally written:

The increase is exponential, and wildly so. However, because there’s an active campaign promoting the program, and because the time period of this growth is still very short — we’re not prepared to make any definite statements about the long term (that is to say, “lasting”) effects of this campaigns. Certainly subscribers have been gained — but how long will they stay? We need to wait longer to provide commentary on that. Data takes time 🙂

As far as the cost of these campaigns, in total…

First let’s look at the campaign driving our chart-topping. We ran this campaign for a week. We started at $20 a day. In the last couple of days we increased that to $50 a day to make a final big push.

This ad took targeted iOS users directly to our podcast within the native iOS podcasting app. This created a two-step funnel: Click ad > Click subscribe (or don’t). We’re still combing through the data, but it seems that we may have close to 40% conversion of those who clicked the link (of which there were ~1900) If that holds true, each subscriber cost us ~$2.60.

A extra effect of a link campaign is an increase in page likes. When we started the likes campaign we had ~6900 Facebook likes. That number has increase to 7,523. This increases the utility of the campaign as it raised the result rate (as it added a second result) and reduced the cost-per-result (since this new result was not being tracked by a campaign not designed create it).

We’ll return this to a $5/day campaign on Monday. As a result we will surely drop off the charts, but that was always going to be the end result. In order to remain on the top of the charts we would need to spend $50/day on this campaign until we had gained enough subscribers to keep us on the charts organically.

So if the question was “How much does it cost to show up on the top of the charts?” the answer would be: ~$500 spent on a combination of like and link campaigns.

Thanks for reading ❤

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