One of the things we faced when launching our series of podcasts with Ricky Gervais was some information on just exactly how many downloads we could expect to generate. When moving from delivering a text-and-image-based website to offering downloads, this kind of information is gold dust, as suddenly bandwidth costs become an issue again.
Trouble was, this is such an emerging medium that data was thin on the ground. So, in the spirit of openness, here’s some stats to help future podcasters. The first episode of the podcast, which went up at the beginning of December 2005, has now done 380,000 downloads. It’s fair to say this was a lot more than we were expecting. The most recent podcast, the fifth episode, which went up early this month, has done 208,000 downloads.
One interesting thing is the shape of the traffic – episode 1 has done the most downloads, episode 5 (the most recent) has done the fewest. In one sense, this makes perfect sense, since the first episode has been on the site for longer and people have had more opportunities to download it. On the other hand, we did think that the “subscribe” metaphor of podcasting might have the reverse effect, so that as subscriptions grew newer podcasts would get more downloads as more people subscribed.
It looks to us like the majority of people are downloading individual podcast episodes rather than subscribing – although people are subscribing in large numbers, enough to make us the number one podcast in iTunes in the US and the UK. Again, this probably makes sense – our audience is big, so people probably are more likely to visit Guardian Unlimited and download it to their desktop rather than subscribe to the podcast, which, iTunes or no iTunes, is still something of an early adopter activity. People have been sending each other audio files by email for years, so this probably feels more natural to them.
Anyway, we feel it’s been a great success, and it’s been fascinating to see an entirely new kind of voice on the site (and what a voice!). There’s lots more to come from podcasting and the Guardian – watch this space.
UPDATE: journalism.co.uk wrote a story this morning saying “Gervais podcast numbers are going down” which is emphatically NOT what I meant at all. What I meant, for the record, was that the “shape” of the downloads was not what I was expecting. If it had been subscriptions driving downloads, we would have expected to see each new episode get more downloads very quickly, as existing subscribers would download it immediately and new subscribers would come in on top. As it looks like a more traditional download model is being followed, with people visiting the site to download rather than subscribing, it’s obvious that the older episodes will have more downloads, just because they’ve been available for longer. For the record, it looks like downloads OVER TIME for subsequent episodes will actually be larger than for episode one.
UPDATE AGAIN: journalism.co.uk have amended their story now.