There is something faintly ludicrous about the BBC rushing out a press release on their podcast downloads in response to the Guardian’s announcement that the Ricky Gervais podcast topped two million downloads earlier this week. Surely they can’t be feeling the pressure, can they?
It’s even more faintly ludicrous that the announcement is worded in such a way as to make it seem like the BBC podcasts are leading the world:
Almost two million BBC radio podcasts were downloaded during December, with the corporation’s breakfast programmes the most popular with listeners.
Radio 1’s Chris Moyles topped the chart with his show downloaded 446,809 times. Radio 4’s Today came in second place.
Mark Kermode’s film reviews from Five Live and Chris Evans’ Best Bits from Radio 2 were also in the top 10.
Well, OK, they “topped the chart” of BBC downloads. But, as I’ve said before, our podcast beat all the BBC podcasts down and was the number one podcast in the UK and US in both December and January.
But enough carping (well, there might be a little more carping later on, we shall see). The BBC numbers are quite interesting in their own right. Two million podcast downloads in December compares with about a million downloads for the Gervais podcast in the same month – so, one single podcast did half the traffic of all the BBC podcasts combined.
Apart from reconfirming Ricky’s world-shattering status, this also seems to suggest that the total number of downloads of UK content was between four or five million in December (assuming a longish tail of one to two million UK podcasts which were neither BBC nor Guardian Unlimited). Of course, a lot of that content was downloaded by people outside the UK, so God knows what the UK market for podcasts is – maybe half of the total, maybe a bit less.
Waving my hands in the air desperately, let’s say half those downloads went to UK punters, and each punter downloaded three individual podcasts in December. That would suggest a total UK podcast market of individuals of around 650,000 to 800,000 individual punters. Seeing that number written down makes me think my assumptions are wrong, because it seems on the high side, but maybe not. For comparison, Radio 4’s UK reach is about nine million people, Radio 5 is 6 million, BBC 7 (the BBC’s digital speech station) is 631,000 (all these figures are based on numbers for Q3 2005). So, my recklessly inaccurate estimate suggests that podcasting as a whole in the UK is now equivalent to a successful national digital radio network.
Being mischievous based on these numbers (which, I stress again, are completely reckless), I reckon the BBC used about 5 gigs of bandwidth to serve their podcasts to non-UK punters. Hope to see that broken out in the next set of published accounts….