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What the Apple Charts Really Mean

March 31,2022 / Blog / Tiffany

Mystery Solved

Over the years people have made huge claims about what being on the Apple Podcast Charts means.  All of these were total guesses as Apple never said how they calculated the list. This recently changed when Apple explained its criteria to creators. Read the full article here.  

The Chart Does NOT Reflect Podcast Size 

Since the downloads for individual podcasts are not publicly available, many incorrectly assumed the Apple Chart reflected the size (i.e. reach and/or listeners) of the podcast.

Apple is very clear that this is not the case:

“They do not reflect all-time listening records and are not a measure of the largest podcasts by listenership

Interview Valet licenses over a dozen databases, each give us a specific data point. In our internal studies, for years we’ve found no correlation between rankings on the chart and estimated downloads. Apple confirmed we were correct.

Ratings and Reviews have No Impact

According to Apple:

Although ratings, reviews, and shares also help indicate a podcast’s newness, popularity, and quality, they are not factored into the algorithm that determines the rankings”

This was predicted by a Canadian study in 2020 that showed no correlation between Ratings & Reviews and ranking on Apple Charts, estimated downloads, or engagement.

Ratings and Reviews have been impacted by bots that attempt to game the system.

At the Sound Education Podcasting Conference at Harvard in 2019, one keynote described asking for Ratings and Reviews as a desperate plea for help. Plead all you want, it won’t get you on the Apple Chart.


What the Chart Actually Measures

According to Apple, the charts measure a combination of 

  • Listening: When listeners are engaging with episodes, its an indicator of content popularity.
  • Follows: When listeners follow a show to receive new episodes, it’s an indicator of their intent to listen.
  • Completion Rate: When listeners complete episodes, it’s an indicator of content quality.

 Where and When You Look Matters

“Apple Podcasts Charts reflect the most popular shows and episodes available in a given market“… are regularly refreshed throughout the day.”

Much like other search results, where you look impacts what you see. If you are looking at a list overseas, the results displayed may look vastly different than it does in the States.


What this means to Podcast Guests

Data is not knowledge

Now that it’s clear what the Apple Charts reflects, discerning guests should use it as A consideration, not THE ONLY consideration. Many podcast bookers market that “We will get you on a top 200 podcast!” They claim Top means size, but even Apple says that’s not true.

While the free Apple Chart is one data point there are many factors we’ve found in predicting the success of a show for guests.

Some things we consider based on actual data we license includes:

  • Estimated Download per episode
  • Engagement
  • Gender of audience
  • Social Media Following
  • Website Authority (vital for backlinks)
  • Feedback from previous guests
  • Subscribers: Job Roles, skills, location

Knowledge is Not Power

The biggest lie I’ve ever heard is that knowledge is power. “Ex Scientia Tridens”, meaning “From Knowledge, Seapower” is written on my Naval Academy Ring.

Power comes from the APPLICATION of knowledge.

Now you know what the Apple Podcast Charts really mean.

How will you apply this in your podcast strategy?
Podcast guesting agency

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