Have You Noticed a Sharp Drop in Your Apple Podcast Download Numbers?

Have You Noticed a Sharp Drop in Your Apple Podcast Download Numbers?

Here’s the deal: Apple has tweaked how automatic downloads work in its Podcasts app. This might sound like tech jargon, but it can greatly impact your download numbers. Changes like this aren’t always a bad thing. They can open up new ways to connect with your audience and ensure your podcast statistics accurately represent your audience.

What Changed in iOS 17?

Before iOS 17, if a listener hit pause on automatic downloads and then decided to hit play again, Apple Podcasts would download all the unplayed episodes. It was like a podcast binge-watcher’s dream come true. With iOS 17, things are a bit different now. When a listener unpauses their automatic downloads, only new episodes get downloaded. The older, unplayed episodes are not downloaded which impacts your podcast’s download numbers.

They also changed what shows as a “new” episode in Apple Podcasts. For anyone using iOS 17, only episodes created and published within the last seven days will be considered “new.” So, when you publish an older episode, it won’t be marked as “new.” As an example, you might publish an episode on Spotify first and then release it to Apple Podcast at a later date. But, with iOS 17, the episode won’t be marked as “new” if it was published on Spotify over 7 days ago. That means the episode won’t automatically download either.

Apple hopes to save storage space by making these changes. To help with this goal, they also paused automatic downloads if they haven’t played the last 5 episodes of a show that they’ve followed for more than 15 days.

Should You Expect More Changes Past iOS 17?

Downloading multiple episodes of multiple podcasts can quickly eat up device storage, and many users find themselves with a backlog of unplayed episodes. By limiting automatic downloads, Apple aims to alleviate this issue. Apple’s stance also underscores a broader shift in the technology industry toward more mindful usage of digital space.

The idea is to help users manage their device storage more effectively and to respect the user’s digital space by not overloading it with unnecessary downloads. You can expect Apple to make more changes with this in mind.

But, Apple never looks to make the user experience worse by making your podcast harder for your audience to find. They always want genuine listeners to find your podcast with ease.

Why This Matters for Podcasters

Download numbers are a big deal in the podcast world. They’re often used as a key metric to attract advertisers, gauge listener engagement, and measure the overall success of a podcast. So, when the iOS 17 update hit and automatic downloads were trimmed down, many podcasters saw a dip in their download numbers.

Sure, seeing that first dip in download numbers can be jarring at first. But, it just means the industry needs to adjust its expectations and look at more metrics to accurately find a rate for advertisers. Instead of focusing on download numbers, a lot of the industry now values listener engagement and episode completion rates. After all, an unplayed download doesn’t benefit anyone. You can also look at whether listeners tend to skip certain parts of an episode or how likely they are to share an episode with their friends.

While the iOS 17 update might have sent a few shockwaves through the industry, it’s quickly adapting in response.

Advertisers Changing Metrics

In the past, advertisers often used raw download numbers as a key metric to gauge the success of their ads. But with the iOS 17 update, downloads are more likely to translate into a listen to the podcast episode. As a result, advertisers are adjusting the weight of downloads in their CPM pricing.

On top of downloads, advertisers also pay close attention to episode completion rates, skip rates, and time spent listening. These metrics help advertisers know how likely a listener is to hear the entirety of their ad when sponsoring your podcast. Podcasts with these three statistics can charge higher CPMs when negotiating sponsorship deals.

How Can You Adapt?

Alright, now that we’ve explored what the iOS 17 update means for the podcasting industry, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: how can you adapt to these changes and keep your podcast numbers up? Here are seven practical strategies you can implement to bring your download numbers back up:

  • Focus on Engaging Content: With automatic downloads taking a backseat, it’s more important than ever to create content that grabs your listeners’ attention and keeps them hooked. Remember, an engaged listener is more likely to play your episodes, not just download them!
  • Encourage Active Subscriptions: A subscription signals to Apple that the listener wants to keep up with your show, which can help maintain your download numbers. You can use a variety of different platforms to offer subscriptions for your audience.
  • Promote Episode Playback: Tell your listeners to play your episodes soon after downloading them. This can help keep automatic downloads active for your podcast on their devices. Consider running limited-time giveaways that require the listener to watch your episode within one week of its release.
  • Leverage Social Media: Use your social media platforms to remind listeners to download and listen to new episodes. Regular reminders can help ensure your listeners stay engaged and up-to-date with your content.
  • Communicate with Your Audience: Let your audience know about these changes and how they can continue supporting your podcast. Your listeners probably want your podcast episodes downloaded if they set it to automatic downloads, so letting them know about these changes can help them too!
  • Adapt Your Metrics: Consider shifting your focus from pure download numbers to other metrics like engagement rates, episode completion rates, and social media interactions. Advertisers want to see these metrics too. Including them in your sponsorship proposal can help you secure new sponsors.
  • Stay Flexible: Remember, the podcasting landscape is always changing. Stay flexible, keep an eye on industry trends, and be ready to adapt your strategies as necessary.


While it’s natural to be a bit unsettled by these changes to automatic downloads, they push the industry to reward content that engages and builds connections with listeners. That means if your goal revolves around the listener experience, you can keep ahead of changes like these.

At the end of the day, every platform wants to show its users the content that they want. As long as you keep creating content for your audience, you can keep ahead of every platform update.

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