Apple Watch Podcasts App Found to Falsely Inflate Listener Numbers

The Apple Watch will no longer be counted in podcast listener numbers for Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab partners because it has been found to falsely inflate listener numbers.

applewatchpodcasts

Currently, when a podcast is automatically downloaded by an Apple Watch user, it is counted as two listeners; one from the Apple Watch, and one from its paired iPhone. Since the Apple Watch and ‌iPhone‌ download the same podcast episode by default, and they both report different device user agents, the podcast appears to be downloaded by two different people. This means that the Apple Watch falsely inflates podcast listener numbers.

Although the Apple Watch makes up only a small proportion of podcast listeners, the IAB explains that "Apple Watch devices enact an inherent behavior that triggers non-user initiated podcast downloads and results in significantly inflated download counts from this source." The issue is only present on Apple's own Podcasts app for the Apple Watch.

The IAB Tech Lab's participating members have agreed that by October 1, 2020, all traffic from the Apple Watch will no longer be counted toward any totals reported for the podcasting industry. While filtering out Apple Watch devices will result in reduced audience statistics for some podcasters, the new metrics will be more representative of actual human listeners.

The IAB says that it has "made efforts to work with Apple to support a means of differentiating automatic downloads from valid downloads coming from Apple Watch devices," and if Apple takes "corrective actions" it will revise or retract the guidance.

Top Rated Comments

mlabonte21 Avatar
15 months ago

Currently, when a podcast is automatically downloaded by an Apple Watch user, it is counted as two listeners; one from the Apple Watch, and one from its paired iPhone.
Ahh--the old 'Dunder Mifflin Infinity' approach....
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
w5jck Avatar
15 months ago
Probably not intentional on Apple's part. It sounds more like the iPhone team and the Apple Watch team were not communicating very well. That is a management and Quality Assurance issue, which iPadOS illustrated exists in a big way at Apple.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jjudson Avatar
15 months ago
Odd choice for the article image...

"Voyage into Pizzagate"...?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Santiago Avatar
15 months ago

So the problem is counting downloads not listens... My laptop syncs podcasts every day all year long and I only listen to them when a few times a year.
From the server’s perspective, there’s no way to tell whether a user actually listens to a podcast. It’s just an audio file on a server that your app downloads, and then you might listen to it or not. It’s a dirt-simple open standard consisting of an XML file pointing to a list of audio files, and that’s it, which is great.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jclardy Avatar
15 months ago

I didn't even realize my Apple Watch had podcasts on it. I knew I could listen to them via it, but I thought I had to manually tell it to sync them or something for them to be there.

Counting downloads seems like a very poor idea to me. I have the same episodes downloaded by Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and the Tesla. I'll only listen to each episode from one device though.

There's also the issue that I have a large backlog that I may never actually get around to listening to.

I'd think whenever I download more episodes, it could just send an update on what I've actually listened to.
That is exactly the problem, download counts are the most reliable way to measure podcast listeners. The issue is that podcasts are federated, there is no central repository that tracks play counts, and then you have to consider what constitutes a "playback" - if you hit the play button? Listen to 5 minutes? 50% of the podcast duration?

But then beyond that, every podcast player would have to agree to implement the analytics - overcast, tesla, apple, spotify, etc.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
locovaca Avatar
15 months ago
My iPad also downloads podcasts, I wonder if that means I triple the numbers?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
iphone 13 teal with text

Apple Begins Preparation for iPhone 13 Production Ahead of Fall Launch

Monday June 28, 2021 3:29 am PDT by
We're just a few months away from when Apple is expected to reveal the 2021 iPhone, dubbed the "iPhone 13." In preparation for its launch, it has been pulling in shipments of different components needed to produce the new iPhones, according to a report from DigiTimes. In years past, Apple released its latest iPhone lineup, alongside a new Apple Watch, during a September event at Apple Park....
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
bluetti eb70 main

MacRumors Giveaway: Win a Bluetti EB70 Portable Power Station and 200W Solar Panel

Friday September 3, 2021 11:13 am PDT by
For this week's giveaway, we've teamed up with MAXOAK to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win a Bluetti portable power station and an accompanying solar panel. Bluetti makes a range of portable power station options that are useful for camping, emergencies, power outages, off-grid living, and similar situations. The Bluetti EB70 is a solid middle of the road option that offers 716Wh and...
apple privacy

Apple Publishes FAQ to Address Concerns About CSAM Detection and Messages Scanning

Monday August 9, 2021 1:50 am PDT by
Apple has published a FAQ titled "Expanded Protections for Children" which aims to allay users' privacy concerns about the new CSAM detection in iCloud Photos and communication safety for Messages features that the company announced last week. "Since we announced these features, many stakeholders including privacy organizations and child safety organizations have expressed their support of...
macos catalina legacy system extension alert

Apple Begins Warning Users That 'Legacy System Extensions' Won't Work With a Future Version of macOS

Wednesday March 25, 2020 9:53 am PDT by
Apple has shared a new support document that indicates kernel extensions — which it calls "legacy system extensions" — will not be compatible with a future version of macOS because they "aren't as secure or reliable as modern alternatives."System extensions are a category of software that works in the background to extend the functionality of your Mac. Some apps install kernel extensions, which...
General Spotify Feature

Spotify Pauses Plans to Add AirPlay 2 Support to iOS App [Update: Spotify Clarifies]

Friday August 6, 2021 9:07 am PDT by
See update at bottom of article Spotify this week confirmed that its plans to add AirPlay 2 support to its iOS app have been placed on indefinite hiatus. In an online discussion forum post, a Spotify representative said the streaming music service had been working on supporting AirPlay 2, but the company has paused the efforts "for now" due to "audio driver compatibility issues." The...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
os x mountain lion macs 16x9 2

Apple Makes OS X Lion and Mountain Lion Free to Download

Wednesday June 30, 2021 12:19 pm PDT by
Apple recently dropped the $19.99 fee for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, making the older Mac updates free to download, reports Macworld. Apple has kept OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion available for customers who have machines limited to the older software, but until recently, Apple was charging $19.99 to get download codes for the updates. As of last week, these updates no...
Pixel Stand 23W 668x445

Google Pixel 6 Rumored to Support 23W Wireless Charging, Beating iPhone 12's MagSafe

Wednesday September 1, 2021 1:54 am PDT by
Google is rumored to be working on a new wireless charging stand that could deliver 23W of charging power to its upcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones, according to a leaked inventory image published by Android Police. Image via Android Police. If true, that would beat the iPhone 12's maximum 15W wireless charging speed (or 12W on ‌iPhone 12 mini‌) using Apple's MagSafe charger, and...