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
12 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
12 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
12 months ago
Odd choice for the article image...

"Voyage into Pizzagate"...?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Santiago Avatar
12 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
12 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
12 months ago
My iPad also downloads podcasts, I wonder if that means I triple the numbers?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

REC ASA CODE2016 20160601 205816 2745

Elon Musk Reportedly Demanded to Become Apple CEO as Part of Potential Tesla Acquisition [Update: Musk Denies]

Friday July 30, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly once demanded that he be made Apple CEO in a brief discussion of a potential acquisition with Apple's current CEO, Tim Cook. The claim comes in a new book titled "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century," as reviewed by The Los Angeles Times. According to the book, during a 2016 phone call between Musk and Cook that touched on the possibility of ...
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 Always On Feature

iPhone 13 to Bring Over a Major Feature From the Apple Watch

Wednesday July 28, 2021 2:21 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will feature an always-on display akin to the Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 6, according to recent reports. In his weekly Power On newsletter, Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman, who often reveals accurate insights into Apple's plans, said that the iPhone 13 may feature an Apple Watch-inspired always-on mode. The Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch...
duracell battery bitter coating

Apple Says Don't Buy AirTag Replacement Batteries With Bitter Coating

Wednesday July 28, 2021 11:08 am PDT by
Since AirTags were just released earlier this year and are expected to have a year-long battery life, it may be some time yet before AirTag users need a replacement battery, but when the time comes for a refresh, Apple is warning customers not to buy batteries with a bitter coating. AirTags use coin-shaped CR2032 batteries, which happen to be a size that's easy to swallow. Some battery...
a15 chip

iPhone 13 and Redesigned MacBook Pro Chip Production Hit With Gas Contamination

Friday July 30, 2021 5:44 am PDT by
The most important TSMC factory that manufactures Apple's chips destined for next-generation iPhone and Mac models has been hit by a gas contamination, according to Nikkei Asia. The factory, known as "Fab 18," is TSMC's most advanced chipmaking facility. TSMC is Apple's sole chip supplier, making all of the processors used in every Apple device with a custom silicon chip. Industry...
apple rtp land

Apple Preparing to Occupy 200,000 Square Feet of Temporary Space Ahead of New $1 Billion North Carolina Campus

Thursday July 29, 2021 9:14 am PDT by
Back in April, Apple announced a $430 billion investment over the next five years to create more than 20,000 new jobs as the company continues to expand. One significant piece of that plan is a new engineering and research center in North Carolina where Apple will be investing over $1 billion and hiring at least 3,000 employees. Assemblage of seven properties in Research Triangle Park owned by ...
Apple Leak Feature

Apple Demands Leaker Reveals Sources Under Threat of Being Reported to Police

Wednesday July 28, 2021 6:53 am PDT by
Apple has sent a cease and desist letter to a leaker based in China as part of its continuing attempts to curtail leaks of unreleased products, according to Vice. A Chinese citizen who shared images of stolen Apple prototypes on social media was sent a warning letter from Fangda Partners, Apple's law firm in China, on June 18, 2021. An extract from the letter read:You have disclosed without ...
macos monterey tidbits feature copy

Apple Releases New macOS 12 Monterey Public Beta

Wednesday July 28, 2021 10:19 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the third public beta of the macOS 12 Monterey beta to public beta testers, allowing non-developers to test the new macOS Monterey software ahead of its public release. The third beta comes two weeks after Apple released the second macOS Monterey public beta. Public beta testers can download the macOS 12 Monterey update from the Software Update section of the System...
iOS 15 General Feature Purple

Apple Releases New Public Betas of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and tvOS 15

Wednesday July 28, 2021 10:16 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the third betas of iOS and iPadOS 15 to public beta testers, allowing non-developers to download and test the new updates ahead of their fall release. The third public betas come two weeks after Apple released the second public betas. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS and iPadOS 15 updates over the air after...
nothing ear 1 buds 1

Nothing 'Ear (1)' True Wireless Earbuds Launch to Take on AirPods Pro With ANC and Unusual Design for $99

Tuesday July 27, 2021 7:57 am PDT by
Nothing, a new brand from OnePlus founder Carl Pei, has today officially launched the "Ear (1)" true wireless earbuds after months of anticipation around the company's AirPods Pro rival. The Ear (1) features an in-ear design, Active Noise Cancelation, Bluetooth 5.2, IPX4 water resistance, and a charging case with Qi-compatible wireless charging and a USB-C port. Fast pairing is supported on...