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
18 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
18 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
18 months ago
Odd choice for the article image...

"Voyage into Pizzagate"...?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Santiago Avatar
18 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
18 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
18 months ago
My iPad also downloads podcasts, I wonder if that means I triple the numbers?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole thumb

ProMotion Now Expected to Remain Exclusive to iPhone 14 Pro Models, Not Expand to Entire Lineup

Sunday January 16, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Continuing the tradition set with the iPhone 13 Pro, only the highest-end iPhone 14 models will feature Apple's ProMotion display technology, according to a respected display analyst. Ross Young, who on multiple occasions has detailed accurate information about Apple's future products, said in a tweet that ProMotion will not be expanded to the entire iPhone 14 lineup and will remain...
safari icon blue banner

Safari Bug Allows Websites to Track Your Recent Browsing Activity in Real Time [Updated]

Sunday January 16, 2022 3:37 pm PST by
A bug in WebKit's implementation of a JavaScript API called IndexedDB can reveal your recent browsing history and even your identity, according to a blog post shared on Friday by browser fingerprinting service FingerprintJS. In a nutshell, the bug allows any website that uses IndexedDB to access the names of IndexedDB databases generated by other websites during a user's browsing session....
ipad air 4 video

New iPad Air Rumored to Launch This Spring With A15 Chip, 5G, Center Stage Camera, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 8:05 pm PST by
Apple is planning to release a fifth-generation iPad Air with similar features as the sixth-generation iPad mini, including an A15 Bionic chip, 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage support, 5G for cellular models, and Quad-LED True Tone flash, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara. Citing reliables sources in China, the report claims that the new iPad Air could be...
Unlikely Products 2022 Feature

Six Rumored Apple Products You're Unlikely to See This Year

Saturday January 15, 2022 2:06 pm PST by
Much has been said about what consumers could see from Apple in 2022, but the company is also working on a handful of rumored products that aren't expected to be unveiled for at least another 12 months, and in some cases a lot longer. Of course, that's assuming they get released at all. Apple works on many potential products some of which ultimately never see the light of day. With that in...
AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature Red

AirPods Pro 2 Could Start a New Accessory Ecosystem

Friday January 14, 2022 2:34 am PST by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro could arrive alongside a new series of accessories, recent leaked images suggest. Alleged leaked photos of the next-generation AirPods Pro obtained by MacRumors showed a charging case with a metal loop on the side for attaching a strap. Apple has not used this design for any of its other AirPod models and it is unclear why it would be added in this...
netflix2

Netflix Again Raises Prices for All Plans, 4K Streaming Now $20 Per Month

Friday January 14, 2022 12:46 pm PST by
Netflix today updated the prices for its streaming plans, and all of its offerings are now more expensive. The Basic plan is now priced at $9.99 per month, the Standard plan is priced at $15.49 per month, and the Premium plan is priced at $19.99 per month. The Basic plan is $1 more expensive, up from $8.99 per month. This plan allows users to watch on just one screen at a time, and it limits ...
tesla carplay solution

Developer Showcases Apple CarPlay Workaround for Teslas

Monday January 17, 2022 7:24 am PST by
A Tesla Model 3 owner has resorted to a workaround to implement Apple CarPlay in his vehicle, amid no sign of official support from Tesla (via Tesla North). Apple CarPlay and Apple Music support are among the most-requested Tesla features, but with no indication that Tesla is willing to implement Apple CarPlay in its vehicles, Polish developer Michał Gapiński took matters into his own...
top stories 20220115

Top Stories: iPhone 14 Pro Rumors, iCloud Private Relay Controversy, iOS 15.2.1 Released, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 6:00 am PST by
Hole-punch? Pill? Hole-punch and pill? Rumors about what the front camera system on the iPhone 14 Pro will look like are evolving rapidly, and it now appears we might be getting a novel but potentially controversial design later this year. Other major stories this week included some confusion and controversy about iCloud Private Relay being disabled for some T-Mobile customers, increasing...