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Apple probing sudden declines of up to 40 percent in reported podcast listeners

Apple says it's "investigating" an issue with its podcast data showing sharp and unexpected declines in listenership —but with no corresponding drop in actual listeners.

Apple's Podcasts app on iOS 12.

Apple's Podcasts app on iOS 12.


"We have received reports of steep consumption declines in reporting," the company said in an email to podcasters, seen by AppleInsider. "We are investigating these figures as they do not match playback data in Podcast Analytics."

Ad-sponsored podcasts are dependent on accurate data as way of justifying investments. It's unknown, though, if any podcasts have temporarily lost financial backing.

Looking at data available to AppleInsider across several podcasts, the number of downloads attributed to users listening through iTunes is being under-reported by as little as 28 percent and much as 40 percent of what it should be, across six different podcasts spanning multiple genres.

Podcasters are especially dependent on accurate data from Apple. While shows can be distributed through a variety of platforms, iTunes is still a primary hub that podcasters rarely ignore. The term "podcast" in fact originates from Apple, since it's a portmanteau of "iPod" and "broadcast." Podcasts allowed owners of iPods and other early MP3 players to get around the lack of internet streaming and/or FM radio on those devices.

Apple introduced formal support for podcasts with iTunes 4.9 in June 2005. Until then podcasting had required third-party apps, and controversially the company began cracking down on apps using terms like "pod" or "iPod" in their names. It has since relaxed that policy somewhat.

Apple's email separately warns of delayed submissions for new podcasts during the holidays. That includes a Thanksgiving break — Nov. 16 through Nov. 26 — and one for Christmas and New Year's, extending from Dec. 21 to Jan. 2.