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Are Anchor podcasts different?

· By · 4.5 minutes to read

While Anchor isn’t the only free podcast host, it’s certainly the largest. In fact, according to Podcast Ranking, an analytics service, 39% of all podcasts are hosted by Anchor.

But, are they different? Some podcast hosts claim that the service is full of dead podcasts, and that 'serious’ podcasters wouldn’t use them. But perhaps that’s what podcast hosting companies would like you to think: after all, if 39% of shows are hosted by Anchor, that’s about 600,000 shows. Even if you assume that only 20% of those shows would be committed enough to pay for hosting - a number we’ll come back to - that’s still a missing $2.2bn in hosting revenue that hasn’t gone to the podcast hosts: so maybe it’s worth their while to talk Anchor down.

We thought it worth taking an impartial look at the data.

As the writer of this article, I should disclose that I’m an advisor for Captivate, a paid podcast host. Spotify, Anchor’s corporate owner, also advertises on occasion with Podnews, and will be doing so again shortly. Many podcast hosting companies, including Captivate and Spotify, are monthly supporters of Podnews.

Anchor podcasters make fewer episodes

Of all existing podcasts, 39% of shows are hosted by Anchor. But, if you look at every single podcast episode available on Apple Podcasts1, Anchor podcasters appear much less likely to post new episodes. Only 15% of episodes in Apple Podcasts are hosted by Anchor: so Anchor podcasters have published less than half the amount of shows than others.

But looking at the whole database might not be entirely fair. Anchor was launched in 2015 as a social audio service, and pivoted to publishing podcasts in 2018. Back in January 2019, over 9 out of 10 Anchor shows had 'podfaded’, and stopped being updated: but the company was acquired by Spotify in February 2019. Things may have changed.

So, let’s ignore the past. We asked Podcast Ranking to look at podcasts that have posted new episodes in the last thirty days, to help us see if there’s a difference in 2020.

Out of the 317,219 podcasts that have posted new episodes in the last 30 days, 120,867 (38%) of these podcasts are hosted by Anchor.

Of the 1,919,392 episodes published in the last 30 days, 438,840 (22%) of these episodes are hosted by Anchor.

So, over the last thirty days, we can see that Anchor’s market share hasn’t changed (still around 39%); but that podcasters on Anchor are becoming more committed, posting more episodes than they used to. But they still post new episodes less often.

Of course, corporate daily shows (like the New York Times, or The Guardian, or even ours) are more likely to be hosted by paid hosts.

Anchor shows are shorter, too

Looking at over thirty million episodes, Podcast Ranking tells us that the average length is 31 minutes. 2

But, the average length of an Anchor-hosted episode is just 21 minutes - a third shorter.

Some of this may be due to Anchor’s mobile tools - unusually for a podcast host, Anchor’s app contains all the tools you need to record a simple podcast just using a phone.

And, perhaps, this is a good thing: in 2018, we learnt that 50% of Americans say that podcasts are too long; and our own advice is to make your podcast as long as it needs to be, but not a second longer.

But, committed Anchor podcasters aren’t podfading

Anchor is full of “podfaded” shows, according to some podcast hosts - shows that haven’t updated in the past ninety days. However, with a free podcast host you’re bound to have a higher level of abandonment than with a paid host - for one, obvious, reason: a paid host removes your shows when you stop paying.

So, better, perhaps, to look at committed Anchor podcasters: that 20% figure that we guessed at earlier. And, perhaps, a committed Anchor podcaster is one that has posted more than ten episodes.

We asked Daniel J Lewis’s My Podcast Reviews: and it turns out that just under 20% of Anchor shows have ten or more episodes in their feeds.

Have they podfaded? Mostly, not. 15% of Anchor shows have more than ten episodes and have been updated in the last ninety days: so that shows a 'podfade’ rate, for committed Anchor podcasters, of about 25%.

In August 2018, Blubrry claimed that 75% of all podcasts had podfaded; and it might be true to claim that Anchor is full of podfaded shows: but when comparing “committed” podcasters, there’s no real difference between Anchor and anyone else.

So is Anchor different?

Yes, Anchor is different: because Anchor is free.

When viewed as a whole, Anchor users post fewer episodes, and episodes are shorter. However, committed Anchor users don’t appear to podfade any more than anyone else.

Anchor doesn’t offer many of the services you can get with a paid podcast host. While it doesn’t own your podcast, it does have some clauses in its terms of service that could cause seasoned podcasters to think again. As we note in our article giving advice on choosing a host, Anchor’s ease of use can also mean they submit to some podcast directories on your behalf, which makes it harder to move.

Additionally, Anchor seems to have a way of bypassing part of the Apple Podcasts approval process, which does risk Apple Podcasts, and others, being flooded with test material and illegal content: and for all Anchor shows to shoulder that reputation.

However, if you make a like-for-like comparison - committed Anchor podcasters with podcasters on other hosts - there appears to be rather less difference than you might think.

Boring notes:

  1. Apple Podcasts is capped at 300 podcast episodes per show, so the total amount of podcast episodes is greater than those in the Apple Podcasts database.
  2. Simple averages are different to median episode lengths, which give a better view into how long podcasts are. Daniel Misener looked at this in depth in late 2019.
James Cridland is the Editor of Podnews, a keynote speaker and consultant. He wrote his first podcast RSS feed in January 2005; and also launched the first live radio streaming app for mobile phones in the same year. He's worked in the audio industry since 1989.

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