How does Feedburner know how many subscribers my podcast has?
March 30, 2007 11:56 AM   Subscribe

How does Feedburner know how many subscribers my podcast has?

I have a client asking for tracking on some custom podcasts we made for him, and I'm nervous, because I'm not sure what's possible and what's not

It seems to me to be theoretically impossible to get an accurate number of subscribers. You can log requests, but you can't treat each request as a different subscriber. And if someone's subscribed via the Google Reader, for instance, Google is (I'm assuming) gathering that data on that person's behalf, and they may not be making one request per subscriber. I'd assume that, for a popular feed, the system will get the data once and cache it for all its subscribers.
posted by joshjs to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Many web-based aggregators such as Google Reader report the number of subscribers for whom they are requesting the feed in the user-agent string. This is how Feedburner know you have x Google Reader subscribers.
posted by caek at 12:06 PM on March 30, 2007

AFAIK, that ginormous Feedburner subscription number we often see (on badges like my own, I'll admit) represents the number of times your feed was requested in a given day (and some podcatchers are checking for updates a lot). Feedburner has a separate (much more modest) number for active engagement -- clickthroughs etc.

In my small bit of experience, FB podcast numbers don't draw much water, esp. with potential advertisers. You might want to hook up Podtrac, who are famously much pickier about things like unique IPs, plus it lops off multiple downloads and (I believe) accounts for players that DL using multiple streams.

There's still a lot of voodoo to this stuff, so you might want to provide multiple sources for stats and then walk your client through the "x factor" in each set of results.

posted by merlinmann at 12:28 PM on March 30, 2007

As Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) said so profoundly: "There are three types of liars: Liars, damned Liars and statisticians."
posted by SpecialK at 12:52 PM on March 30, 2007

I am a professional broadcaster, have a public radio show, and use Feedburner.

Like many, I continue to be wary about Feedburner. Especially about their "active linking" category. Every time I clicked on it I got the strange "25 hits in half-an-hour!" message that did not jel with the number of hits to my site or the number of downloads of our podcast.

Feedburner has improved. They are now only logging individual IP addresses once so not to log people multiple times. However, I do not think their added fee services add a lot of good to their overall performance. Feedburner's biggest drawback - and the biggest drawback to podcasting in my opinion - is that it doesn't do much of anything in the way of explaining how we're going to make money with putting more MP3s on the internet for free.
posted by parmanparman at 2:34 PM on March 30, 2007

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