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Why Podcast Advertising is More Effective than the Industry Ever Thought: Understanding the Apple iOS 17 Update

From targeting and creative development to measurement, we offer the most advanced solutions to make your podcast campaign a success.

Ross Adams, CEO at Acast
October 12, 2023

As a champion of the open ecosystem of podcasting, Acast has consistently been an advocate for more transparent measurement, especially when it comes to understanding podcast downloads and unique listens. We understand that it’s the listener that fuels our industry – more listeners to a podcast means increased spend from advertisers and effectively more money directly into the pockets of podcasters.

The recent Apple iOS 17 update, which was released on September 18, brings important updates and improvements to the automatic downloads feature within Apple Podcasts, which Apple believes creates a better listener experience as well as improved metrics for podcasters and advertisers. 

And at Acast, we agree. 

To fully understand this update, we need to go back in time a bit. When Apple initially designed the download behavior, it was because that’s what was best for Apple Podcast users at the time. As the behavior of users changed as a result of advances like improved connectivity via 5G to encourage streaming and unlimited data plans, Apple was then able to adjust how the automatic download behavior worked within their app with the iOS 17 software update.

While these adjustments will lower total downloads to a podcast, (depending on the share of listening on Apple devices) the download numbers will, in effect, get closer to the actual consumption of podcast content by encouraging more streaming on demand. 

This will ultimately provide podcasters and advertisers with a more accurate understanding of the individual episode downloads of each listener– which is good news for the podcast industry as a whole. 

For advertisers, it means they will have more consistent metrics to assess their ROI and to begin planning future campaigns for optimal results. It's also important to highlight that these updates prove podcast advertising campaigns are actually far more effective than we as an industry ever thought. With these newly adjusted metrics, we predict that future campaigns will see even more improved performance. 

For podcasters, they will now gain a stronger understanding of their unique listenership per episode. In the long term, as advertisers begin to see increased effectiveness of their campaigns, we expect revenue into podcasting to increase – meaning more podcasters will earn more money from their craft.

This level of improved measurement consistency is also an indication that the podcasting medium has matured. It’s a necessary part of any fast-growing media industry’s journey and we have seen many other industries – such as video and music – experience similar evolutions in data measurement.

However, at Acast we also recognize that this kind of news creates a lot of questions. So I want to take a moment to break down these adjustments and how it will potentially affect specific areas of the industry.

How these adjustments affect the podcast industry

Apple has been and continues to be an important player in the Podcast industry, and by having a more consistent understanding of downloads from Apple Podcasts users, we all gain an improved view of the bigger picture that is our industry.

How these adjustments impact podcasters

As iOS 17 is being adopted by more and more iPhone users, podcasters may see the number of downloads from Apple Podcasts gradually decrease. From our detailed analysis, these adjustments will largely impact download numbers on back catalog episodes, which are typically categorized as content older than 7 days.

However, it’s important to note that these adjustments do not reflect a change in the unique audience a podcast has, simply the number of downloads per user. On the whole, this will mean more accurate measurement and a more efficient depiction of a podcast’s total listens.

For Acast podcasters, our sales teams in each region have been monitoring the software rollout of iOS 17 and are working to ensure all booked campaigns continue to deliver effectively.. 

Additionally, we are continually increasing opportunities for more of our podcasters to make more money through product developments like Interchangeable Ad Slots, Collections+ and our self-serve advertising platform

Our audience development experts are also working directly with podcasters on strategies to continue to grow their listenership. 

How these adjustments affect advertisers

At Acast, we are assessing the data in real time to understand if this will affect some already booked campaigns and continuing to deliver targeting metrics, like frequency, even more effectively.

As more iPhone users download the update, we will continue to have more clarity on campaign performance and are creating bespoke action plans across each of our 15 global markets.

Over the next few weeks, as an industry we will likely see downloads lower in frequency but importantly maintain the unique reach. This means that campaigns will continue to go to the same number of individual listeners. As an advertiser, you will still reach the same unique audience, but now your campaign measurement will be more accurate in terms of ad frequency and reflective of the audience. Because of this, we anticipate that future campaigns will be even more effective.

At Acast, our podcasts – and therefore our advertisers – reach over 100 million unique users globally every single month and this update will not change the ability for an advertiser to reach this scale.

As podcasting continues to evolve, measurement will only become even more accurate. At Acast, we’re continually working with the likes of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, IAB, to update standards that are in the best interest of the industry at large. Acast is fully IAB 2.1 certified, the latest industry standard for podcast download filtering defined by the IAB, and we welcome this further update from Apple.

Where do we go from here?


These adjustments from Apple actually prove that podcasting advertising is even more effective than we expected. We already see that podcasts deliver high returns on ad spend – in fact, looking specifically at our US market, our research shows that 87% of marketers see more than double their return on investment for every dollar spent on podcast advertising. This adjustment will mean even more positivity to campaign performance moving forward.  

While it’s possible that we may see further updates to standards from platforms or the IAB in the future, ultimately it is a positive development as it will mean better consistency in measurement in the long run.

As an industry we often talk about the fragmentation of the podcasting landscape. This iOS 17 update is an important example of why that fragmentation, and more specifically, an open ecosystem is crucial to maintain as podcasting continues to evolve. 

At Acast, because we are platform agnostic, our podcasts can be heard across any listening app out there. For our advertisers and our podcasters, this means that the iOS 17 update, and any future updates to any listening app, are just a piece of the pie when it comes to audience consumption. 

Because Acast listeners around the world tune in from every platform available, iOS 17 and similar updates have a smaller effect than if we operated in a closed ecosystem. Because of this, at Acast, we continue to champion the open ecosystem and welcome improvements like iOS 17 that move the needle for the entire industry in measurement transparency.

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