Gervais podcast downloads defy expectations

Many people are manually downloading individual episodes of Ricky Gervais’ new Guardian podcast rather than subcribing to receive each show automatically.

The weekly, 30-minute show from the comedian and his writing team shot to the top of Apple’s iTunes music store’s podcast chart when it launched at Guardian Unlimited in December and routinely receives prominent billing in the newspaper.

Revealing listener statistics from the first five weeks of the series, Lloyd Shepherd, deputy directory of digital publishing at Guardian Newspapers Ltd (GNL), wrote that the first episode was downloaded 380,000 times, while later downloads got smaller audiences.

“We did think that the ‘subscribe’ metaphor of podcasting might have the reverse effect, so that, as subscriptions grew, newer podcasts would get more downloads as more people subscribed,” he said.

“It looks to us like the majority of people are downloading individual podcast episodes rather than subscribing. Our audience is big, so people probably are more likely to visit Guardian Unlimited and download it to their desktop rather than subscribe to the podcast, which, iTunes or no iTunes, is still something of an early adopter activity.”

Mr Shepherd subsequently pointed out that the direct download effect will, in the short term, mean more downloads for older episodes, simply because they have been available for longer. However, over time, he expects later episodes to achieve higher download figures than the first one, reflecting an increase in the podcast’s popularity.

Elsewhere in GNL towers, Observer staff successfully blogged the launch of their new Berliner edition last weekend, repeating an excerise Guardian editors undertook in September when they used a blog to report the roll-out of their relaunched edition.

The Observer Blog was put on hiatus last autumn but was resurrected to give readers a live glimpse inside the process of laying up and sending to press the debut all-colour print edition on Sunday.

More news from
Sun Online publishes Tony Blair podcast
Guardian’s Gervais podcast tops US and UK charts
Ricky Gervais to podcast. Fact.