Currently, when a podcast is automatically downloaded by an Apple Watch user, it is counted as two listeners; one from the Apple Watch, and one from its paired iPhone. Since the Apple Watch and iPhone download the same podcast episode by default, and they both report different device user agents, the podcast appears to be downloaded by two different people. This means that the Apple Watch falsely inflates podcast listener numbers.
Although the Apple Watch makes up only a small proportion of podcast listeners, the IAB explains that “Apple Watch devices enact an inherent behavior that triggers non-user initiated podcast downloads and results in significantly inflated download counts from this source.” The issue is only present on Apple’s own Podcasts app for the Apple Watch.
The IAB Tech Lab’s participating members have agreed that by October 1, 2020, all traffic from the Apple Watch will no longer be counted toward any totals reported for the podcasting industry. While filtering out Apple Watch devices will result in reduced audience statistics for some podcasters, the new metrics will be more representative of actual human listeners.
The IAB says that it has “made efforts to work with Apple to support a means of differentiating automatic downloads from valid downloads coming from Apple Watch devices,” and if Apple takes “corrective actions” it will revise or retract the guidance.