How to manipulate Apple’s podcast charts, and get yourself a top-rated show

You can buy your way into the top of the charts.

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]
How to Game the Apple Podcasts Top Charts

Unpopular podcasts are manipulating Apple Podcasts (which has, effectively, the most important charts in the world of podcasting) to artificially inflate their ranking, and get themselves a coveted place towards the top of the charts.

Being high in the charts means that more people get to see your podcast and (potentially) subscribe to your show. That’s what every podcaster (including me!) want.

There have been suspicions for months that some podcasts with virtually no listeners have been doing this, and now Twitter user @Lime_Link has released a YouTube video which explains what is going on.

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A search on sites like Fiverr will uncover plenty of people guaranteeing they can get your podcast to the top of Apple’s charts.

Fiverr podcast ad

Should you pay for services like this? I wouldn’t recommend it – Apple might decide that it doesn’t like podcasts “gaming” its charts and permanently ban your shows from being listed.

So, how are Apple’s podcast charts being manipulated? In a nutshell, Apple’s lists of top podcasts do not appear to be influenced by how many good reviews your podcast has received, or how many times folks have given your show a five star rating.

Instead, Apple Podcasts (which many of us know better as iTunes) measures your podcast’s popularity by seeing how many new subscribers you receive each day.

According to @Lime_Link, if you don’t get a good number of people subscribing to your show on a particular day, you’re not going to appear in the charts. What is bizarre, however, is that Apple may not be bothering to measure whether people *unsubscribe* from a show.

So, all you need is a lot of iPhones, and people who don’t mind being paid to spend all day subscribing to podcasts on those iPhones, and you’ve got yourself a hit show.

Lots of iphones

Don’t have lots of iPhones? No problem. You know who does have lots of iPhones? Apple.

Podcast manipulators have advertised online for teams of people to visit Apple retail stores in Australia, for instance, and subscribe on all of the demo iPhones to their podcast:

Im looking for 6-12 people for this task. This will involve going to the Apple retail (physical) store and subscribing to a podcast on the iPhones and iPads on display to improve my podcast rankings. In total you should do 35 devices and this will take 15 mins.

This will need to be done on either tues/weds. If interested, please state which Apple store you’re applying for from the list below and what day.

The big question, of course, is this: Why doesn’t Apple do something about this?

Hat-tip: PodNews.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the cybersecurity industry, having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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