There’s a missed opportunity for podcast hosting companies such as Libsyn, Blubrry and now SoundCloud, to bring social proof to podcasting simply by opening up an API that allows plugins to poll download numbers and display them next to podcast players.
Blubrry already has the excellent PowerPress plugin, which I am sure the vast majority of WordPress based podcasters use regardless of where they host their media, so it should be really easy for them to add it. Libsyn and other providers could get involved simply by releasing a plugin that checks the filename in the enclosure custom field, polls an API every few hours (or once a day even) and allows podcasters to display a chiclet or some text- just like folks do for newsletter subscriber numbers, Facebook subscribers, Twitter followers and YouTube views. SoundCloud could start by making RSS downloads (a podcasters lifeblood) part of the reported public stats instead of hiding the numbers away privately and only showing the “on SoundCloud” plays.
Why would we want this? Because social proof works when building an audience. It’s easier to pick up more followers or downloads the more you already have – then it’s up to you to keep them.
iTunes and it’s frankly poor podcast search, should not be the only social proof that podcasters have.