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Gaming the iTunes Top 100 Podcast list

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August 11, 2005

Gaming the iTunes Top 100 Podcast list

Heather Green

After being squeezed out of the Top 100 list of podcasts at iTunes by traditional media shows, indie podcasters have figured out how to exploit a flaw in the technology behind the list. The top 100 list now is overwhelmed with indies--a big switch from just a week ago.

As C.C. Chapman commented earlier this week on Blogspotting, "I put zero faith in the iTunes Top 100. It's been proven to be flawed in recent days where anyone bored enough to click on their subscribe button for a few minutes over and over can bounce them up the charts."

For more on the flaw, see plastictrees and Epic Empire. This list has become a real problem. It's clearly in the interest of everyone--listeners and creators--for Apple to figure out how to fix it.

UPDATE: I emailed Derek Colanduno from the Skepticality podcast about this. He provides some more details:

According to Colanduno, about three days ago, someone in the Netherlands wrote online that they had found that iTunes was responding to duplicate clicks. (I haven't found a link about this yet. Would be interested to see it.)

Colanduno says that people had tried this technique before without success. But, he says, it appears that Apple may have changed the algorithm.

"The deal about it though, is that the top 100 formula is unknown. So, the folks that have been using this technique shoot to the top, then slide back down in a matter of hours, slowly down the list, until... They obviously begin clicking again...."

"You will notice that the folks that have been in the top 10-15 spots for over 2-3 weeks, such as Skepticality, Al Franken, TWiT, Ebert and Roper, and New Music Tuesday... They are all holding out in the top 20, even though... Every 10-20 hours a new show pops up on the top 20, rises to #1, then falls back off.

In the past 3 days, we have gone from #1 down to #11, back to #1... I think we are #6 right now..."

01:55 PM


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The first official news on this was from The Podbrothers, a Dutch podcast... They have experimented with iTunes Podcasting. Next to the possibility to get your rank up you could also really easy put other podcasts out of the list by claiming that you have a problem with that show and want to delete it...

Posted by: DucSloerie at August 12, 2005 06:14 AM

The Dutch podcast referred to here is: In our shows on july 20 and 23 we discussed the buggy subscription based top 100 and ways to easily remove podcasts from the iTunes directory.

Posted by: Fluox at August 12, 2005 06:26 AM

I read (and listen) about this to. I found the link to the two Dutch men who found this bug and made a podcast about it. They call themselves "The Podbrothers"

Sadly the podcast is in Dutch, but it clearly describes the bugs and how to make "advantage" of it.

You can find the link here:

With kind regards from the Netherlands,


Posted by: Armando at August 12, 2005 08:03 AM

This is amazing. Thanks very much for the information and the pointers.

Posted by: Heather Green at August 12, 2005 09:37 AM


Posted by: mike at August 12, 2005 09:41 AM

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