The second quarter brought a variety of challenges tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while the early weeks of the lockdown brought some changes in podcast listening, and reduced consumption for some, when the dust settled new Edison Research data shows the tailwind of an expanding industry overcame all else. Its latest Podcast Consumer Tracking Report shows weekly podcast listeners spent 6 hours and 45 minutes a week on average listening to shows, a half hour increase compared to first quarter 2020.
“Over time people have been slotting podcasts back into their lives,” said Edison Senior VP Tom Webster. He told Wednesday’s RAIN Global Podcast Leadership Summit that many podcasters have seen download numbers grow. “You’ve seen those figures start to normalize, and in some cases exceed where they were before, as we have acclimated to where we are today,” said Webster.
A person’s job and employment status appear to be one of the biggest drivers for how much time they are consuming podcasts. “There was a divide between people who had more time on their hands, and people who did not have more time on their hands,” said Webster. “For those who had their time eliminated or reduced, listening went up a little bit more. But for those who said they are newly working from home, it went down.” He thinks that decline is the result of people having less “me time” to plug in their headphones and enjoy their favorite podcast. “For many of us we’re home all the time and a lot of that ‘me time’ has disappeared and that has created new habits and new challenges, especially for those who weren’t used to working from home,” said Webster.
Based on data from April 1 to May 12 among 7,021 Americans aged 18 and older, Edison says Americans who were either laid off or have had their hours reduced were spending more than an hour more per week consuming podcasts than those who were newly working from home. Those out of work averaged 6 hours and 35 minutes per week compared to 5 hours and 22 minutes for those working from home for the first time.
Edison’s survey data shows nearly a third of weekly podcast listeners said their hours have been cut and about one in ten have been let go. “That resulted in some very interesting new behaviors and new contexts for people,” said Webster. The data also shows that among those working from home, two-thirds are telecommuting more than in the past – and 16% are working from home for the first time. “We’ve all had to develop these new habits and discard some of our old habits because they’re simply not available to us,” he said.
In a separate cross-media analysis Edison Research does each quarter – its Share of Ear tally for audio listening – the firm said during the second quarter podcasting’s share of time spent listening to audio sources clocked in at five percent. That compared to a two percent share during the second quarter of 2014.
Broadcast AM/FM radio continues to have the largest share of time spent listening to audio. Edison said its 42% share during second quarter was a nine-point decline compared to the same study done in 2014. Some of that listening may have moved over to streaming, which Edison said grew 11% to 17% in the latest report.
Webster told the virtual conference of podcasters that the podcasting-to-radio ratio shrank from a one-to-25 ratio in 2014 to one-to-eight in the second quarter. “That ratio of podcasting’s importance nearly tripled in terms of the amount of time that we spend listening to podcasts versus radio,” he pointed out.
The Share of Ear study is based on a rolling four-quarter average.