COVID-19 may ultimately be a small blip on the growth trajectory of podcasting in the long-term, especially as more offices re-open and commuting patterns look more like they did before the lockdown. For a third consecutive week Podtrac data for the overall industry points to a slow-but-steady return to normal. It reports the U.S. weekly podcast audience increased one percent last week (May 4-10) compared to the prior week, while podcast downloads remained steady. Podtrac says among the thousands of podcast publishers and podcasts it tracks, downloads have grown 25% compared to a year ago through the week ending May 10.And total audience has increased 9% across all publishers, with some seeing significantly larger gains.
The measurement service pointed out the average download number for the top five publishers slid 6% between March and April. Yet even with that dip, the group’s overall downloads were still up 9% since the start of the year. “To date, average downloads per month for the Top 5 and Top 10 Publishers have been higher each month in 2020 than any month in 2019,” Podtrac said in the latest weekly update.
The weekly reports have offered clues into how listeners are responding to the pandemic as show categories like News, Business and Comedy initially soared while such categories as True Crime have mounted a comeback in recent weeks as Americans have increasingly used the medium as an escape.
The latest data from Podtrac shows among the publishers it monitors there was download growth for shows in the Business category, which saw downloads increase 8% last week compared to the week before. Other gains were made in podcast genres including Fiction (+5%), Education (+5%), True Crime (+4%), Kids & Family (+2%), History (+2%), Religion (+2%), Society & Culture (+2%), News (+1%), Technology (+1%), Health & Fitness (+1%) and Arts (+1%).
Overall, Podtrac says the five biggest show categories last week among the publishers it monitors in terms of both downloads and total audience were News, Comedy, Business, Sports, and Society & Culture.
One unanswered question is whether the coronavirus could have opened a new daypart to podcasters that could remain once home and work lives resemble something like they did prior to the lockdowns. That’s because weekend downloads during weekend hours continue to be way up.
During the most recent weekend, Podtrac says on Saturday, May 9 the peak hour for downloads was up 17% compared to the first week of March when life started to change for many. And on Sunday, May 10, the peak hour for downloads saw a 17% jump. That helped make up for what it says was a 17% drop in downloads during morning commuting hours.