News podcasts released bonus episodes as some weekly shows went daily while others offered live streams to keep up with the fast-changing election story. The result is downloads of News category shows jumped 13% last week, the most of any of the big genres measured by Podtrac. And downloads for News podcasts were up 131% from a year ago when there was not a big election driving the headlines.
With a focus on politics and few high-profile releases as podcasters looked to avoid dropping a series in the middle of an election frenzy, several of the big podcast categories experienced dips in their downloads last week. Podtrac says the History category’s downloads dropped 13% last week while True Crime and Sports genres both had 12% declines in their week-to-week download numbers. Downloads of Arts shows declined 11%, with Business (-7%), Society & Culture (-5%), and Education (-2%) also down. Some people were turning to Comedy podcasts as an escape though, as that category’s downloads held steady with the prior week.
Despite soft download figures for some of the biggest genres, when the total spectrum of shows is combined Podtrac reports among the shows and publishers it measures downloads increased one percent last week compared to the prior week. And downloads grew 45% from a year ago.
Podtrac earlier reported that the iHeartPodcast Network was the largest podcast publisher among those it tracks during October, as iHeart hit new record highs for downloads and unique U.S. monthly audience. Podtrac says iHeart had a monthly U.S. audience reach of more than 27.8 million listeners with downloads and streams topping 266 million, both showing growth from a month earlier.
According to Podtrac, the top seven podcast publishers remained unchanged in October among the shows and publishers it measures. NPR finished second, the New York Times remained in third place followed by ESPN/ABC, PRX, Wondery, and Barstool Sports. Warner Media rode a 15% jump in its unique monthly U.S. audience to a No. 8 finish, up two spots from September. That pushed NBC News back to No. 9 with Cumulus Media/Westwood One rounding out the top ten.
The average U.S. unique monthly audience for the top ten publishers slipped one percent from September to October. That was in part due to an industry decision to remove Apple Watch listening from downloads. The result was only three of the top ten publishers had month-to-month growth in their download numbers – iHeart, WarnerMedia and Cumulus Media/Westwood One.