NPR says its podcast audience is almost five times what it was five years ago, and that growth trend has continued in 2020. The network reports its podcast downloads rose 26% during the second quarter, compared to a year ago, and weekly listeners are up 20%. In the quarterly NPR Podcast Report, the network said the growth curve reflects more people shifting to on-demand consumption of news, talk and entertainment content.
“Like many podcast publishers, we saw a slowdown when the pandemic hit the U.S., but the long-term trend of strong audience growth has resumed this summer,” said NPR. “People are downloading more episodes, listening to more shows, and responding when we publish more frequently.”
Dan Frohlich, Digital Analytics Manager, said as more Americans became focused on racial justice issues, NPR witnessed a “big shift” in the types of podcasts people were listening to. “Prior to that point, the coronavirus crisis had gripped the attention of listeners across all NPR platforms, from broadcast to podcasts. But now listeners were urgently seeking out news and information to better understand past and present racial inequities and the history of policing in America,” he said.
The podcast that best reflected that is Code Switch, hosted by Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji. It explores how race and identity impact everyday life. Its weekly users soared 209% during the second quarter. In all of June, Code Switch was one of the 20 most downloaded podcasts in the U.S., benefitting from recommendations from a variety of sources, from Oprah Magazine to NBC’s “Today” show. “The achievements of the last few months are in large part due to the team behind the podcast and the dedicated audience they’ve built over the last several years,” said Frohlich.
Another podcast that has benefited from the increased focus on news is It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders. Its weekly downloads were up 159% during the second quarter and many of the show’s recent episodes have been among their most downloaded since the podcast launched in 2017. Frohlich said the show’s listener engagement increase is based on data collected from NPR’s own One listening app. He said since June, listeners have spent an average of 23% more time with each episode compared to the prior four months.
NPR’s history podcast Throughline has also reached more listeners than ever, with its episode entitled “American Police” setting a new record for the series, co-hosted by Ramtin Arablouei and Rund Abdelfatah. The episode explored the history and tension of policing in the U.S. among African American communities. “In just the first four weeks after being released the episode was downloaded more than 560,000 times, a record high for the podcast and instantly becoming one of the show’s most popular episodes to date,” said Frohlich.
Download the latest NPR Podcast Report HERE.